The March 11 deadline for the 15th Annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, sponsored by FIU's Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center, is just around the corner. Have a question? Email ndahlberg@ miamiherald.com.
Q. What do the judges look for in an entry?
A. There is no one way to write a short business plan, but in general judges like to see a succinct description of your product or service as well as what problem in the market your company is solving, the market opportunity and what differentiates it from the competition. They also want to know about your business model — how you will make money — as well as sales and marketing strategy, your team (relevant experience) and a financial summary (how will you fund your venture and what are your startup costs and your revenue projections, for instance.)
It may seem like a tall order for a three-page plan (plus one optional page of supplemental materials is allowed) — but think of it like a meaty executive summary. Many of these sections may be just one paragraph,. make every word count and use a lot of bullet points. Don’t forget to show your passion!
Q: Does a title page count in the three-page limit?
A: No, title pages do not count in the three-page limit (one supplemental page is also allowed). However, they also aren’t necessary as far as we are concerned —- the judges are only concerned with what is inside.
Q: May I use the supplemental page for my financial chart?
A: Yes, that is an excellent use for the supplemental page. You can also use it for a photo, diagram, screen shot, etc.
Q. Can a high school student enter more than one business?
A. Sure, as long as they are separate entries.
Q. I’m in the eighth grade? May I enter?
A. Absolutely! You may enter either the high school or community track.
Q. Do you have to have an operating business to enter?
A. No, for this contest, your concept can be in the idea phase. But if you do have an operating business, it can’t be more than two years old.
Q. Who gets to participate in the video competition?
A. The People’s Pick is a video competition of the top six finalists in both the Community and FIU Tracks. Last year it drew more than 18,000 votes. There is a separate award for the People’s Pick. You can see last year’s videos on MiamiHerald.com/challenge
Q. What are the prizes?
A. If you are looking for big prize money, you are in the wrong contest. We have been a community contest for 15 years that has offered exposure (the top three winners and the People’s Pick are profiled in the Miami Herald and we follow the companies for years to come), feedback, education and connections. Some of our winners have found that is just as valuable.
And here are a few questions from earlier:
Q: Can I enter again if I entered last year?
A: Absolutely! As long as your business is no more than two years old and you were not a top three winners in a previous year.
Q. My CTO has a bachelors degree from FIU. Can we enter the FIU Track? If so, can we enter the Community Track too?
A. Yes, as long as at least one member of a team is a student or alum of FIU, you can enter the FIU Track. You cannot enter both tracks with the same idea, however.
Q: I am a teacher and some of my students would like to enter. Are the rules and deadlines the same?
A: That’s great, we love youth entrepreneurship! Yes, the rules are the same although most high school entries have been running 1-2 pages and that is perfectly fine. They should send their entries to firstname.lastname@example.org by March 11.
Q. How do I enter:?
A. Your entry can be a short business plan up to three pages in length. In addition, you can include one supplemental page for a photo, rendering, chart etc. Many entrants use their suppemental page for their financial chart. Send your entry to email@example.com (Community Track); firstname.lastname@example.org (FIU Track) or email@example.com (High School Track). You should get an automatic message and a folloc-up message from me confirming your entry. If you don’t get a message, please email firstname.lastname@example.org