Business Plan Pitch Competitions for College Art Students?

by Amy Rogers

Most people associate collegiate business plan competitions for those students majoring in business or a technology field.   But, art students have just as much to gain from participating in this type of competition.  Perhaps as an artist you have never viewed yourself as a business person or thought you might become an entrepreneur.  However, according to the US Bureau for Labor Statistics, 60% of artists will be self-employed in some manner.  Simply put, if you want to have a career in the arts – whether that be visual, performing, literary, or media – your chances of being independently employed somewhere along the way is more likely than working for someone else your entire career.
So, what do you have to gain from participating in a business plan pitch competition?  Some might state that the obvious would be cash to start your artistic business.  I would disagree.  Don’t get me wrong, winning cash would be excellent.   However, there are three main benefits that in the long run, will exceed any cash prize you could win.
First, committing to participate in a competition forces you to put your ideas down on paper.  This is the first step towards success.  Ideas in the mind are great, but they are just that – ideas.  Putting them down on paper allows you the ability to rework, get feedback, and develop your ideas into an actual business concept.
There are many different free tools out there for putting together a basic business plan.  To start, don’t make it too complicated.  You really just need the basics – who, what, when, where, why, and how.  Once you have those down, you can expand and develop your plan.
Don’t expect your plan to ever turn into an exact reality.  I can think back to the first business plans I did while I was in college.  Sure, there were some areas that paralleled our first actual business but many areas were different.  Again, I can’t stress enough that the greatest benefit you will receive is actually just getting your ideas down on paper.
Second, participating in the competition helps you to verbalize clearly what it is you want to do.  Once you have your basic ideas down on paper, you can start to rework them allowing you to be more specific and clear on what it is you want to do.
Whether talking to a bank for a loan, an investor, or a potential client – you won’t have pages and pages of paper to explain what it is you do and why they should give you their money or business.  Most likely you will have only a couple of minutes to make an impression and state the who, what, when, where, why, and how. 
Many of the business plan competitions have a “pitch” portion to them.  This is where you have an opportunity to share with the judges about your business and make your case on why you should win the competition.   Participating in the competition will help you to start verbalizing what you do in a concise manner.  For some this may come easy but for many it will not.  Starting this process in college allows you to develop and improve before your livelihood depends on how well you can pitch yourself as an artist.