August 03, 2015

On-demand storage startup Stow Simple launches in Miami area

Stow simple

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Joining the “on-demand economy” with a new twist on traditional storage, Miami-based Stow Simple has launched its valet storage service in Miami’s urban core from Brickell through Midtown, as well as Coconut Grove, Miami Beach, Key Biscayne and Coral Gables, with plans to continue to expand in South Florida.

Stow Simple, runner-up in this year’s Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, aims to offer another alternative to schlepping boxes to the storage facility. The transaction can be booked through its mobile-friendly website, stowsimple.com, and an app is under development. Stow Simple provides free bins and pickups. Items are photo-catalogued and stored in a secure, climate-controlled facility. Customers can log into their account any time to see what they have or schedule delivery or pick up of items.


Siblings Silvia and Jorge Camps (pictured above), founders of Stow Simple, soft-launched in a smaller area in June and said they have been going door to door to Brickell property managers and doing direct mailings, online ads and events to get the word out. Based on feedback, they added more pricing options for customers, too; customers can now rent a 5-foot-by-5-foot or 5-foot-by-10-foot space, in addition to its four bins for $28 a month or per item pricing. “We will store as much or as little as you want,” Silvia Camps said.

Bag with 2 bins_smallThe company has also partnered with the Miami Rescue Mission to make it simple for customers to give back. With branded donation bags provided at the time of bin drop-off, customers can simply fill up the bag with any unwanted clothing, which will then be delivered free to the Mission as a tax-deductible donation.

People who have been using our service have been using it again and that is very encouraging,” said Silvia Camps, adding that customers so far have included downsizing families, international customers who also rent out their second home when they aren’t there, college students coming and going and small businesses and law firms undergoing renovation or moving to new offices. “It isn’t peak storage time yet, which is great for us because it has given us time to learn. We want to hit the fall full throttle.”

Stow Simple has national aspirations, but is starting with the South Florida market. Read more about Stow Simple here.

 

April 27, 2015

Meet the winners of the Business Plan Challenge

We are pleased to introduce you to the winners of the 17th annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge.

The winners’ circle contains concepts in healthcare, antiques, food, tech and social entrepreneurship. To rise to the top, winners had to make a strong case for how they planned to execute their business plan.

South Florida is often recognized as one of the nation’s most entrepreneurial communities, and the 2015 winners and contestants represent the passion and diversity of the region’s emerging businesses. This year, the contest attracted a record 248 entries in our three tracks of the Miami Herald Challenge, sponsored by Florida International University’s Eugenio Pino and Family Global Entrepreneurship Center, and many attended our Business Plan Bootcamp in February. The three-page plans were judged by experts from our community — successful entrepreneurs, investors, executives and academics — as well as by the public via our popular People’s Pick video competition.

For the FIU track, the judging included a live pitch session for the six finalists, which helped determine the final winners. Each team received up to five minutes to present their companies, followed by time for Q&A and feedback.

The HighBoy, an online marketplace for high-end antiques and fine art, took first place in the Community Track. Room2care, a home health service powered by the sharing economy, took first place in the FIU Track, and was also named Challenge Champion, based on judge scores and People’s Pick voting. And the winner in the High School Track — a popular contest this year with 109 entries — was Teenography, a photography service that employs teen shutterbugs.

Stow Simple, an on-demand storage service, and Juana la Iguana, a learning platform in Spanish for toddlers, took second and third, respectively, in the Community Track.

Wuelto, an online mall for Latin America, and Senzu Foods, a food product line for foods made with insects, took second and third in the FIU Track.

USAVT, a transportation system powered by veterans, and MyScholarship, a scholarship-finding service, won second and third in the High School Track, which is co-sponsored by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship South Florida.

In the People’s Pick, which attracted a total 13,002 votes, Juana la Iguana kept the lead most of the week and won in the Community Track, with 1,804 votes, with Coastal Risk Consulting, an online analysis for flood risk, and Stow Simple taking second and third place. On the FIU Track, Court Buddy, a platform for affordable legal help, came from behind the final weekend to win, with 2,168 votes, with Room2Care in second place and Wuelto in third.

