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Monthly Archives: October 2016

Business Plan Competitions for Entrepreneurs

The entrepreneurial spirit is rooted in innovation and competition. Given this drive to succeed, it’s no wonder that competitions rewarding entrepreneurs for their business plans and pitches are popping up all over the country.

Throughout the year, schools and organizations allow early stage startups and aspiring entrepreneurs to present their new business ideas and plans to panels of industry-renowned judges, for a chance to win some much-needed funding. Even if these entrepreneurs don’t win the grand prize, the competitors still get the opportunity to network with leaders and innovators in their industries, and share ideas with fellow entrepreneurs and mentors.

If you’re thinking of applying to a business plan competition, here are six great options open to entrepreneurs in any state.

Location: Waco, Texas

Website: http://www.baylor.edu/business/newventurecompetition/

The Baylor New Business Venture Competition features current students and recent alumni of any accredited university across the nation competing in one of two tracks: consumer and internet technology companies, and nontechnology companies. Companies in the technology track must fall into categories such as internet security, social media and mobile commerce. There is a preliminary round, followed by three presentation rounds. The top teams from both tracks will compete against each other for the cash grand prize of $60,000.

Location: Savannah, Georgia

Website: https://www.thecreativecoast.org/programs/fastpitch/

The Creative Coast’s FastPitch competition offers student entrepreneurs, service-based entrepreneurs and product-based entrepreneurs the chance to show off their innovative ideas via a 3-minute pitch. Local community leaders, academics and investors will assess the viability of each venture and provide coaching and feedback throughout the process.

Location: Austin, Texas

Website: http://www.hatchpitch.com/

Since 2012, HATCH Pitch has been an official SXSW event. In 2016, it branched out to become an independent program and event. This competition is for startups using information technology to make life better. Finalists are chosen and receive coaching and mentoring leading up to their demo day, when finalists present their business plans to a prestigious judging panel of corporate, angel and venture investors. Panel members provide feedback and select winners in which they would invest a virtual $1 million.

Location: Multiple international locations

Website: http://www.innovationworldcup.com/

The Innovation World Cup Series is a collection of international competitions in a variety of technology categories like wearable technology (WT), the internet of things (IoT), cloud technology and digital marketing. Entrepreneurs in each category get the chance to present their tech solutions to a panel of industry experts. With prizes worth over $300,000, the competition is designed to stimulate and inspire next-generation solutions with the potential for real marketable products. The next event is the WT Innovation World Cup, being held in Munich, Germany, in February 2017.

Location: Santa Clara, California

Website: http://www.boomerventuresummit.com/index/competition/

This Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit is geared toward business ideas that show potential for the baby boomer generation. Early stage entrepreneurs in all industries are welcome to submit 10-slide-deck business plans to the first round of judges at Santa Clara University. Finalists then present their slide shows in person at the summit to be considered for the top prize.

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Website: https://veinternational.org/national-online-competitions/

This business plan competition brings together some of the best and brightest student leaders and future entrepreneurs at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus. Teams representing 28 virtual enterprise companies — simulated businesses set up and run by students for educational purposes — submit written business plans and give oral presentations that are judged by industry professionals and educators. After receiving top honors in local and regional business plan competitions during the school year, these teams earn the chance to compete.

Fueling Big Growth for Small Business

Propelled by access to new technology, a changing workforce and easier opportunities to reach a larger audience, small business growth is expected to skyrocket in the coming years, new research finds.

According to a study from Intuit and Emergent Research, the number of small businesses are projected to increase to 42 million by 2026, up from this year’s 30 million. The 3.3 percent annual growth rate over the next decade is significantly higher than the 2 percent average growth between 2004 and 2014, the most recent data available.

While the number of small businesses will grow over the next decade, their size is actually getting smaller. The research found that the average size of small businesses dropped by 20 percent between 2001 and 2014. Specifically, in 2001, the average small business started with 6.5 employees. In 2014, the number shrank to just four employees.

“The next few years will see an acceleration in the number of small and micro businesses, thanks in large part to new technologies that reduce the costs and risks of operating a small business and open up access to customers around the world,” Steve King, a partner at Emergent Research, said in a statement. “While running a business is always going to be tough work, economic and technological changes are making it easier and cheaper to start and operate a successful small business.”

