Figuring out how to fund a startup idea is the key challenge for every entrepreneur with a great business idea. In fact, it can seem like an impossible task, especially if you’re on a tight budget. Determining how to fund a startup is especially tough when the business idea is just at the conceptual stage.
There is a unique way that a new company can get some assistance through business plan competitions. This article is going to focus how to fund a startup by finding and entering such competitions so you can reach your goal of starting your own business.
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. Some of the benefits of participating in a business plan competition include:
- 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 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.
How to fund a startup by entering a business plan competition – where to find them.
Here are three key websites where you can find business plan competitions to take your startup idea from concept to reality.
Explore business plan competitions
Here are some examples of business plan competitions you check out in your quest to figure out how to fund a startup and launch your business idea:
- Rice University Business Plan Competition: Hosted by Rice University, the Rice Business Plan Competition is easily the most lucrative business plan competition in the world by far with over 180 corporate and private sponsors providing sponsorship to the program. The program was easily the most competitive business plan program in 2016 due to an annual rate of more than 170 applicants with noted venture capitalists and other investors acting as judges. What separates the Rice Business Plan Competition from other similar programs is the grand prize of $1.5 million in cash and prize.
- Deans’ Business Plan Competition: Welcoming individuals and organizations with business plans for-profit and non-profit social ventures is the Deans’ Business Plan Competition. This 2-round competition is held in Virginia with the 1st round occurring online and the second round being held in a venue in Arlington, VA. With a first-place prize of $10,000, the competition is open to any type of business from all industries.
- Mayo Business Plan Competition: In 2017, the Mayo Business Plan Competition awarded grand prize money of $50,000. This business plan competition is open to the public with a requirement of at least 2 students form The College of New Jersey (TCNJ). The mission of this competition is to increase appreciation for the challenge of creating viable business. The business plans submitted to this competition will be judged by 2 noted judges with $30,000 going to 1st place, $14,000 to 2nd place, and $6,000 going to 3rd place.
- New York StartUP! Business Plan Competition: For residents of NYC, the New York StartUP! 2018 business plan competition is open to the public. The competition is set to award a grand prize of $15,000 to individuals/groups starting up their business ventures. The New York StartUP! Also welcomes individuals with existing businesses that have earned less than $10,000. Additionally, the competition has 2nd and 3rd place award prizes of $10,000 and $5,000 respectively.
- San Angelo Business Plan Competition: With a mission of developing original business concepts and cultivating them into new business ventures, the San Angelo Business Plan Competition is one of the more popular competitions in Texas. The competition is open to the public and has awarded a grand prize of $25,000 this year. The San Angelo Business Plan Competition consisted of 3 phases this year: Phase 1 consisted of contestants submitting their entry forms and business model overviews. The 2nd phase required contestants to submit drafts of their business plans. The final phase occurred with finalists presenting their business plans to a judging panel of noted entrepreneurs.
- Queen’s Entrepreneurs’ Competition: Proclaimed by the New York Times as one the most popular undergraduate business plan competitions in the globe, the Queen’s Entrepreneurs’ Competition is a worldwide competition held in Toronto, Canada. This competition has a grand prize of $75,000 in cash and prizes and allows competitors to develop solid networks of relationships with other budding entrepreneurs as well as having access to mentoring from the country’s top entrepreneurs and advisors.
How to fund a startup by winning a business plan competition
Winning is of course the primary goal of entering a business plan competition. Here are some tips to help you achieve that goal.
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 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 fund a startup by finding and entering a business plan competition. Pick the competitions you like best or ones that will challenge you to become a better entrepreneur and business owner. Contact me today if you’re interested in learning about how to fund a startup with other strategies. 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.