We recently asked you to share the why behind your business—what gets you up in the morning, inspires you to keep up the grind, and drives you to give it everything you've got.
It was all part of our Reasons To Be Profitable Contest, with $100,000 in prizes on the line for entrepreneurs committed to building a lasting, permanently profitable business.
Relay is on a mission to create true cash flow clarity and control for business owners. That's why we set out to reward the entrepreneurs already going above and beyond to create healthy, sustainable businesses that serve themselves, their teams, and their communities.
The response to the contest was so much bigger than we expected. We heard from businesses all across the United States. All shared their stories and the reasons that drive them forward—providing employees better opportunities, securing a stable future for their families, creating something special for their communities, and so many others.
We received more than 6,000 entries—and yes, we read every single one.
From there, our small business experts further narrowed the entries in a blind judging process. All of our finalists truly moved the judges, and all shared a series of common traits in their applications:
A deep understanding of fundamental business practices and a clear path to long-term profitability.
A thorough and well-documented plan around how they would use the money if they were to win.
A compelling story behind the business and a vision for how they will continue to make an outsized impact.
After a lot of discussion, heated debate, and more than a few healthy disagreements, our judging panel settled on the three winners whose applications showed a clear commitment to building a lasting and profitable business. Here they are:
$50,000 Grand Prize: Black People Will Swim
Reason To Be Profitable: Putting an end to preventable drownings.
Black People Will Swim, based out of Queens, NY, is on a mission to put an end to preventable drownings. In service of this mission, the business provides swimming lessons and encourages and empowers Black people to conquer fears. Started as a side hustle by Paulana Lamonier, Black People Will Swim has quickly evolved into a booming business with big plans to expand into new locations and more services.
Founded in 2019, the business employs a team of 12 divided into an administrative division, covering things like marketing and operations, and an aquatics division, made up of swim instructors and lifeguards. Beyond offering affordable and free swimming lessons for all age groups, they also operate an instructor pipeline program to help train and certify new lifeguards. It all ties back to a singular mission; to address the disproportionate rate at which Black children drown in the United States.
“The biggest challenge is the name of the brand. People think that a brand name solely focused on a specific demographic is excluding people, but it’s really not about exclusion. It’s amplifying a specific problem that is taking place in that community." -Paulana Lamonier
“According to the CDC, a disproportionate number of young Black children die from drowning,” said contest judge Mike Michalowicz, author of Profit First. “It's unnecessary, it's unacceptable. And that's why I'm so proud of Paulana. She started a business that's not only creating jobs, it's also saving lives.”
Building for the long-term
With her mission in mind, Paulana is equally focused on making her business a long-term financial success. “Profit's a big thing for us. I always say that if it's not making a profit, it's just an expensive hobby. Being profitable is a reminder of that. It's not just about us, it's about making sure that we're making not just the customers happy, but finding and retaining good talent.”
The biggest financial lesson Paulana has learned since launching in 2019 is to plan ahead, and expect the unexpected. “Plan ahead for the best case scenario, and plan ahead for the worst case scenario,” she says. “And always go over your projections.”
The judges were struck by Paulana’s commitment to her goals, but what really set the business apart were her ambitious plans to grow and amplify her impact.
$15,000 Silver Spotlight: Made With Lau
San Francisco, CA
Reason To Be Profitable: Sharing a culture of cooking and preserving a family legacy.
Made With Lau, our $15,000 runner-up prize winner, is a media channel startup inspired by Randy Lau’s father and his culinary talents. What started as a way of preserving his dad’s recipes and sharing his Cantonese culture quickly blew up into something much bigger, with the channel reaching 100,000 viewers in less than a year.
Randy was at a crossroads in 2020 when his previous business was forced to shut down, and he found himself living off of savings and unemployment—all with his first child on the way. That’s when the idea for Made With Lau was born, and after six months of prep work, his YouTube channel was ready to launch. The channel has steadily grown in the three years that followed, with ad money and brand deals keeping the business vibrant. Today, he employs a team of 12 to help him develop his content and share it with the world.
Creating steady growth
“I didn't actually know it would work. I did not foresee the growth that we have experienced,” Randy says of first launching the business. “For two years, I didn't pay myself consistently. Now I pay myself, which should seem fairly obvious, but a lot of people don't do that. I spent so much of my entrepreneurial career without a team, so whatever we made in the business was our money. But now we have a lot of people working for us. So it's important to distinguish how much you're paying yourself.”
Randy's latest venture is a subscription service offering monthly cooking courses, which he hopes to expand with his prize winnings. “Having a marketing manager would help accelerate the growth of that membership program, which I hope to be our biggest revenue stream in the coming year,” Randy said.
The next steps in the brand's evolution include a potential cookbook, cookware, and a marketplace for Chinese culinary ingredients. “If we can continue doing what we're doing, sharing videos while finding ways to impact our community and have what we share be emotionally resonating with them, that's golden.”
$10,000 Bronze Bonanza: Killjoy
Reason To Be Profitable: Changing the culture around drinking in Nashville and beyond.