The study’s authors highlight five key reasons that will not only fuel the growth of small businesses, but will allow them to compete with big businesses like never before.

  1. Top-notch technology: Small businesses now have the ability to build sophisticated business and technology infrastructures that previously were only available to large companies. Cloud computing and manufacturing and distributing capabilities are now available with a cost structure that allows small businesses to scale up and down and only pay for what they use.
  2. Deeper insight:  Access to insightful data is giving small businesses the capability of gaining deeper customer and business insights. Access to machine learning has taken away much of the complexity of data analysis, which allows small businesses to make faster and better decisions.
  3. The on-demand workforce: By the year 2020, freelance workers are projected to represent 43 percent of the workforce. This gives small businesses access to the right people at the right time in a flexible way, without the responsibility of hiring traditional employees.
  4. Online marketplaces: Online outlets are giving small businesses the ability to not only sell more niche products and services, but also to extend their reach to millions of customers that they previously never had access to.
  5. Affordable advertising: Online advertising has made it cost-effective to connect with customers worldwide. For a fairly low cost, small businesses can deliver their targeted messages, whether it be a sponsored photo or in-stream video ad, to a whole new audience.

“This next decade will be the decade of the small business,” said Karen Peacock, senior vice president of small business at Intuit. “Industry-shifting trends like lower-cost, scalable infrastructure to start and grow your business, the ability to build a team with amazing on-demand talent, and data that helps you fuel your business and delight your customers are game changers.”

Ways Tablet Make SMBs Faster and Lighter

1. For content creation, just add keyboard

Tablets are great for content consumption. Hit the button, and you’re immediately scrolling through Web pages, YouTube videos, annoyed avians and the like. This can lead to the impression that tablets are only good for passively consuming; that they’re no use for creating content, such as documents, spreadsheets and other staples of business life, but that’s short-sighted.

Obviously, tablets’ on-screen keyboards aren’t easy or ergonomic typing tools. However, there’s a wide range of Bluetooth options available that can turn an iPad or Android tablet into a lean, mean, writing machine.

But if you’re going to add a keyboard to your tablet, why wouldn’t you just buy a laptop? The next three reasons answer that…

2. ARM = light weight + long battery life

PC and Mac laptops are built around the Intel processor architecture, using chips from either Intel or AMD. Often known as x86, the architecture is great for compatibility with the PCs we’ve used for years, but it’s encumbered with historical baggage that makes x86 machines hot, heavy and hungry for battery juice. Modern laptops have improved but are still a world away from today’s tablets.

Most tablets break from Intel’s historical hegemony by using chips designed by ARM. These so-called system-on-a-chip architectures use much less power than x86 – especially when idle. This and modern battery technology can give tablets a 10-hour life and weeks of standby readiness, which means you can get more work done on the go.

Intel is fighting back, though the jury’s still out on whether it can compete. Intel tablets will at least be able to run the full version of Windows 8, as opposed to the cut-down, ARM-only Windows RT.

3. Cellular data: a first-class citizen

Today’s tablets often include access to 3G and 4G/LTE networks. The data networking technology is seamlessly integrated, so that you can switch between it and Wi-Fi with no noticeable interruption.

That’s much cleaner than the typical Windows or Mac laptop with an add-on 3G dongle; the difference being that cellular data was designed into tablets from the get-go. So there’ll be fewer excuses to not get the presentation finished on time.

4. Seriously cool sci-fi toys today

Who can forget countless Star Trek episodes where an impractically uniformed ensign brought a portable device to Capt. Kirk for him to sign off on some Starfleet paperwork? These sort of science-fiction visions drive gadget designers to invent the future… and who doesn’t want to live in the future?

Don’t deny tablets’ “cool factor.” Your users want to use them, they want to be seen using them, and they’ll thank you for letting them use tablets in business. (However, make sure you stay safe by protecting against Romulan malware and the Klingon drive-by.)

5. The phablet trend

There’s also a place in some users’ hearts for a tablet that’s also a phone. In today’s Brangelina world, some refer to these hybrid phone-tablets as phablets: big phones that are also small tablets. Why carry two devices, when you can have one?

We first saw this trend emerge in 2010, with the 5-inch Dell Streak. More recently, Samsung made a splash with its 5.3-inch Galaxy Note. They’re not for everyone, but they do have a growing niche and could translate into greater productivity.

