You may be trying to figure out how to contact Mark Cuban. Well, I have a story that might help you. Back in late 2011, I had the opportunity to introduce Mark Cuban. At the time, I was just a student at Howard University and a co-founder of a company—now defunct—called My College Hustle, a barter platform for college students.
Hoping to win a $25,000 prize, my business partner Edward Lyles and I entered a Shark Tank-style contest in New York that actually preceded the TV show (I think the contest organizers were up to something).
Even though my team didn’t win the grand prize, Cuban and I did face off—as a result of reaching the semi-finals of an MTV-sponsored college business plan competition.
Here’s what I want to emphasize: if you’ve never thought of business plan competitions as a source of funding for your business, think again. These competitions can provide you with a lot of unique opportunities.
3 reasons why you should start competing today
- You can win start-up capital and exposure.
- This is a great opportunity for communication.
- Winnings are usually awarded without loss of capital.
So here is the information you need to get started.
1. How do you find competitions?
Look at sites like Student Competitions.com. You can also search Google using various keywords such as “pitch competitions”, “bplan competitions”, “college entrepreneurship competitions” and “challenge competitions”. Mix and match keywords to get different results.
Not a college student? No problem; there are other contests for you. Try searching for keywords related to the company, such as “Dell presentation competition”, “Microsoft presentation competition”, etc. Enter any random technology company you can think of and pair it with the word “competition” and see what will happen.
Sometimes technology companies hold competitions to promote and encourage innovation. There are many such competitions throughout the year, so keep an eye on them and always be on the lookout.
2. What are your chances of winning?
I know what you’re thinking There are loads of people applying; what are my chances of winning? But it may surprise you that most people don’t want to put in the work and that far fewer people respond than you might expect. Also, keep in mind that you don’t have to win every challenge.
One “yes” can make a huge difference to your business. During my college years, I won over $20,000 just by entering five business plan competitions.
The important thing is that if you are a young entrepreneur, it is extremely important to use every opportunity you have to make contacts. And these competitions are a great way to do that.
I emphasize this because I competed a few years ago and ended up finishing second. Then I kept in touch with the winners, and a few years later, when I applied again, guess who was the judge? The guy who beat me in competition years ago! I had no idea this was going to happen and it was nice to know we had someone in our corner from the start.
3. Who do you need to know?
This story brings me to my next point: networking. The most important people you need to meet are the judges. After the competition, talk to them and get their contact information. Learn more about them; they are judges for a reason, right? These could be potential investors or mentors. Network!
4. How do you train for this?
As a finalist in the previous competition, I was assigned a personal trainer in my city and trained for free until the day of the presentation. Therefore, be sure to take part in any pre-competition activities offered, because event organizers often hold additional trainings or online seminars to better prepare you.
Speaking of training, remember that competitions are a great way to practice your public speaking skills. You will always have the opportunity to be in front of the crowd. When you’re not presenting and there’s downtime, you’re constantly talking and meeting people, which forces you to compress your idea into a 30-second elevator presentation. You will learn to speak more confidently and concisely.
5. How do you write your business plan?
It is important to have a detailed business plan. A summary may only be required for some competitions, but it’s best to just bite the bullet and write the full plan. Your plan must be ready so that you can constantly apply for participation in various competitions.
Have some support for your idea; before judges invest, they must see confirmation. How do you know you’re solving a real problem?
My secret to writing a good business plan is simple: be creative! Select it; perhaps make an interactive business plan where judges can scan a QR code and go to a live demo or video of your product. Get specific; Explain in detail how you plan to achieve certain benchmarks.
Oh, and meeting Mark Cuban? He was very friendly and gave us motivational advice about continuing our business. it was a wonderful experience.
Related Post: How to Win a Business Plan Competition