If you believe you have a strong idea for a business, you likely know you’ll need to draft a business plan before turning your idea into a reality. Along with helping you explain your strategy to investors, a business plan will help provide you with a roadmap to success. Consider submitting your draft to a business plan competition once you’ve finished developing it. The potential benefits of doing so include the following:
Business plan competitions vary widely in their parameters. For example, while some involve directly submitting an established idea, others allow teams of entrepreneurs to create fresh ideas based on prompts. In addition, many business plan competitions provide awards to their winners in the form of seed funding and/or mentorship from successful entrepreneurs and business leaders.
A mentor can play a very important role in your future success. This is particularly true if you’re a new entrepreneur. With an experienced mentor guiding you, you’re less likely to make common errors, and more likely to make the right choices during the early stages of growing your business. A mentor may also help you grow your professional network.
This is another reason to participate in business plan competitions. Very often, they match participating entrepreneurs with mentors. Even if you don’t win the competition, if your mentor is impressed with you, they might be willing to continue mentoring you after the competition is over.
A mentor is by no means the only helpful person you can meet through a business plan competition. Very often, investors also participate in these competitions. Networking with them would of course be a valuable experience. Additionally, you could meet other entrepreneurs through the competition who you may wish to collaborate with in the future.
Building Your Confidence
Don’t worry if you secretly (or not-so-secretly) doubt your own strengths as an entrepreneur. This is a common experience. While it is important to honestly assess both your skills and idea before spending time and money trying to grow a business with limited potential, you shouldn’t necessarily feel discouraged because you lack confidence.
Many successful entrepreneurs have been in your shoes before. Luckily, business plan competition participants often find that the experience provides them with a degree of validation. This helps them fully commit to their goals.
Practicing Important Skills
A business plan competition doesn’t typically consist of judges merely reviewing the written draft of your business plan. In many cases, you also need to develop and present pitches for your business idea.
This gives you the opportunity to develop an important skill. In the future, you’ll almost certainly need to pitch your ideas to investors. Practicing doing so in a low-stakes environment helps you identify what you must do to improve upon your pitch.
Getting New Perspectives
Odds are good your business plan isn’t perfect. Even if your idea is strong, there is always room for improvement
Many entrepreneurs struggle to identify key weaknesses with their ideas that need to be addressed. Fortunately, during a business plan competition, multiple judges will likely evaluate your pitch. Receiving feedback from multiple sources helps you broaden your perspective and more effectively refine your plan in the future.
Impressing Potential Investors
It’s uncommon for reputable business plan competitions to accept submissions from every interested applicant. Judges don’t have the time to review countless plans.
That’s why they carefully assess applications before selecting participants. Thus, if you were accepted into a business plan competition, you could leverage that fact later by mentioning it to investors. Even if you don’t win, they may be impressed that you participated in the first place. This will at least help you get your foot in the door.
Receiving Media Coverage
Depending on the competition you participate in, your idea may receive attention from business media outlets. This of course provides you with free exposure. If the right person hears about your idea, they might approach you with an offer to invest in it.
These are only a few reasons budding entrepreneurs should consider participating in business plan competitions. Just make sure you don’t assume you’ll be accepted to participate in the first competition you apply to. You may need to try several times before you are selected to compete. When you do, however, the benefits can be substantial.