How and When to Complete Your Application

Even though the deadline to apply to the 2013 Rhode Island Business Plan Competition is April 1, 2013, you shouldn’t wait to get started on your full business plan.

Applying involves completing an online form, which is available here.

The idea behind the online application is to have all applicants answer the same set of questions. This is especially helpful for people who have never written a business plan. Even if they have, completing the online form ensures that all applicants are evaluated on the same set of information.

Completing the application is the single most important step you will make in the competition, because the judges will use the information in your application to decide whether to designate you as a semi-finalist and invite you to submit a full written plan. Therefore, obviously, if you don’t get past this first step, you can’t go any further.

The application is pretty straightforward. You’ll need to answer questions like:

  • What is the market for your product or service?
  • How will you generate revenue?
  • What are the three greatest strengths of your business idea?
  • What are the three greatest weaknesses of your business idea?

For each question, your answer is limited to the number of words you can provide, usually around 50 – 75 words. This is why completing the application takes work: answering these questions in relatively few words, and demonstrating your credibility and thoughtfulness, means being very careful and precise.

The best way to approach the application is by working on your full business plan. (Click here for tips on how to format a full business plan.) It makes sense to work on your full plan now for two reasons:

  1. By having your full plan nearly completed by the time your application is due on April 1, 2013, you can basically copy information from your plan to the application (although you may have to edit to fit the word count).
  2. If the judges designate you a semi-finalist, you will have only eight days between the time you are notified on April 8 and when your full plan is due on April 16. It would be difficult, if not nearly impossible, to create a full plan in eight days.

Starting work on your full business plan right now (if you haven’t already begun) also gives you an opportunity to really think through the idea and how you will make it work. Putting thoughts on paper lets you see if they make sense and if all the pieces fit together. If you find something needs adjustment, you can fix it because you have the time now to do it. Doing that will also let you get all your ducks in order so that when it comes time to complete the application, everything will be in place.

So, here’s the best way to proceed:

  1. Review the online application to see what is required.
  2. Work on your full plan now.
  3. Complete the application based on your full plan.

FINALLY, remember that since the deadline to apply is 5 p.m. Eastern time on April 1, 2013, you should use the time between now and then to work on your plan. You won’t gain any advantage by applying way in advance of April 1.

Good luck.

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Avatar About the Author: The Rhode Island Small Business Journal is a printed monthly magazine and an online resource for the aspiring and start-up entrepreneur and small business owner.

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