What separated today’s featured winners from the pack? The written business plans scored well in more key areas, such as marketing strategies, financials, management teams, market opportunity and growth plans. With many of the plans that were entered, judges liked the ideas, but the plans themselves were not developed enough to win.

Some of the winners and finalists are first-timers; others are serial entrepreneurs with decades of industry experience. But all are in the early stages of their businesses — we’ll be watching how they do!

Read the accompanying profiles to learn more about the winners.

Meet the 2015 Business Plan Challenge judges

 

Business Plan Challenge finalists represent South Florida’s trending industries

View the videos from 2015 Business Plan Challenge Finalists

 

 

High School Track winners:

Duo’s app would simplify college-application process

Teenography: Weston teen’s business lets other students learn, profit

Trucking company plan salutes veterans

FIU Track:

Room2Care: Cost-sharing program gives seniors an alternative to assisted living

Out to change how Latin Americans shop

Senzu Foods team sees big appetite for insect-based foods

Service brings access to legal system to the people

 

Community Track

Lovable Juana la Iguana stars in apps for kids

To see the opportunity for Stow Simple, look up

The HighBoy: Online antiques marketplace reflects results

April 22, 2015

Social entrepreneurship leads FIU Track pitches in the Business Plan Challenge

Miami-herald-2

 

The FIU Track of the Business Plan Challenge held a live pitch event as part of the judging. Here is a report from that. Who won? Find out April 27 in Business Monday or on MiamiHerald.com/challenge.

By Cynthia Corzo, FIU College of Business

Innovation for social good was the leading theme among the six semifinalists chosen in the FIU Track of the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, co-sponsored by the College of Business’ Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center:

  • Court Buddy offers affordable access to legal services;
  • FlowKPI provides real-time performance data for retailers;
  • Relentless Roasters aims to create a specialty coffee bar and collaborative workspace for students;
  • Room2Care.com proposes a cost-effective solution for elderly care;
  • Senzu Foods offers affordable, high-protein foods made from bugs.
  • Wuelto taps the growing e-commerce marketplace for virtual mall experience;

“It’s nice to see people thinking big, solving big issues for the market and delivering proposals that are economically viable,” said John Fleming, Pino Center advisor and one of the judges on the FIU Track.

Senzu Foods’ founders gave their presentation an added boost, sharing cricket-based cookies with the judges and the other teams participating in the March 30 “Shark Tank Forum” at The Miami Herald. The consensus: they tasted good.

Impressed by the proposals, the judges offered three words of advice: “Don’t give up.”

It may not have been as fierce as the original “Shark Tank” television show, but the FIU Track judges spared little mercy in their questions to the participants.

“How are you going to deal with online fraud?” the judges asked Wuelto founder and FIU alumnus Alejandro Gomez. “Why should consumers buy from you and not Amazon?” added Seema Pissaris, professor at FIU’s College of Business Department of Management and International Business. They also quizzed the Senzu team on their failure to address the required FDA approval and pointed out the need for a food industry expert on their team.

Money was at the core of the judges’ questions to Relentless Roasters’ Daniel Choiseul, an FIU graduate, asking for details on cost per square foot and revenue per square foot – neither one covered in the presentation. “If you can’t explain those two numbers you can’t get anywhere,” said Karlene Cousins, associate professor in the Decision Sciences and Information Systems Department.

Difficult and demanding.

The annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge tasks contestants with creating a succinct yet detailed presentation of their business concept, the issues it will solve and how the venture will become a success. The ultimate goal: securing investors to get the venture off the ground or grow an existing business active for less than two years.

“This is real money and I expect you to do real things with it,” Fleming, , co-founder and technology practice lead of Biztegra Partners, told participants as they prepared to make their presentations. “If you’re taking other people’s money, you’re responsible for it.”

A record 248 entries were submitted for the 2015 competition, now in its 17th year. The six semifinalists selected in each track – Community, FIU and High School – all made live presentations before judges and filmed a 90-second video elevator pitch.

Participants in the FIU Track, the majority of them alumni, admitted the challenge wasn’t easy, with tough questions from the judges about costs and business models, competitors, target markets, and marketing strategies.

