Business Plan Challenge

Winners of Business Plan Challenge think big, present strategy for success

We are pleased to introduce you to the winners of the 17th annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge.

The winners’ circle contains concepts in healthcare, antiques, food, tech and social entrepreneurship. To rise to the top, winners had to make a strong case for how they planned to execute their business plan.

South Florida is often recognized as one of the nation’s most entrepreneurial communities, and the 2015 winners and contestants represent the passion and diversity of the region’s emerging businesses. This year, the contest attracted a record 248 entries in our three tracks of the Miami Herald Challenge, sponsored by Florida International University’s Eugenio Pino and Family Global Entrepreneurship Center, and many attended our Business Plan Bootcamp in February. The three-page plans were judged by experts from our community — successful entrepreneurs, investors, executives and academics — as well as by the public via our popular People’s Pick video competition.

For the FIU track, the judging included a live pitch session for the six finalists, which helped determine the final winners. Each team received up to five minutes to present their companies, followed by time for Q&A and feedback.

The HighBoy, an online marketplace for high-end antiques and fine art, took first place in the Community Track. Room2care, a home health service powered by the sharing economy, took first place in the FIU Track, and was also named Challenge Champion, based on judge scores and People’s Pick voting. And the winner in the High School Track — a popular contest this year with 109 entries — was Teenography, a photography service that employs teen shutterbugs.

Stow Simple, an on-demand storage service, and Juana la Iguana, a learning platform in Spanish for toddlers, took second and third, respectively, in the Community Track.

Wuelto, an online mall for Latin America, and Senzu Foods, a food product line for foods made with insects, took second and third in the FIU Track.

USAVT, a transportation system powered by veterans, and MyScholarship, a scholarship-finding service, won second and third in the High School Track, which is co-sponsored by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship South Florida.

In the People’s Pick, which attracted a total 13,002 votes, Juana la Iguana kept the lead most of the week and won in the Community Track, with 1,804 votes, with Coastal Risk Consulting, an online analysis for flood risk, and Stow Simple taking second and third place. On the FIU Track, Court Buddy, a platform for affordable legal help, came from behind the final weekend to win, with 2,168 votes, with Room2Care in second place and Wuelto in third.

What separated today’s featured winners from the pack? The written business plans scored well in more key areas, such as marketing strategies, financials, management teams, market opportunity and growth plans. With many of the plans that were entered, judges liked the ideas, but the plans themselves were not developed enough to win.

Some of the winners and finalists are first-timers; others are serial entrepreneurs with decades of industry experience. But all are in the early stages of their businesses — we’ll be watching how they do!

Read the accompanying profiles to learn more about the winners.

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