By Bill Moore
Entrepreneurship is alive and well in Central Vermont. Every day we hear of a new small business start-up, whether it is a restaurant, a business or personal service provider, a new technology firm, a micro-brewery or a bricks and mortar retailer. These have several things in common: they are all eager to succeed, they all have a web presence, they are innovative and creative. The list goes on.
Importantly, carving out a niche is another similarity and an important key to entrepreneurial survival.
One of the most essential elements of entrepreneurism is being able to put a vision on paper. In other words, before anything else, successful entrepreneurs create a business plan. A sound business plan is vital. It answers the questions that entrepreneurs ask themselves as they consider starting their business.
Whether the entrepreneur is creating a new business or buying an existing business or franchise, having a sound business plan is the most important first step. The business plan must be able to address basic questions. What is the product? Why is it unique? Is there a market for the product or service? What is the market? How many competitors will I be facing? Who are they? Where are they? Does the product require manufacturing? If it is a service being created, what are the individual elements of the service? How long will it take until the product or service will be ready to take to market? How will the business be financed? The business plan should clearly spell out who the players involved with the enterprise are and what their individual responsibilities will be. It is at this point that reality may begin to set in.
It is likely that the venture will initially be a one-person operation. Creating structure and operating steps will help keep the entrepreneur focused on what must be done to succeed. If there is more than one individual involved, it is vital that each of the players’ roles be defined. While you are at it, consider how final decisions will be made. Who makes them?
Included in the business plan is a detailed marketing strategy. How will the goods or services be sold? Who is the market segment that you are aiming to reach? What steps will be used for market optimization? Having a web presence and using social media is important. Simply posting something to the various platforms, however, may not necessarily bring customers to your doorstep, whether it is a physical or virtual doorstep.
Not to be forgotten in the business plan is the calculation of your start-up costs. Starting, owning and operating a business costs money. Bootstrapping – self-funding is one means of financing the business. Getting others to invest in your business through traditional bank financing, venture capital investment, and crowd-sourcing are all options. Using other people’s money usually means that you will be sharing the ownership. How much control of the business are you willing to give up?
If you have questions about how to begin and where to go, there are resources out there that are ready to help. The Central Vermont Chamber is one and the Central Vermont Economic Development Corporation is another. The Small Business Development Center is ready to help as is the Small Business Administration.