How to Win a Business Plan Competition

Want to win money at a business plan competition?  There is plenty of cash out there in 2014, but it takes team preparation since the rules for contests differ and can be quirky. However, they can be a viable source of funding your business.

Here is what you need to do to win:

Management experience: Tell why your team is uniquely qualified to run this business. An experienced management team always wins over a great idea since success is about execution. For example, explain which members of your team have built a company before and have industry experience.

Market size: Describe the true addressable market of your company. Be as specific as possible. For example, a target market is not toys, but rather educational toys for 0-18 month olds.

Describe the problem your solution solves: Customers only buy when they are in pain. What pain do you solve and for whom? Do they have the money to buy the product? For example, the solutions that Nextiva sells allow companies to reliably communicate with their customers.

Proven concept or just a prototype: Showcase your paying customers since they are the best example that there is really a need for your product.

Strategic alliances: It is difficult for a small company to do it alone. Which larger brands can you get help from? For example, if your product is distributed by Wal-Mart, this is a big advantage.

Sustainable competitive advantage: If your company is successful and a richer competitor comes into the market, what will be your competitive advantage? For example, this could be a patent, trade secret, or distribution rights.

Use of the prize money: Judges want to know how the money will be used and make a difference in your company.

Get the math right: Financial projections are usually critical in any competition. Making arithmetic errors or having projections that are too optimistic can be fatal.

Make it engaging: Make the written entry or presentation engaging. Bored judges stop reading or paying attention. Anticipate the most likely questions, but be ready to improvise when things go wrong.

Rally your tribe: Many contests have a public voting element. Get everyone that your company is connected with to vote for your business.

Winning isn’t everything. Participating in these contests can bring valuable connections that can exceed the value of the cash prize.

Apply to win The 2014 Rule Breaker Awards sponsored by Nextiva, Microsoft, Skype, and Constant Contact. 

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