With their tongue-in-cheek brand name, Killjoy is turning the tables on what it means to socialize over a drink. Positioning themselves as a “booze-free beverage shop,” founder Stephanie Styll has made a big impact in a very short amount of time. Starting small with their first pop-up this past January, the brand officially opened a brick-and-mortar store in Nashville just seven months ago in April.
She now runs the business alongside her business partner and brother-in-law, John Caldwell, with him handling things in the shop and her covering the behind-the-scenes work of running the business.
“The reason any of this was possible is because of John,” Stephanie said. “He was the one who really encouraged me. Like, 'you've been wanting to do this, why don't you do it? I'll help you; I have time.' So it's really been him—his help and his support is what has made this happen.”
For Stephanie, profitability is a key that’s unlocked the kind of business she wants to build and the life she wants to live: “Profitability, for me, means more than just making money off of this business. It's about freedom, and that aligns very deeply with how I feel about alcohol. This movement for me—it's about freedom. I want people to be free and I want freedom for myself.”
“What I admire most is their holistic definition of success,” says contest judge Brian Thompson, business advisor and founder of Brian Thompson Financial. “Where profit coexists with love, laughter, and freedom. They've turned personal challenges into a source of strength, embodying resilience and compassion in their journey.”
Looking towards the future, Stephanie hopes the prize money will help expand Killjoy’s footprint—both literally and figuratively. “My main goal right now is to get into a bigger space. Our shop is very, very small—it's like 300 square feet—but wanted to start small and see how this would go,” she said. “Once the model is there, I'd love to expand into other cities in Tennessee, and then potentially beyond.”
Lucky Draw winners
Of course, our Grand Prize winners aren’t the only ones walking away with some cash, we also have 50 Lucky Draw winners taking home a cool $500.
The full list of winners is below, and we're reaching out to each one individually. In the meantime, here are just a few of the businesses who've won the draw:
Swanky Sugar—San Diego, California
Hair removal studio Swanky Sugar has been serving the San Diego community for the last 14 years. “I love the constant creative opportunities in a small business,” says owner Rebecca Wells, who runs the business alongside a team of four. “I love change, and small businesses need change to grow and stay fresh and interesting.”
OneEighty Digital—Orange Park, Florida
Operating for the last six years with a team of eight, OneEighty Digital is a web design and marketing agency that works with mission-based organizations. “I love getting to be a part of helping others do more good,” says owner Wesley Lewis. “This world needs more good and we get to partner with great people doing amazing things and play a small part in helping them grow their organizations.”
Pivot Business Group—Graham, North Carolina
Founded in 2016, Pivot Business Group is a firm of nine women that partners with entrepreneurs to provide financial strategy, CFO services, and more. CEO Pam Jordan’s best advice to fellow business owners? “Take the risk. Don't wait. You have the experience and skills to help others now, so do it.”
Congratulations to all our $500 Lucky Draw winners! Keep an eye on your email for confirmation of your win and information on how you'll receive your prize money.
Derek N. — Property Management
Stephen J. — Martial Arts Company
Natasha M. — Etsy Shop selling Baked Goods
Elizabeth S. — Vacation Rentals
Aaron T. — Auto Repair
Kalene M. — Vegan Desserts
Natasha H. — Organic Skincare
Eric L. —Painter
Christopher H. — Lawn Care
Tamay S. — Social Media Marketing Management
Keva N. — Vintage Camper Stays
Anne L. — Bookkeeper
Noel D. — Fitness Store
Sussan A. — Face Painting
Christine M. — Plant-Based Food
Jennifer C. — Event Management Company
Sara D. — Florist
David C. — Food Delivery
Melissa H. — Tea Room
Megan O. — Baby Clothes
Erin F. — Short Term Rentals
Toni M. — Dance Studio
Jim T. — Inspections
Terry M. — Pressure Washing
Jennifer C. — Accounting
Ellen P. — Interior Design
Keyana M. — Subscription Boxes
Jason B. — Consulting
Connor H. — Lawn care
Evan F. — Construction
Austen M. — Bookkeeping
Matthew C. —Nonprofit
Reyna H. — Gym
Renee J. — Dog Training
Amanda L. — Textile Company
Kathy B. — Childbirth Coaching
Randie W. — Restoration
Reagan B. — Tattoo Shop
Danielle O, Travel Agent
Michael F. — Therapy
Katherine D. — Tutoring
Jennifer T. — CPA
Philip K. — Coffee Roaster
Monique P. — Candles
Join the 100K Profit Club
Congratulations to all of these winners, and thanks to everyone for entering the Reasons To Be Profitable Contest.
Building a financially sustainable business is no easy feat, but it’s a lot easier with a little help from a like-minded community of fellow entrepreneurs. That’s why we’re so excited to have launched the 100K Profit Club, a community of soon-to-be 100,000 small business owners committed to building sustainable, permanently profitable businesses.
The Reasons To Be Profitable contest was just the beginning—join today to stay in the loop on everything we have in store!