Is your entrepreneurial spirit roaring? Are ideas for the next business trend swirling in your head? Start working–the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge and its FIU Track, exclusively for students and alumni, are up and running. The annual contest aims to showcase new ideas and provide a forum to attract investors.
The challenge: to create a succinct yet detailed presentation of the business concept, the issues it will solve and how you will make it a success. The Business Plan Challenge isn’t just for new business creations; startups in operation for less than two years can also participate.
Now in its 17th year, the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge is co-sponsored by Florida International University’s Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center at the College of Business. The annual contest has three different tracks: Community Track, open to all South Floridians; FIU Track, open to students and alumni; and High School Track, co-sponsored by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship.
“Our partnership with the Business Plan Challenge tells people that FIU is serious about promoting entrepreneurship and making sure that the FIU community understands the importance of innovation,” said Jacqueline Bueno Sousa, Regional Director, SBDC at FIU. “Also, we want to drive students to have the desire and will to launch new businesses, introduce new products and take risks.”
Entries must be received at fiuchallenge@MiamiHerald.com by March 16. Presentations may be up to three pages long with an optional additional page for a photo, chart or diagram.
A wide range of ideas compete in the Business Plan Challenge
Miami Herald entrepreneurship writer Nancy Dahlberg, who leads the Business Plan Challenge, pointed out that very few entries have been received as of February 13, including two for the FIU Track. The crunch will come as the entry period draws to a close. “Ninety percent of the entries come in on the last day, and in the last hour.”
A panel of entrepreneurs, executives, investors, advisors, and academics will judge each entry, examining value to the customer, market opportunity, business model, and management team as well as marketing and financial strategies.
“The entries are getting better every year. In the early 2000s it was just a sheet of paper with ideas, there was no plan to make money, no indication of the problem they were solving, no idea about a team,” said Dahlberg. “Due to the increased level of education and groups like the SBDC, the business plans are getting more sophisticated.”
A majority of the plans in the FIU Track are technology ventures or tech-enabled businesses, while the Community Track gets a broader selection – restaurants, gadgets, mom and pop businesses and food products, among others. Dahlberg recalled some interesting restaurant and hospitality ideas as well as law- and medicine-focused plans from FIU students and alumni.
“I’d love to see more plans from the College of Engineering as well as the other colleges at FIU, including hospitality and communications,” said Dahlberg, noting that a good number of entries come from the College of Business. “Great ideas and concepts can come from any college.”
Business Plan Challenge helps create a roadmap to success
The lineup of recent winners in the Challenge’s FIU Track includes XDG Technologies, which took the top spot last year. The Miami-based company makes medical products designed to treat skin tags and polydactyly. A fourth product is now in the works for veterinary applications in the beef industry.
EyeTalk, an innovative pair of glasses to help the severely visually impaired to hear written text, that was created by four FIU students won first place in 2013. A year earlier, FIU alumna Milana Kuznetsova won second place for LegalFileIt, a cloud-based platform for the legal industry.
“We’ve seen a good showing of entrepreneurial spirit and mindset from students and alumni,” said Sousa. “Many entrepreneurs find it difficult to explain their idea or business as simply as possible. This Challenge helps by requiring them to do that.”
Once the Business Plan Challenge’s entry period closes, all of the presentations will be reviewed based on the quality of the idea and the submitted plan. In early April, the top six finalists in the Community and FIU Tracks will present 90-second video pitches to compete in the weeklong People’s Pick contest at www.miamiherald.com.
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.
Meet the FIU Track judges:
- Karlene C. Cousins – associate professor of Decision Science and Information Systems at FIU’s College of Business. She teaches courses in technology innovation, information systems strategy and healthcare information law.
- John Fleming – technology practice lead at South Florida-based Biztegra Partners, which provides interactive marketing and social media optimization. He sits on the board of FIU’s Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center.
- Robert H. Hacker – managing partner of GH Capital Partners, a Miami-based consultancy specialized in growth strategies, acquisitions and turnarounds. He is an adjunct professor at FIU’s Engineering School.
- Seema Pissaris – professor at FIU’s College of Business Department of Management and International Business. She leads a social entrepreneurship initiative at FIU.
- Kimberly Taylor – associate professor in the Department of Marketing at FIU’s College of Business. Her research has been published in leading advertising research and marketing publications.