Small Business Matters: Your chance to win $25K: Write a business plan

  • Big Island Coffee Roasters won the 2018 HiPlan Competition Grand Prize of $25,000. Pictured are, from left, Jason Ueki, executive director of HiPlan, Kelleigh Stewart of Big Island Coffee Roasters, Brandon von Damitz of Big Island Coffee Roasters, Gordon Takaki, president of Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce, and Jim Wyban, founder of HiPlan.Courtesy photo

Have an existing business or plan on starting one?

Want to figure out where it’s going and welcome some expert advice on that?


Need $25,000?

Think about entering this year’s HiPlan Business Plan competition. You’ve got very little to lose and a lot to gain.

HiPlan, Hawaii Island’s home-grown business plan competition, has distributed $125,000 in cash and prizes over its three years of operation, and this year it brings its competition back to Kona, as it switches locales between East and West Hawaii in alternating years.

In addition to a grand prize of $25,000 for the winning business plan, other prizes include $5,000 in advertising from Pacific Media Group and scholarships for student winners to the University of Hawaii at Hilo and Hawaii Community College. Deadline for entry is Sept. 7, and prizes will be awarded on Oct. 26, at the final competition round at HCC’s Palamanui campus.

HiPlan was formed by Jim Wyban, a member of the advisory board for UH Hilo’s College of Business and Economics. Wyban, a longtime West Hawaii entrepreneur, was questioning the lack of any local entrepreneurial curriculum and was basically told that if he wanted to see something on that topic, he needed to do something about it. HiPlan was his answer.

“HiPlan stimulates economic development through fostering an entrepreneurial ecosystem on Hawaii Island,” according to Jason Ueki, the executive director of the program. “Our overall goal is to do this through educational initiatives, which are at the core of everything we do.”

One of HiPlan’s methods of accomplishing this is its business plan competition, which encourages people to develop and refine business plans aimed at developing viable new businesses on the island. To date, over 120 local businesses have gone through the competition process.

The benefits of the competition lie in the very fact of participating in the process of writing a business plan.

“A lot of businesses don’t do this,” Ueki said, “and this is something that is not really taught in school. Writing a business plan helps you to think about the breadth and scope of your business. It forces you to be more organized, to think about your financials, and to focus on what you’re doing.”

Past HiPlan Grand Prize winners include Sunshine Pediatric Clinic, Big Island Coffee Roasters, and Ono Queens. Runner Up winners include Alakai Academy and Hawaii Electrical Maintenance Services; and student winners include Student Corner, Kupaa Tax and Accounting, and Lava Forge Metalcraft.

Application to the competition, which has an entry fee of $100, is open to both for-profit and nonprofit businesses. Find more information and apply at

All applicants are provided with a template for writing a business plan, and the first cut, judged solely on the written product, weeds the applicant pool down to the top 15. This group moves on to the semi-finals, where they do a 12-minute presentation about their business to a panel of judges, who provide feedback and winnow the group down to eight semi-finalists.

These eight move on the finals, where they are judged on their written plans, a repeat of the 12-minute presentation, and a 2-minute “elevator pitch.” Along the way, applicants gain by the experience of doing, receive help from mentors, and participate in training on developing presentation skills.

“We see dramatic growth throughout the three rounds,” Ueki said, “with applicant skills increasing as they move through the competition. The three aspects of the contest: a written presentation, a longer verbal presentation, and the short elevator pitch, mirror the real-world skills that entrepreneurs need in explaining their businesses to investors and customers.

“The strengths we see in the competition are just this growth in applicant skill over time, as well as the surprising diversity in types of business, creativity, and innovation that the applicant pool demonstrates,” Ueki added. “The weaknesses we see are most apparent in round one where some business owners don’t fully describe their business model, clarify the basics about the problem their business approach is solving or their target market, or are not clear about their business finances. In round two we see some people who have never presented to a group before and their nerves are apparent. These settle down in round three.”

The West Hawaii Small Business Development Center is supporting HiPlan by offering a workshop this Wednesday, “How to Write a Business Plan the HiPlan Way.”

Come and get some tips that will help you with the competition and with business plans in general. The workshop runs from 9-11:30 a.m. and the fee is $20. Pre-registration is online at


Take your entrepreneurial life into your own hands and put your business plans into a coherent format, and oh, by the way, get the chance to win $25,000.

Dennis Boyd is the director of the West Hawaii Small Business Development Center.

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