Great odds in some business plan competitions

What would you say if someone told you that your business could register for a one-in-eight chance of winning a $30,000 prize package (including $15,000 in cash)? That’s right, we’re not talking about one-in-a-million, or even one-in-a-couple-hundred. We’re talking about one-in-eight…for $30,000…$100 application fee to enter.

You might say “where do I sign up?”

If you were an eligible business located in Oneida or Herkimer counties, New York, you would simply submit your entry for the Mohawk Valley EDGE Emerging Business Competition. The competition offers a grand prize package of $30,000, and only seven companies registered for this year’s contest (entries were due March 25 with winner to be announced on May 18).

Business plan competitions offering substantial prizes but seeing a low number of entries are not uncommon. Although many well-established competitions around the country are attracting record high numbers (hundreds or even thousands), that is not necessarily the case with some of the local or statewide competitions.

These events may lack participation for any of several reasons. Perhaps they are relatively new and have not yet established a strong reputation or wide exposure. Or maybe their target groups are smaller due to geographic restrictions or local economic conditions.  An out-of-pocket cost to participate — even a small application fee — can also dampen interest.

Whatever the reason, organizers of these events are still out there raising significant sponsorship money and services for their winners. Savvy start-ups should be on the lookout for all such opportunities, whether business plan competitions or other incentive programs.

One of our goals here at is to help stir up interest and participation in business plan competitions and entrepreneurship contests. To the extent we are successful, the odds of winning a competition may decrease, but the prizes, educational benefits, and networking opportunities will likely increase.

Here are a few other competitions we have come across with healthy prize packages but modest participation:

Rochester Regional Business Plan Contest25 businesses entered the 2010 competition that offers $50,000 in cash prizes, including $25,000 to the winner, plus in-kind services. The finals take place on April 30.

Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup Arkansas — Nearly $100,000 in prize money was awarded to Arkansas winning teams on April 19, who now proceed to the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup Tri-State Awards with even more prize money at stake. There were 50 applicants in Arkansas this year.

Monterey Bay Regional Business Plan Competition 61 entries were received for this competition that has a goal of raising $50,000 in cash and prizes for the winner.

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Joe Hurley is a CPA, author of "The Best Way to Save for College - A Complete Guide to 529 Plans", founder of, and co-founder of He has also recently started making maple syrup.
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