Entries aren't due until September, but don't put it off. Writing a successful business plan takes months of research, writing and revising, say last year's Business Plan Challenge winners from Home Team Marketing.
"Without exaggeration, our plan went through at least 100 revisions," says the plan's main author and Home Team co-founder Peter Fitzpatrick. "You have to make the plan understandable in layman's terms, to make it understandable to any type of person."
Fitzpatrick's vigilance paid off. Home Team was the Best Of Show winner in last year's competition, taking home the $50,000 grand prize and free consulting help from business experts. The five-person firm moved from the co-founders' parents' attic to the ShoreBank Enterprise Building in Cleveland, just outside of Bratenahl.
Home Team's concept is remarkably simple, but as remarkable is the fact that no one thought of it before. Fitzpatrick, who founded the company in April 2001 with his brothers, Regan and Jake, and family friend, Patrick Spear, sells sports sponsorships for high schools. Through its network of 213 Ohio high schools, Home Team sells stadium and scoreboard signage and space in programs to large companies, generating revenue for the schools.
"The easiest part of the plan to write was explaining our concept," says Regan Fitzpatrick. "It was a completely different idea, but easy to understand."
The most difficult part was the financials, Peter Fitzpatrick says.
"There were a lot of things that I didn't understand in terms of appreciation, taxes, but you have to understand in order to write the plan," he says.
"There was also no market for what we were doing to compare it against," Regan Fitzpatrick adds.
Home Team didn't seek professional help to write the plan, but rather called on a network of family and friends who had legal and financial expertise.
In the year since it won the grand prize, Home Team has added another account representative and more than 60 high schools to its sponsorship network.
"I love getting up every day and coming in," Peter Fitzpatrick says. "We are by no means four millionaires, by any stretch of the imagination, but we're doing well, we're growing, we're expanding our client base in all regards. We're only a year-and-a-half old, but we're all happy with where we're going." How to reach: Home Team Marketing, (216) 541-8326