by Chit Juan | June 29, 2013 5:04 pm

I remember when I entered an online contest for business ideas almost five years ago. I shared the contest rules with my two ECHOstore partners and we sent in our entries on the ECHOstore, a café and a market, one from each partner. The contest was Business in Development (BiD network) which is run in the country by Philippine Business for Social Progress and BiD Network of the Netherlands. Guess what? Our business idea was one of two winners who were sent to Rotterdam (we went with Rags2Riches’ founder Xavier Alpasa). We each had P100,000 in cash plus a chance to win another Euro30,000 in the international round.

Just last year Jeannie Javelosa, our other ECHOstore partner joined the Cartier Women’s Initiative awards, another competition who calls for online entries, and we became Finalist for Asia Pacific. Now, we are called for Cartier events for past finalists, similar to the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards.

It is never a bad idea to join these business plan competitions. The worst is that you may not take home the cash prize, but you would have gained mentorship and a lot of experience along the way. Especially for social entrepreneurship, which is a new business model, entering business plan comps can only improve the way you conduct business. The coach for our Cartier contest met with us via Skype several times before the final deadline. We would revise numbers, change or tweak new strategies depending on discussions with the mentor or coach.

A group of advocates for young women to get into business called Spark and the US Embassy have also launched a new contest which has some cash prizes at stake from $1,000 to $5,000. There even is a YWEB (Young Women Entrepreneurs Bootcamp) so those who qualify can be mentored by professionals and entrepreneurs with experience in businesses of all kinds. The deadline for applications is on July 30. The contest is open to women only as Spark advocates for young women entrepreneurs.

Here are excerpts from their email to me:

“Women entrepreneurs, who want to be part of the Bootcamp, must submit a company profile describing their business, products or services, accompanied by a copy of their Department of Trade and Industry registration papers and their financial statements for the past two years.

The paper must be from 3 to 5 pages in length using Times New Roman font 11 and must be emailed to yweb.manila2013@gmail.com.”

Travel arrangements to and from the seminar, accommodations and training materials will be provided to those invited to attend the Boot camp. YWEB will provide women entrepreneurs with an excellent opportunity to connect to experts and advisors who can assist them in scaling up their small or medium scale enterprises.

There are even more contests like the Rolex awards where Reese Fernandez-Ruiz of Rags2Riches bagged a prize already. There also is Echoing Green which focuses on green business ideas.

And if you are not into contests, there always are grants and aid for a good business and development idea. This time, a proposal with a proof of concept or a business plan is needed.

These are just some of the ways to make money or fund a business through competitions online and offline. There really is no reason to say that there is no hope for a small start up. Who knows? Your next business may just be sitting in your laptop’s archives.

Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra , Podium and Centris QC malls. She also is President of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and President of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., two non-profits close to her heart. She often speaks to corporates, youth and NGOs on social entrepreneurship, women empowerment, and coffee.

You can follow her on twitter.com/chitjuan or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at puj@echostore.ph.

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