“It was tough, but it’s constructive criticism from someone who sees these types of presentations all the time,” Nicolexander Garza, an FIU undergrad who co-founded Senzu Foods with current FIU students Ricardo Delgado and Valerie Yoda, said about the shark tank forum, “They suggest what areas we need to work on and we learned from their questions to us and to the others.”

Court Buddy co-founders attorney James Jones Jr., an attorney, and Kristina Jones, an FIU alumna, were asked what their critical mass would be, both in terms of attorneys and non-attorney members, how they would attract new lawyers to the service and maintain interest of those already subscribed, and details about the actual costs of running the business.

“They brought up points that made us realize that we needed to focus more on the business side of Court Buddy,” said James Jones. “It’s a process that requires our daily attention and dedication to meeting our member’s needs.”

Lessons to be learned.

The judges described the business proposals as interesting, original and well presented. One of the areas that Business Plan Challenge contestants, and anyone who’s planning to launch a business, must overcome is the “assumption factor.”

“They have to help me understand the problem and how the business will fill in the gaps,” said Pissaris. “Paint a clear picture of what the market looks like, address the risks and have a plan to mitigate them, describe what makes you well matched to execute the business.”

The presenting teams also need to work on the competitive environment and how to execute the business plan, noted Cousins.

“Some couldn’t explain how their product would be better than competitors’ until they were probed,” said Cousins. “They have to examine legal and regulatory issues, provide solid information on the return for investors and conduct more sophisticated analysis about the business model.”

The grand finale comes on April 27, when a special edition of The Miami Herald’s Business Monday will showcase the winners – the judge’s top three selections in each track, the People’s Pick, and the overall 2015 Challenge Champion.

For a closer look at the contestants and their companies: go here.

Cynthia Corzo is Assistant Director of Media Relations and Communications for FIU College of Business.

April 19, 2015

Last day to vote in the Business Plan Challenge!

Indexes to measure the stability of fine art and the impact of climate change, an antiques marketplace, an online mall, solutions for your thousands of photos and storage-impaired condos. A “shared economy” company for long-term care, a learning platform for Hispanic kids, a tool to find an affordable lawyer, a business software platform, a campus coffee house/incubator – we’ve even got a food product line made with bugs.

Who is building the best new business? You tell us!

Take a look at the top six finishers in the Community and FIU Tracks of the 17th annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, and we are asking you to vote for your favorite plans in The People’s Pick competition.

To vote for your favorite contestants, here’s what to do:

Click on the top story on MiamiHerald.com/Challenge to bring up the voting page. View the short videos of the finalists’ elevator pitches. The six selections in the FIU Track follow the Community Track.

Then scroll down to the bottom of the page to cast your ballot, voting for one video in each track.

Lastly, get out the vote! Voting closes at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, April 19.

The top voted team from each track track will be awarded the People’s Pick and honored in the April 27 Business Monday section along with the judges’ selections.

Vote here – hrld.us/BizPlan2015 – or go to MiamiHerald.com/challenge to find the voting page.

The contenders are:

Community Track

Accidental Archivist, pitched by Stephanie Norman. Got photos? This is a free platform full of training and tips from industry leaders, a wide array of products and services, and a community of all ages who share tips, rate products and connect with one another.

Art Preservation Index, pitched by Emily MacDonald-Korth. The Art Preservation Index, or APIx, is a stability rating system for fine art, based on its patent-pending rating algorithm, comprehensive database of art material information, and proprietary mobile art evaluation software.

Coastal Risk Consulting, pitched by Albert Slap. A comprehensive online service called the “Coastal Risk Rapid Assessment” provides a property’s future flood risk, changing the conversation around climate change.

Juana la Iguana, pitched by Tania Gilinski. This learning and entertainment platform will help parents transmit to their kids their values, culture, music and Spanish vocabulary. It looks to launch 20 applications in the next four years.

Stow Simple, pitched by Silvia Camps and Jorge Camps. With the click of a button, Stow Simple will pick up, safely store and return your belongings, with prices comparable to traditional self-storage. The initial target market will be city high-rise dwellers.

