Experienced mentors from across Wisconsin will be available to offer advice to contestants during the 18th annual Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest.

Initial entries of 250 words are due by 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021. There is no cost to enter. Visit govsbizplancontest.com for more information and to get started.

At any point during the competition, contestants may submit their questions to veteran business mentors who have volunteered their time and expertise to assist entrepreneurs who enter by Jan. 31. Mentors will respond directly to contestants to offer one-on-one consultation.

This year’s group of volunteers includes representatives from SCORE Wisconsin and the Center for Technology Commercialization, which has federal, state and university ties.

SCORE offers free business consulting, business mentoring and business resources, plus low-cost business trainings. The CTC provides support and resources as companies bring their innovations to market, particularly with applications for grants from the federal Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer programs.

As another resource, SCORE will offer free access to many fee-based training classes around the state to all 2021 contestants.

In addition to access to mentors, contestants will receive feedback from scores of judges as the contest progresses.

Since its inception in 2004, more than 4,100 entries have been received and about $2.4 million in cash and in-kind services have been awarded. Contest categories are Advanced Manufacturing, Business Services, Information Technology and Life Sciences. About 77% of the finalists from 2012-2019 are still in business.

Wisconsin residents 18 years old and older are eligible, as are teams from Wisconsin-based businesses and organizations. Businesses or teams from outside the state are also eligible to compete if they demonstrate intent to base their business in Wisconsin. Entrepreneurs may also enter multiple ideas, though each idea must be separate and distinct.

Companies or individuals that have not received angel or venture capital in the current form are eligible to enter.

As with past contests, the 2021 competition will take place in stages ending at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in June.

Past finalists have launched companies that have raised more than $200 million in angel, venture, grants and venture debt over time – all while creating jobs and economic value for Wisconsin.

The contest’s major sponsors include the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

The 2020 grand prize winner was Plumb Pharmaceuticals, a Madison-based company, which has a drug delivery technology platform for extended-release medications used in the treatment of opioid addiction. Category winners in 2020 were Advanced Ionics (Advanced Manufacturing) Last Lock (Business Services), My GenomeRX (Information Technologies) and Plumb Pharmaceuticals (Life Sciences).

To enter, become a judge or learn about sponsorship opportunities, visit govsbizplancontest.com.