Tips For the Young Entrepreneur: Preparing for a future business plan competition

As a young high school student, a prestigious business competition like New Venture Championship might seem too intimidating and you might never feel like you could compete at that level. While the pressure, critique and intensity of the plan is not for the faint of heart, there are ways that a high school student with a growing interest in business can prepare for a business plan competition in the future.

  1. Get involved in business clubs. Most high schools provide clubs for many different groups and interests. If you are interested in business, find a business club and get involved. Do not just become a member by signing up but never going to the meetings; instead, let the club be a full immersion into the world of business and embrace the opportunities that the club provides. If there is an opportunity within the club to take field trips pertaining to business and networking opportunities, take it. If there is an opportunity to take on a leadership position within the club, take it. Even if you think that you may be too shy to handle leadership, take it on with full force. Anyone can be a great leader with the confidence to do so. If you practice, you will get better.
  2. Take a speech and debate class. A huge aspect of the business plan competition is the presentation. If a team has great presentation skills and can demand the attention of the audience, their plan is perceived to be better. Some people are natural speakers, but the rest of us need practice and a little coaching. Taking a speech and debate class in high school will help coach you to a better presenter. Although the class may seem scary initially, it will pay off to have the type of practice and instruction that makes you the best speaker you can be.
  3. Job shadow or get an internship. Many businesses offer an internship program that can provide real world business experience. Although in each business class you can learn a lot about business plans and marketing, what you learn in the real world by watching, observing and interacting in a business environment provides an experience unlike any classroom. Job shadowing can help you understand what a business professional actually does and help you gauge the standards and abilities you may need for the business world.
  4. Study great business professionals. It is important to have role models in your field of interest. That is why it is vital that you study other business professionals and see what made them so successful. It is also just as important to pay attention to business professionals’ mistakes in order to better prepare yourself to not follow the same path. Research, research, research. Do your best to truly understand the business world and what makes an idea phenomenal.

Written By Tara Gremillion

    Advertisements

    Q&A With Mark Wall, Adjunct Professor at University of Oregon School of Business

    Before Mark Wall became a professor at U of O, he was an MBA student trying to take his career to the next level. In his first year, Wall joined Aqua Essence, a team competing in the New Venture Championship whose product used nano-molecules to strip arsenic out of drinking water.

    Q: What events led to your decision to pursue your MBA?

    I was an environmental consultant for 13 years: five years as a private consultant and eight years as an environmental manager with Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB).  I wanted a career change in 2001 and faced a tough job market. I couldn’t compete for jobs against others who had an MBA. I lived in Eugene and it was an opportunity to improve my employability.

    Q: Why did you decide to enter the New Venture Championship?

    My experience was unique. I was a first-year MBA student with experience in the water industry. Aqua Essence was looking for fresh eyes to take their business plan to the next level.  I had management experience as a consultant but not senior management. Part of management and entrepreneurship is bringing everything together. I’m a learn-by-doing type of person. Competing in a business plan competition provided context and understanding to what I learned in the classroom. The New Venture Championship provided a real-life application of bringing all the elements of business together.

    Q: How successful was your team?

    Aqua Essence placed second at NVC and qualified for the MOOT CORP competition at University of Texas at Austin, where we placed fourth.  The caliber of teams at both competitions was impeccable. We were prepared for MOOT CORP because of the quality of education and success of the Oregon program.

    Q: What value did you receive from the competition?

    It certainly gave me a competitive edge. I had tangible applications to use later in job interviews to demonstrate overcoming problems and creating success. An MBA with experience is more desirable than an MBA without experience. Most MBA students are engaged in the concept of business, but not the reality. The New Venture Championship provided that reality. As an educator, that real-life experience provides the context from which I teach.

    Q: What did you think of the quality of judges?

    The judges are business professionals who bring a level of expertise and insight that you can’t get elsewhere. The opportunity to engage in dialogue with CEOs and top management from international companies greatly contributed to our success at MOOT CORP. The feedback and questions from judges gave us insight into how they look at the world and hearing why those questions were asked took NVC to the next level. Many of the judges look at business plans professionally and bring their passion and expertise to the competition.

    Q: What would you tell someone who is considering NVC?

    The process is smooth, clean and clear. The caliber of judges is phenomenal. The prizes and opportunities are meaningful, especially for someone who wants to be in the Northwest. From a global trade perspective, the Northwest is the gateway to the Pacific. The interaction with judges and peers provides touch points to your career that are invaluable. I still keep NVC on my resume. The best use of my time as an MBA student was spent doing the New Venture Championship.

     

    Written By Nic Corpora

    Frequently Made Website Mistakes

    We all have an opinion about how a good website should look.  When your up-and-coming business is ready to launch a website, it is vital to recognize site visitors’ likes and dislikes. Simple factors can contribute substantially to the number of hits the site receives.

    Have a look at these common website mistakes and a few tips on how to avoid them:

    Long pages & long sentences

    • People hate scrolling too long to find what they are looking for. The longer it takes to get your point across, the more likely it is that website viewers will get distracted. Avoid this by creating several tabs or pages within your site, and consider adding a search bar.
    • Long sentences have the same effect as never-ending pages. Concise sentences help visitors stay focused and intrigued.

