Starting a business can be tough. In fact, it can seem like an impossible task, especially if you’re on a tight budget. But don’t lose hope just yet. There is a very unique way that a new company can get some assistance through business plan competitions. This article is going to focus how to find and enter such competitions so you can reach your goal of starting your own business. So roll up your sleeves even further, stretch those brain-powering muscles and get ready to play some entrepreneurial ball.
Many people may not have heard of business plan competitions or think that they only take place at college or high school level. Those people would be wrong. And that’s a good thing. Several states, national organizations and even corporations hold these competitions regularly to help new entrepreneurs who have great ideas but not the resources to hopefully bring their concepts to fruition.
Besides the monetary aspect, which is obviously a key component in starting and owning a business, there are a few other great benefits for entering a business plan competition.
- Networking — Just getting your idea in front of a panel of judges alone is enough to enter a business plan competition. But the networking potential is even greater. You’ll rub elbows with venture capitalists, professors, influencers, business moguls and other entrepreneurs like yourself.
- Advice — Sort of a no-brainer, but this is really invaluable. You’ll get sound advice from everyone that sees and touches your business plan. The good, the bad and how you can learn. Some business plan competitions even hold seminars where you can listen and learn from the best in biz.
- Refining Skills — Whatever you need to work on, you can do it here. Talking in front of a large group, memorizing facts & details, thinking on your feet, designing a unique business plan, learning PowerPoint, etc. If there’s something you need hone, a business plan competition is the perfect training ground for it.
“That sounds great, Ron. But where do I start?”
Glad you asked.
A good place to start is this article. You can also search for them online. But before you get search-happy and lost down the inevitable rabbit hole of the Internet, here are a couple sites that you can peruse.
If you’re not ready to check out the links just yet, here are a couple more examples of business plan competitions to follow just to give you a sense of what they are.
Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest — The mission of this contest is to encourage various entrepreneurs in the formation of high-tech businesses in Wisconsin. The contest is run and overseen by the Wisconsin Technology Council, as well as a long list business partners. The Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest will engage its contestants in a six-month process. This includes mentoring, along with valuable comments and feedback from judges on those plans that are selected.
Women in Business Challenge 2013: This business plan competition is open to women entrepreneurs who are from emerging countries. Contestants must have created a viable business plan, and the plan must meet eligibility and evaluation criteria. Created in 2009, Women in Business is well known for having provided finance, support and coaching to more than 600 women. To take part in this contest, female entrepreneurs must submit a for-profit business plan. In addition, they should require financial assistance of $10,000 to $1,000,000 during the next 3 years. And the business should have a positive impact on their society or local environment.
Robert H. Smith — Kevin Plank, founder and CEO of Under Armour, is looking for the world’s most passionate student entrepreneurs. For the tenth year he’ll partner with the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business to host one of the world’s toughest business competitions with more than $100K on the line. Here, you’ll learn more about Plank’s story and commitment to entrepreneurship, as well as competition eligibility, this year’s game plan and past winners. Don’t miss the chance to pitch your business to Plank and other top judges.
Cupid’s Cup — Cupid’s Cup is an international business competition. However, applicants must demonstrate they have moved beyond the business plan stage. The business must be a legal business entity that has generated at least $5,000 in revenue. If this revenue requirement is not met, the company must have paying customers or critical mass of users. It’s not quite about the business plan, but it does give you a range of the competitions that are out there.
These are just a few of the many business plan competitions that are being hosted right now. There are literally hundreds of them out there waiting for you to enter and win.
You can’t start and own a business if you don’t even enter the business plan competitions right?
So what about the entering part? Like any contest, there are rules that have to be followed. Here are some tips to help you make the best impression once you find a venue to enter.
All business plan competitions have a primary mission or goal. Make sure that your business idea fits into what they are looking for. If your idea does not match what they are looking for, keep searching for one that does. Keep in mind that the details and rules of entering each business plan competition do matter. Read carefully and go through the proper channels. You’ll be just fine.
Keep your plan simple and to the point. Don’t wander about with too many ideas as this can make you look like you haven’t thought things through. Stay with your strongest idea and spend time explaining its growth opportunity.
It is always a good idea to see who has won the same competition in the past. You may be able to contact that business and ask for some tips. You might be surprised at how helpful a past winner can be. If the competition you want to enter has no past history, do some research and find competitions that were similar.
Keep in mind that even if you do not win the big prize (whatever that may be), you will often get feedback from industry experts concerning your proposal or your idea. This insight from experts can be invaluable and is often worth the time and effort that you put into your entry. Plus, there are a few smaller prizes that will still help get to your goal of starting your own business.
This article focused on how to find and enter a business plan competition and how it will help you achieve your goal of starting or owning a business. Pick the competitions you like best or ones that will challenge you to become a better entrepreneur and business owner. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and get going.
And if this article helped your or your friends in any way, let me know. Or link us to the competition you entered or business plan that you built. We’d love to see it.