At Small Business BC, we regularly meet with clients who are preparing their first business plan. This important document acts as a road map for the start-up business, covering areas as diverse as cash flow, marketing plans, and operations.
It’s also vital for convincing a financial institution that your business idea is sound, and one they should invest in with a loan. Needless to say, it’s not a document you want to rush.
In my role as a Business Plan Advisor, I take the first draft of these business plans and work with the client to address any pain points, or areas of the plan that need improvement. A few months into the process, I try to get out into the community, follow up with these clients and see how the business plan has informed their first few months of operation.
Two recent clients I’ve worked with are Ruby and Kuljit Rakhra of Takasa. Their vision was to found a socially and environmentally responsible retail business where customers could purchase items for their home. I caught up with them to learn about their experiences so far.
How did working on your business plan help you better define your concept?
When we first approached Small Business BC, we wanted to utilize your experience in helping new business ideas come to life. Although we felt we had a good understanding of our business concept, we knew we would benefit from exploring different facets of business planning with an expert – we knew there were important elements of it we needed to improve.
Laura really helped us to hone in on our unique selling point – selling a lifestyle brand to the eco-conscious consumer. She made us tap into the eco space and consider avenues that we had not thought of, such as business to business, repurposing scrap fabrics, etc.
How did you define/refine your target market during this process?
Our target market is the LOHAS segment, which means Family Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability. This group of people is already living, or striving to live, a green lifestyle. We know this target market is social media savvy and very active on popular social networks. Given that business is very much driven by social media in this day and age, we were able to start thinking about a marketing and communications plan specifically focused on reaching our target buyers. We know our target demo is very conscious about what their families consume, as well as the impact this consumption has on the environment, so we were able to plan our social media content to convey messages to resonate with these elements in mind.
What did you learn from conducting a competitor analysis?
The competitor analysis was a hugely helpful part of the business planning process for us. It helped us to understand where the market stands and who we are up against. We learned there are some huge players in our space in the US market, but there also appears to be huge potential to make a mark here in Canada. Closer to home, Vancouver is a very ‘green’ city and we have the competitive advantage of playing to the needs of the eco-conscious Canadian consumer.
Another thing we learned is the presence of these competitors in the US confirms for us there is a big demand for our product offering, and businesses that are caring for people and the planet alike. Their success only reinforced our belief in the strength of our business idea.
In true business fashion, we also carried out a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) for our business and realized the potential for growth and opportunity. This exercise made us think strategically, which further solidified our business plan. It highlighted for us all the areas we need to have covered in order to make a success of things.
What did you learn about marketing and sales strategies?
We found this brainstorming with Laura extremely helpful for identifying where we could find our ideal customers. Some of the ideas that emerged included farmers’ markets and trade shows. Equally, the use of influencer marketing for social media is a really attractive option for us. Reviewing these options and openly discussing their advantages/disadvantages with Laura really helped us incorporate more depth into our business plan.
How did the business plan review help with the business operations side of things?
While we had a high-level perspective on the operations of the business, working with Laura helped us take a deep dive into the nuts and bolts of importing organic cotton products. We spoke with import specialists and regulatory officials and learned the requirements for our products in terms of labelling, packaging, safety standards and do on. Laura helped us understand the importance of laying out end-to-end processes, so we have a strong foundation to get up and running.
Finally, what impact did the review have on your financials?
Laura really scrutinized our financial plan and helped us take a second look at our assumptions and calculations. Coming from a banking background, the numbers were never really a problem for us, but having a second set of eyes really helped. Laura asked probing questions about things like inventory levels, planned marketing expenses and sales forecasts – it made us recalculate our assumptions and made sure we realized our potential.
Find Out More
Small Business BC’s Business Plan Services will coach you on how to write a successful business plan. Our expert Business Plan Advisors will guide you through the process from start to finish, advising on the different components of a business plan. Realize your business potential and book a one-on-one advisory session today.