    Technology overuse

    • Many businesses go overboard with different technologies in an effort to make their site look nifty.
    • Avoid Flash intros and tacky background audio. These can cause potential customers to leave the page within a few seconds. They can take a long time to load, and they generally take away from the website’s main purpose.

    Not giving instructions

    • Whether you want visitors to participate in a survey, sign up for a newsletter, or follow you on Twitter, show them where and how to do so in a clear and distinct way.
    • It’s also user-friendly to have multiple clickable links in many places around the site. Consider having a “HOME” link or a clickable logo on the side bar, the bottom of the page, and the top navigation bar, that always takes you back the main page.

    Not changing colors for visited links

    • When your links don’t change color after they’ve been clicked, it’s easy for visitors to get disoriented when navigating the website.
    • Make it easier for users to know which pages they have viewed by changing the colors of visited links.

    No About or Contact page

    • An About page can provide the background of your business or more information about what the company does.
    • Always include a Contact page so that people who have questions about your business or website have a way of getting answers. Providing a business address, phone number, email address, and other contact information is helpful for users and adds a degree of trust and accountability to your company.

    No credible domain name

    • People who see a web address similar to http://www.mydomain.freehost.com are going to assume you are unprofessional. Purchase a domain name that will be easy to find, and do not publish your site to the web until you have one.

    “Under Construction”

    • This is frequently seen when a website is going through changes; it’s a statement you never want people to come across. Similar to the lack of a domain name, visitors could question whether you are serious about your business and its portrayal on the web.
    • If your website isn’t active, do not make it available to the public at all.

    Written By Hannah Moore

    Tips for Standing Out Among Competition

    The idea of presenting a business plan can be daunting and overwhelming for most people.  Even more, immense pressure is added when you realize that you will be not only be presenting but competing with other strong business groups with great innovative ideas and passion for accomplishing their goal. For this competition, it is important to not only have an outstanding business plan and present well, but to stand out among competition and be just a bit brighter and more confident. Here are a few tips that are important reminders on how to stand out among competition and have a great presentation:

    1. Demand attention in the room. It is important, when presenting, to speak confidently, clearly and with enthusiasm.  Be interesting; you need to speak with passion, energy and excite the crowd with your fantastic ideas. When you speak with enthusiasm and passion, the audience will develop positive associations with your plan. If you show you are passionate and excited, they will be too.

    2. Have less text in your plan. Your business plan should show graphics, charts, visuals and tables. You need to not only be able to tell but show what makes this plan great and why it works. Only using words, the plan can be empty, but data and tables and graphics prove that your plan is more than just research but something implementable and understandable. Plus, it makes it interesting and enjoyable to read. A diagram will make more sense than a long wordy paragraph.

    3. Take risks. Good business plans anticipate possible challenges and hurdles. It is important to plan for a variety of scenarios to deal with possible obstacles. Creating a business plan is not about avoiding risks, but understanding possible challenges and managing them in a proactive manner.

    4. Maintain your uniqueness. It is important to understand and research competition, but make sure you stick with what makes you unique and different. Learn from your competitors’ strengths, but don’t model yourself after them. Understand their past mistakes and work to avoid similar ones. Research the competition and use that information to improve your plan.

    5. Get other opinions. You can benefit greatly from presenting the business plan to multiple professionals in the industry. It is important that you use the resources and the intelligent people around you to create the best plan and presentation possible. Just a few constructive comments could really improve upon and impact your plan to touch upon a point you never realized. Plus, the more you practice,the better and more confident you become.

     

    Written By Tara Gremillion

    International Spotlight

    New Venture Championship prides itself on its identification as one of the premier international business plan competitions in the United States. As recognized by Forbes magazine as one of the top 15 small business plan competitions in the U.S., NVC is rapidly stretching its influence across the water to international applicants. With this in mind, we look at a prime resource for students with a business plan around the world — Global Entrepreneurship Week.

    Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) takes place around the third week of November each year and consists of roughly 30,000 competitions around the world. These competitions range from Startup Weekend, which takes place in 15 cities, to the 22 country-wide CleanTech Open—which featured Oregon’s very own Arcimoto in 2010. GEW is an opportunity for students to connect with professionals who provide feedback for their ideas and endeavors, via international competitions as well as online and personal interactions.

    The idea behind GEW is to connect young entrepreneurs with business professionals in their area and across the nation. Students are provided with feedback about their ideas and endeavors in hopes that they will find success in business plan competitions similar to NVC. Brazil ranked at the top of the participation list during the 2010 GEW with more than 7 million active participants and about 4,000 events. After only two years of existence, GEW continues to grow into a well-known event across student entrepreneur groups throughout the world.

    New Venture Championship is not a GEW-sponsored event; however, they each represent an opportunity for feedback and success. Visit the website for Global Entrepreneurship Week to peruse the variety of opportunities that will be available each November, and plan your start in the world of global entrepreneurship today!

     

    Written By Nicole Hyslop