Assessing the value of a business plan competition

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The Burton D. Morgan Business Plan Competition at Purdue University has been around since 1987 and has seen hundreds of student and faculty competitors over its 23 year history. The first-prize award is currently $30,000 along with in-kind support and services. The competition continues to be funded by the Burton Morgan Foundation.

Is all that effort and expense really worth it?

To answer that question, Purdue University recently developed a survey and attempted to contact all past finalists to determine how the competition had affected them: their education, their career direction, their entrepreneurial activities.

Although the size of the response pool (43) was small, the survey uncovered a great deal of useful information that clearly supports the value of the competition:

  • 86% said that participating as a finalist enhanced their education.
  • 59% said that it influenced their career goals.
  • 67% indicated that they now view themselves as an entrepreneur.
  • 35% said that a company was started as a result of being a finalist in the competition. Of those who did not start a company right away, 41% started a company later in their careers.
  • 67% of the companies launched following the competition remained in existence at the time of the questionnaire.

We’re glad to see the Burton D. Morgan Business Plan Competition designing a survey to measure the impact of its competition and hope to see similar efforts on the part of other competition organizers. Not only will such information be useful in justifying the existence of these contests, but they should also yield valuable insight as to how they can further improve.

Photo credit: kcolwell

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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 Savingforcollege.com, and co-founder of Bizplancompetitions.com. He has also recently started making maple syrup.
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