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Lessons learnt from New York StartUP! Business Plan Competition 2022

I spent the first six months of this year writing my business plan to participate in the 12th Annual New York StartUP! Business Plan Competition for New York-based startup entrepreneurs. Organized by the New York Public Library (NYPL), the competition awards the first and second prize winners with $15,000 and $7,500 to help fund their business startups, as well as help contestants gain some insights on how to utilize the resources available at the NYPL’s Thomas Yoseloff Business Center.


I decided to give a shot at the competition for two reasons. First, the deadline provides me with a goal to complete my footwear business plan. I started writing my business plan in 2020 and had drafted some sections, but froze at the business financials because it was such a daunting task to know how much money I needed for my business. The submission deadline provided a much needed motivation for me to finally tackle the financial aspects so I could really master how to write a business plan this time round for real. Second, the prize money is a huge incentive that will help in the next milestone of my small business startup - that is to design and develop actual footwear prototypes.


I knew from the get-go that this was going to take a lot of hard work but BOY WAS IT REALLY HARD WORK. Long hours were spent every weekend doing research and learning from scratch on how to develop a business plan. On top of that, I would meet with my business advisors at least once a week to review my work so I could stay on track to completing to my business plan. I was really in a delusional state of mind in the last few days before the submission deadline as it was literally EAT, SLEEP, BUSINESS PLAN 24-7.

Out of the 300 participants and 37 business plans submitted, I am proud to share that my hard work paid off and I was one of the 9 finalists in the competition! Even though I did not win in the end, I learnt several valuable lessons that I would like to share with other business startup entrepreneurs:


1. I learnt how to write a professional business plan to ask for loans

I never really knew how much I really need to start my business until I really sit down and crunch the numbers. Facing the business financials head-on gave me a much needed reality check on how much it takes to get my business started and going. The final number was scary, but at least it is no longer a mythical number I made up in my head. It gives me absolute clarity and helps me think about the ways on how I can raise money for my business startup. In addition, the workshops held by the NYPL were very helpful in keeping me on track of the timeline.


2. Fall down seven times, stand up eight

I would be lying if I were to say that I was okay with not winning the competition. I was utterly disappointed when the results were announced and I was not the winner. But I have to remind myself that I cannot lose sight of the bigger picture. When one door closes another opens. The journey to starting and running your business is a continuous state of flux; you will fall many times but always remember to focus on the big picture, pick yourself up and move forward.


3. Step outside my comfort zone

When I first learnt that I was a finalist in the competition, I was beyond overjoyed and teared up on the streets briefly before an overwhelming sense of fear crippled me. I was informed that I had to record a 30-second elevator pitch video, and was given only ten minutes to pitch my business idea to a panel of judges. The 'best' part was I had to be prepared for both presentations within a week! I had no idea how to synthesize my 20-page business plan into a 10 minute business pitch presentation, much less deliver an elevator pitch in 30 seconds! I was totally a fish out of water in public speaking and had to reach out for professional help, and spent all the time outside work to develop my business pitch in front of my friends through Zoom. It was a totally daunting process, but at the same time sparked tremendous personal growth where I gained more confidence in narrating my brand story in front of a crowd. You can view my elevator pitch below (after spending at least 3 hours memorizing and rehearsing in front of my phone camera).

30 second elevator pitch for New York StartUP! Business Plan Competition 2022


4. Consistency and perseverance are keys to success

As cliché as it really sounds, Rome was really not built in a day, and results will only show over time when consistent efforts are made towards your goal. I am a very impatient person, and this competition serves as a good reminder that results will only show if you show up consistently and make an effort to learn, unlearn and relearn from your mistakes.

Now that this chapter is done, I am going back to the drawing board to review at my financial plan again with a fine-tooth comb to make sure that this dream becomes reality!


Stay tuned.


P.S. I would love to connect and help fellow entrepreneurs on how to write business plans for startups. You can reach me at yvonne@yvonneliaonyc.com


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