Business Plan Challenge

2015 Business Plan Challenge opens for entries

Miami

South Florida entrepreneurs, this is your time to shine!

Today we are launching our 17th 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 less than two 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 very 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 (see 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 on MiamiHerald.com/challenge here.

Your entry is due by 11:59 p.m. March 16. Entries should be sent to challenge@MiamiHerald.com, fiuchallenge@MiamiHerald.com or highschoolchallenge@MiamiHerald.com.

Need help? On Feb. 18, we’ll host a free Business Plan Bootcamp, where Challenge judges Melissa Krinzman, co-founder of Krillion Ventures, and Steven McKean, serial entrepreneur in the tech space, Adam Smith of Medina Capital and other entrepreneurial experts will shed light on what should be in your business plan and share tips on pitching to investors. Register through this link: http://hrld.us/bootcamp.

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 early April on MiamiHerald.com. We will also unveil semifinalists and finalists to keep the suspense building.

On April 27, in a special section of Business Monday, we will annouce and profile the winners — the judge's top three selections in each track plus the People’s Pick winners. DonorCommunity, PassTheNotes, AdMobilize, DeliverLean, WedWu, JustAskBoo 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 win? Valuable exposure in the Miami Herald (we cover our winners’ progress for years to come), connections and mentorship.

Today we are looking back on the entrepreneurial journeys of our 2014 winners. Funding was a challenge for all, and many spent much of the year developing (or redeveloping) their platforms. Throughout the entry period, we’ll also look back on a few winners from the past 16 years.

You have seven weeks. May the best plans win. Go!

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