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Topic: Entrepreneurship & Business Plan Guide — Business Plan (How to & Samples)

Supports any student entrepreneur interested in starting a new business or developing a product, as well as participants in the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) program.

What is a Business Plan?

A business plan is "a guide—a roadmap for your business that outlines goals and details how you plan to achieve those goals."--Tim Berry from Bplans site.

What is included in a Business Plan?

The following components make up a business plan:

  • Table of Contents

  • Executive Summary: Appears first, written last. Provides a snapshot of your company explaining who you are, what you do, and why.

  • Mission & Vision: Here you define the purpose of your business (Mission) and a statement about your perception of the company's growth and potential (Vision). Include specific goals and objectives of the business

  • Business Description: Provide background information about the company including brief history of the business and list of key company principals.

  • Define Your Market: Describe the industry within which your business will operate, identify your target market, provide a general profile of your targeted clients, and describe what share of the market your currently have and/or anticipate. For this section of the business plan, your will undertake following types of research:

  • Industry Analysis: how is the industry structured, trends and statistics, key players, segmentation, sales and distribution channels etc.

  • Competitive Analysis: major competitors, strengths and weaknesses, how would you position yourself against the competition, market niche, product/service comparison

  • Customers: who are the customers (demographic data), what do they want, customer buying habits, market share/market size, consumer preferences

  • Advertising and Promotion: How will you reach out to potential customers? Where do they currently shop for product/service? Where will you advertise and how will you measure the effectiveness of your advertising and promotion efforts?

  • Pricing: strategy, policies, price list, break-even analysis

  • Location: Where is your business located? (home-based; retail; commercial, etc….), is the location of your business important? Any special zoning, land or building improvements needed to accommodate your operation? If location is important, what are the features of your location?

  • Products & Services:  Describe all your products and services; explain how your products and services are competitive including unique features, benefits of the product or service, niche served, stage of product/service development, production, future growth.

  • Organization & Management: Describe how your company is organized including legal structure(sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation etc); identify any special licenses and/or permists your business operates with; provide brief bio of key managers within the company; include an organization chart if available.

  • Marketing & Sales Strategy: Identify and describe your maket -- who are your customers and what's the demand for your products and services; channels of dsitribution you will use; your sales strategy specific to pricing, promotion, products, and place.

  • Financial Management:

    • For new business include: estimate of start-up costs (all one-time expenses such as equipment, deposits, fees, etc.); projected balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement (1 year forward)

    • For existing business include: balance sheets (last 3 years), income statements (last 3 years), cash flow statements (12 months)

    • If applying for a loan: current personal financial statement on each principal; federal tax return for prior year

  • Appendices: This section may include company brochures, resumes of key employees, list of business equipment, copies of press articles and advertisements (if available), pictures of your business location and products, any applicable information about your industry and /or products, key business agreements such as lease, contracts etc.

(Adapted from: SBA's Business Plan Template)

Finding Sample Business Plans

Why You Need a Business Plan?

You need a business plan:

  • To see if you have a viable business idea
  • To identify your (and your company's) strengths and weaknesses
  • To assess the market for your product or service
  • To size up the competition
  • To determine your financial needs
  • To attract investors
  • To set up milestones and monitor your business