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Business Planning Competition resources

Contact information, Martin Langeveld, coordinator: Email (preferred): — Phone: 802-380-0226

Contest rules and info iStart platform


Contest timeline

      • Thursday, April 23, 4 p.m.: Business Model is due. Judges will review the these submissions, offer comments on them, and select up to five finalists per category from them.
      • Monday, April 30 : Finalists are announced and notified.
      • Wednesday, June 17, 4 p.m.: Final business plans are due. These will consist of narratives addressing various aspects of the plan, along with financial projections.
      • Wednesday, June 24, 9 a.m.-noon: Finalist presentations, and judging at the Marlboro College Graduate Center. Finalists must be available for the full day. They will make a brief presentation before the judges, followed by a question session with the judges. Judges will provide verbal and written feedback on all plans submitted.
      • Wednesday, June 24, 2 p.m.: Awards will be announced at the Robert H. Gibson River Garden, headquarters of Strolling of the Heifers (157 Main Street, Brattleboro).

Questions for Phase I (Business Model description)

Questions for the Finalist phase (Detailed Business Plan)

  • Finalists develop a detailed business plan together with financial projections. The suggested outline of the narrative portion of the business plan may be downloaded here.
  • Download the required financial spreadsheets listed below. Note that these are suggested formats; finalists are free to submit the required projections using other templates, or to modify these as needed. NOTE: You can change the fiscal years in these templates to begin and end whenever you wish, but whatever fiscal year you select should be used consistently across all three sheets.

Finalist stage resources:

What’s a business model?

A business model describes the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value.

Business Model Generation (free sample content from the book) using the Canvas:

Download the Business Model Canvas handout file here.

Download the Business Plan Outline handout file here.

The process of validating the business model:

Below is a condensed work plan for what you must actually do to validate a business model.

Find a Problem
Find a big customer problem worth solving and write down all your key hypotheses about the business model to solve this problem. Use the Business Model Canvas as a scorecard to track your assumptions and the changes that you make.

Nail the Opportunity
Get away from your desk and interview customers face-to-face to understand the “job” customers are trying to do, their current pain, and how they solve that pain. Pivot when you discover you are wrong.

Nail the Solution
Develop a minimum viable product prototype, or a strong description of your product or service, and get face-to-face with customers to test your vision of the solution. Pivot when you discover you are wrong. Repeat these tests until you nail the solution.

Nail the Go-to-Market Strategy
Get outside the building to understand the end-to-end customer buying process, the market communication infrastructure, the distribution infrastructure. Identify the leverage points. Pivot.

Nail the Business Model
Use the facts discovered to validate the revenue model for the business.

Throughout the process learn to change course whenever you discover you are wrong.

Whichever particular method you use, the key steps are to:

  1. Identify your assumptions
  2. Get outside the building to test those assumptions
  3. Validate the facts with customers and pivot as needed
  4. Identify lessons learned.

For the competition, you will tell us about the process you went through, revealing the dead ends and surprises that you discovered along the way.

Remember, the goal is validated learning about the business model assumptions and failing early is a success compared to failing late. If you fail but have a compelling story, submit anyway—you may get the award!

Further reading:

Some books and websites the check out for more tips and suggestions:

The Innovator’s Method

Nail it, Then Scale It

The Startup Owner’s Manual

Business Model Generation (see also PDF preview linked above)

Value Proposition Design (sequel to Business Model Generation; read 100 pages free. Has suggestions for testing process.)

The Lean Startup

The Mom Test: How to talk to customers & learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you (scroll down the page)  The same author has organized a list of useful blog posts here. See, for example, the “Talking to Customers” section for testing ideas.

More business model and other startup tips by Will Keyser (Marlboro faculty) at his website, Startup Owl.


The 2015 International Business Model Competition winners, Veritas


The 2013 International Business Model Competition winners, Owlet


Additional competition videos.

A talk by Business Model Generation author Alex Osterwalder: