Taking care of business


This spring, FAU students and alumni have the opportunity to present business plans to a professional committee risk-free — with the chance of winning part of a $100,000 prize.

Now in its third year, the Business Plan Competition is open to both students and community members to submit business plans for the competition.

“This is an opportunity not only for our students, faculty and alumni, but also the business community to get involved in trying to create successful businesses,” said assistant dean of community relations Kimberly Gramm.

For students, this competition offers an opportunity to present their business ideas to a panel of professionals to iron out any bugs their ideas may have, without the risk of what a failed business plan would mean in the real world.

“Through this activity, [students’] business plans are vetted through numerous screening judges that can be made up of faculty or industry experts. And they get a chance to win cash and prizes so that they can start their businesses,” Gramm explained.

But while the opportunity is there, the process takes commitment.

“It was very time-consuming, from the beginning, which was organizing the actual group and putting the business plan into writing, to the initial screening process, which narrows down, I don’t know, 300 to 16? And then there’s the competition,” explained Marshall Sklar, an FAU alum and a 2009 Business Plan Competition winner.

After his win in 2009, Sklar came back to the competition in 2010 as a judge.

“Compared to 2009, 2010 was definitely bigger, more organized, more detailed. And I’m assuming 2011 should be the same,” said Sklar.

And this year, more than $100,000 in cash and prizes is up for grabs.

To be selected as the winner of the competition, the submitted business plans go through a panel of 50 to 60 judges and are read individually up to five times to give each plan a collective score. The top-scoring plans then advance to the next round.

“Every round adds a level of complexity,” said Gramm.

Although the competition is available to everyone, this year the competition has been split into two tracks, one for students and one for alumni and community members.

This division into two separate tracks means that students will be competing only against other students for the first-, second- and third-place prizes available.

“Last year we made the change in the track because we found that students would prefer not to compete against people that are much more seasoned entrepreneurs … sort of level out the playing field, so to speak,” said Gramm.

This means that the prizes will be divided between the two tracks, giving each track equal opportunity to the same amount of winnings at the end.

“One of the things we’re trying to accomplish through this idea of creating businesses is that faculty get involved … we want smart people from all walks of life to come to this place to vet whether these are good business ideas to stimulate our local economy,” explained Gramm.

“If you don’t go for it, you’ll never know,” said Sklar. “You have absolutely nothing to lose, and you have everything to gain.”

Check it out

To enter the competition, visit www.faubpc.com to sign up as an individual or a team.

Dates to remember:

Jan. 28: Intent to compete and business competition concept deadline.

Feb. 18: Team registration form deadline

March 27: Business plan submission deadline

April 14 and 15: Event and presentation

For full rules on the competition or for more information, go to www.faubpc.com.