Clarity is key to $40,000 in Utah Entrepreneur Challenge

By By Michael McFall

By Michael McFall

Aspiring entrepreneurs learned from guest speaker Devin Thorpe that a clear and easily-understood business plan — the description of the product and how to sell it — is the key to getting a venture idea off the ground, and what the judges of the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge will be looking for.

Thorpe spoke to a group of program participants at the Officer’s Club on Oct. 25.

Over the next eight months, more than 100 students will compete against each other in the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge, which offers a $40,000 reward for the winner.

“The business plan has to be very clear,” Thorpe said. “A combination of the clarity of the language and the simplicity of the language and the completeness of the story you tell. The first sentence is the most important?you have to explain to your reader exactly what it is you plan to do.”

He said entrepreneurs should avoid giving vague or complex descriptions when describing the goods or services they aim to sell.

Using a local pizza delivery service as an example, Thorpe described an over-simplified plan as, “We provide sizzling hot products to quality-focused consumers everywhere on demand, guaranteed!”

He also said that too much industry-specific jargon, to the extent that it seems to test if the reader is worthy of the product, is dangerous.

Program Director Leonard Black offered his own advice for contestants who have trouble finding the perfect business plan between detailed and clear.

“Focus on the market instead of the product, because if you can convince people that there’s a market for (your product), you can be very influential in how you write your business plan without defining the product,” he said.

Thorpe assured the contestants that even if their business plans aren’t crystal clear by the March 14 deadline for the challenge, they still have a chance at success.

Scott Proee, a senior in finance, is comfortable with the idea he might not win with his healing therapy business plan.

“Even though there’s only one person who wins, there are a lot of people that are actually making contacts with other venture capitalists, other investors, other people that feel strongly about what they are proposing,” he said.

Nonetheless, the $40,000 is something to shoot for, Black said.

“You talk to past winners, and they’ll say that $40,000 was really essential in helping launch their business, and because it helped me do this, or helped get me through a beta study, or helped me do initial marketing, or helped propel myself into a position where I could put joint venture,” he said.

Previous winners of the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge have gone on to create successful businesses, such as Tim Hunt’s multi-million dollar TermSeek (now LingoTek) translation software system back in 2001, as well as Jon Butler’s MediaPort music plan, which is now the largest music distributor through kiosks in Australia, Black said.

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