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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

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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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