Want to open a small business? The thing that comes first is the business plan. Every good business mentor (including myself) will encourage you to embrace and indulge this fact: The business plan is a living, breathing entity.
Let’s get started. For our budding baby and maternity store, my business partner Kathleen and I use Enloop, a web-based tool that helps you create your business plan. For about $20 a month, you get foolproof setup and organization. With it you literally click and type in your info and it’ll generate easy to read reports. Everything you want to share can be printed out or emailed to the folks who need to see it. By the way, a free version of Enloop is available—we did use that for the first few months before upgrading. (If you end up paying for this, save all your invoices! Tax deduction!)
Your business plan becomes your world. You’ll think about it and tweak it constantly as you fill in the blanks. And we truly did just that: fill in the blanks.
Maybe you’re already starting to feel like you’re doing a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle of the clearest, bluest sky.
Making your business plan is the first step, but there’s no first step in constructing the plan itself. We divided the topics up by our strengths (I have a lot of experience managing in retail and Kathleen has experience buying for retail stores) and set to work filling in what we knew. When we didn’t know something, we went out to investigate. That included chatting with peers who already had businesses in the same area and/or niche.
I was surprised at how many people wanted to help—everyone wanted to help! We even have mock profit and loss statements from one retailer and we structured our own around that! We also got realistic quotes from insurance companies and from the state and city on licensing, permits, inspections, etc.
The most important thing to remember is that the plan is MEANT for editing. Some of these numbers aren’t concrete as maybe you don’t yet know where your retail location will be. We only recently settled on a retail location, ourselves. And you certainly won’t know exactly what you’ll spend on utilities until you’ve moved in and started business! But as you come across more accurate info, you plug it in.
The business plan is an educated guess—an honest aerial view of your business based on great research. And if you’re already starting to feel like you’re doing a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle of the clearest, bluest sky, then you’re doing it right.
My business partner and I both agree that the biggest thing we learned from the first few months is how to trust ourselves and move forward even though we feel as though we’re not standing on solid ground. If you ever needed practice in letting go, digging in, and just doing, this is it. Although I never felt I was particularly bad at charging through uncharted waters, this experience has awakened and heightened all my fears—and therefore awakened and heightened all my personal successes as we forge ahead.
Take it one day at a time and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Remember: This is the hardest jigsaw puzzle you’ve ever done—maybe you just start with the corners, then the outside edge, and fill in the rest later on.