What our Entrepreneurs say about the feedback they received from our judges
"The entire process is organized and logical; the feedback was most what I was looking forward to--and was not disappointed!! The caliber of your judges is also quite impressive. "
"The feedback was definitely helpful...in fact, invaluable. It was great to get someone else's hands on it:) ...the [Judge's] backgrounds were extremely relevant."
"I can honestly say that this is the first “real” feedback I've been given on a business plan in the last 10 years. ...I plan on putting all of it to good use!"
"When I did some research on who the reviewers were, I must say that I'm really pleased and honored to be getting such detailed feedback from high-level players in the CDFI, mission-related investment and social enterprise worlds."
"I want to thank you for your willingness to provide advice for this vision I have. One great unexpected bonus of this competition has been observing what others have accomplished. The energy and passion for solutions with a social impact is quite inspiring."
"Absolutely! Having so many different outside perspectives is critical to developing a solid plan. It is very easy to get tunnel vision when you are in the trenches everyday. The fresh eyes and thoughts really help to eliminate or at least address holes in the plan. The reviewers spend a tremendous amount of time preparing the feedback. Instead of just saying this is good or bad, they give specifics."
"Feedback was great! It helped me realize that the business I was pursuing was not the right one for me."
"As the owner, going through the scrutiny of having our business plan critiqued in all business areas and having to revise the plan in order to make it to the finals was an invaluable experience. The judges were world-class and gave great feedback which can set anyone up for success if they have the drive to follow through. I got to the point where I felt comfortable about writing a socially responsible business plan. I learned to quantify and tell a story."
"Our judging feedback was useful because it became very apparent what areas were misunderstood when an investor was reading our plan. The feedback led to us rewriting parts of the plan before presenting it to actual investors."
"The feedback was very helpful...it gave me the confidence to go out there and JUST DO IT!"
Why you should have a business plan &
Why you should enter our competition
Why do I need a business plan?
The answer to that depends on what kind of plan you're looking to create, and what you will use it for. There are generally five kinds of business plans:
The Idea. This is your elevator pitch -- the core idea behind your business. It can often be expressed as "We sell (Product or Service A) to (Customer B) to solve (Problem C) with (Value of Product / Service D)." The hard part is often being able to quicky describe the value of your product or service, and understanding that this is not the same thing as describing the product or service itself. Want help with this? Sign up for a one-minute pitch session at one of our events.
The Sales Pitch / Executive Summary. The goal here is to get the investor or customer interested enough they want to learn more. This is usually one or two pages long. One common form for this can be found at http://gust.com. This is what we look for in the application form to our competition due November 5th.
The Business Model. This is an overview of how you make money. One common form for this is described at http://www.businessmodelgeneration.com/canvas. This is what we look for in the business mode round of our competition, due December 17th.
The Internal Plan. Write this plan for your own team. Check in with it every six months or so, and revise as needed. It needs to be understandable by people not in your industry and/or who don't work for you yet. Imagine you are hiring an HR director a year from now, and you can hand them a document that explains what you company does, how it makes money, how it produces social / environmental value, and how it hopes to operate in the future. This is that document. This is what we look for in the business plan round of our competition, due April 8th.
The Bankers' / Investors' document. This is the document that people who are about to lend / invest money in your enterprise will want to see. This might be full of charts and graphs and market studies. This isn't the plan (to us) -- this is the proof that the plan is valid. While the William James Foundation probably won't read this version, you will want to have this document ready if you are seeking investment. Be sure to cover the amount of money you are looking for, what you will do with that money, how it will make you (more) profitable, and when/how the investors will get paid back. Before distributing this document, be aware of securities laws around accredited investors.
Why social entrepreneurs should enter our competition:
1. The Feedback
The William James Foundation works with more than 700 reading judges, who are world-class experts in sustainable business. We average twenty pages of feedback (from 8 to 12 different judges) per plan per round. This is professional-level peer review of your business ideas from experts. So, if you’re just putting an idea to paper, or you’re three years in and drawing up plans for international expansion, we can help.
2. The Connections.
75% of our reading judges signed their scorecards, giving you the option to connect with these industry leaders as potential mentors, customers, investors, and champions.
3. The Discipline.
By drawing up your plans, you will get a big picture view of what your company can do.
4. Focus on your business, not on entering competitions.
The William James Foundation manages multiple prize categories with the same entry documents and the same deadlines. Many of our entrants compete in two or three different categories without additional effort.
5. The Prizes
Every year, some of the top names in sustainable business have shown their support for The William James Foundation by offering their professional services and products to our top teams. They get to help the next generation, and receive promotion and access to new clients. For the the 2011-2012 cycle, the cash and in-kind prizes were worth more than $100,000 -- we expect a similar number for 2012-2013.
Questions? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.