Four ways to be a FB Challenge super hero to the judges

by Dr. Lisa Benson & Shiloh Perry, American Farm Bureau Federation

Photo by Pixabay (CCO)

As the lead of the Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge, I’ve worked with judges to review over 600 applications from food and agricultural entrepreneurs. Even with a diversity of business ideas, common threads have emerged as judges discussed things they like and didn’t like about the applications. Here are four things to consider as you complete your FB Challenge application.

  • Backup your passion with financials. It’s great to have your passion come through in your application. The downfall can be to rely too heavily on passion in your application and ignore the financial portion such as churn rate, cost per acquisition, revenue run rate, cash flow/burn rate. Ideas are a dime a dozen and the ability to execute that idea makes all of the difference. Make sure the judges know that you understand the business side of your startup.
  • Describe your target customer. I can’t tell you how many times we've seen applications that say their target customer is all of the adults in their state or region. Dig deeper. Which people are you really targeting? What are the target demographics? How old are they? Where do they live? What is their income level? Realistically, how many of them will you be able to introduce your product to through advertising? Be as specific as possible. If you’re not sure, then conduct surveys with target customers and learn more about them.
  • Avoid acronyms and technical jargon. Be sure that someone outside of your industry can understand your application. Have someone you trust who doesn’t work directly with you or in your field review your applications. If they have any questions, then it’s likely the judges will also have those same questions. The majority of the judges are likely outside of your field too so you want them to understand your application.
  • Proof your application for grammar and clarity. One applicant asked me if the FB Challenge was a writing competition or a business competition. The answer is both. You are communicating your business idea through your written application and video. Bad grammar and misspellings are distracting to the judges during their review. They also can give the appearance that the entrepreneur doesn't have an attention to detail. Be sure to have someone you trust, with excellent writing skills, review and edit your application before you submit it.

I wish you the best of luck with your application. I’m always here to answer questions you may have about the FB Challenge application or judging process. You can email me at


Dr. Lisa Benson is the director of rural development at the American Farm Bureau Federation. She leads the Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge, the Agriculture Investment Summit and the Patriot Project. Before coming to American Farm Bureau, Benson worked for over 10 years with beginning farmers and immigrant farmers at the University of Florida and Virginia Tech. 

Shiloh Perry is a communications assistant at the American Farm Bureau Federation. Her work focuses on agricultural policy and issues facing American farmers and ranchers.