by Deb Brown
At least, the old way of doing them
Writing a business plan is an intense project that takes up a lot of your time. You spend weeks and weeks on it, and you’re not even sure everything in it is correct. Your financial projections are just wild guesses. You’re not even open and they want you to guess how much money you’ll make! You can find out the amount of traffic that goes by your proposed location. But just because 10,000 people travel down that road doesn’t mean any certain percentage of them will be guaranteed to stop.
What if you waited and wrote your business plan after you’ve run a few tests?
How do you test out your products and market without having a brick and mortar business?
Participate in a pop up event or two
Small towns have these kind of events. Car shows, town fairs, three day events for fun, goat eating contests, celebrations and many other kinds of parties. You can set up a table and a covering and sell your product.
Do track your sales! It’s as easy as counting inventory at the beginning and at the end. Write down if you had to drop the price. Write down suggestions people give you for similar products they’d like. You’ll begin to get an idea of what products people like.
Try a longer pop up.
Again, track sales, price drops and suggestions. If possible, track the number of people who came in the building.
Let’s not forget online selling
Etsy, Amazon, eBay, Poshmark, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, eBid, and Ruby Lane are a few places. Be sure to choose the right site(s) for your type of product.
Many of these sites will do the tracking for you! If not, track them yourself.
Is there a place in your area that has more than one vendor in the location? See if you could join them. This is a shared space, and they are operated in different ways. Some have one cash register, some have each vendor with a cash register. Both have been known to work. Get the details and see if they work for you.
As you track results, don’t forget to write down your market
Who is buying your product?
As you are trying these ideas (and making money) pay attention to the people who shop with you. Do they fall into a certain age category? Are they male or female? Of a certain social strata? This is all research for the kind of people who make up your market.
Where do these people live? What do they look like? How old are they? What gender are they? Are they different nationalities? Where are they shopping for similar products? Are you satisfying a need in the marketplace?
After this time of tracking sales, places, and people you’re really ready to begin writing a plan.
The difference is you’ll have actual figures and not made up ones. You’ll also want to write about your products, competition and staffing. You’ve already got the answers for these topics too.
You have everything you need for a simple business plan. You can show the banker, if you need one, exactly what you’ve been doing as you build your business. You’re not putting your dreams and wishes on paper. You’re putting facts and figures and proof that your business is working.
About Deb Brown
Deb Brown comes from a farm outside of Geneva, Iowa, population 141. Her heart lies in sharing the possibilities for small towns. Deb travels a lot, taking back roads when possible, and talking to the locals, sharing stories of other small towns and encouraging anyone who will listen. She’s the co-founder of www.saveyour.town and owner of Building Possibility.