The Challenge is open. Here’s what you need to know

Long before South Florida had a formal startup ecosystem, the Miami Herald launched its South Florida Business Plan Challenge.

2018 marks our 20th year of encouraging local entrepreneurs and would-be business owners to put their dreams to paper, their paper to practice. Today, we invite you to take up the challenge by submitting your own brief business plan.

The deadline for submissions is 11:59 p.m. March 26.

This year, we again accept admissions in three tracks: Community (open to anyone living in Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe and Palm Beach counties), High School (for grades grades 8-12), and FIU (for students, alumni, faculty and staff of the Florida International University, our signature sponsor.)

In our Community Track, we welcome a special group of high-profile start-up and investment experts. They include investor and sports commentator Alex Rodriguez; serial entrepreneur Dr. Maurice Ferré; Johnson and Johnson’s JLABS COO Dr. JJ Desai; Knight Foundation Miami Program Director Raul Moas; UBS Senior Vice President Ghislain Gouraige Jr. Once again, venture capitalist Melissa Krinzman will lead our judges.

Once again, the Challenge is presented by Florida International University’s Pino Global Entrepreneur Center. This year’s Challenge Champion will receive mentorship, onsite marketing and free work space at The Shops at Sunset Place for one year, courtesy of Federal Realty, Grass River Property and Comras Company. (See detals below.)

Even if you’re not hatching a business plan, you can join in the celebration. In the coming weeks, we’ll be telling the stories of winners from years past. Many have flourishing businesses; some lasted only a few months. Some never moved beyond the idea stage.

In May, we’ll also be hosting a community-wide lunch celebrating past winners and the ones we will be announcing with help from our sponsors at FIU and the Knight Foundation. Keep an eye on this space to hear more about a special speaker.

▪ Meanwhile, read more about the Business Plan Challenge: Rules and tips; this year’s judges; and an update on some 2017 Business Plan Challenge Winners in the Community Track and FIU Track.

Challenge Champion in-kind services are courtesy of Federal Realty, Grass River Property and Comras Company. They include a 12-month, no-rent lease at The Shops at Sunset Place. Sponsor must approve winner’s use of the space before occupancy and winner is expected to comply with all property rules and regulations. Tenant Mentorship classes, onsite marketing (directory, banner, gate arms and posters when available) and PR support offered by SSP’s marketing and PR teams. Utilities up to $250/month are included; ownership has the right to relocate the winner within the property at its sole discretion. In addition, if the winner is not a retail-focused business or chooses not to open a retail store but instead uses the space as workspace, winner will be required to host a quarterly community-gathering event or networking event at no cost to SSP.

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