CSU Stages Business Plan Competition

Heriot quotation from story COLUMBUS, Ga. - The Turner College of Business and Computer Science at Columbus State University invites anyone with an idea for starting a small business to put it in writing and enter the university’s inaugural Business Plan Competition.

Organizers are targeting CSU students from all disciplines, plus local entrepreneurs in the planning stages and area high school students. Though the entry deadline is more than six months away, competition director Kirk Heriot said “now is the time to get started” on a written proposal that’s typically 30 pages long.

The competition is open to individuals or teams from anywhere in Georgia, including high schools, colleges and universities, or anyone with an entrepreneurial idea or a new business less then six months old. 
While the prize amounts, anticipated to total between $2,500 and $6,000, and a final timeline for the competition are being determined, Heriot said entries will be due in early April, with finalist presentations in late April. A panel of judges comprised of area professionals and CSU business professors will select five to ten finalists, who will face off by presenting their plans to the judges in a program open to the public. The top three will receive prizes.

Apart from the prizes, “the Turner College of Business and Computer Science is offering a great learning activity to individuals and groups in the community, including high school students,” said Heriot, an associate professor of management and CSU’s Ray and Evelyn Crowley Distinguished Chair of Entrepreneurship. “The process of writing a business plan sharpens research and writing skills and requires building a case based on facts instead of emotion and opinion. Ultimately, it instills an appreciation for the hard work and dedication necessary for starting a business.”

Heriot said he will give tutorial presentations on business plan writing, upon request, at high schools, as well as to CSU students. Plus, any prospective entrant with questions can reach him by phone at 706-562-1674 or e-mail heriot_kirk@ColumbusState.edu.

Heriot also advises prospective competitors to study the Small Business Administration’s guidelines for writing a business plan at http://www.sba.gov/smallbusinessplanner/plan/writeabusinessplan/index.html.

“From the standpoint of the economy, the competition could produce some creative ideas that lead to new jobs -- ideally for the local economy,” said Heriot. “Small businesses (fewer than 500 employees) have a track record of producing jobs in this country at a higher rate than large companies.” 

Before the current financial crisis began prompting banks to tighten lending, small businesses produced 4.5 million jobs from 2002-2007 — more than double the rate for big business. As the small business sector looks to reassert itself as an engine of job growth, the competition at CSU is planned as a yearly and evolving event.

“We’re structuring this first competition to be as basic as possible but, moving forward, we'll likely add some wrinkles, like divisions, for example, to separate high school students from more experienced competitors,” said Heriot, a Muscogee County School District Business Advisory Council member. “However, many high school students already write business plans as part of FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America)-related projects.”