4 Essay Contests With Impressive Prizes: Win an Inn, Farm or Movie Theatre

4 Essay Contests With Impressive Prizes: Win an Inn, Farm or Movie Theatre

You can accomplish a lot with your words. You can earn a living, build a brand, even become location independent, all by wielding your writerly capabilities to engage, inspire and persuade.

And thanks to a new trend, you can now also use your words to win a fully established business.

Awarding a business to the winner of an essay contest is becoming a popular way for small business owners to find a next-in-line who will care for the company as much as they do. It allows them to discover candidates who are passionate about the industry but might not be able to afford to buy the business, while also drumming up a little extra cash for the next stage of their lives. As a bonus, the publicity generated by essay contests with such huge rewards can be a boost for the business.

If you’re eager to try your hand at running an inn, farm or movie theatre, here are four appealing businesses you can win via essay contest.

1. An inn in Maine

One of the first contests to surface as part of this trend this year, the Main inn essay contest was announced when Janice Sage decided to retire after 22 years as innkeeper of Maine’s Center Lovell Inn and Restaurant. She herself won the inn in an essay contest in 1993, so she opted to go the same route to find her successor.

What you can win: A B&B worth $900,000 with seven guest rooms, 10 staff members and more than 100 dinner guests on busy evenings. This isn’t for someone with zero experience who thinks running a bed and breakfast would be a neat hobby; you can expect to be on-duty up to 17 hours a day and must keep the inn and restaurant open for at least a year before you’re free to turn it into something else (if you choose).

If 7,500 or more entries are received, you’ll also win $20,000 to put towards running the inn.

How to apply: Submit an essay of 200 words or less on the theme, “Why I would like to own and operate a Country Inn.” Sage will choose her top 20 favorites based on “grammatically correct entries that show a passion for work;” from there, an impartial judging duo will select the winner “on the basis of structure of essay (introduction, body and conclusion), creativity, thought and the conveyance of capability and desire to operate a Country Inn.” Further contest details, including the entry form, can be found here.

Entry fee: $125. If fewer than 7,500 entries are received, this fee will be refunded to you.

Deadline: June 6, 2015

2. A goat farm and dairy

If you’d rather work with animals than people, check out Leslie and Paul Spell’s contest to give away their goat farm, Humble Heart Goat Dairy & Creamery. The Spells tried the traditional route of selling the farm, but they found buyers who seemed the most passionate didn’t have the funds to afford the asking price. So they took to the internet to create an essay contest that would allow interested parties to win the farm instead.

The Spells are also hoping to raise enough money to pay off the rest of their mortgage; if they get $5,000 entries at $200 apiece, they’ll earn $1 million, enough to cover the mortgage and their retirement.

What you can win: A 20-acre goat farm in Elkmont, Alabama, worth $345,000, including 85 goats and all farm equipment, training during the first half of November for anyone not familiar with the business of making goat cheese.

If 2,500 eligible entries are received, the winner will also get a check for $20,000.

How to apply: Submit an essay of 200 words or less describing why you are “the perfect fit to continue the farmstead goat cheese tradition.” The Spells will choose their top 20 essays, which will go on to a panel of three independent judges for final selection. Further contest details, including entry form, can be found here.

Entry fee: $150

Deadline: October 1, 2015

3. A horse farm

Goats not your scene? How about a horse farm?

Randy Silver and Carolyn Barry are giving away their Rock Spring Farm because they can no longer care for it themselves. Not only will an essay contest allow them to handpick who gets their farm, they’re hoping to raise enough money through entry fees to be able to retire comfortably and also start a fund for their grandchildren’s education. (Five thousand entries at $200 apiece would net them a cool $1 million.)

What you can win: A 35-acre horse farm in Essex County, Virginia, valued at $600,000, complete with a main house, rental cottage, cookhouse, several barns and a woodworking shed. And, of course, horses (and dogs).

How to apply: Submit an essay of 1,000 words or less “describing your desire to live in a rural area and own a hobby farm.” (If you postmark your essay on or before July 1st, it can be up to 2,000 words.) Silver and Barry will choose their top 25 essays, which will go on to a panel of judges for final determination. Further contest details and a link to the entry form can be found here.

