Completing the online application is the single most important step in applying to the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition.


By completing this application, all applicants provide the same information to the judges, which allows them to fairly consider all applications.

Based on the applications, the judges will invite selected applicants to submit complete plans as semi-finalists. Therefore, take time to make your application as strong as possible.

There is no right answer to any of the questions on the application. While there are no wrong answers, there are incomplete answers or answers lacking credibility.

Recommendation: It is best to complete the application based on your full plan. Therefore, it is helpful to work on your full plan right now.
All plans evolve as they are written. If you complete the application first and then work on your full plan, your application may not reflect your full plan unless you update your application.

Also, applicants who are invited to submit their full plan as a semi-finalist will have only one week to submit their plan. That means it is best if your plan is essentially completed by the time you submit your application.

Finally...

  • It's a good idea to keep a copy of your answers offline, e.g., in a Word document.
  • Save your work as you work on the application. This means you can return later and keep adding to your application or edit information you already entered.
  • Once you submit your application, you cannot change it. Therefore, it is recommended that you submit your application close to the deadline. That way, you can keep working on it, which is especially useful if you are still working on your plan and you want to update your application based on the way your plan is developing. 

Following is information for each of the four major parts of your application: Applicant Info, Business Plan, Funding, Bios.

APPLICANT INFO

Complete all fields marked by an asterisk (*).

BUSINESS PLAN

Complete all fields marked by an asterisk (*).

This is the most important part of your application, as it will tell judges about the business idea you are proposing.

Hint: Think of the judges as investors, which is what they are since they will be awarding cash and in-kind services. Therefore, speak to them the way you would if trying to convince an investor to invest in your idea.

Business Problem – State the problem you are solving. Why is it a problem? Who has the problem? You are limited to 50 words, so take your time to carefully craft this statement.

Your Solution
– Explain your solution to the problem you just described. (Limited to 25 words.)

Why Your Solution Is Better
– Explain why your solution is better than any other that may exist today. (Limited to 25 words.)

Why You Are Qualified –  Explain what makes you able to implement your solution. (Limited to 25 words.)

How You Will Make Money – For example, by selling to distributors, outsourcing production, etc. (Limited to 25 words.)

Why Rhode Island Is a Good Place to Build Your Business – Prizes are awarded only to winners and finalists who commit to start or expanding operations in Rhode Island. (Limited to 50 words.)

Market – Describe who will buy your product or service. How big is this market? It’s better to say there are X thousand purchasing agents in such-and-such companies than to say you will capture 2% of a $2 billion market. The more specific, the better. (Limited to 75 words.)

Generating Revenue – This tells the judges how well you understand how your potential market buys your type of product or service, and how you will sell, e.g., sales force, sales reps, online ordering, etc. (Limited to 75 words.)

Operations – Explain how you will manufacture your product or produce your service. (Limited to 75 words.)

Distribution – This is a more detailed explanation of how you will generate revenue and conveys your understanding of the way your market operates. (Limited to 75 words.)

Competition – Your competition is anything that your prospective customers view as a substitute for your product or service. A common mistake that first-time entrepreneurs make is to state that there is no competition for their product or service. The judges interpret such a statement to mean that the applicant lacks a full understanding of the market and greatly diminishes his/her credibility and chance to advance in the competition. (Limited to 75 words.)

Competitive Advantage – What makes your business unique? (Limited to 75 words.)

Strengths – State strengths clearly and simply. A strength isn’t a boastful statement, e.g., the best widget ever invented. Instead, it tells what makes your idea worthy of investment, e.g., “the need for a low-cost solution to the problem is growing and the major existing solution provider only works on a consulting basis”, or “our prototype has yielded promising results that indicate…” (Limited to 60 words.)

Weaknesses – Every plan has weaknesses; saying that it doesn’t undermines your credibility with the judges. Identifying weaknesses indicates maturity, and suggesting what would correct it is a good way to go, e.g., the inventor of a product might recognize that he or she needs a seasoned business person to run the company and take the idea to market. (Limited to 60 words.)

Risks – Again, every business idea has risks. Being frank about them shows you understand the market you are looking to enter or expand into. Indicating how you will mitigate risks is helpful. (Limited to 60 words.)

FUNDING

Complete all fields marked by an asterisk (*). 

Using Winnings – The judges want to know how you would use your winnings. While every plan is different, the judges want to know how the winnings will make a difference to the success of your idea. (Limited to 75 words.)

Invested Capital – It is not necessary to have invested in your idea to date. This helps to indicate where you are at.

Financial Projections – If an investor is captivated by your business idea, the first part that most investors will study in a plan is the financial projections. This is probably the most difficult part of any business plan to complete. Many first-time, and even seasoned, entrepreneurs struggle with this. It is best to engage help from someone who understands how the different elements of the projections requested interact with each other.

NOTES:

  1. This table does not have an asterisk (*), because it is recognized that, in some cases, not every cell can be completed. That is all right, but it is absolutely essential to complete most, if not all, of the table.
  2. Make sure that the numbers make sense. If Year 5 revenue is 50 times as large as Year 1, your explanation of the market and how you will generate revenues needs to support such rapid growth. Similarly, rapid revenue growth will likely incur significant expenses, and your description of operations should support this.

BIOS

Complete all fields marked by an asterisk (*). 

Include the following information for the key members of your team as it currently exists.

Responsibilities – What will each person do. (Limited to 20 words.)

Background – The judges want to know who they may be investing in. Highlight elements of each team member’s background that is relevant to making the plan a success. (Limited to 50 words.)

NOTE: All members of a Student Track should be students.