What I learned from judging a $250K business plan contest… that might help you write yours.

By , October 20, 2012 11:21 am

This past summer I had the great pleasure of being a judge for the Chase Manhattan and Living Social “Mission Small Business” contest.  During that one week, I (and other judges each) reviewed about 600 business plan concepts. (About 70,000 responded.) There were 12 winners each receiving $250K.

First, almost all the plans fell into the middle range meaning they were good solid plans but didn’t stand out in some special way.  There were a few that were just plain confusing so much so that in some cases the name of the business was never mentioned, or I was left guessing what exactly the business was/did.

The ones that stood out, however, made sure that they answered all the questions asked in the entry information.  One of the key points that separated the winners was their passion which came across into the written word.  Another was their story…storytelling is very important because it draws the reader into your world and let’s them experience it.  Also important, and part of their stories, was how they overcame or were overcoming obstacles and their strength and tenacity to keep going no matter what.  One of the requirements was how the business contributed to the betterment of their community…and by that I mean not just writing a check to the local charity but actually having a positive impact on their local community. This included  job creation, another  very important factor.  Each of the 12 winners had all of these elements.

A word of caution…no funder wants to hear that your use of proceeds will go to retiring debt.  Unfortunately, no one cares about your past…they are funding your future.

When you’re asked or tasked with submitting a business plan, make sure to include all these aspects – they will help you stand out from the pack.

For details of the plan, names of the winners, and interviews with two final judges, one of whom was a sponsor, please visit the links below.

http://www.thestreet.com/story/11669958/1/chase-and-livingsocial-award-12-small-businesses-250000-grants-totalling-3m-through-the-mission-small-business-program.html

http://foundationcenter.org/pnd/news/story.jhtml?id=389700003

 

 

Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.
She is the author of Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing.

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