How To Win A Business Plan Competition


One of the many ways to source startup capital as an entrepreneur is to enter business plan competitions. Most of such competitions are well put together in a way that assists you to establish yourself in business. Most business plan competitions transcend just you getting capital in the event that you win. You will most likely also get to be linked to strategic networks and get professional mentorship from experts. Obviously when you enter a competition you want to win by all means. In this article we shall take you through what you can do or must know to win a business plan competition. 


Make The Right Choice

This might sound so unnecessary at first glance but make sure you enter the right competition. Business plan competitions are constituted differently so take time to diligently do your homework beforehand. The downside of entering the wrong competition is that you end up wasting your energy on a competition that is not really for you. If the competitions you are interested in are recurrent you could benefit a lot by engaging people involved or those who have contested in it before. The bottom line is that you make sure the competition you are entering in is the one you really, given what you are looking for. 


Have A Team Behind You

The stipulations of business competitions vary so the dynamics might not be universal. For instance, in some competitions you might actually be required to work as team even during pitching. In some cases it might just be you during the stages even up to the grand finale. Whichever way it is important that you have a team that you work with. It could 2, 3 or more individuals that you get to work with – in truth, working alone might not be as simple as it sounds anyway. Having several eyes and hands definitely streamlines the journey and enhances chances of winning. It is wise to pick or choose to work with people you have a rapport with. Not only that, they must wield relevant skillsets to the tasks at hand. Most importantly they must be as passionate and driven as you are so that you all operate on the same frequency. 


Know The Dynamics Of Making An Elevator Or 1-Minute Pitch

Over the years, business plan competitions have evolved into almost pitching competitions. The thing is, despite being required to submit written business plan documents pitching might still be part of the process. In some competitions you will find shortlisted contestants required to pitch as the final round to select the ultimate winner(s). Our advice to you is that you acquaint yourself with what it takes to make an elevator pitch. Even if you are not required to pitch knowing how to will better place you in terms of answering questions that might be thrown at you. Some of the key things to know in making such a pitch are the problem and proposed solution (i.e. the product), your unique selling point or value proposition, turnover, gross margins, net profits – financial projections in essence (where applicable). 


Anchor Your Business Plan On The 3 Ps Of Entrepreneurship

The 3 Ps of entrepreneurship are product, people and processes. In your business plan you must demonstrate that you know the importance of those 3 Ps. A business plan must show a clearly genuine problem or challenge that is being addressed. The way it is being addressed (the solution) must wield a clear unique value proposition. It should also be clear that the solution is monetizable – can it realize revenue and be profitable? Customers and business staff are the two major groupings involved in any business. A good business plan must demonstrate a keen focus on ensuring those groupings are satisfied and content. Processes entail a lot but a good framework should demonstrate scalability and flexibility. 


Fine Tune Your Presentation Skills 

One way or the other you will find such skills tested during the competition. A good business plan on paper can turn out as a bad one if it is poorly presented in person. Two of the most important attributes you must demonstrate are confidence and articulation. Remember that there will be a certain point where you will be asked random questions. If you are not well-versed with your plan and worse off are not confident you will fail. One effective way to sharpen your presentation skills is rehearsing. Create a makeshift setup where you actually make a mock presentation and have someone or some people ask you questions like the real thing. 

Know What Judges Look Out For – Focus Comprehensively On That

The first thing that judges need to see is a well enunciated product and unique value proposition. They also want to see a clearly defined business model – how money will be made. They are also keen on the market dynamics – things like market analysis and marketing strategies. Basically they want to see the existence of a market, its characteristics and your intended target market. How well do you know aspects to do with your prospective customers? How you will roll out your marketing in a bid to realize sales is crucial to them. Closely tied to that is competitive analysis; it is a big deal to them. Who are your competitors and how do you intend to outpace them? The unique value proposition will also play a key role in explaining this. Is it a business idea that can be scaled over time – they look out for that. 

Any business plan competition just like any competition has rules and regulations. Make sure you intimately know them and abide by them – you would not want to be disqualified based on a technicality. Endeavour to come up with original work, do not be lazy to put in the work. Being precise and concise should be hallmark of all that you do from written aspects to spoken aspects i.e. the business plan and the presentations. If you adhere to all we have discussed herein you are definitely well positioned to win any business plan competition.