Top 10 Tips for Acing Your Next Entrepreneurship Competition

Posted January 20, 2022 by Miranda Marshall

Entering an entrepreneurship competition is a great way for students to give their resumes or college applications a boost; build cross-disciplinary skills in math, economics, financial literacy, and even creative fields; and kickstart their careers by building a business of their own.

It’s never too early or too late to get started on the road to success – which is why we’ve put together this list of 10 tips (vetted by past entrepreneurship competition judges and coaches!) that will help you win your first or next entrepreneurship competition!

  1. It all starts with the perfect plan.

Building a thorough, accurate, and organized business plan is the first step to creating a winning venture that functions as smoothly in reality as it does on paper. Since this is such an important step, we’ve created several guided resources to help young entrepreneurs draft a solid business plan – including our Guide to Entrepreneurship Competitions for Students and our FREE Intro to Entrepreneurship Competitions workshop on January 27th from 6-7pm Eastern!

  1. Know the requirements for your specific competition.

While this may seem like an obvious starting point – make sure you read, re-read, and fully understand the requirements of the specific entrepreneurship competition you want to join. No matter how ground-breaking your idea is, if it’s not a good fit for the competition you are entering, then it won’t be able to stack up against those who tailor their project to the rubric.

There are three main types of entrepreneurship competitions: pitch competitions, accelerators and incubators, and hackathons – all of which have different timelines, components, and submission requirements. The ICS Entrepreneurship Guide covers each of these entrepreneurship competition types in detail, as well as provides a list of reputable competitions in each category, but know that it is important to do your research to discover which competition type is the best fit for your goals before entering.

  1. Set your goals and go after them with laser-like focus.

Goal-setting is an integral step of the entrepreneurial process at every turn, from deciding which problems to solve, to determining how to solve them and who to pitch to along the way. Make sure you’re setting SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goals that align not only with your personal values, but also the objectives of the entrepreneurship competition you want to apply to.

  1. Learn from the past.

Most competitions post their winners publicly – whether it be on social media or their websites. Spend some time researching past winners and take notes about what made their projects uniquely exemplary. You may notice a pattern that will show you the elements of a stand-out submission for the judges of that particular competition. This process may even help spark some new ideas for your own project!

  1. Work as a true team.

Not all startup competitions, pitch competitions, or other entrepreneurship competitions involve teamwork – but for those that do, you’ll want to make sure that every member of your team is on the same page with your plan, goals, and final presentation. Presenting a cohesive front shows not only that you are organized, but also that everyone involved is truly committed to working together to solve a problem or achieve the final vision.

  1. Apply your ideas to the real world.

Your idea may seem great in theory…but would it work on a larger scale, in an unpredictable environment like the real business world? Think about how factors in our everyday lives, such as consumer behavior, supply chain issues or resource scarcity, or the ever-changing political and social climate would impact your theoretical business. How might you account for these areas of uncertainty?

  1. View your project with a critical eye.

People often say that we are our own worst critics, but in the world of entrepreneurship competitions, this can be an advantage. If you can hold your idea up under scrutiny, ask difficult questions, and poke holes in your project, you can ensure that you have a well-formulated answer to anything competition judges may ask you, and in the process, make tweaks to improve and optimize your project.

  1. Think long-term.

While winning an entrepreneurship competition is an amazing lift-off point, it’s always a good idea to have your long-term goals in mind before you enter. Do you want to use this achievement to improve your college application submissions and get into the school of your dreams? Maybe you should choose the most well-renowned competition on your list.

Do you want to take your finished competition submission and use it to create and run your own business? Choose a competition with prizes that would benefit you as a business owner.

Are you passionate about solving local or global issues? Then choose a competition that allows you to make a mark on your community and help others. Your options are limitless.

  1. Take calculated risks.

Never be afraid to think outside of the box – sometimes the boldest ideas are the best! Entrepreneurship competition judges love seeing students come up with novel solutions to everyday issues. Make sure do your due diligence, as with any plan, but give yourself room to be creative.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

The last, and one of the most important tips for winning any entrepreneurship competition is: talk to others. Talk to experts in the entrepreneurship field, talk to competition judges, talk to your mentors, parents, and teachers. Tell them about your goals and let them know about the competition you are entering and ask for their advice or help when you need it! You have a bigger network than you may realize, and they want to see you succeed too.


If you need help, want to learn more about entrepreneurship competitions, or aren’t sure how to get started, join us for our free introductory webinar on January 27th from 6-7pm Eastern! We’ll be discussing the types of entrepreneurship competitions and submissions, helping participants set goals and make a plan for success, and showing you how to search the ICS Database to find the right competition for you!

For more helpful tips and a list of important terms to know, download our free entrepreneurship competition resources here.