As anyone who has started a business will tell you, there’s a lot separating a great idea from a certified success story. And while some of it you have to learn the hard way, wouldn’t it be nice to have an entrepreneur fairy godmother? That’s the thinking behind DailyCandy’s “Start Small, Go Big” contest, which pairs budding small businesses with industry mogul mentors.

In addition to promotion through DailyCandy’s website and popular lifestyle newsletters, four winners from the categories of fashion, food, home and beauty will earn a seat at the “DailyCandy Academy,” where big-name profs — last year included Isaac Mizrahi, Rebecca Minkoff and Marcus Samuelsson — will offer PR, marketing, finance and technology advice.

Last year’s alums seem to have benefited: Nella Pasta will soon be available in regional Whole Foods stores, while Dolly Pearl founder Vi Hoang has been able to hire a staff and has her dresses in more boutiques. “It was such a cool thing to see these bigwigs talk to the winners,” says DailyCandy editor Lauren Lumsden. “They really offered real-world advice. It wasn’t just like, ‘Don’t give up! Stay inspired.’ It was really tangible advice: how to borrow money, how to handle debt.” Hey, they never said it was fun.

Follow Monica Weymouth on Twitter @MonicaatMetro