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Start Your Business Business Plans

National Business Plan Competitions for Entrepreneurs

National Business Plan Competitions for Entrepreneurs
Business plan software makes it easy to create a business plan. / Credit: Business plan image via Shutterstock

Having a cohesive business plan is one of the first steps in starting a business, but it can be a daunting task. Entering a business plan competition and possibly winning cash prizes for your business idea, and having mentors to guide you through the process, can keep your motivation at an all-time high and help you finish every section of your plan. Here are eight of the best competitions to consider entering. [Read related story: Best Business Plan Software]

Rice University's business plan competition is in its 17th year and has grown from nine competing teams for $10,000 to 42 teams and more than $1.5 million in prizes. The competition is designed to give collegiate entrepreneurs a real-world experience to fine-tune their business plans and elevator pitches to receive funding and maximize the commercialization of their products. Competition highlights include real-world opportunities to learn what it takes to successfully launch a new business, and a chance to receive mentoring from investors and experienced entrepreneurs.

The tecBRIDGE Business Plan Competition, which is in its 16th year, is broken down into two divisions, collegiate and noncollegiate. Students from 14 colleges and universities in the area compete in the collegiate division, while early-stage entrepreneurs are eligible to compete in a separate division. Winning teams share in cash prizes and services valued at more than $100,000. It even has a separate business plan competition for high school students. [Read related story: Starting a Business After College? Advice for Entrepreneurial Grads]

Founded by MBS students at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business in 1999, this competition allows entries as long as the plan demonstrates both economic and social value in the business venture. Teams also must include either a current student or a recent graduate from any level of higher education. Through this competition, entrepreneurs receive mentoring, exposure and the chance to win more than $80,000 in prizes. In 2017, GSVC received more than 600 entries from 65 countries. Ethos Water is a notable business that has been launched through the competition.

The Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competition is one of the most prestigious and well-funded education business plan competitions. The competition is open to applicants worldwide and includes a path for ventures as well as for ideas. The competition themes include early childhood education, workforce learning, urban education and many more. Prizes include cash winnings of up to $40,000.

This competition looks for startups focusing on informatics and technology. The two winners will receive six months of mentorship and support from leading industry experts, and the five finalists will win $5,000, with two winners receiving $20,000 based on judge and audience votes. The contest is still accepting applications, and each finalist gets the chance to pitch their startup to the Pistoia Alliance membership at its U.S. conference in Boston on Oct. 10, 2018.

HATCH Pitch's Demo Day is a pitch competition where finalists present their business plans to a panel of judges consisting of corporate, angel and venture investors who provide the feedback and select the winners. Stemming from one of the first events at the inaugural SXSW Interactive Startup Village in 2012, HATCH branched out to become an independent program and event in 2016. HATCH Pitch is run by volunteers from around the U.S.

The goal of this competition is to increase student appreciation for the challenges of developing a business. All TCNJ students are encouraged to apply, and each team must consist of at least two but no more than four current TCNJ students. Winning the competition depends on the team's ability to produce a successful business plan, and it is also up to the students to find resources like mentors and advisors.

This business plan competition comprises six categories: information technology/software, social entrepreneurship/nonprofit, clean technology, advanced technology, products, and services. Teams for this competition must consist of graduate, undergraduate or community college students in New York colleges and universities. Cash prizes are available for the top teams from each regional zone (the 10 major regions of New York). The contest does not require the submission of a full business plan, but the submission should provide all necessary information.

Jennifer Post

Jennifer Post graduated from Rowan University in 2012 with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. Having worked in the food industry, print and online journalism, and marketing, she is now a freelance contributor for Business News Daily. When she's not working, you will find her exploring her current town of Cape May, NJ or binge watching Pretty Little Liars for the 700th time.