The HighBoy, pitched by Douglas Scott and Olga Granda-Scott. Leveraging deep industry experience of its founders, The HighBoy delivers a streamlined method for sourcing and purchasing exceptional antiques, fine art and other historic design items online.

FIU Track

Court Buddy, pitched by by James Jones Jr. and Kristina Jones. Founded by an attorney, this online legal matchmaking system connects people and businesses with affordable attorneys based on their budgets; it gives people, regardless of background or financial situation, access to a legal system.

FlowKPI, pitched by Luis Caro, Ernesto Ruiz and Giancarlo Zarrillo. This provider of business software wants to redefine the tools businesses rely on to accomplish their goals and achieve their real potential. It plans to develop software-as-a-service solutions for different industries.

Relentless Roasters, pitched by Daniel Choiseul Paguaga. A collaborative workspace and specialty coffee café on the FIU campus would serve as a retail location, roasting facility and educational center focused on entrepreneurship and School of Hospitality-connected activities.

Room2Care.com, pitched by Todd Florin and Richard Ashenoff. Leveraging the power of the sharing economy, this end-to-end platform is designed to connect those who need long-term care with those who can provide care in the local community.

Senzu Foods, pitched by Ricardo Delgado and Nicolexander Garza. This company’s goal is to provide a sustainable solution to food security, public health and environmental concerns by becoming a leading producer and distributor of insect-based food products.

Wuelto, pitched by Alejandro Gomez. This global social e-commerce platform provides users with a going-to-a-mall experience by allowing people to share items with friends while also being able to ask questions and interact with the stores.

WHERE TO VOTE AND WHAT’S NEXT?

To cast your votes for the People’s Pick, go to hrld.us/BizPlan2015.

The winners including the People’s Picks, finalists and semifinalists will be unveiled in a special report in Business Monday on April 27.

April 05, 2015

Business Plan Challenge semifinalists announced

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

ChallengeThis year’s entries in the 17th annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge include concepts for fashion, art, restaurants, maker spaces, social gaming, healthcare, real estate and logistics. There are plans to educate our kids, help us eat better and live socially conscious lives. And for every time you said “where’s my waiter?” there is a plan for that, too.

So who will win the 2015 Challenge? Thirty young businesses and business ideas are still in the running.

Having the right ingredients to win over our judges isn’t easy: They were looking at the viability of the business model, the team, marketing strategy, financial projections and more. A good idea alone won’t get you very far: Our judges were looking for a strong plan for execution.

To be sure, our three panels of judges — serial entrepreneurs, investors, academics and executives — had their work cut out for them. The Business Plan Challenge, sponsored by FIU’s Pino Global Entrerpreneurship Center, drew a record 248 qualified entries. The Community Track drew more than 100 entries, presenting a mix of businesses representative of South Florida’s diversity. Veteran judges said the overall quality of the entries was higher than previous years.

Competition in the High School Track, co-sponsored by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship in South Florida, was especially fierce with a record 111 entries. Half of those entries were from two schools, Ransom Everglades and Gulliver Prep, and classes taught by three teachers, Jennifer Nero of Ransom and Kamal James and Daniela Brenha of Gulliver.

For all 248 of you who entered, congratulations! You now have a strong start on your business plan — your road map to growing your business. Even if you didn’t make the list this time, we know you will carry on; please let us know how you do.

This week we announce our semifinalists. Next week we will unveil our top six in two tracks, and they will also be part of the video competition. The winners, finalists and semifinalists in all three tracks will be included in a special section April 27. Here, in alphabetical order are the semifinalists:

Community Track

Accidental Archivist, by Stephanie Norman. Got photos? This is a free platform full of training and tips from industry leaders, a wide array of products and services and a community of all ages who share tips, rate products and connect with one another.

Art Preservation Index, by Emily MacDonald-Korth. The Art Preservation Index, or APIx, is a stability rating system for fine art, based on its patent-pending rating algorithm, comprehensive database of art material information, and proprietary mobile art evaluation software.

Coastal Risk Consulting, by Albert Slap. A comprehensive online service called the “Coastal Risk Rapid Assessment” provides a property’s future flood risk, changing the conversation around climate change.

