Having a good idea for a new business is the first step in your journey as a young entrepreneur. The rest will require some planning. That’s where a business plan comes in. While the term “business plan” may sound like a lot of work, you don’t need to overthink it. Simple business plans are designed especially for people with zero business experience and not a whole lot else to go on.
So, if you’re ready to take your idea to the next level and start your journey to entrepreneurial success, we have some advice to get you started. You don’t need an advanced degree from a business school – just some common sense and the drive to succeed!
START WITH THE BASICS
What are the “basics?” Consider:
- What is your idea?
- Who is your target customer?
- What problem does your idea solve, or how will it make life better for your customers?
- What makes your idea unique among others like it?
- How much will it cost to get started?
- Creating your first products to sell
- Starting a website
- What is your basic timeline?
You don’t need to spend hours answering every question. Instead, try to have at least some idea of what you need. This isn’t a 3,000-word essay, either. Something as simple as “My target customers are college-bound high school juniors and seniors,” will do for now.
DO SOME RESEARCH
Again, this does not have to take up a lot of time and effort. However, you don’t know what you don’t know – but a few quick Google searches can help you fill in those blanks.
- Who are your competitors?
- Has someone out there already done your idea?
- Where do others go wrong with this idea?
The last thing you want to do is spend time, energy, and money creating a product that’s been done to death. Let’s say you’re starting a company that makes bookmarks. There are thousands of bookmarks out there for customers to buy; what makes yours special? What’s a quality that your bookmarks will have that those others don’t?
One of the main points of having a business plan is that it will help you stay focused. Starting – and running – a business from scratch can be overwhelming and confusing. It’s easy to lose focus and skip important steps.
A business plan will help you make sense of all the elements you need to keep track of: marketing, sales, bookkeeping, customer service, etc. Think of your business plan like the index of a textbook. If you forget a detail or lose track of what’s going on, you can always flip to the index at the back and find the pages you need to answer your questions.
Consider the goals of your business. Think both big and small. Your big goal might be something like, “I want to help students with ADHD with their executive functioning.” And your smaller goal, the one you hit before you achieve your big goal, might be along the lines of, “I want to create a protoype of a device that helps students with ADHD focus on one homework assignment at a time.”
THINK ABOUT YOUR INVESTORS
Another major reason to create a business plan is so you have something to show potential investors. When you approach someone for money, you’ll need to go beyond simply telling them your idea. (Though that is part of it.) This part might take a little bit longer than the other parts of your business plan. It’s worth doing this correctly, though. If you do need investors, they want to be certain that they are working with a serious young entrepreneur.
Once you have the basics in mind, you’ve thought about your goals, and you think you need investors, it’s time to get to work.
There are many, many templates out there you can download to help you write your business plan. When searching for one yourself, the keywords you’ll need are “simple business plan,” or “lean business plan.”
You can also download this very simple, 1-page business plan template. It covers the basics you’ll need to get started, without a lot of bells and whistles. Young entrepreneurs like you don’t necessarily need to worry about things like executive summaries or operational plans.
Fill out as much information as you can. Don’t use too much slang, but make sure your answers are easy to understand. When using your business plan to ask for money from investors, assume your audience is intelligent but busy.
Sometimes, young entrepreneurs need a team before they launch their startup. You may need help with content, design, or product assembly. When that’s the case, a solid business plan shows potential employees and partners exactly what you hope to accomplish and how you’ll get there.
It can be easy to lose yourself in the details of writing a business plan. Try to remember:
- A business plan isn’t written in stone
- It should allow for a certain amount of flexibility
- It should be professional and to-the-point
- Let it guide you when you feel overwhelmed or confused
You may not have an answer for every part of your business plan. That’s fine! The goal here is not to create a 50-page document with professional photos and cool fonts that you’ll hand out to bank CEOs. Your goal is to give yourself an idea of what needs to be done and to let potential investors know you are someone who can be trusted.
At the end of the day, writing out a business plan shouldn’t take more than a few minutes of your time; an hour at most. The questions are there to help you see where your strengths and weaknesses are before you spend a lot of time and money getting started. Where do you need help? Where are you unsure of what to do? By thinking about these things ahead of time, you’re showing everyone else – and yourself – that you are a serious young entrepreneur who is ready to run a business.
Are you a Florida-based young entrepreneur looking for a college scholarship? Click here to learn more about how the Kantner Foundation can help you!