The obvious reason to enter a business plan competition is money — the potential to score big and achieve at least some of the funding you’re likely to need to get your business off the ground. But that’s only one of the many potential benefits; here are a few more:
1. A deadline: Without a deadline, it’s easy to let time slip by as you ponder your future life as an entrepreneur. A deadline, in the form of an upcoming business plan competition deadline, may be just the spur you need to polish your ideas and get them down in the form of a cogent business plan.
2. Advice: Whether you win or not, many business plan competitions provide extensive support to entrants. At the Harvard Business School Business Plan Contest, for example, a speaker series includes seminars that discuss how to write a business plan, forums to receive feedback and networking opportunities. The Rhode Island Business Plan Competition runs a series of workshops that focus on developing financial projections, writing a business plan and presenting a business plan.
3. Hone your skills: Not all business plans focus on business plans themselves. Some focus on elevator pitches, others focus on social media while still others focus on the venture capital end of start ups. So if there’s a particular area of honing your entrepreneurial skills that you’d like to focus on, it’s pretty likely that there’s a competition out there for you. The University of California at Berkeley hosts a Venture Capital Investment Competition; MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition includes an Elevator Pitch Competition that awards $20,000 in prizes; and Georgia Tech College of Management includes a Product Showcase Competition.
4. Pitch multiple concepts: Not only can you enter different business plan concepts at different competitions, but some competitions, including the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, allow participants to team up with more than one group. So if you’re a serial entrepreneur, or have so many ideas that you can’t focus on just one, there’s plenty of scope for you in the business plan competition universe.
5. Network: Duh. Yeah, networking is a major reason to enter business plan competitions. If you win, you’ll get introductions to venture capitalists and other influencers. But even if you don’t win, you can network with teammates, professors, judges and other entrepreneurs. The networking potential in business plan competitions is only limited by your imagination.
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