Creating Revolutions, by Einer Rosenberg. To help restaurants and retailers capture the billions in sales lost each year due to poor customer service, CR has developed a patented simple-to-use technology called NFC Paging. First product: NFC Service Pager.

cTHRU Nutrition, by Lisa Dorfman and Adeel Murtaza. A feature-rich shopping application aims to ensure that families and consumers worldwide have a handy, fast, easy-to-use personalized tool to help them select the healthiest groceries and restaurant meals.

EarthWare, by Michael Caballero and Pandwe Gibson. Moving beyond old wasteful practices, EarthWare creates utensils, tableware and containers made from natural and recycled materials that are biodegradable and compostable.

Educrate, by Jacqueline Basallo and Patricia Ortega. This is a subscription e-commerce platform of educational and office supply products for teachers nationwide. Educrate brings teachers the tools to create, inspire and teach outside the box.

Grasp Learning, by Gary and Valerie Berman. Reinventing the K-8 after-school tutoring and academic support experience, Grasp empowers “edu-preneurial” teachers to supplement their income by operating their own micro-learning centers within nonprofits and community centers.

Juana la Iguana, by Tania Gilinski and Amanda Quijano. This learning and entertainment platform will help parents transmit to their kids their values, culture, music and Spanish vocabulary. It looks to launch 20 applications in the next four years.

Stow Simple, by Silvia Camps and Jorge Camps. With the click of a button, Stow Simple will pick up, safely store and return your belongings, with prices comparable to traditional self-storage. The initial target market will be city high-rise dwellers.

The HighBoy, by Douglas Scott and Olga Granda-Scott. Leveraging deep industry experience of its founders, The HighBoy delivers a streamlined method for sourcing and purchasing exceptional antiques, fine art and other historic design items online.

UX Gofer, by Jacqueline Stetson Pastore. Built by UX pros, this app makes usability testing easier, faster and more accessible. It streamlines the workflow of senior practitioners and guides the newbie on how to set up a study, capture data and do analysis.

FIU Track

Court Buddy, by James Jones Jr. and Kristina Jones. Founded by an attorney, this online legal matchmaking system connects people and businesses with affordable attorneys based on their budgets; it gives people, regardless of background or financial situation, access to a legal system.

FlowKPI, by Rodolfo Navarro, Luis Caro, Ernesto Ruiz and Giancarlo Zarrillo. This provider of business software wants to redefine the tools businesses rely on to accomplish their goals and achieve their real potential. It plans to develop software-as-a-service solutions for different industries.

Relentless Roasters, by Daniel Choiseul Paguaga and Andre Villarreal. A collaborative workspace and specialty coffee café on the FIU campus would serve as a retail location, roasting facility and educational center focused on entrepreneurship and School of Hospitality-connected activities.

Room2Care.com, by Todd Florin and Richard Ashenoff. Leveraging the power of the sharing economy, this end-to-end platform is designed to connect those who need long-term care with those who can provide care in the local community.

Senzu Foods, by Ricardo Delgado, Nicolexander Garza and Valerie Yoda. This company’s goal is to provide a sustainable solution to food security, public health and environmental concerns by becoming a leading producer and distributor of insect-based food products.

Wuelto, by Gerson Gomez and Alejandro Gomez. This global social e-commerce platform provides users with a going-to-a-mall experience by allowing people to share items with friends while also being able to ask questions and interact with the stores.

High School Track

2 Charge, by David Herrera, Gustavo Ciobataru and Lain Huguet, Gulliver Prep. The 2 Charge Power Card will transfer battery from one phone to another and charge two phones at once, all in one product no bigger than a credit card.

All Pro Sports Highlights, by Emmanuel Cineus, Miami Edison Sr. High. This service business would create customized, personalized mobile apps for athletes, showing highlights and stats and becoming a marketing tool to show to college recruiters.

Find My Dog, by Lucas Lowenstein, Tatiana Ramirez and Sophia Esquenazi, Gulliver. A GPS tracking dog collar would track a dog through a detailed map using the Find My Dog app or website. The collar would also include a fitness monitor and a camera at an extra cost.

