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By Leigh Weingus

Last October, three women — Tiffany Hamilton, Barbara Ginty, and Jen Scherer — took a chance and entered Mika Brzezinski’s Grow Your Value bonus competition, submitting a 60-second pitch articulating their value to the “Morning Joe” co-host.

Because of their convincing arguments, they were selected as finalists among a pool of more than 100 people and were granted two weeks of professional coaching and styling. While Hamilton ultimately won the $5,000 grand prize to put toward her business, all three contestants identified themselves as winners and described the competition as invaluable in both their personal and professional lives.

For Hamilton, who became a mom at 15 and survived an abusive relationship, the contest gave her a renewed sense of self-esteem. “I was exposed to so much compassion through the Grow Your Value Contest, and that led to a lot of confidence,” said Hamilton, a 38-year-old higher education administrator and motivational speaker who lives in Stamford, Connecticut.

“Plus, I'm African American, I'm a woman, I'm a mom, I'm a chief diversity officer. It can feel like there isn’t space for me, sometimes. One of the main things I realized through this experience is that in order for me to understand that there's room for me, I have to go into those spaces.” Hamilton added: “Now that I have more confidence, I feel so much more comfortable talking to C-suite executives, which has helped me grow my business tremendously.”

Hamilton wasted no time putting her prize money to good use after the contest. While she invested some of it, the rest went straight into her professional endeavors. "I hired someone from a female-owned graphic design business to brand my [motivational speaking and coaching] business and design another logo to help build the site," she said. "I also contracted a few other stylists and professionals to help build my brand." Hamilton’s site launch is planned for the end of this month as a milestone to celebrate the anniversary of her winning the Grow Your Value contest last year.

Scherer, owner and founder of Magnified Events, a program that creates customized team-building experiences for different companies, said the competition taught her that it’s okay — and beneficial — to rely on other people.

“I realized that in order to grow, I couldn’t do everything by myself anymore,” the 47-year-old from Glen Rock, New Jersey said. “I have four children and a husband, and I tend to just do everything for my family. Working with [professional leadership coach] Liz Bentley, I realized I had to let go of a lot of things. Once I did, it opened so many doors for me and I became a woman-owned certified business owner.”

And Ginty, CEO of Planancial — a program that provides online personal finance classes — learned about the importance of advocating for herself and playing to her strengths. “To give you an example, everyone always said I needed to blog,” said the 34-year-old from Kingston, New York. “I hate writing, but I love talking to people about their money. So I started a podcast, and that’s worked out great.”

Now that this year’s contest is in full-swing, with a grand prize of $25,000, Ginty, Scherer and Hamilton said they couldn’t be more excited for all the women who are trying to better themselves through the competition. “Just go for it and put it all out there,” advised Ginty. “Give it a shot, because you won’t know it until you try. It's a life-changing experience, and meeting like-minded women is amazing.”

Scherer added that “participants will gain so much business and personal advice. It's just a wonderful, supportive atmosphere.”

Don’t forget to enter this year’s “Grow Your Value” contest by 12:00 AM ET on October 21, 2018. Click here for more information on how to enter, and for official rules, odds, and prize details.