REFLECTIONS FROM THE GOVERNOR’S BUSINESS PLAN CONTEST
Pursesuitz Wins Second in Advanced Manufacturing Category
Pursesuitz, LLC is more than an apparel company. We invent apparel to improve the wellbeing of our customers. That is why we entered the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest (BPC) hosted by the Wisconsin Technology Council. The BPC has four categories:
- Life Sciences
- Information Technology
- Business Services
- Advanced Manufacturing
Phase 1 of the BPC starts with submitting a written summary of your business idea. Those that make it to Phase 2 submit a bit longer summary of their business plan. Contestants who advance to Phase 3 write a 20-page business plan, and the final phase, Phase 4, the remaining contestants give a five minute pitch to a panel of judges.
Of course, because of COVID-19, this year’s BPC was virtual. The contest started with over 250 submissions in the four categories. By the time the final phase is reached, there are only 12 contestants remaining (three in each of the four categories).
We are incredibly proud that Pursesuitz made it all the way to Phase 4 and placed second in the Advanced Manufacturing Category. This accomplishment speaks volumes about the ingenuity of the company and the Pocketwear Tank Top. Different judges in each phase of the contest reviewed the business idea and each time, the judges could relate to the usefulness of the product Pursesuitz has created. And the Pocketwear Tank Top was competing with some incredible start-up businesses. Just as an example of our competition, the Grand Prize Winner of this year’s BPC was Atrility Medical, which created a device to save infants with heart problems. The businesses who made it to the “diligent dozen” consisted of incredible, life changing ideas and inventions. We are so proud that Pursesuitz was among that group of elite entrepreneurs.
But despite our overall performance in the BPC, we did face hiccups (and if those hiccups had not occurred, who knows how much better we would have done). So, we thought we would share the lessons learned from the BPC process for any other aspiring entrepreneurs out there:
- Narrow your niche as much as possible. Even though your idea may help a broad group of people, to make the number crunching easier and more realistic, find as narrow a group as possible for your business plan. Pursesuitz started the BPC with our target market as “active women.” We ended with “active women who want to be hands, shoulders and worry-free, and who belong to a health club or fitness studio.” It was easier to find statistics about our market when it was narrowed down to that group. From those statistics, you can calculate more realistic and accurate revenues. You can always state elsewhere in your business plan how your product can be expanded to other markets, but having a narrow one to begin with was extremely important to the judges.
- Take advantage of the mentors. Throughout the BPC contestants could take advantage of chatting with mentors, who were more experienced entrepreneurs and business advisors. These consultations were at no cost. I don’t know how many of my colleagues scheduled calls with these advisors, but I am sure that those who did performed much better. But it’s not just about performing well in the BPC, it’s about learning from others. Even if you are not competing in a BPC, mentors in the entrepreneurship world abound. That is one observation we have heard many times, and it is true: when you are trying to build something, you would be surprised at the number of people who are willing to help you. Take advantage of that help as often as you can, check your ego at the door and learn as much as you can.
- Gather as much feedback from your target market as you can. Once you’ve narrowed down your target market, start asking representatives of that market for their feedback about your product. If you have samples, give members of your target market some samples to try so they can give your well-rounded, tangible feedback. Especially for early stage start-ups, you can use that feedback to improve your business idea. It’s never too late or too early to make adjustments.
- Acknowledge your competition. One thing BPC judges do not want to hear is that your idea is so novel that there is no competition. If you say that, they won’t believe you. Instead, they will assume you really haven’t thought long and hard enough about your market. There is always competition for your potential customer, even if the competition is “doing nothing” or the “status quo.” For Pursesuitz, we identified our competition as fanny packs, running belts, and leggings with pockets. Throughout the BPC, we had to explain why the Pocketwear Tank is a better option than these competing products. We came up with:
- The Pocketwear Tank is more stylish
- The Pocketwear Tank is more versatile
- The Pocketwear Tank is more safe and secure
We believe this to be true, and you will too once you buy your Pocketwear Tank!
- Pivot instead of giving up. As was stated recently by an entrepreneurship presentation, entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. It is emotionally and mentally grueling. You have to get used to people criticizing your idea or “baby.” Not everyone will jump on your bandwagon, and it may feel like some are trying to sabotage it. But if you believe in your idea, and you’ve done your homework, those negative comments and attitudes are no reason to quit. Listen carefully to the criticism. If it is coming from a place of genuine and informed concern, perhaps you can take that feedback and pivot. If instead it comes from a place of envy, ignore it and keep pushing forward.