Business Plan Competition

May 16, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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Calling all aspiring entrepreneurs! Great Lakes Venture Quest is sponsoring its annual business plan competition and plans to hand out a total of $160,000 in prize money.

Michigan’s future as a high technology state depends on the innovative ideas and education of our homegrown entrepreneurs. And the state’s first high-tech business plan competition encourages Michigan individuals and teams with business ideas to become entrepreneurs, and gives them an opportunity to turn their ideas into business.

Great Lakes Venture Quest’s second annual business plan competition runs from Oct. 2001 through March 2002 and will once again seek to unite the entrepreneurial community and build the critical mass of technology, talent and capital necessary to start high-tech enterprises.

This two-part competition is designed to educate and support Michigan entrepreneurs in the creation and growth of successful technology-based businesses, companies using technology to gain a competitive advantage.

To participate in the Ann Arbor-based company’s competition, teams must have a business concept focused in or based on technology or use of technology (such as an e-commerce platform, a life sciences application or advanced manufacturing breakthrough), and have at least one team member who lives, works or attends school in Michigan.

Existing small businesses, which are anticipating rapid growth, may enter if they meet the fore mentioned criteria and, in addition, have fewer than 20 employees and less than $1 million in annual revenue. Individuals who don’t have new business concept are welcome to participate if they live, work, or go to school in Michigan.

In addition to participants in the competition, GLVQ is also seeking individuals to serve as coaches and volunteer their time and knowledge to help teams work through issues that arise in developing a business plan and starting a business. Coaches will be available to teams throughout the competition and those interested are encouraged to apply with Venture Quest.

All applications are submitted on line and received at one central location, however help is available all over. In the Grand Rapids area, Tom Schwarz, director of the GVSU Seidman School of Business’ Center for Entrepreneurship serves, along with Carol Lopucki, state director of the MI-SBDC and the University of Michigan, as local resources for those entering the competition. The two are co-managing on a state-wide level but also serve as local support to make sure all committees involved are doing what they are supposed to and to locate any local funding or interested parties in the business plans that develop.

More than $150,000 in prize money was awarded in the first year’s competition, and prizes for the second year look to total $160,000. All participants are winners as they receive the educational boost that helps people’s great ideas become great business models that lead to successful businesses.

Phase I is intended to help participants turn their ideas from just that, an “idea” into five page business concepts. GLVQ business concepts will include an articulated product or service and a thorough marketing and competitive analysis. Phase I will run from Oct. through Dec. 2001 and will be conducted as three regional competitions organized as Eastern (Ann Arbor and Metro Detroit), Western (Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Battle Creek) and Northern (Lansing, Mt. Pleasant, Traverse City and the Upper Peninsula) At the end of Phase I, a total of three prizes were awarded in the Grand West Michigan area.

A state-wide awards ceremony will be held in GVSU’s Loosemore Auditorium on the Pew Campus, Dec. 5 at 6:15 p.m. Before the ceremony Schwarz and Lopucki hope to use the time as a networking opportunity for those involved, to speak with area investors to get ideas on different types of funding and for local and state-wide venture capitalists to see what interesting business plans are developing in the area.

Schwarz said that the entire event is sponsored by GVSU and gives the Seidman School a chance to give back to the community and demonstrate how the money is being used. It is also a chance to showcase Grand Rapids and demonstrate what a high-tech area and what key players in the area can bring to these new up and coming businesses. The difficulty is pulling the resources together so businesses just starting out know what is out there.

“It is exciting for us because out of the group there will be three West Michigan winners who will win $20,000 in prize money with $10,000 going to the first place winner and $5,000 going to the second and third place winners. That will be for each of the three regions and that was set up to make sure that our region wouldn’t be competing against our region. The best in the state wins Phase II,” Schwarz said.

In Phase II, participants will finalize their plans, paying increased attention to management requirements, operating plans, strategic issues and capital/funding requirements. Top GLVQ teams must make an oral presentation to the panel of judges. The grand prize will be $50,000 and two runner-up prizes will receive $25,000 each.

Phase II will run from Dec. 2001 through early March 2001 and will be conducted as one statewide competition. The competition concludes with the presentation and awards event to be scheduled in March. Grand Valley State University is a supporting partner of this statewide event.

While the Phase I deadline passed on Nov. 19, there is still time for the Phase II deadline on March 13, 2002. It is also possible to participate in Phase II without competing in Phase I.

All GLVQ entries will be screened to ensure they meet the criteria, and the most promising entries will be sent to a panel of judges, consisting of venture capital professionals. Successful entries will be those, members of the panel would consider funding. No plan will be eliminated from the competition unless the submission is late, incomplete, or legal issues demand disqualification. For more information, visit www.glventurequest.com.

“Ultimately the real goal, through the competition, education and training that they (business plan competitors) would attract financing for their business,” said Schwarz. “And that they business would be up and running as a result. While the prize money is fun and helps generate interest, the real goal is to start businesses.”

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