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Call for entries for the 2013 Business Plan Challenge

BizplanchairEntrepreneurs, please don’t let the name of our contest scare you.

As we launch our 15th annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge today, we are putting out our annual call for entries. But we aren’t looking for long, laboriously detailed business plans. Quite the contrary.

More and more, 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. We do, too.

If you have a business idea or an operating startup that is less than two years old, you can enter the Challenge, our annual celebration of South Florida entrepreneurship. Sponsored by the Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center at Florida International University, our contest has 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.

Your entry may be up to three pages and you may attach one additional page for a photo, rendering, diagram or spreadsheet if you wish. Think of it as a meaty executive summary. Experts in all aspects of entrepreneurship — serial entrepreneurs, executives, investors, advisors and finance specialists (see judge bios on MiamiHerald.com/challenge) — will judge your short plan. In doing so, they will be looking at your product or service’s value to the customer, market opportunity, business model, management team and your marketing and financial strategies. See the rules on page 22, which also include tips on preparing your entry.

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

Don’t worry, we’re here to help!

“Frame your business from your customer’s perspective and not yours. Rather than diving into a detailed explanation of your product or service, a more compelling way to tell your business story is to clearly share the problem that you are solving for your customers and how your business is different, better, faster, cooler, cheaper, smarter,” says Melissa Krinzman, managing director of Venture Architects and a veteran Challenge judge.

On Feb 26 at 6:30 p.m. at Miami Dade College, we’ll host a free Business Plan Bootcamp, where you can bring your working plan with you for advice from experts, including Krinzman. Find the sign-up link on MiamiHerald.com/challenge.

And each week in Business Monday and on MiamiHerald.com/challenge, we’ll be bringing you advice and answering your questions. You can post your questions on the Q&A on MiamiHerald.com/challenge or email your questions to me at ndahlberg@miamiherald.com. Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

The top six finalists in the Community and FIU Tracks will present their 90-second elevator pitches for our popular video contest. Last year our People’s Pick contest drew more than 18,000 votes.

On May 6, in a special section of Business Monday, we will profile the winners — the judges’ top three selections in each track plus the People’s Pick winners. Along the way, we will unveil semifinalists and finalists to keep the suspense building.

Today, though, we are looking back on the entrepreneurial journeys of our 2012 winners. Funding was a nearly universal challenge, and many faced setbacks in developing their platforms. Throughout the entry period, we’ll also look back on other winners from the past 14 years.

Read an update on Community Track winners Blend Craft Wines, Agape Marine Ventures and WedWu.

Read an update on FIU Track winners Geopon, ESENEM and BidThatProject.

Read an update on High School Track winners Team Beam, Cupcake 1+2=3 Cookbook and Music Conncection.

Find contest rules and judge bios on MiamiHerald.com/challenge.