And the finalists are...
55 teams entered FORTUNE Small Business's fifth annual business plan contest. Do the top six have what it takes to get big?
(FSB Magazine) -- Environmentally-friendly roach bait. Soccer balls that can take a pounding on city streets. Chocolate-covered gourmet coffee beans for calorie-counters. These are some of the products being developed - or already sold - by the elite teams that made it to the final round of FSB's 5th annual business plan competition.
Entering this pro-am event were 55 ventures from across the country - either campus startups or small companies run by U.S.-based entrepreneurs. In the initial round of the contest, the staff of FSB magazine and 10 judges from the business community evaluated their business plans, based on factors such as the strength of their management, the viability and thoroughness of their proposals, and the newsworthiness of their ideas.
Three student teams and three professional teams made it to the finals. Among the student teams was Calle Soccer of Brigham Young University, which makes apparel and equipment for street soccer. Green Dragon, a startup from the University of Georgia, has developed an environmentally-friendly roach bait. Idea Storm Products of Pace University manufactures Yamodo, a children's card game designed to foster creativity and jump-start imaginative thinking.
The three teams of professional entrepreneurs who made it to the finals were in food-related businesses. Mulligan Stew Pet Food in Jackson, Wyo. sells healthy chow. Brentwood, Tenn.-based Saatwic Foods has designed a processing technology said to slow the release of calories. SweetRiot in New York City makes low-sugar, low-calorie chocolate-covered cacao beans.
Two other student teams and two other professional teams made it to an earlier semi-final round. Katherine Kwei, a startup from Harvard University, designs and retails luxury handbags. Kosher Heaven of Tufts University sells kosher beef jerky. Among the ventures run by seasoned business owners, Don Latino, Inc., based in Pensacola, Fl., offers services such as a translation hotline to Spanish-speakers in the U.S. Pottstown, Pa.-based Municibid runs an online auction site for government agencies to buy and sell products and services.
The three student-run teams and three teams of seasoned entepreneurs we chose as our finalists will face off in the final round on Sept. 7 in New York City.
In that leg of the contest, the competing teams will grill each other with tough questions on their business plans. Based on how they handle this challenge and on their scores in earlier rounds, the judges will select the top three winners. They will be announced in the November issue of FORTUNE Small Business magazine and on our website.
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For last year's winners, see "Tomorrow's tech stars."