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And the Winner Is...

Business plan contests offer more than money

Question: I've seen a lot of business plan contests advertised on the internet that seem to be offering big money prizes. Are these contests real? What are my chances of winning?

Answer: While no one can guarantee you'll win a business plan contest, it's definitely worth a shot. These days, dozens of business schools and universities are hosting business plan contests, some with cash prizes as high as $100,000. States, such as Wisconsin and others, are sponsoring contests, too. But money isn't the only reason to enter a business plan competition. You'll also get a chance to strut your stuff in front of an audience of venture capitalists and angel investors who may decide to fund your plan whether you win or not.

And there's more. NYU Stern School of Business's Business Plan Competition offers networking events, skill-building workshops, coaching and mentorship programs, pro bono consulting services and $150,000 in seed capital. Contestants are judged on both written and oral presentations. "Judges typically look for sustainability and scale of the venture and the management team's ability to execute," says Loretta Poole, assistant director of NYU Stern's Berkley Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. The catch? Most university-sponsored contests require you to be a current or former student, or to partner with someone who is. For a comprehensive list of business plan competitions, check out As they say in the lotto biz, you gotta be in it to win it!

Rosalind Resnick is founder and CEO of Axxess Business Consulting, a New York City consulting firm that advises startups and small businesses. You can reach her at rosalind@abcbizhelp.comor

This story appears in the September 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »