Big Idea Business Plan Competition, Day two

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entrepreneurshipThe second day of lab for the Big Idea Competition was full of excitement! Everyone walked in the room, and the air was electric. Dr. Morris opened the floor for questions before we began and a theme was clearly apparent. Each question was dancing around information; specifically what information is revealed when? And frankly, this is something you will see in every business class, pitch competition, and networking event. Entrepreneurs all have a little bit of self-infatuation. You need to have some to believe in yourself. And they believe that their idea for a business is the greatest one ever and it is going to change the world. And they are scared that you will steal it.

First of all, no one is going to like your idea as much as you do. While you may have the next world-changing gizmo, it really isn’t worth it to me to run with your idea and pass it off as my own. Ideas are easy; execution is hard. You should be confident that you can and will work harder on your idea than anyone else. You can’t measure passion, and you can’t beat it either.

Furthermore, this is a business plan lab. We are here to workshop sections of our plans. If you don’t bring in anything to workshop, you won’t be getting any better.  So participants are encouraged to share early and often.

Next we were asked, “What is the hardest part of the business plan to write?”

Nearly everyone said financials. That’s wrong. The answer is actually the Market Analysis. We want to see how well you know your customer. We know you know your product, that’s easy, but how well do you know the customers, their buying cycle, the suppliers, the distributors, and your competitors? The clearer you can convey that, and then much of the plan will fall into place. Now you might be wondering, where do I find such wonderful information? First, go out there and talk to people. Talk to customers and competitors and don’t be shy.

For information on the industry go to the library, librarians will love to help you do research. Seriously, it’s their job; you’ll make them happy to help you.  Also check out NAICS. This is the detailed data that will blow your socks off with information about business patterns and define your industry.

Lastly we discussed what a business concept is.  We used a dessert bar as an example. You may think they sell tiramisu, éclairs, and cakes. And while that is an accurate description of their products, it doesn’t capture their concept. A dessert bar sells indulgence. They sell you a chance to spoil yourself with rich flavors and delightful tastes that you know are bad for you.

I have a friend who has an event lighting company. He thought he was selling lights. I told him he was wrong. He sells ambience, he sells the mood, he sells the environment.  When you structure your business concept around the value you bring customer, the products will sell themselves.

Do you have a business concept? Need help figuring it out? We are here as a resource. Contact us directly or leave a note in the comments.

Student Spotlight: Samantha Rosenbaum

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This is the first post in our series highlighting students involved in the MSE, Innovation Academy, the CEI, and other entrepreneurship initiatives and courses.

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Meet Sam!

CEI: Hi Sam.

Sam: Hi, so glad to be in the CEI today.

CEI: Sam, what program are you in?

Sam: I am in the Master’s of Science in Entrepreneurship Program.

CEI: I hear that’s a pretty good program.

Sam: That’s what I heard as well! And that’s how I ended up here, because I wanted to be in the best entrepreneurship program.

CEI:  Don’t you have a story about how you applied here?

Sam: Oh yea [laughs]. I was accepted into 4 different programs, I tweeted the sharks from Shark Tank and the advice from Mark Cuban, Robert Herjavec, and Lori Greiner led me to UF.

CEI: But why entrepreneurship?

Sam: for one, it’s a way to have a significant impact on the world. As my mentor said, “You can start at the bottom and work your way to the top. Or you can start at the top and build your bottom.” And I think entrepreneurship gives you the opportunity to bring ideas to life that other areas don’t. I think there is a beauty in that, finding solutions. And It’s challenging, I love a good challenge.

CEI: So what have you been working on through the MSE?

Sam: I’ve been working on a project from day one, in Start-Up Gauntlet. It’s called WooBand, with my co-founder and classmate Jarrod Schilling. We are trying to solve the pain of losing your cell phone. Also through our New Product Development class my other classmate and recent grad Jeff, that’s you, created a performance wear product to keep chefs cool. And we are now working on a proprietary blend of fabric to keep chefs cool. I became a Graduate Assistant here, and because of that I’ll be able to continue my studies on our EESA program this summer.

CEI: That sounds like a lot!

Sam: Staying busy is important to me, makes me feel like my life is fulfilling. I get bored easily. Opportunity is everywhere.

