MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - "It was a big boost," says Alfred Carmichael, co-owner of Carmichael Painting and Remodeling.
Just ask Carmichael what an additional $50,000 dollars did for his business.
"We bought equipment, and we mainly fostered the company. [The] main goal was try to market the company a little more," he says.
Carmichael won the money back in 2007 as part of Alabama State University's first Business Plan competition.
Three years later, they're holding the contest again--awarding investment money to start-up and existing businesses.
But it takes a little creativity on your part--a business plan the judges like.
"To put their ideas and dreams down on paper, to actually see what it will take to really develop and grow a business in the state of Alabama," says Dr. Elisabeth Harrison with the ASU Center for Leadership and Public Policy.
Harrison is the contest coordinator.
She says each business owner constructs a plan and the judges pick three winners--two from existing businesses and one start-up.
The established business owners get $75,000 and $50,000 dollars.
The start-up receives $25,000.
With an unstable economy Harrison says it's the perfect opportunity for "people looking to expand, to hire more staff, cover more territory, order more equipment."
It's an opportunity Nancy Gibson and Rick Williams are grabbing.
"We wanted to investigate this opportunity because you never want to miss a blessing in disguise," says Nancy Gibson, the owner of a therapy clinic in Montgomery.
"If you're going to have a successful business, a business plan is a great idea," says Rick Williams, a financial adviser.
While the money's a plus, Carmichael says building the business plan is what pays off in the end.
"It's a blueprint to your success. If you work the plan and believe in the plan, you'll be successful even in the downturns."
Leaders say the competition targets minority business owners and women--two groups they believe are often under-represented in the business world.
The contest's open to any business owner. You must be an Alabama resident.
For a link to the application and rules, click on the Write it Down section of www.wsfa.com.