Entry fee: $200

Deadline: October 1, 2015

4. A movie theater

Rob Newton has owned the Cape Ann Cinema and Stage in Gloucester, Massachusetts, since 2008. In that time, he developed it into an “arthouse cinema” that hosts filmmakers, offers a performance stage and allows guests to enjoy great independent and foreign films in a comfortable setting. Now he needs to step away to focus on his health and family, so he’s using the essay contest format to find a new owner and raise some funds for other community cinemas.

What you can win: A majority share (75 percent) in Cape Ann Cinema and Stage (a local steward will own the other 25 percent) and a “first option” to buy the steward out at any time. You will receive a lease for the property, all equipment and furnishings, for a total value of $150,000.

If 750 entries or more are received, the winner will also get a $20,000 check. If between 500 and 749 entries are received, the winner will get a $10,000 check.

How to apply: Submit an essay of no more than 250 words on the theme, “Why I Want to Own and Operate a Small Seaside Cinema.” Newtown and his management team will choose their top 20 essays, which will then go on to two impartial judges for final determination. Entries will be judged “on the basis of structure of essay (introduction, body and conclusion), creativity, thought and the conveyance of capability and desire to operate a Community Cinema.” Further contest details and a link to the entry form can be found here.

Entry fee: $99. If fewer than 500 entries are received, entry fees will be refunded.

Deadline: June 30, 2015

If you hear about any other interesting essay contests, share them in the comments so we can all benefit! And if none of these are a good fit, consider entering one of these 27 free writing contests.

Filed Under: Blogging


  • Rose says:

    Hi, it seems like the deadline for the first contest is not June 6, 2015 but May 30th.

  • Alan Northcott says:

    Okay, but they’re not exactly “giving away” the properties, are they? Giving away the horse farm for a hoped-for 5000 entries at $200 gets them $1M, as mentioned above, which would seem to be a great improvement over selling the property which is admittedly only worth $600,000.

    Gambling $200 for a 1 in 5000 chance of getting it is a little rich for my taste – but more power to them, as it may suit some people with money to spare for such a long-shot. Similar idea to the lottery. I won’t be entering.

    • Sally Hammonds says:

      Better odds than a lottery!

      • Angie Fenimore says:

        Odds of dying from choking: 4404 to 1
        Odds of dying in a car accident: 272 to 1
        Odds of winning the lottery: 18 million to 1
        Odds of writing a NYT bestseller: 220 to 1
        Odds of winning a property in an essay contest: Abt. 5000 to 1

        The difference is the random, accidental nature of the previous 3, whereas, the odds associated with writing are about skill. I’m in.

        • Mac Thompson says:

          The odds of winning are not “5000 to 1.” In fact, the odds here cannot be calculated at all since this is a skill contest and not a sweepstakes. The winning essay will be the one judged to be the best, with absolutely no regard as to how many entries there are. Odds can only be calculated for sweepstakes, not for true contests.

    • Ana says:

      Well.. If your counting the horses and live stock your making out prettying good..

  • Cavs says:

    Thank you for sharing. really appreciate. This is an exciting new trend.

  • Kim M says:

    We are running an Essay Contest to WIN our business!

    Website: http://essaycontest.badgersden.com/contest/
    Facebook: https://www..com/pages/Write-an-Essay-WIN-our-business/1028766333803013

    Prize: The entire prize will be shipped from Gig Harbor, WA to the winner free of cost anywhere within Continental United States. The prize includes The Badgers Den inventory and equipment to include 2 pavilions, a 12’ enclosed utility trailer, merchandising displays, inventory, e-commerce website, social media accounts, and a check for $10,000 + 25% of the GoFundMe Reserve.

  • Kristen A says:

    https://marlindollarhouse.wordpress.com/ is another one. This looks like a nice historical home in Marlin, TX.

  • Carol Carper says:

    You could write an essay and win Newstead Farm. A 1.5 million dollar 58 acre farm in Central Virginia with 6,000 sq/ft brick manor house. Send SASE to Newstead Farm, PO Box 45, Cartersville VA 23027 for official entry blank and rules. Limited to 7,000 entries.

  • Jules Torti says:

    I found your post at the perfect moment–I was writing about the jump from tradition to selling houses privately and romantically via essay contests! Thank you, I included a link to your blog in mine. Now, on to that goat farm contest…https://julestorti.wordpress.com/2016/05/17/we-sold-our-house-on-/

  • Linda Heller Hylton says:

    Win this Appalachian piece of Heaven in southeastern Ky. with an essay and entry fee. Click the link to learn more.

  • Nanda says:

    Do you know any contest for 2017?


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