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Here’s How It Works: Social Venture Plan Competition FAQ

What does the term “social venture” mean?

Social venture is a term used to describe entrepreneurial activities that address two bottom lines: social and financial . A social venture develops a project, organization, or business that addresses a felt social need and provides revenue to do so.


Are there different kinds of social ventures?

Social ventures take many forms:

  • FareStart in Seattle trains homeless persons to become chefs and kitchen staff. It operates as a typical restaurant but its purpose is to train homeless persons for work.
  • An international example of a project comes from the University of Washington’s Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition, where the winning team from Korea proposed a project to manufacture self-powered, hand-cranked AM radios for use in rural Mongolia. 

Another type of social venture deliberately pursues financial and social returns within a specific industry segment:

  • Krochet Kids sells caps in the U.S. that were made by people in impoverished countries (e.g. Uganda).  This provides jobs, education and business-training for families in these communities.
  • The for-profit business Overstock.com has an online segment called Worldstock, a market within the site that gives access to small artisans worldwide.

What is a social venture plan, and how does it fit into this competition?

A social venture plan is a systematic way of evaluating, planning, and organizing a project. For this competition, students develop their written plan based on the Social Venture Planning Template (PDF). Plans are evaluated by readers from the community who rate and assign points.

Student competitors ultimately present their projects at a table display event called the Showcase Round. Here they describe the project and its benefits in conversations with visitors and judges. Points from the written plan are combined with points from judges during the Showcase Round. Projects earning the most points earn prizes. 


Is this an individual or team competition?

We encourage students to form teams, which are the way projects work in the “real world.” And developing a good venture plan requires a lot of brainstorming, research, and writing; it’s a big effort. So to encourage students to work together and seek fellow team members with a variety of skills from other disciplines, we recommended that each entry be represented by at least two students. Teams may have a maximum of six students.

In addition, the Showcase is a multi-hour event and teams are better able to manage and respond to inquiries from students, faculty, staff, and community judges.


Does the competition appeal only to SBE students?

More than half of students participating in SVPC have come from majors other than Business, including Apparel Design, Biology, Communications, Educational Ministries, Engineering, and Political Science, to mention just a few.


Is the competition open only to SPU students, or can students from other universities also enter?

Yes, students from other schools can, and have, entered the Social Venture Plan Competition.


Who then should participate?

Are you a student with an idea to bring a valuable service or product to people who don’t typically have access to it? Do you have a device that could be adapted for underserved communities? Do you have a business idea that could raise money to fund social change? Then you should participate in the Social Venture Plan Competition. 

The competition is designed for any student interested in implementing an innovative project that would address a social need. It’s a way to present your idea to people who may be able to help you launch your project.


What kind of support do students receive?

We offer a 2-credit course (BUS 3682) that walks students through the steps of creating a social venture plan. By the end of the course, students have a draft of their written plan. Experts in specific aspects of venture planning make short presentations during the course, then work with teams to apply what has been presented. Students may contact these faculty and community members for additional help.


What kinds of projects are desired?

Projects may be very diverse. Be creative! Here are a few sample categories:

  • Nonprofits to address a social need (e.g., farestart.org). 
  • For-profit business to support a not-for-profit clientele (e.g., miir.com).
  • Outreach or ministry project — local, national, or global (e.g., qcafe.org).
  • Engineering device to address a social purpose (e.g., kickstart.org).
  • Applying scientific research (e.g., benetech.org).
  • Business venture that applies profit to forward a social need (e.g., Worldstock).
  • Simple agricultural machines (e.g., fullbellyproject.org).

What are the program’s goals?

Our primary goal is to help SPU students learn how to evaluate and launch an enterprise that addresses a social need. Second, we seek to identify students who possess an entrepreneurial nature and nurture their gifts. Third, we want the event to showcase projects to community leaders in nonprofit and for-profit organizations. The competition provides students an opportunity to network with potential investors, advisors, mentors, and business leaders.


What criteria will be used to judge the plans?

Projects will be scored and judged in four broad categories:

  • The significance of the social need being addressed.
  • The ongoing impact of the venture, since projects providing impact over time will have greater value than a one-time event.
  • The likelihood that the plan can be successfully implemented.
  • The financial viability of the plan.

Internal revenue generation will have a greater value in the scoring than grants and contributions as a sustainable income stream. 


What do the winners receive?

The grand prize is $3,000, with a $2,000 second prize, and three honorable mentions at $1,000. There is also a People’s Choice award of $1000. We attach no strings to the prize money, so winners may spend it as they wish.


Why sponsor a Social Venture Plan Competition?

The SVPC harnesses the big ideas and good intent of students, teaching them how to translate their desire to “do good” into actionable plans. It illustrates some of the ways that business can be used to impact the world positively.


Where can I learn more?

Learn more from the 2014 Official Rules, by contacting the Center for Applied Learning at cal@spu.edu or 206-281-2942, or consulting these resources: 

  • Tutorials on putting together a plan, especially helpful with financials. Links to sample business plans. 
  • Examples of well-written plans
  • A case study of a business that includes a business plan developed by the owners. Written by Dr. Herb Kierulff, it’s used in SPU’s business planning course.   
  • The University of Washington’s site for its business plan competition.
SVPC

Thinking about entering the Social Venture Plan Competition?

For business and non-business students alike, BUS 3682 (2 credits) will help you develop an outstanding plan through non-technical, workshop-style learning. Many former SVPC prize winners have taken this course, which follows the SVPC planning template.

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