If you have a business idea, you still have time to enter the Governor’s Business Plan Contest (www.govsbizplancontest.com). Since the contest’s inception in 2004, more than 3,100 entrepreneurs have taken advantage of the opportunity to win valuable prizes, connect with peers and mentors and gain exposure and investment opportunities.

SCORE Wisconsin is a sponsor and will provide business mentoring and access to fee-based seminars around the state at no cost to all entrants.

Although the deadline is 5 p.m. Sunday, all that is needed for the first phase is about 250 words spread among four criteria — product or service description, customer definition, market description, size and sales strategy and competition.

Read this story in the Green Bay Press Gazette here.

Multiple ideas may be entered as long as each is separate and dissimilar. The four categories are advanced manufacturing, business services, information technology and life services. If the number of entries is about the same as other years, about one in 14 will reach the top 25.

More than 90 judges from a cross-section of business, investment groups, research institutions, entrepreneurial programs and financial professionals have volunteered to judge entries and provide feedback. Among the judges is KaraLynne Moore, senior analyst at Community First Credit Union and a Green Bay SCORE volunteer.

“The entrants have wonderfully innovative ideas, many of them designed to make consumers more healthy or new technology used to solve problems,” Moore said. “They tend to be in two groups — college students or people in the medical and technology fields who certainly ‘think outside the box.’”

The top 50 idea abstracts move on to the second phase that runs from Feb. 22 to March 14, where they are required to submit a 1,000-word executive summary that provides more detail. In judging this phase, Moore said she looks for a strong understanding of the concept.

“I want to see a thorough explanation of the business, especially if it’s new, what product or service they have developed, who are the key people of the company, differentiation from competitors, who is the target market, how the product or service will be marketed, realistic projections, and an explanation of how the loan proceeds/ investment will be spent,” she commented.

These 50 contestants are invited to a “boot camp” in early March. The top 20 executive summaries are selected for the third phase, where the ideas and details become a 15- to 20-page business plan. Three finalists are then selected in each category to advance to the final presentation round.

Henry Schwartz, who along with his partner, Andrew Gierczak, were finalists in 2014 for their business, MobCraft Brewery (www.mobcraftbeer.com), the world’s first crowdsourced brewery, encourages other entrepreneurs to enter.

“As a young business owner first trying to launch a concept, the governor’s business plan contest forces you to check your facts and get it into a format that makes sense,” Schwartz said. “It’s a good motivator to help you get your story straight and your numbers in order.”

He took advantage of all of the educational sessions and has already reached revenue positive, secured more than $350,000 in financing and has more than 80 retail accounts, including Badger State Brewing Co. and Cock and Bull in Green Bay. MobCraft is in the process of building a 14,000-square-foot plant in Milwaukee.

Moore thinks the process itself provides great opportunities for entrepreneurs.

“It’s great exposure to people all over the state who could become investors, employees, partners, financial contacts, etc.,” she said. “The judges have to be experienced, educated individuals who have the capacity to understand business plans’ viability, financial documents, management structure, etc., and make informed decisions that advance the entrants to the next level.”