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Write a business plan, win $25K!

Updated: 
August 6, 2017 - 12:37pm

OK, got your attention now?

This is the second year that HIplan, the Big Island Business Plan Competition sponsored by UH Hilo and the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce, will be in operation. Last year, the contest and its competitive showcases were centered on Hilo, and this year, in the interest of promoting island-wide opportunity, the organizers have moved the showcase competition over to West Hawaii, where all activities will be held at NELHA. These start off with a workshop, How to Write a Business Plan, this Wednesday.

The deadline for plan submission is midnight, Sept. 10; entries that pass initial judging will proceed on to round two, a “Shark Tank” like plan presentation on Oct. 21; and the final competition, again a presentation followed by a two minute “elevator speech” will be held on Nov. 4. There is a $100 entry fee and the winner gets a $25,000 prize.

HIplan is the brainchild of Jim Wyban, a former West Hawaii business owner, and Kelly Moran, president/founder of Hilo Brokers. I sat down with Jim to get some information about the competition and his motivation for starting it.

Why HIplan, what are you trying to do with this competition?

Jim: We’re trying to simulate the kind of entrepreneurial ecosystem you see in some of the more developed business startup communities, places like Silicon Valley. While the Big Island will never be Silicon Valley, we realize that people running businesses need all the help they can get and wanted to help business people starting up new companies or expanding existing companies with the networking and ideas they need. HIplan came out of that kind of thinking.

How did you get involved?

I was sort of retired, and was invited onto the Advisory Board of the College of Business at UH Hilo. It became obvious that there was really nothing having to do with entrepreneurship available at the University, which I thought was a glaring omission. At the same time, I noticed that business plan competitions were happening in other locales, and reality shows like Shark Tank were taking off. All that came together along with the realization that if something was going to happen in this area we had to do it.

So how did that first year of the competition go?

It worked out amazingly well but was certainly disheartening at first. On the afternoon of the deadline day I was heading off to the mainland and we had only three entries, so I thought, “this is going to be a disaster.” But when I got off the plane and turned on my laptop the next morning, my email notifications went crazy and by the time all the messages were finished loading we had 49 entries. From then on everything about the competition was a fantastic experience.

What did last year’s experiences tell you about Hawaii businesses?

I was thrilled at the great diversity we saw in the 49 entries. Everything from robotics to aquaculture to medical care. I think that was the most gratifying part: seeing the great creativity and diversity that exists here. I was also encouraged by the high-quality of the ideas, plans and presentations we saw.

What are you looking for in a winning business plan?

First, that the business is Hawaii based, either for profit or nonprofit, and that the plan follows our format guidelines. You can see look at our website, www.hiplan.biz , to download the template for our format. After those basic requirements, clarity of thought is important. We want to see a good business concept, with a clearly articulated direction pointing towards a sustainable business. That should be coupled with a clear understanding of the market the business will be drawing from. It’s the combined scores from the written plan, the longer “pitch” and the elevator speech that are added up to get the final score.

Anything else?

Good communication skills. We think we’re taping into those skill sets all around with our format of a written plan, then a longer verbal presentation, then the short elevator speech. A business owner needs communication skills in all those areas to succeed. We worked with the applicants on developing their “pitches” over the course of the competition, if they wanted our help, and what was extraordinary was the amazing amount of growth we saw in the individual applicants as the competition went on. And the ones who succeeded practiced, practiced, practiced at communicating their vision of their business. They knew their stuff, and how to convey their passion to others.

If you think your business idea has the right stuff, start off your journey of convincing us of that and maybe winning that grand prize by registering for our workshop on Wednesday, How to Write a Business Plan. Details are available at www.hisbdc.org.

Dennis Boyd is the director of the West Hawaii Small Business Development Center. The SBDC network is funded in part through the U.S. Small Business Administration and the University of Hawaii at Hilo. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.

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