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Emergent perspectives toward the business plan among nascent entrepreneur start-up competition participants

Kayleigh Watson (Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK)
Pauric McGowan (University of Ulster, Newtownabbey, UK)

Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development

ISSN: 1462-6004

Article publication date: 5 November 2018

Issue publication date: 20 May 2019




The purpose of this paper is to examine how nascent entrepreneur perspectives towards the utility of the formal written business plan (BP) change before and after start-up competition (SUC) participation. Such focus is pertinent and timely given the enduringly contentious matter of BP creation for nascent entrepreneurs. Despite mounting criticisms, considerable resources continue to be expended on promoting the BP within educative and start-up support provision; the globally ubiquitous SUC phenomenon provides a prominent example of such promotion.


In-depth open-ended interviews were undertaken with nascent entrepreneurs at the start, end and six months after participation in a UK university-based SUC. An inductive thematic content analytical approach was taken to identify patterns across participant accounts at each wave of data collection.


Upon entering the competition, the nascent entrepreneurs held highly positive views towards the BP, believing that it provided legitimacy and served as a means of sense-making. Immediately after the competition, views were more ambivalent, with the BP viewed as secondary to action but remaining an external expectation. Six months after the competition, the BP was viewed as underutilised and internally irrelevant; an unnecessary feature of an action-led approach and only useful when needed by external parties.


Contributing to the limited body of SUC research, the enduring centrality of formal BP production within competition provision is challenged given its limited relevance to the nascent entrepreneur beyond the competition context. Emphasis on BPning within a competition need not automatically require BP creation; this has implications for business competition organisers.



Watson, K. and McGowan, P. (2019), "Emergent perspectives toward the business plan among nascent entrepreneur start-up competition participants", Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 26 No. 3, pp. 421-440.



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