By Tyler T. Ray | As I was driving to Bryant University last month to judge six finalists in Bryant’s New Venture Competition, Steve Miller came blasting over the airwaves singing “Take the Money and Run.” It gave me a chuckle. We had a $30,000 purse to cut loose for an idea and I couldn’t wait to see if one of the candidates channeled his or her inner “Billy Joe and Bobby Sue” to take the money and run.
The nationwide proliferation of business plan competitions is staggering; it feels like there’s one for every flavor of entrepreneurial venture. Good ideas with strong business fundamentals are being rewarded locally and regionally, from universities to incubators –with rewards ranging from $10,000 to in excess of six-figures. The growth is so staggering the market has become segmented with industry-specific competitions, such as clean energy, mobile development or social movement programs. But it really is a statement of our times that we, as a society, find value in empowering entrepreneurs to discover new solutions, products and services that make our world a more interesting place.
Throughout the day I was part of the panel of judges that employed our best “Billy Mack” skills to investigate each team’s idea, weighing it against market potential, team dynamics, experience, and product viability. We were exposed to solutions for vending machines, toys, sports science, window treatments, digital marketing platforms and vision-board products. In what was an incredible and inspiring performance by all, several contestants did take the money and run.
But for the budding entrepreneur, the ultimate takeaway opportunity from these competitions – besides the free money – is developing a business plan to map out the future of an idea/business. The pains of analyzing competitive landscape, price points, marketing opportunities and economies of scale truly force an entrepreneur to be held accountable and to see if the plan works. When it’s time to take the idea to the next level, that business plan will resonate with investors, too.
Don’t be mistaken: a business plan is not simply a fundraising tool, but rather a vital blueprint for the future. Without it, you may “run into a great big hassle.”
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