Food Pages, by Noah Rolnick and Yoav Grainer, Miami Palmetto Sr. High and Ransom Everglades. An iOS app that would allow users to research food products rated by people like them while earning rewards for their ratings.

Magistrae, by Alain Carles, Ransom Everglades. A smartphone application aims to consolidate and catalog lists of academic tutors, art instructors and sports coaches all in one place, with user profiles, a calendar, ratings and reviews.

Mood4Food, by Alex Levine, Jillian Hersman and Kayla Sharp, Gulliver. A mobile food-ordering company would connect consumers and corporate businesses with thousands of restaurants in South Florida. A portion of the profits would go to charity.

MyScholarship, by Wesley Villano and Eduardo Garcia-Montes, Ransom Everglades. This app would match you to university aid packages and scholarships, with tips on the process and a rating of universities based on affordability.

ROBA, by Gabriela Telepman and Madeleine Granados, Gulliver. This website would act as an outlet to buy fashions worn by popular figures. By clicking on a photo in an article, the customer will be taken to online stores where they can buy that item or one like it.

Savvy Seniors, by Sophie Leon, Ransom Everglades. To help navigate the college application process, Savvy Seniors notifies students and parents about important dates and deadlines.

SOSpeech, by Valentina Barragan and Michelle Palm, St. Thomas Aquinas. This app would perfect the eloquence of your words in presentations, interviews and conversations; it’s targeted at students as well as adults.

Teenography.com, by Katelyn Barclay, University School. This operating teen-owned photography business offers services of talented and ambitious teen photographers at affordable prices.

USA Veteran Transportation, by Alexander Futernick, Ransom Everglades. USAVT strives to be the safest and most reliable transportation service to companies across America while combating nationwide veteran unemployment.

Find more information about the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge at MiamiHerald.com/challenge. Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

March 17, 2015

Business Plan Challenge attracts 248 entries

A record 248 entries flowed into the 17th annual Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge by the deadline on Monday, making it the biggest year yet for business plan entries.

If you entered the Challenge and did not get a confirmation email from Nancy Dahlberg or have a question about whether your entry was received, please email her at ndahlberg@miamiherald.com and put Challenge in the memo line.

Education was a big trend in the contest this year, with ideas for apps, services, classes, books, videos and more. Food and fashion continued to draw a lot of interest, as did technology and plans with a social mission. This year there were also ideas and young businesses tied to South Florida’s biggest industries – real estate, construction and tourism – and this year drew more healthcare-related ideas than years past. The contest attracted entrepreneurs of all ages, including a number of people from the corporate world ready to make the jump into entrepreneurship for the first time.

Next the plans go to the Business Plan Challenge judges, who are serial entrepreneurs, investors, executives, advisors or professors in the field of entrepreneurship. The semifinalists in each of the three tracks – Community, FIU and High School – will likely be announced in Business Monday March 30. After that, finalists will be announced and a People’s Pick video contest launched on MiamiHerald.com. In that contest, finalists will present their elevator pitches and readers and views will determine the winners.

The judges’ winners in all three tracks, including an overall Challenge Champion, and the People’s Pick winners will be announced and profiled in a special section of Business Monday on April 27. The Business Plan Challenge is sponsored by Florida International University’s Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.

 

March 16, 2015

Last hours to enter the Business Plan Challenge: Do you have what it takes?

Bootcamp artWill you be the next winner of the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge? Entries are due at midnight Monday.

So put those final touches on your short business plan and email it in. Don’t forget to include highlights of all the business plan basics such as concept, target market, team, business model, growth, marketing and financial strategies. Tell us what differentiates your product or service from the competition, why it’s needed in the marketplace and why you are the one to execute the plan. If you entered before and didn’t win, you can update your plan and try again.

Your plan will be judged by a panel of angel and venture capital investors, serial entrepreneurs and senior executives, and the top six finalists in the Community and FIU tracks will also participate in our online popular contest. The top three winners in each track and the People’s Picks will be profiled in a special section of Business Monday.

Ready to take the Challenge? Here is your survival guide:

Who can enter: Entrepreneurs with businesses less than 2 years old or with business ideas. There is a Community Track, FIU Track and High School Track.

