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Prize Surprise Entrepreneurs are competing for the gold--and getting much more in the process.

By David Worrell

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Contrary to popular belief, winning isn't everything. But for companies that are trying to raise money, winning may be the first thing. Across the country, business plan competitions are helping both early and growth-stage companies jump-start their fundraising. And for one Weston, Wisconsin-based company, U.S. Trail-maps Inc., winning a cash prize in a business plan competition unlocked the door to even bigger sums from angel investors and venture capitalists.

A few years ago, Eric Antonson, co-founder and vice president of U.S. Trail-maps, didn't know where he'd find the money to roll out his new GPS technologies for off-road mapping. So, like any good cartographer, he started by creating a map. That map--an 80-page business plan--caught the eye of the Wisconsin Department of Commerce and eventually earned Antonson, 42, a spot in the Wisconsin Governor's Business Plan Contest, a statewide business plan competition.

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