In late 2011, I had the opportunity to pitch Mark Cuban. I was a student at Howard University at the time, and co-founder of a company – no longer exists – called My College Hostel, an exchange platform for college students.
In hopes of winning the 25,000 prize, my business partner Edward Liles and I competed in a shark tank-style competition in New York, which was actually preceded by a TV show (I guess the competition organizers took some).
And when my team failed to win the top prize, we met Cuban – the result of reaching the semifinals of a MTV-sponsored college business-planning competition.
This is what I mean: If you never think of business planning competition as a source of funding for your business, think again. These competitions can give you many unique opportunities.
3 Reasons Why You Should Start Competing Today
- You can win startup capital and exposure.
- This is a great networking opportunity.
- Victory is usually paid without any loss of business equity.
Now, here is the information you need to get started.
1. How do you find competition?
See sites like StudentCompetitions.com. You can also search Google using keyword variations such as “pitch contest,” “revolution contest,” “college entrepreneur contest,” and “challenge contest.” Mix and match keywords to draw different results
Not a college student? Don’t worry; There are other competitions for you. Try searching for company-based keywords, such as “Dell Pitch Contest,” “Microsoft Pitch Contest,” and so on. Type in any random tech company you can think of and associate it with the word “competition” and see what comes up.
Sometimes, technology companies compete to promote and encourage innovation. There is a lot of competition going on throughout the year, so keep your eyes peeled and keep an eye out.
2. What are your chances of winning?
I know what you’re thinking: There are tons of people applying; Do I have a chance to win? But it may surprise you that most people are not willing to work and less people apply than you expect. Also, remember that you do not have to win every contest.
A “yes” can make a huge difference in your business. During college, I won over $ 20,000 by competing in just five business plan competitions.
The important thing is, if you are a young entrepreneur, it is very important to take advantage of every opportunity to network. And these competitions are a great way to do it.
I insisted on it because I participated in a competition a few years ago and finished second. I then kept in touch with the winners, and a few years later, when I re-applied, guess who the judge was? The guy who lost me in the competition a few years ago! I had no idea this was going to happen, and it was comforting to know that we had someone in our corner from the start.
3. Who do you need to know?
This story brings me to my next point: networking. The most important people to meet with you are the judges. After the competition, go and talk to them and get their contact information. Learn more about them; They judge for a reason, don’t they? These could be potential investors or advisors. The Internet!
4. How do you train for this?
As a finalist for the previous competition, I was hired as a personal trainer in my town and received free training until the day of presentation. So, be sure to participate in any pre-competition activities, as event organizers often have optional training sessions or online seminars to better prepare you.
When it comes to training, keep in mind that competitions are a great way to practice public speaking skills. You will always have the opportunity to be in front of a crowd. When you’re not presenting, and don’t have the time, you’re constantly talking and meeting people, which forces you to shrink your ideas on a 30-second lift pitch. You learn to speak more confidently and concisely.
5. How do you write your business plan?
It is essential to draft a detailed business plan. Only some competitions may require an executive summary, but it is better to just bite the bullet and write a complete plan. Your plan needs to be prepared so that you can constantly apply for various competitions.
Your idea has some traction; Judges must look at their legitimacy before investing. How do you know that you are solving a real problem?
My privacy is easy to create a good business plan: be creative! Make it stand out; Perhaps create an interactive business plan, where judges can scan a QR code and take a live demo or video of your product. Specific drink; Explain in detail how you plan to achieve certain criteria.
Oh, and meet Mark Cuban? He was very friendly and gave us inspirational advice on how to continue our business. It was a great experience.