The Business Plan Competition is one of the major tools for those institutions starting out with entrepreneurship as it provide a promotional platform for creating student awareness, real role models and institutional engagement. A large number of universities and colleges create an enterprise delivery strategy around this linchpin. From this they can hang workshops such ideas creation, business skills and also more personalized services such as mentoring and accelerators.
If it is done correctly it can generate a significant interest in the student population, local business and senior management, growing at an annual rate to ensure competitors from all facility or schools within the institution. A true win win!
So why should your institution run a business plan competition?
There are very few projects within the university which develops the enterprise ethos of the institution. The business plan competition can be made to work with all academic departments, staff and students to ensure that the benefits of enterprise are understood in the context of the institution. This management tool requires careful development but will product results which will be lasting in changing the ethos.
The development of students out of the class room is important in ensuring they understand that a continual approach to learning in the work place should be adopted at every stage of their life. The process of learning, developing new skills and applying them to real world problems in a creative way is one every degree student has to learn.
Celebration of enterprise
The awards event should be a celebration of enterprise whereby everyone associated with university enterprise, staff, researchers, students, businesses, By engaging the Vice Chancellor to deliver prizes and keynote speech you can ensure some level of support from others within the university.
Students will develop new skills through a competitive behavior and engaging in a number of pre-submission sessions. This ensures that a wider number of students gain experience whilst also increasing the competitions’ finalist ability. This is especially important when dealing with the expectations of sponsors and also ensuring that a sufficient story can be provided to the press. These role models are especially important when developing a sustainable competition. When we look at shell live wire, the press and PR exposure provided to the finalist has always been exceptional, ensuring the further development of the finalists businesses.
Student Role Models
Student peer development is an important learning pedagogy which ensures wide spread appeal when embedding enterprise into the student mindset. A diversity of business types and annual growth of this growth is an important factor for a student when seeking reassurance for their entrepreneurial thinking and endeavors.
It is important these role models are seen on event marketing collateral, made available during events and speak about their real life experiences. These experiences, should include The good, the bad and the ugly and should be demonstrated to the students that what ever life experiences come forward, its the learning from these that enables the entrepreneur to grow and succeed.
Business & Alumni Collaboration
It also brings in sponsors from businesses and more importantly alumni. These groups thrive on engaging students, their ideas and being part of the university culture. Once they get involved, they start to recruit students into their businesses, develop knowledge transfer partnership and take an active interest in the students and staff of the institution.
The competition will also create and should involve the institutions alumni of key role models for our student entrepreneurs. These groups of people make great judges, mentors, business coaches, sponsors and advisory board members which are so important in ensuring staff and students understand the needs of business and entrepreneurs.
Opportunities for collaboration on a single project with a large number of internal stakeholders such as the student union, the incubator, university departments and external businesses is very rare at universities. One case study is from the Liverpool university which bases the competition out of the student union ensures the highest student engagement and also attendance at the finals. This engagement then ensures wider student perception of the competition and also from the widest demographics of students, from social sciences to biology.
The process of running the competition provides a good opportunity for staff development, providing opportunities to run a project from start to completion within one academic year which brings in the skills of marketing, student engagement, mentoring and skills development. The metrics can be easily obtained and understood by all parties and thus ensures a great opportunity for staff.
Student & Enterprise Society Engagement
Using enterprise society for promotion and student engagement is one of the best ways to ensure student involvement and ownership, This ensures you develop a student led approach to the marketing and earlier stages engagement of the competitors which allows them to forms founder groups. There are numerous statistics which show that a team is more likely to win a business plan competition.
The vast majority, even the most success one will admit they would like to Increased business engagement, with students, with research, with course development, with CPD. The business plan competition is the first step in getting businesses on campus and meeting students, from here we can sell in all the other aspects of the university. So getting them to sponsor, attend or engage with a competitor is one the most critical parts of the universities business engagement strategy.
The key KPIs for a business plan competition should be:
- The total number of student and graduate entries
- The total number of students engaged on social media
- The number of schools which enter
- The total prize money available
- The business categories
- The total hours of skills development
- The total number of students having skills development
- The number of businesses sponsoring
- The total number of businesses attending the presentations
- Increased student perception in enterprise