What to enter: Up to a three-page business plan (one additional page for charts or photos is allowed).

Entry deadline: 11:59 p.m. March 16

Email entries to: Challenge@MiamiHerald.com (for the Community Track), FIUchallenge@MiamiHerald.com or highschoolchallenge@MiamiHerald.com. You should get a confirmation your entry was received. If you do not, email ndahlberg@miamiherald.com.

Contest rules, judges’ bios, other info: MiamiHerald.com/challenge

Questions: ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

 

March 13, 2015

Business Plan Challenge: Your questions answered

Planning to enter the Business Plan Challenge? We will  answer your questions here.

We offer three tracks to win our contest, which is sponsored by the FIUPinoGlobalEntrepreneurshipCenter: a community track, open to all South Floridians, an FIU track for its students and alumni, and a high school track. You can enter our contest with a business idea or an existing business if it is not more than two years old. The deadline is March 16.

Find rules and other information for the Challenge atMiamiHerald.com/challenge.

Here are some questions I have received (I will include the most recent ones first and continue to add as I get more).

Q: I am entering the High School Track. The guidelines say one and two page entries are fine in the high school track, but can it be three pages?

A. Thank you for your question. Yes, your plan can be up to three pages and you may have an addendum page for a chart or photo if you wish -- the same rules as the Community Track. Good luck to you!

Q. I am an FIU alum and a proud Miamian. Can I enter both the FIU and Community Tracks?

A. No, we're sorry: Pick one. The FIU Track typically receives fewer entries, but the choice is yours. To be eligible for the FIU Track, at least one team member needs to be a current FIU student or alumnus.

Q. I incorporated my business in 2012 but didn't launch it until December 2013. Am I eligible?

A. Yes, to be eligible, your business can't be more than 2 years old, and we look at the time you opened your door or launched online. By the way, in our contest, business ideas are welcome too!

Continue reading "Business Plan Challenge: Your questions answered" »

March 08, 2015

Last week to enter the Business Plan Challenge

Will you be the next winner of the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge? Entries are due next Monday.

So put those final touches on your short business plan. Don’t forget to include highlights of all the business plan basics such as concept, target market, team, business model, growth, marketing and financial strategies. Tell us what differentiates your product or service from the competition, why it’s needed in the marketplace and why you are the one to execute the plan. If you entered before and didn’t win, you can update your plan and try again.

Your plan will be judged by a panel of angel and venture capital investors, serial entreprenreurs and senior executives, and the top six finalists in the Community and FIU tracks will also participate in our online popular contest. The top three winners in each track and the People’s Picks will be profiled in a special section of Business Monday.

Ready to take the Challenge? Here are the basics:

Who can enter: Entrepreneurs with businesses less than 2 years old or with business ideas. There is a Community Track, FIU Track and High School Track.

What to enter: Up to a three-page business plan (one additional page for charts or photos is allowed).

Entry deadline: 11:59 p.m. March 16

Email entries to: Challenge@MiamiHerald.com (for the community track), FIUchallenge@MiamiHerald.com or highschoolchallenge@MiamiHerald.com. You should get a confirmation your entry was received. If you do not, email ndahlberg@miamiherald.com.

Contest rules, judges’ bios, other info: MiamiHerald.com/challenge

Questions: ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Your questions answered

Q. I am an FIU alum and a proud Miamian. Can I enter both the FIU and Community Tracks?

A. No, we’re sorry: Pick one. The FIU Track typically receives fewer entries, but the choice is yours. To be eligible for the FIU Track, at least one team member needs to be a current FIU student or alumnus.

Q. Is a cover sheet counted in the page limit?

A. No, but it isn’t necessary. Our judges will judge the written plan.

Q. Can high school finalists participate in the video contest?

A. While the People’s Pick video contest is open to the Community and FIU Tracks, we will invite the winner or winning team of the high school track to make a video of the winner’s elevator pitch in our studio if they wish. It won’t be mandatory, but we will proudly feature it on MiamiHerald.com.

By the way, we don’t have any entries in the high school track yet — your odds are very good. College counselors have told me that being a winner or finalist in the Challenge sure looks good on college and scholarship applications!

