Non-profits have business competitions too


On Friday of this week, five finalists from among 12 initial applicants in the Tampa FL area will have their business plans judged by a panel that includes a banker and a venture capitalist. The winner will receive $25,000 to implement the plan, and the second-place finisher will receive $15,000.

So far, it sounds like most any other business plan competition.

However, in the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County 2010 Innovative Business Plan Competition, the contestants must be not-for-profit organizations. And although they all have their charitable missions, they must seek to support those missions with profits from “earned-income” activities. It’s the business plans for these activities that are being judged.

Of course, social-entrepreneurship competitions are not unusual, and we have been adding several to our database on Most are targeted to students or for-profit businesses that seek to implement socially responsible business ideas. Some will accept applications from both profit and non-profit entities.

But in Tampa we found a competition that is not only restricted to non-profits, but one that helps these charitable organizations operate like a business with real business objectives. “The judges are looking to reward businesses with viable ideas,” says Bobbi Davis, Resource Development Manager for the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County. “And we will stay with them after the competition to help implement their ideas.”

Last year’s winner was SHARE Florida Express, a business operated by SHARE Florida Food Network to make home deliveries of groceries. Its complete business plan submission, as well as the submissions of all past winners, is posted on the Children’s Board website. (Gotta love the transparency.)

Photo credit: lambdachialpha

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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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