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Why You Should Enter a Business Plan Contest!

It used to be that Business Plan Contests were typically a part of an academic exercise.  Student teams developed ideas and then pitched their plans to classroom rivals or a panel of instructors from the business and engineering departments.   Today, many of the popular contests still tend to be associated with major universities such as MIT, Harvard, and Rice, but there has also been a growing interest in these competitions by the private sector and economic development organizations. 

Why enter a Business Plan Contest?  After all, writing a business plan can be time consuming.  Then, a panel of judges will decide if they think your idea for a new product or service will actually fly.  Folks who serve as judges in these competitions are usually bankers, other entrepreneurs, professors, or maybe angel investors.  This is where “know your audience” becomes important.  Pitching an investment opportunity is not the same as selling your product or service.  The judges will want to hear about how you will make money at this venture — not how the product works or an exhaustive list of its features and benefits. 

OK — so why should you enter a Business Plan Contest?  Because you want to win!  Monetary prizes — some of which can be as high as $100,000 are a great way to infuse your startup business with some much needed cash.  But, getting the feedback on your proposal from a panel of experts is even better.  The experience you gain and the contacts you make will be worth every bit of the prize money.   

Just for the record, sometimes not winning is still valuable in the long run. Business Plan Contests are typically a good way to get your feet wet,  find out in a relatively  non-threatening venue if your idea has merit, and begin to understand what it will take to get folks to open their check books to fund your idea.

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