WATERLOO, Iowa -- Neal White and Arend Miller didn't win any prizes when they entered the plan for their new business in the Iowa Business Plan Competition.
But, they said, they won just by entering the competition, because now their 2-year-old company, Cohesive Creative and Code Inc., at 516 Lafayette St. in Waterloo, is a thriving enterprise.
"It's interesting to go through that process, knowing the time and effort you've put in developing a plan that will be reviewed and examined by people who are qualified and respected in that regard," White said. "After the initial submission, that's as far as it went for us, but it was good for us to go through the business plan."
And, it was necessary, according to organizers of the annual competition at the University of Northern Iowa's John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center.
"The purpose is to stimulate business development and provide support for the outstanding business plans," said Randy Pilkington, the Pappajohn center's director. "We stimulate development by getting the word out that there's a statewide competition."
Getting a plan submitted is a goal in itself, Pilkington said.
"You don't have to be a winner of the competition to be a winner," he said. "We think everyone who takes time to put together a business plan and work through the advice coming out of the center makes great strides in starting business or getting it to the next level."
That advice worked for Cohesive Creative Code, said White, whose company offers graphic design and software and mobile application development; and public relations and consulting services and features an interactive studio.
"The process of writing a business plan was useful in terms of kind of identifying things you know you need to plan for but don't necessarily think about on a daily basis, so that was definitely helpful as a new business," White said. "And, being a small and new business, you find yourself changing and adjusting. It helped us identify a lot of things."
The competition involves several rounds, the first of which involves a business submitting information about their plans. Based on those entries, judges pick 24 to submit fully developed plans. Last week, the Pappajohn Center chose seven entries in this year's competition to continue to a final round.
The seven finalists this year are Cabin Coffee Franchising Inc., Clear Lake; Energy Control Technologies, West Des Moines; Growth Design Energy Mt. Valley LLC, Forest City; IDx, Iowa City; J&J Solutions, Coralville; LuCella Biosciences Inc., Ames; and Pathovacs Inc., Ames.
"The companies going through this process are going to get additional feedback and help in launching or growing their business," said the Iowa Department of Economic Development's Doug Lewis, entrepreneurial development coordinator for the competition. "They all want to continue through the proccess and, when they do get to the end, there is that recognition factor as somebody who does have a good plan and have shown a good track record to execute that plan."
White said just drawing up a plan served as a key road map to growth."
"We're doing well," he said. "We've been pretty successful. We started with two people, and we're up to four and are continually adding new clients and accounts."