Hidden benefits of participating in Business Plan Competitions

Having had the pleasure of judging several business plan competitions, I’ve learned a few lessons.  I recently participated in the NYC Queens Economic Development’s business plan competition and I’ve sat on other panels including the Miller Brewing Company’s Urban Entrepreneurs Business Grant Competition.

After reading 100+ plans, I’ve gained a few insights on why entrepreneurs should participate in these competitions

1.  They help you complete the plan.  Bottom line.  You will sit and procrastinate the idea of completing a plan forever.  The motivation of the potential of winning a cash grant can move you into the driver’s seat and get it DONE.

2. They provide you with FREE TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE.  Actually that’s worth more than the grant prize itself.  Ensure you are scheduling appointments with your EDC or supporting agency and are utilizing their suggestions and feedback. I can tell immediately from the Executive Summary if you’ve followed through on this.  The plan is likely to have less “weaknesses” or gaps and is more inclined to be judged favorably.

3. Free PR – Your business idea on its own may not necessarily be news worthy.  However, if it wins a competition, you can leverage the PR from the competition overall as well as any connections that you’ve made.

4. Connections – Seeking advisors or mentors to help you with your business?  There is no easier way to make this connection than being a finalist.  I watched several conversations happen where finalists were given free marketing and PR support on the spot or discounted services from a large well known company.  So don’t just attend the finalist event to receive the award.  Attend ready to make the pitch to the audience and those who approach you directly – as you don’t know what networks and relationships they might have.

While winning is of course a great goal, there are so many other reasons why should consider entering a competition.  Share some other benefits that you or your business has gained in the comments section.  And don’t hesitate to post info about upcoming competitions below as well!

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