When I was 25, I decided to open a vintage clothing shop. I was working as a gallery assistant at the local university’s art gallery with an art history degree, meaning I had literally no idea how to open a business, let alone run a successful one. I needed help. And while there are so many ways to go about finding the confidence to become an entrepreneur, one of the most solid, effective, easy (and affordable!) first steps is simply writing a business plan. It’s your road map for your business: what it is, how you plan to achieve your goals and why your plan is a viable one. You’ll find yourself referring to it not only when you’re starting out but even years later, revising and adding as your business naturally progresses.
I put off writing my plan for months after I had the idea to open my shop. Writing a business plan was an intimidating concept, especially since, like I said, I wasn’t coming at it with any formal business education or experience. Once I finally started, it became my biggest motivator and most trusted companion— a grounding force in the middle of renovation and inventory chaos. I put together five steps for writing a business plan so you can get started on your own creative business idea this week.
1. Just start writing. Like I mentioned previously, at its most basic level a business plan is an outline of what your business actually is, how you plan to make it a reality and why you think it will work. Just write that down! For me, this meant: “I plan to open a women’s vintage clothing store in downtown Fredericksburg, Virginia in the next year. I have X amount of dollars saved for inventory and renovations and can work at the business full-time starting immediately. There are currently no other vintage clothing stores in the area and, with a vibrant and growing university population, I feel that there is a strong market for affordable vintage clothing.”
2. Be detailed. Now it’s time to flesh out your idea. Again, for me that meant writing down how long I planned to be the only employee, where and when I planned to source my inventory, how much money I needed to bring in every month to cover my expenses, what I wanted the space to look like, how I would structure my business, how I would market and promote the business (no traditional print advertising, strong social media presence) — even if it feels like basic common sense, write it down.
3. Read everything. I checked out every book I could find on opening a business, from specialized vintage store books to books with a women-owned focus and everything in between. It became repetitive, but it helped inform my thoughts and plans for my own business plan and empowered me to write confidently and clearly about what I wanted. The Retail Business Kit for Dummies by Rick Segel was the most helpful resource I found. It didn’t use overly technical language but gave practical advice and step-by-step instructions on how to write a business plan. Or better yet — take our Start Your First Creative Business Online Class, which has great tips to get you on your way to success.
4. Get advice. If you can find a mentor in your desired field who can help walk you through your business plan, take advantage of that. I didn’t have a specific mentor so I started taking classes with SCORE, which is a national non-profit that helps small businesses get started. Their classes are affordable and run by experienced professionals who are there to answer all your questions.
5. Trust your gut. When I called a vintage clothing wholesaler to get an idea of how much capital I’d need to buy my first round of inventory, the guy said, “Oh, for that size space? Easily $30,000 to start.” My budget wasn’t even half that and he made me feel inept and unprepared and totally shook my confidence. But I knew intuitively that I didn’t really need $30,000 worth of vintage dresses, so I got a second opinion and was totally validated in my original thought.
Are you thinking about starting your own business? Tweet us @BritandCo and let us know if you’ve started writing your biz plan!
(Photos via Getty)