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How Winning Contests Helped a Startup Beyond the Launch Kris Appel launched and developed her medical device company using the cash and services she won in business plan competitions

By Michelle Goodman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Kris Appel of Encore Path
Kris Appel of Encore Path
Arianne Teeple

The first $10,000 Kris Appel deposited into her business checking account comprised her winnings from a local business plan contest. With that money, Appel, founder and president of Encore Path, a medical device company, was able to hire the attorneys and FDA consultant she needed to develop her flagship product: the Tailwind, a rehabilitation device that assists stroke survivors in recovering arm function. Appel continued to enter competitions--and win them--throughout her company's first year of product development.

What prompted you to enter a business plan competition?
In 2006, I got into ACTiVATE, a women's entrepreneurship training program offered through the University of Maryland. They told us about a business plan competition in the state of Maryland for women-owned companies. It consisted of submitting a written business plan and then being called back to make a presentation to a panel of judges. In March 2007, I won first prize: a check for $10,000. That unrestricted "free" money was crucial in getting my company going. A few months later, I entered another local business plan competition through the MIT Enterprise Forum and won first place as well. It dawned on me that I should keep doing this.

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