You have about two weeks left to participate in the 2016 Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge — three weeks if you are a high school student. If you are on the fence about whether to enter, jump over. Here are five reasons to get moving:
1. Motivation. Perhaps you’ve been meaning to write a short business plan. Well, this might just be that kick in the behind you need. Writing down your business strategy and road map will help you focus, and give you a document for potential partners or investors. Whether you are entering the Community Track — open to all of South Florida; the FIU Track — open to students and alumni of that university; or the High School Track — which is also open to eighth-graders this year, entering the Challenge will help you get moving.
2. Publicity. If you are one of the top three winners in each track or the “People’s Pick,” you will be profiled in a special section of the Miami Herald’s Business Monday announcing the winners, in print and online. If you are in the top six in the Community or FIU Tracks, you will participate in the People’s Pick, our popular video contest hosted on MiamiHerald.com [See last year’s video contest here.] We also announce our first cut, the semi-finalists, to keep the interest going. Social networking is a key component of our contest. Next year, we will look back on our winners and we follow them for years to come.
3. Feedback and education. I’ll share feedback from the judges with you if you request it, whether or not you are a finalist. Winners will also receive opportunities for entrepreneurial education. If you are chosen for the aforementioned People’s Pick contest, that’s a terrific opportunity to polish your elevator pitch. If you are entering the High School Track, remember that winning sure looks good on a college application.
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4. Exposure and connections. It can’t hurt to have your plan read by South Florida’s top entrepreneurial experts, including serial entrepreneurs and investors (judges’ bios are at MiamiHerald.com/challenge). Sometimes long-lasting mentorships are developed. Some winners have been introduced to investors or potential partners; others gained key customers. If you are one of the winners, you will receive other opportunities for mentorship and connections — for example, the top Miami-Dade winner will have the opportunity to compete in the finals of the American Entrepreneurship Award (www.americanaward.com), with a $25,000 prize, and top finalists will receive tickets to the eMerge Americas conference. All winners will be honored at a luncheon with the judges and business staff and invited to FIU’s Hall of Fame reception honoring entrepreneurs.
5. Pride. I know you’re passionate about your concept — and aren’t you just a wee bit competitive?
If you entered last year and weren’t one of the top three winners, regroup and try again. Business ideas in the ideation stage are fine for this contest. Class projects are welcome, and we love high school entries.
Do you have questions? Email ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com or tweet @ndahlberg.