Modern furniture retailer West Elm has long been committed to showcasing the work of local independent designers.
Stop by the Beverly Boulevard store in Los Angeles, for instance, and you'll spot handmade ceramics by Los Angeles-based A Question of Eagles, Cotton & Flax cotton pillows by Los Angeles designer Erin Dollar and handmade napkins by Echo Park designer Rachel Craven.
Now, the retailer is looking to empower a local designer even further by sponsoring a $25,000 "We Love Local Small Business Grant" contest announced today.
Here's how it works: Makers can begin submitting their work online on Aug. 12. This Saturday, West Elm will host in-store portfolio reviews from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in five stores across the country including the Beverly Boulevard store in Los Angeles. The portfolio review process is meant to help designers before they apply online.
On Sept. 30, West Elm will announce 20 finalists and kick off online public voting.
After the public votes for their favorites, the winner will be announced on Nov. 19 and will receive $25,000 business support and mentorship from West Elm. Products by the three runners-up will be featured in retail stores during the holiday season. Winners will be judged based on design, originality, story, commitment to local production and depth of product assortment.
"West Elm is committed to supporting emerging artists and makers around the world,” West Elm president Jim Brett said in a statement. “But this Small Business Grant is focused on helping micro-entrepreneurs in the U.S. We want to give back to the communities where our stores are located and where we’re doing business every day.”
Last October, West Elm pulled all Cody Foster products following copycat accusations from an independent artist.