Q. I incorporated my business in 2012 but didn't launch it until December 2013. Am I eligible?

A. Yes, to be eligible, your business can't be more than 2 years old, and we look at the time you opened your door or launched online. By the way, in our contest, business ideas are welcome too!

Don't see your question answered here? More Q&As are on MiamiHerald.com/challenge, or you can email ndahlberg@miamiherald.com and put Challenge in the memo line.

 

March 04, 2015

5 reasons to enter the Business Plan Challenge & your questions answered

You have less than two weeks left to participate in the 2015 Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge. If you are on the fence about whether to enter, here are five reasons to get moving:

1. Motivation. You’ve been meaning to write a business plan — this might just be that kick in the behind you need. Or perhaps you have a plan but need to refine your short version — those are in vogue this year. Whether you are entering the Community Track, open to all of South Florida, the FIU Track open to students and alumni of that university, or the High School Track, which is also open to eighth-graders this year, entering the Challenge will help you get moving.

2. Publicity. If you are one of the top three winners in each track or the “People’s Pick,” you will be profiled in a special section of the Miami Herald’s Business Plan Challenge announcing the winners. If you are in the top six in the Community or FIU Tracks, you will participate in the People’s Pick, our popular video contest hosted on MiamiHerald.com. We also announce our first cut, the semi-finalists, to keep the interest going. Social networking is a key component of our contest. Next year, we will look back on our winners and we follow them for years to come.

3. Feedback and education. I will share feedback from the judges with you if you request it, whether or not you are a finalist. If you are chosen for the aforementioned People’s Pick contest, that’s a terrific opportunity to polish your elevator pitch. If you are entering the High School Track, winning sure looks good on a college application. Also, winners receive free admissions to Florida International University entrepreneurship workshops and webinars so the learning will continue.

4. Exposure and connections. It can’t hurt to have your plan read by South Florida’s top entrepreneurial experts, including serial entrepreneurs and investors (judges’ bios are on MiamiHerald.com/challenge). Sometimes long-lasting mentorships are developed. Some winners have been introduced to investors or potential partners; others gained key customers. If you are one of the winners, you will also be honored at a luncheon with the judges and business staff and at FIU’s Hall of Fame reception. FIU’s Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center is our sponsor.

5. Pride. I know you’re passionate about your concept — and aren’t you just a wee-bit competitive?

The deadline is March 16. Contest rules are on MiamiHerald.com/challenge.

If you entered last year and weren’t one of the top three winners, regroup and try again. Business ideas in the dream stage are fine for this contest. Class projects are welcome, and we love high school entries.

Do you have questions? Email ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com

Your questions answered:

Q. Is there a required template I should follow for my entry?

A. The short answer is no. Your entry is a three-page business plan, with one additional addendum page allowed for a chart or graphic, and we allow people the freedom to format it as they would like. But we suggest you consider including all or most of this information: brief product or service description, problem it is solving in the market (market need), a little about your target market and competition, relevant experience of your team, your business model (how you will make money) and how will you scale it, your marketing strategy and some financials, for example your startup costs and three years of projections. Keep each section brief — bulleted items are your friend. Many contestants use their extra page for their financial chart.

Some people download templates for business plans (easily found in a Google search) and include the categories most relevant. Some use an executive summary they already have written and add to it. People who already have investor decks have the information in a concise way — just put it into a 3-page word doc and you are done. Creative graphic presentations are fine, too. If you are starting from scratch, good for you! You have probably been meaning to do it anyway, and it will be a roadmap you can continue to update in months and years to come.

Missed our Business Plan Bootcamp? See our recap and full video here on MiamiHerald.com/challenge.

Q. Why the three-page limit?

A. Short business plans are in vogue, actually. In today’s day and age, investors (and judges) want the information fast and brief and will ask for more info as they need it. They say that in real life, if you don’t capture their attention in the first page or even the first paragraph, they will move on.

Pro tip: Ask someone who doesn’t know anything about your business or business concept to read your plan, or at least the first few paragraphs, to make sure they understand it.

Also, though our judges are almost super-human, we can’t ask them to judge dozens of full business plans.

See more Q&As here on MiamiHerald.com/challenge