Business Plan Challenge

Last chance to enter the Business Plan Challenge! The deadline is Monday night

Have you already hatched a great idea for a business? Do you have a startup business in your dreams?

If your business is less than 2 years old or is in the planning stages, enter our 20th Annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, co-sponsored by Florida International University’s Eugenio Pino & Family Global Entrepreneurship Center.

This year, we offer three tracks: a Community Track open to anyone in South Florida; an FIU Track open to students and alumni of the university; and a High School Track for grades 8-12.

Panels of expert judges will select the three best business plans in each track based on both the quality of the idea and the submitted plan.

The top three competitors in the community, FIU and student tracks will be the subject of a Business Monday cover story May 7. Winners will be invited to a luncheon in their honor.

GENERAL RULES (ALL TRACKS)

▪ You must live in South Florida (Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe and Palm Beach counties). If you are entering an existing business, it must be based in South Florida. (See additional rules for FIU and student tracks under Specific Rules section.)

▪ Think of your plan as a meaty executive summary, offering just the highlights of your business plan. See tips for preparing your entry below. The entry must be no more than three pages; shorter plans are fine, also. You may include one additional page of supporting material — such as a product picture or diagram, a graphic or a financial spreadsheet.

▪ Entries must be for proposed for-profit businesses or firms in the startup phase. Sorry, no nonprofits.

▪ If you launched your company before Jan. 1, 2016, you are not eligible.

▪ If you entered the Challenge before and were not one of the top three winners in the track, you may enter your plan again as long as you meet the other criteria.

▪ Multiple entries from one person are allowed if they are different business ideas.

▪ Entry deadline: Emailed by 11:59 p.m. Monday, March 26, 2018. That’s tonight.

▪  Please put the name of your venture or your name in the subject line and email it to:

challenge@MiamiHerald.com — Community Track

fiuchallenge@MiamiHerald.com — for FIU Track

Mhighschoolchallenge@MiamiHerald.com — for High School Track.

You should receive an automated response after sending. For questions or problems, email businesseditor@MiamiHerald.com.

TRACK-SPECIFIC RULES

Community Track: You cannot enter both the community track and the FIU track with the same idea.

Finalists may be required to present their pitch to the judges. Judges will consider the pitch in their final ranking.

FIU Track: You must be a student or alumnus of FIU to enter. If a team is entering, at least one member of the team must be an FIU student or alumnus. Please write “FIU Entry” at the top of your submission. You cannot enter both the community track and the FIU track with the same idea.

Finalists may be required to present their pitch to the judges. Judges will consider the pitch in their final ranking.

High School Track: The contest is open to students in grades 8-12 in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties. A one- or two-page entry is fine in the student category. Please put “High School Entry” at the top.

ENTRY TIPS

Give specifics: Clearly define what your product or service is. What is its value to the customer? What problem is it solving in the market? If you already have a prototype, have done beta testing and/or have hit any other milestones, make that clear in the plan, too. (It’s OK if your idea exists only on paper, too.)

Be sure to explain:

▪ Who is your competition, and what sets your product or service apart?

▪ What is its market opportunity for growth? Is the business scalable?

▪ What is your strategy for selling or exiting the enterprise?

Get personal: Tell us a little about yourself and your management or proposed management team. What expertise does your team bring?

Include financials: How much startup capital will you need? What are potential sources of funding? Include revenue and expense projections for at least three years. Many entries in years past would have been in the winner’s circle if they had included well-thought out financials. (You can use your supplemental page for your financial section.)

Don’t forget marketing: Who is your target market? How will you market and distribute your product or service? Tell us about your market research and marketing strategy.

Include contact information: A phone number and email address, please.

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