by Daniela Baker
Entering a business startup competition like the NYSE Big StartUp Competition or the i.e. Start-Up Competition is a ton of work for a new entrepreneur. Preparing for it takes time and money.
But there are some really excellent reasons to enter a startup competition. Here are just six:
1. You might win!
Let’s just get this one out of the way at the start: The reason you enter most competitions is that you might actually win. Startup competition prizes range from a couple grand in cash to big money in grants.
Also, you could win access to a mentor, gain headline exposure and PR opportunities, or even receive free services for your business needs. Even if you don’t win, competitions have other great benefits, which is why we still have five more good reasons to go.
2. You get the word out about your business.
Exposure is the name of the game for your startup. The more people who know about your business, the more quickly you’ll build brand recognition and a customer base, and the less likely you’ll fail. Just being in a startup competition offers exposure in and of itself.
But don’t rely on the competition’s organizers for your own publicity. Put together your own PR plan by setting up interviews with bloggers and local news stations ahead of decision day. Then, later, schmooze with the press people and bloggers who will be around the awards ceremony.
3. You can build your business network.
But don’t just focus on finding potential customers for your business. You can also use a startup competition to forge connections with other entrepreneurs. The chances that another business in your exact niche will be at the same startup competition are slim, so feel free to offer your products or services to other entrepreneurs if you think they’ll be interested.
Even if you don’t do any real selling, your new connections will expand your professional network.
4. You can set new business goals.
Entering a startup competition is tough. To do it, you’ll have to work on your business plan and answer some hard questions on your application. Going through this process can force you think more deeply about your startup strategy and refine it.
5. You can get some great new ideas.
Being surrounded by other entrepreneurs is one of the best ways to boost your own creativity and make you feel energized about your business. You’ll also find inspiration at competitions that feature forums and speakers who will touch upon the challenges and latest thinking about entrepreneurship.
6. You can find a mentor.
Sometimes, a mentoring relationship is part of the prize package for a startup competition. Other times, it’s part of the competition itself, as someone may review your business plan or marketing plan directly with you. These events are a way to pick the brains of people who know more than you do, for tips on how to move your business forward.
Entering a business startup competition isn’t for everyone, as it can be costly and is tough to fit in while simply trying to run your business. But, as you can see, the payoffs are worth the trouble.
Daniela Baker is a small business blogger and social media advocate at CreditDonkey.com, a website where small business owners can compare business credit card deals.