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Enter the Sustainable Business Plan Competition...

and win Mentor Capital

Over the past 11 years, more than 800 for-profit social enterprises have participated in our Sustainable Business Plan Competition. 

However, our Sustainable Business Plan competition is not about competition. Just the opposite. Its about astounding collaboration between mentors and social enterprise creators. It's the investment in expertise that defines WJF. Through our competition, we connect entrepreneurs who are passionate about their ideas and inventions with a team of mentors who have the experience and perspective to support these entrepreneurs to create and grow successful enterprises.The skills and knowledge this network of people share is something we call mentor capital

The process: nearly 1,000 volunteer mentors have donated $3 million of mentor capital to more than 800 for-profit social enterprises. We mobilized $750,000 in mentor capital in the last year, and expect to increase that to $1.2 million in 2015.

The result: over 450 for-profit enterprises have been launched, creating thousands of jobs and impacting millions of people.

When does my Social Enterprise apply?  

If you are launching or managing a multi-bottom line business and are at a stage that working with Mentors and expanding your network can help you move forward, our Sustainable Business Plan Competition and Mentor Capital Network is for you. 

Each fall we receive over 500 applications and accept 50-100 companies positioned to best benefit from our mentor capital and go on to make the world a better place. 

  • We look for multi-bottom line for-profit businesses in the idea or venture phase that are building social, environmental and/or cultural impacts into how they make money.
     
  • We look for companies that are new, start-up or going throught transition and are looking to work with mentors who can provide meaningful, actionable feedback on a written business plan. Whether you’re just putting an idea to paper or you’re three years in and drawing up plans for expansion, our mentors can help.
     
  • We believe that the future of your business will be stronger if you have a written plan. So we encourage you to draft one that works for you. 

Click here to see the companies in our 2014 cohort

Applications for 2015 cohort will be accepted in the fall of 2014.  Subscribe to our newsletter for the announcement.  

Questions? Contact us at competition@williamjamesfoundation.org

How will my Social Enterprise benefit?

  • Mentor Feedback: Your company will receive comprehensive mentor feedback from a diverse team of 8 to 12 different mentors. You receive professional-level peer review of your business idea and model from experts who have been down your path. 
     
  • Ongoing Mentors: Most of the mentors that read your business plan will opt-in to stay connected with you.

    The business plan review is our version of "Mentor Speed Dating". We customize a team of mentors to read your business plan and provide you their expertise and perspectives. As a Mentor reads your plan, and provides you feedback, they can opt-in and provide you their contact information. The majority of Mentors will opt-in. Once you have their contact information, and their mentor feedback, you have the opportunity to reach out and continue to get advice, coaching or mentoring from these industry leaders. The business plan is just the introduction that gives the Mentors and the Entrepreneurs information to build on and an opportunity to choose each other. 
     
  • Our Methodology is to provide you an outline, not a specific business plan format:

    We don't give you a specific business plan format because we don't want to provide feedback on your ability to fill out a form. Our mentors provide constructive commentary on your actual business ideas and plan. And we also believe the future of your business will be stronger if you have a written plan. So draft one that works for you. 
     
  • Prizes: We treat all the companies in our cohorts as winners and invest in each company with valuable mentor capital. But, yes, we also ask our mentors to "score" and we do pick a select group of companies each year as prize winners.
    • In-Kind Prizes: Some of the biggest names names in sustainable business offer their professional services and products to our top teams. The value of the professional services ranges from $1,000 to $10,000. This targeted In-Kind support gives our social impact businesses and receive promotion and access to new clients. Each year, the In-Kind Prizes are worth more than $100,000.
       
    • We also award a limited number of cash prizes ranging from $500 to $3,000.
       
    • Opportunity to present or pitch at our Annual Gathering in Washington, DC in front of mentors, investors, donors and supporters. 
       
  • Investors: Participation in our business plan competition also gives you an opportunity to be part of our Investor Fishbowl and "Green Grab" events. We love putting companies in front of accredited investors to pitch for professional debt or equity investment.

Requirements to enter our Sustainable Business Plan Competition:

  1. Be creating or managing a for-profit company (planned or existing) that has defined social, environmental, and/or cultural goals built into how your business makes money. If you can imagine a non-profit with the same goals as your for-profit company, you will probably qualify. 
  2. Be a company in the planning stage or considering a significant change of direction in how your company operates. Our primary benefit is mentor feedback on your business plan. Don't enter if you're not in a position to do something with that feedback.
  3. Be an entrepreneur with a leadership role in the business and expect at least one person to be making (or planning to make) a full time, living-wage income from your business. You can be of any age or educational status, and you can be based anywhere in the world. 
  4. Submit your business plan in English.

Other Selection Criteria:

WJF supports companies that are changing the way business is done. We are looking for businesses that have fully integrated their social/environmental goals into how the company works. 

We are unlikely to accept companies whose sole contribution or value-add is to:

  • provide better service or lower prices but not offer
  • donate a percentage of revenues to charity
  • offer consulting services (i.e. websites, coaching, mobile apps) to help other individuals and companies become more sustainable, even if all your clients are non-profits or socially responsible businesses.