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Crash Course in Business Plan Competitions Business-plan competitions can yield more than seed money for your bright idea -- they can also connect you with mentors, collaborators and investors.

By Michelle Goodman

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Earning their keep: Freshfully's Sam Brasseale and Jen Barnett.
Earning their keep: Freshfully's Sam Brasseale and Jen Barnett.
Photography by Jason Wallis

For Jen Barnett, winning two business-plan competitions was about more than just prize money and bragging rights--it made the difference between launching her company and not.

In July 2011 the Birmingham, Ala.-based web and marketing strategist and her partner, web designer Sam Brasseale, won the incubate!(bang) business contest with their idea for a marketplace for fresh, local food. In addition to $30,000 in seed money, the Alabama contest awarded them $50,000 worth of web-programming services, three months of free office space and mentorship on everything from honing their business model to incorporating. "Those were exactly the gaps we needed filled," Barnett says. "It has completely transformed our lives."

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