Â Â Â Â The EnterPrize Business Plan competition is sponsored by the Pittsburgh Technology Council, a trade association comprised of nearly 1,400 companies in the 13-county southwestern Pennsylvania region. Sponsors of the competition include the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and its Affiliates, Citizens Bank, The Heinz Endowments, Idea Foundry, Innovation Works, KQV AM 1410, Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse, R.P. Simmons Family Foundation, Tippins Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration. In 2006, the EnterPrize competition awarded more than $130,000 in cash prizes and since its inception in 1999, competitors have secured more than $96 million dollars in venture capital.
Â Â Â Â Entering the contest costs $25 for student entrepreneurs and $50 for others. The contest begins in January each year and concludes in June. There are two divisions of the EnterPrize competition: one for new businesses (i.e. the team has an idea for an innovative product or service with which they intend to start a company, but which has not done any business yet) and another category for existing businesses. Restrictions for companies qualifying for this category include less than three years of existence, fewer than 20 employees, and less than a million dollars in annual sales.
Â Â Â Â There are many benefits to the EnterPrize competition, including coaching from professionals in the area and workshops on such topics as: writing a business plan, making your plan stand out from the crowd, defining a target market, understanding entrepreneurial finance, starting a business on solid legal ground, funding your plan, and pitching your business. These workshops take place throughout the duration of the competition and cost $40 for the general public and $25 for contest participants.
Â Â Â Â There are three different phases to the competition: Phase I helps potential businesses develop an executive summary (due in February), Phase II expands the business plan with specific components (due in March), and Phase III finalizes the plan with further details (due in May). The final awards ceremony is held in June.