Business Monday

Last week to enter the Business Plan Challenge

Will you be the next winner of the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge? Entries are due next Monday.

So put those final touches on your short business plan. Don’t forget to include highlights of all the business plan basics such as concept, target market, team, business model, growth, marketing and financial strategies. Tell us what differentiates your product or service from the competition, why it’s needed in the marketplace and why you are the one to execute the plan. If you entered before and didn’t win, you can update your plan and try again.

Your plan will be judged by a panel of angel and venture capital investors, serial entrepreneurs and senior executives, and the top six finalists in the Community and FIU tracks will also participate in our online popular contest. The top three winners in each track and the People’s Picks will be profiled in a special section of Business Monday.

Ready to take the Challenge? Here are the basics:

Who can enter: Entrepreneurs with businesses less than 2 years old or with business ideas. There is a Community Track, FIU Track and High School Track.

What to enter: Up to a three-page business plan (one additional page for charts or photos is allowed).

Entry deadline: 11:59 p.m. March 16

Email entries to: Challenge@MiamiHerald.com (for the community track), FIUchallenge@MiamiHerald.com or highschoolchallenge@MiamiHerald.com. You should get a confirmation your entry was received. If you do not, email ndahlberg@miamiherald.com.

Contest rules, judges’ bios, other info: MiamiHerald.com/challenge

Questions: ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Your questions answered

Q. I am an FIU alum and a proud Miamian. Can I enter both the FIU and Community Tracks?

A. No, we’re sorry: Pick one. The FIU Track typically receives fewer entries, but the choice is yours. To be eligible for the FIU Track, at least one team member needs to be a current FIU student or alumnus.

Q. Is a cover sheet counted in the page limit?

A. No, but it isn’t necessary. Our judges will judge the written plan.

Q. Can high school finalists participate in the video contest?

A. While the People’s Pick video contest is open to the Community and FIU Tracks, we will invite the winner or winning team of the high school track to make a video of the winner’s elevator pitch in our studio if they wish. It won’t be mandatory, but we will proudly feature it on MiamiHerald.com.

By the way, we don’t have any entries in the high school track yet — your odds are very good. College counselors have told me that being a winner or finalist in the Challenge sure looks good on college and scholarship applications!

Q. I incorporated my business in 2012 but didn't launch it until December 2013. Am I eligible?

A. Yes, to be eligible, your business can't be more than 2 years old, and we look at the time you opened your door or launched online. By the way, in our contest, business ideas are welcome too!

Have a question? Email ndahlberg@miamiherald.com and put Challenge in the memo line.

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