CEI: Any advice to prospective students?

Sam: If you someday want to be an entrepreneur, this is the place to be. There is a lot of opportunity and many great minds.

CEI: Thanks, Sam. I’ll let you get back to work.

Sam: Oh wait! My motto is “Dream big!”

CEI: Good motto. Good talk.

Sam: Always a good time.

Big Idea Business Plan Competition, Day One

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The common denominator between everyone competing in the Big Idea Competition is that we all have a dream. Not an idea, a dream. I know how that sounds given the title, but bare with me. We all have a dream to do great things, become successful, win first place, etc… The lab is designed to help you turn that dream into a reality by guiding you through the organizational process of our business. When Dr. Morris was lecturing I was reminded of a conversation I had at a place I used to work. An older and successful doctor asked me what my plans were. I told him I was going to start a Masters degree in Entrepreneurship. And he responded saying, “Why would you ever get a master’s in that? Aren’t you supposed to just go and try, and fail, and fail, and fail some more until you get it right?”

You can do that. You can go ahead and throw crud on the wall and see what sticks. You can make appointments with bankers to try to get financing relying solely on your wit and charm. You can put out a product and pray to whatever deity you prefer that people will buy it. You can do whatever you want because you live in the greatest time in history to start a business, where people are finding solutions to problems we didn’t know we had, and you can do business with almost anyone anywhere in the world! You can do all of those things, but here’s what you should do.

You should write a business plan. You should use that writing process to thoroughly vet your idea. You should evaluate the value of your ideas. You should figure out how to make money. You should formulate all the ways to make your ideas operational.

The business plan brings discipline, order, and logic to your thinking. The business plan can help you recruit talent. The business plan will help you get financing.  People who give you money expect to see some proof that you can deliver. The business plan is your best guess of how you will make a return on their investment.

I’ll leave with you with one story. I recently, no more than 4 months ago, had coffee with a local ‘entrepreneur’. He had just launched his website and was already getting orders for his product. He was telling me his ‘entrepreneurial story’ and said that he’d been writing his business plan for months until a friend told him to throw it out and start working.

He is no longer in business – crashed and burned in the span of 4 months.

A business plan will guide you through all of the decisions you are going to have to make. Being in a lab or having mentors or friends review your plan will punch holes in your plans where you didn’t know any existed. Professor Rossi says, “You need someone to tell you that your baby is ugly!” Dr. Morris says, “To be successful you will need to develop some thick skin.” It is a long and hard process, but it will be worth every edit and revision you make.

To see more on the Big Idea Business Plan Competition check out http://warrington.ufl.edu/centers/cei/bigidea/ and view our web series on the competition on our YouTube channel. And follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #UFBigIdea.

*Much of the content of this post is inspired by Dr. Morris’s lecture at the Big Idea Competition.

What is your Entrepre-New-Year’s-Resolution?

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January is here, again. And you are too. Like most folks, you have probably made some promises of self-improvement to yourself. The most common one every year is to exercise more. Many crowd favorites are to quit smoking, get a better job, save money, take a trip, and recycle more. The list goes on forever. We even have a board here in the CEI dedicated to them!

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What I have done, and as a result of this blog will recommend to you, is to segment your resolutions to make them more manageable and bite sized. So start with your life. Again, these include the above-mentioned resolutions. Then I broaden it to those around me, friends and family, co-workers, and classmates. Things like, “This year I resolve to make a donation the The Human Fund (http://festivusweb.com/festivus-the-human-fund.htm) for each of my co-worker’s birthdays”. But what about other aspects of your life? Hey – you’re a beautiful diamond with many facets, and each one deserves a chance to shine! Remember this is the UF Center of Entrepreneurship and Innovation blog, so you can probably guess where this is headed.
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How are you going to improve on your entrepreneurial skills this year? Read more books? Attend more live conferences? Network more? Network better? Is this the year you launch your app? Will you resolve to love Twitter? [www.twitter.com/ufcei plug] File your patent? Incorporate your business? Get acquired? Are you finally going to take the leap and quit your job and become the great entrepreneur you were meant to be?!
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Tell us what your Entrepre-New-Year’s-Resolution is below. And if you don’t have one, or need help completing yours, we are here to help.
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