$25,000 HIplan Business Plan Competition Deadline Sept. 10

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The Hawaii Island Business Plan Competition (HIplan) workshop on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017, in Kona helped 52 entrepreneurs develop business plans for the chance to win a $25,000 prize.

The purpose of the competition is to stimulate the development of an entrepreneurial ecosystem on Hawai‘i Island. The competition is open to any individual or group (for-profit or nonprofit) whose business plan focuses on developing startup or expanding a business based on Hawai‘i Island. The competition encourages contestants to develop or refine their business plans towards developing viable new businesses or expanding their existing venture on the Big Island.

A grand prize of $25,000 in seed money will be awarded to the winning plan. A special category has been added this year for the best business plan cultivated by students at UH Hilo and Hawai‘i Community College.

According to HIPlan’s organizers, a successful business plan describes a business and its goals, the market or market niche for its goods or services, and what use it will make of the prize money.

The deadline for initial submissions is Sept. 10, 2017, and prospective contestants are urged to submit their initial plans as soon as possible.

Details and competition rules can be found at


As far as ideas for a new business, HIPlan Co-chairman Jim Wyban said, “Find a niche and fill it. That’s the first piece of advice people get when they want to start their own business. If someone has already spotted that perfect un-filled niche, great. But suppose a niche just doesn’t stand out.”

“You don’t have to be original,” Wyban advised. ” You don’t have to create something out of nothing. It’s no secret that service jobs are bound to grow. We’ll need more and more home-assistants to the elderly or infirm, more child-care providers—probably more dog-walkers, too.”

Not everybody will want to enter the agriculture or aquaculture businesses, but the guiding principle in a marketplace like Hawai‘i applies to any product-oriented venture, Wyban said.

“What you make has to have a high value in a small size, and if possible, should be exportable,” said Wyban.

As an example, he cited last year’s HIPlan winner, Ono Queens, the husband-and-wife partnership that raises queen bees and sells them to beekeepers on the Mainland.


Ono Queens, a husband-and-wife partnership that raises queen bees in Puna for export to the Mainland, used the $25,000 award to expand their network of beehives to more local farms. Their plan edged out plans from 48 other competitors. This year’s competition is expected to draw at least as many entries.

Business plan guidelines and tips presented at the Kona workshop included the following:

  • A winning plan begins with a hook—a word, phrase or sentence that intrigues prospective investors and makes them want to know more. The plan tells what the venture involves, how it’s structured, the goals it intends to accomplish and where it fits in the market to be served. Brief biographies of its key people will highlight appropriate prior experience. There should be “milestones,” by which the venture’s progress toward its goals can be tracked. And a realistic projection of anticipated revenue will also show how the HIPlan award will further the venture’s goals.
  • HIPlan organizers do not expect that initial entries will be perfect. Indeed, few plans at that early stage will be fully developed. There will be three rounds of judging. The first will not merely winnow out impractical concepts, but will guide the remaining contestants toward refining and improving their plans. In the second round, contestants will make oral presentations in front of a panel of experienced judges’ who make followup comments that can help improve the plans. Finalists selected for the third round will also make an “elevator pitch” for their business. That’s a phrase from the startup world, where an entrepreneur may encounter a venture capitalist in an office building, and have less than a minute or two in the elevator to rouse interest in their new venture.

Below are some questions posed at the workshop and answers provided by Wyban.

Q: Can a not-for-profit company enter HIplan?
A: Yes, we had some nonprofits enter last year, and we encourage submissions from such organizations.


Q: Is an O‘ahu-based company that sells products or services on Hawai‘i Island eligible?
A: HIPlan is open only to ventures and organizations based on Hawai‘i Island; so, No: a company based on O‘ahu or any other island is not eligible.

Q: Can a company enter again if they were a contestant last year?
A: Yes. The only company that cannot enter is last year’s winner, Ono Queens.

Q: Can my plan include photos or graphics in the submission?
A: Yes, but the initial plan can be no more than seven pages long, including text and illustrations.

Q: Are there rules about font size, page layout, and so on, for submission?
A: Yes. Full details are at

Q: Is a social investment business—also known as a “triple bottom line” or impact business—eligible?
A: Yes. These types of investments/companies are very popular where they focus on sustainability. While sustainability is not a specific line item in our HIplan outline, this type of plan would be welcome.

Wyban is an aquaculture entrepreneur built a global shrimp broodstock export operation based at NELHA in Kona.

The business plan competition, co-hosted by the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii (NELHA), is administered by the Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce. 

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