Business Plan Templates for Startups

Business plans can seem daunting to someone who has never written one. The business idea itself might be fairly simple to explain, but if you want to apply for a loan, raise investor capital, or simply have a solid, documented direction for your company, you’re going to need to write a business plan.

Luckily for entrepreneurs, there are templates out there that allow you to plug in all of the information, instead of struggling with formatting and figuring out what you need to include. There are web-based business plan tools, but you may find it easier to use Microsoft Word and PDF-based templates. Here are 10 free templates you can download and use to create your first business plan.

Bplans.com, known as the authority on business plans, offers a free Word business plan template, complete with instructions and a table of contents. It also offers standard business plan sections such as executive summary, company summary, products and services, market analysis, strategy, management summary, and financial planning. Once you register, you will be able to download the materials and choose from a wide range of businesses in different industries in which to base your plan. Whether your business is online, service-based, or a food establishment, Bplan’s Word business plan templates are comprehensive and are a great option for beginners and new business owners.

Entrepreneur.com provides business tools, with a collection of business plans free in PDF, PowerPoint and Word. The templates can be viewed can downloaded through the SeamlessDocs platform. The site includes a template for a variety of specific business types, a business plan model that outlines the different parts of a business plan, and customizable templates that allow users to add their logos and business information. If you need a guide to writing a business plan, Entrepreneur.com also provides a download for that.

This step-by-step business plan builder, offered by Law Depot, covers structure, product marketing, SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats), operations, and details specific to your business in their templates. Once the template is complete, you can download and print. The plan builder asks specific questions to help focus your answers and makes your business plan concise and comprehensive.

MOBI, or My Own Business Institute, is part of Santa Clara University’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. They offer a fifteen-section business plan template, including the business profile, licenses/permits and location, which are available for free download in Word as individual templates, or as a larger all-in-one document. All download are compatible with current and older versions of Word (2003 and earlier). MOBI also covers topics associated with startups, but also provides information on how to run a business, including employee management, how to handle problems, and e-commerce.

Office Depot’s Business Resource Center contains free business plan samples for retailers, manufacturers and service providers. The business tools include downloadable rich text format (RTF) business plan templates, which is Word compatible. Excel business plan financials are also available for manufacturers and service providers, while the retailer business plan template is complete with forecasting and financial tables, but this requires Microsoft Word version 6.0 or later.

Catering to businesses owned by women, Oprah.com’s free one-page business plan templates can be used by anyone who wants to start a business. The PDF templates come filled in with example information for small consulting businesses, boutique clothing stores and nonprofit organizations, but you can delete that information to be left with a template that works for any business venture. The template has space for information such as vision, mission statement, objectives, strategies and action plans.

When you create a free business plan with Rocket Lawyer, you get the advantage of an attorney’s advice to make sure your document is legally sound. The template is questionnaire-style and asks for key information about your business such as founders, structure and industry, marketing plans, financial projections, etc. Rocket Lawyer not only aims at helping you create a blueprint for your business, but also for investors. Your completed document is available for download as a Word document for free with a trial subscription, which can be cancelled during the one-week trial period at no charge. The document is $10 on its own without a subscription.

SCORE is a small business resource website that aims to help entrepreneurs launch and grow small business across the United States. Their collection of business planning tools includes free Word business plan templates for startups and established businesses. They also provide a sales forecasting template, competitive analysis charts to determine your business’ strengths and weaknesses, and financial planning templates such as startup expenses, profit and loss projections, and financial statements. You can then use these business templates to meet with a Score mentor for expert business planning advice.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers an online business plan template and guide to help you build your business plan, step by step. Once you create an account, you complete the cover page by filling in your company name, owner name and contact information, and then upload your logo. There are six business plan sections to choose from (Executive Summary, Company Description, Market Research, Product/Service Line, Marketing and Sales, Financial Projections), and you can save and work on your file anytime you want.

Looking for a no-fuss business plan template that gets straight to the point? The $100 Startup, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best seller, offers the One-Page Business Plan, a simple form that asks several questions you can quickly answer to get up and running.  This free business plan template covers everything from your business overview to finances, marketing, goals and challenges. Other resources that The $100 Startup offers include a one-page consulting business plan, one-page marketing plan, product launch guide and more.