Emerging South Florida entrepreneurs, show us what you’ve got!
Today we launch our 18th Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, our annual celebration of South Florida innovation in one of the most entrepreneurial regions in the nation. If you have a business idea or an operating startup that is under 2 years old, you can enter.
Sponsored by the Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center at Florida International University, our contest welcomes business plan entries from any industry. There are three tracks — a Community Track, open to all South Floridians; an FIU Track, open to students and alumni of that university; and a High School Track, co-sponsored by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship.
Don’t let the name of the contest scare you: We don’t want long, laboriously detailed business plans. That’s because today’s investors in early-stage companies want to see a succinct presentation of your concept and how you plan to turn it into a success. So do we.
Your entry may be up to three pages, and you may attach one additional page for a photo, chart or diagram if you wish. Think of it as a meaty executive summary. Experts in all aspects of entrepreneurship — serial entrepreneurs, executives, investors, advisors and academics (read their bios here on MiamiHerald.com/challenge) — will judge your short plan.
Judges will be looking at your product or service’s value to the customer, the market opportunity, business model, management team and your marketing and financial strategies. Define the problem your business or business idea is solving, clearly explain your solution, and provide tangible details as to why — and how — you can make it a success. See the contest rules here on MiamiHerald.com/challenge.
If you are entering the Community or FIU Tracks, your deadline is 11:59 p.m. March 28. If you are entering the High School Track, you have until 11:59 p.m. April 4. Entries should be sent to challenge@MiamiHerald.com, fiuchallenge@MiamiHerald.com or highschoolchallenge@MiamiHerald.com.
Need help? On March 7, we’ll host a free Business Plan Bootcamp, where veteran Challenge judge Melissa Krinzman, co-founder of Krillion Ventures, and Mark Kingdon, angel investor with Quixotic Ventures, will shed light on what should be in your business plan and share tips on pitching to investors. We will also hear from a past winner — you don’t want to miss this event. Register here: businessplanbootcamp.bpt.me.
And think of MiamiHerald.com/challenge as your base throughout this contest, as we’ll be bringing you advice and answering your questions. You can email your questions to ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com (please put challenge in the subject line). Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.
The top six finalists in the Community and FIU Tracks will present their 90-second elevator pitches for our popular weeklong video contest in late April on MiamiHerald.com. We will also unveil semifinalists and finalists to keep the suspense building. See last year’s videos here.
On May 9, in a special section of Business Monday, we will announce and profile the winners — the judge’s top three selections in each track plus the People’s Pick winners. DonorCommunity, PassTheNotes, Munchkin Fun, AdMobilize, DeliverLean, Fitting Room Social, Raw Shorts and Baby Abuelita are just a few of the past winners in recent years — so this year’s winners will be in good company. What do winners get? Valuable exposure in the Miami Herald (we profile the winners and cover their progress for years to come), mentorship, education and connections. For instance, the top winner in Miami-Dade County will be fast-tracked into the finals of the American Entrepreneurship Award and compete for a prize up to $25,000. All finalists will receive a free pass to the eMerge Americas conference in April and assistance from the Small Business Development Center at FIU; our top three winners in each track and People’s Pick winners will be honored at a Miami Herald luncheon in June and invited to FIU’s Hall of Fame dinner in the fall. We will be rolling out more in-kind prizes in the weeks to come. Stay tuned to Miamiherald.com/challenge.
Today we look back on the entrepreneurial journeys of our 2015 winners in the Community, FIU and High School Tracks. Some of our bootstrapping startup winners are rolling along with sales; others are still validating their concepts. Throughout the entry period, we’ll also look back at a few winners from the past 17 years.
May the best plans win. Good luck!