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Who'll Give Your Business Money Right Now?

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- If you're a budding entrepreneur or you've got a growing small business but don't have the money to expand, getting into the competition circuit may be a good way to find capital.

There are a host of organizations offering legit money to small businesses. Some competitions are for start-ups, others for students. Still others just want to help the little guy.

A host of organizations are offering seed money to small start-ups.

Unfortunately, the number of applicants vying for the top prize at some of the biggest contests has spiked since the recession, meaning competition is strong as contest organizers look for bright, determined and resourceful competitors savvy in technology and social media.

Here's a few small-business contests that can get your great idea or business on the map.

1. Rice University Business Plan Competition
The Rice University Business Plan Competition, a graduate-student-level competition, is taking applications for 2012.

Entering its 12th year, the competition, hosted by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship and the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University, seeks to get collegiate entrepreneurs to fine-tune their business plans and funding pitches.

Forty-two semi-finalist teams will be decided in March and invited to the annual competition the following month to compete for $1.3 million in prizes, including $900,000 in seed money and more than $500,000 in other cash prizes. Teams will be judged on how strong their business plans are and whether an investor would want in on their idea.

Of past competitors, 133 have gone on to launch businesses that are still in operation and raised in excess of $397 million in funding, according to the competition's Web site.

The annual competition is open only to students, but they do not have to be at Rice University. Teams must have at least one graduate student on the start-up's management team. Applications are due Feb. 17.

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