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Category Archives: Business

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7 Free Business Plan Templates for Startups

Bplans.com, known as the authority on business plans, offers a free Word business plan template, complete with instructions and a table of contents. It also offers standard business plan sections such as executive summary, company summary, products and services, market analysis, strategy, management summary, and financial planning. Once you register, you will be able to download the materials and choose from a wide range of businesses in different industries in which to base your plan. Whether your business is online, service-based, or a food establishment, Bplan’s Word business plan templates are comprehensive and are a great option for beginners and new business owners.

Entrepreneur.com provides business tools, with a collection of business plans free in PDF, PowerPoint and Word. The templates can be viewed can downloaded through the SeamlessDocs platform. The site includes a template for a variety of specific business types, a business plan model that outlines the different parts of a business plan, and customizable templates that allow users to add their logos and business information. If you need a guide to writing a business plan, Entrepreneur.com also provides a download for that.

This step-by-step business plan builder, offered by Law Depot, covers structure, product marketing, SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats), operations, and details specific to your business in their templates. Once the template is complete, you can download and print. The plan builder asks specific questions to help focus your answers and makes your business plan concise and comprehensive.

MOBI, or My Own Business Institute, is part of Santa Clara University’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. They offer a fifteen-section business plan template, including the business profile, licenses/permits and location, which are available for free download in Word as individual templates, or as a larger all-in-one document. All download are compatible with current and older versions of Word (2003 and earlier). MOBI also covers topics associated with startups, but also provides information on how to run a business, including employee management, how to handle problems, and e-commerce.

Office Depot’s Business Resource Center contains free business plan samplesfor retailers, manufacturers and service providers. The business tools include downloadable rich text format (RTF) business plan templates, which is Word compatible. Excel business plan financials are also available for manufacturers and service providers, while the retailer business plan template is complete with forecasting and financial tables, but this requires Microsoft Word version 6.0 or later.

Catering to businesses owned by women, Oprah.com’s free one-page business plan templates can be used by anyone who wants to start a business. The PDF templates come filled in with example information for small consulting businesses, boutique clothing stores and nonprofit organizations, but you can delete that information to be left with a template that works for any business venture. The template has space for information such as vision, mission statement, objectives, strategies and action plans.

When you create a free business plan with Rocket Lawyer, you get the advantage of an attorney’s advice to make sure your document is legally sound. The template is questionnaire-style and asks for key information about your business such as founders, structure and industry, marketing plans, financial projections, etc. Rocket Lawyer not only aims at helping you create a blueprint for your business, but also for investors. Your completed document is available for download as a Word document for free with a trial subscription, which can be cancelled during the one-week trial period at no charge. The document is $10 on its own without a subscription.

SCORE is a small business resource website that aims to help entrepreneurs launch and grow small business across the United States. Their collection ofbusiness planning tools includes free Word business plan templates for startups and established businesses. They also provide a sales forecasting template, competitive analysis charts to determine your business’ strengths and weaknesses, and financial planning templates such as startup expenses, profit and loss projections, and financial statements. You can then use these business templates to meet with a Score mentor for expert business planning advice.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers an online business plan template and guide to help you build your business plan, step by step. Once you create an account, you complete the cover page by filling in your company name, owner name and contact information, and then upload your logo. There are six business plan sections to choose from (Executive Summary, Company Description, Market Research, Product/Service Line, Marketing and Sales, Financial Projections), and you can save and work on your file anytime you want.

Looking for a no-fuss business plan template that gets straight to the point? The $100 Startup, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best seller, offers the One-Page Business Plan, a simple form that asks several questions you can quickly answer to get up and running.  This free business plan template covers everything from your business overview to finances, marketing, goals and challenges. Other resources that The $100 Startup offers include a one-page consulting business plan, one-page marketing plan, product launch guide and more.

2 Business Plan to Start Your Business

First things first

Crafting a business plan doesn’t just help you create a blueprint of your business goals and expectations, it’s also an opportunity to reflect on how you’re going to meet those objectives. Before you jump into writing your business plan, there are several things you can do to better create a business plan that best sets your company up for success.

1. Be honest with yourself

According to Hull, entrepreneurs need be realistic when it comes to planning their businesses. This means addressing both opportunities and challenges your business might face, for instance, by identifying the best and worst case scenarios. “If you’ve got a strong idea, let it stand on its merit,” he wrote.

2. Be concise

A business plan should get straight to the point. You should avoid any fillers and get rid of any fluff. “Even if it sounds nice, fluff gets you nowhere and wastes space. Plus, no investors want to read a long business plan,” Hull wrote.

3. Be creative

Just because a business plan shows you’re serious about your business doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. One way to make your business plan more entertaining — and thus grab more attention and be easier to follow — is to add a creative element.

“Whenever possible, and without overdoing it, use visuals in your business plan. Graphs, charts, and images can help bring your concept to life. Plus, it breaks up the text and helps a plan flow better,” Hull wrote.

Simple business plan template

Generally, there are two types of business plans: one-page business plans and comprehensive business plans. If you have a more complex business that needs to hash out market analysis, financials and other strategic details, read ahead for expert advice on how to create a comprehensive business plan.

For other businesses, however, particularly those that just have an idea they want to try out or are not quite ready to delve into the details, a one-page business plan will do the job.

A one-page business plan has everything you need to concisely capture your business and what it will take to run it, all in a single page. The idea is to create a business plan as quickly as possible, so you can spend the rest of your time actually launching your company.

 

Extra Service for Small Business Bank Loan

As small businesses hire more employees, a bank-offered payroll service may simplify bookkeeping for busy small business owners.

“If you don’t quite have the budget for an independent bookkeeper, many financial institutions offer access to payroll software or services to help you get things done,” said Jennifer Martin, small business coach and owner ofZest Business Consulting.

Payroll services are also offered by independent payroll companies. Before signing up for the service through your own financial institution, compare the features of bank-offered programs against those offered by outside companies,advised Rohit Arora, CEO of Biz2Credit, an online credit resource for small businesses.

One new feature popping up in banking packages is fraud insurance coverage.

“Fraud insurance is provided by the lending institution to prevent any loss in the business checking account because of fraudulent transactions,” Arora said.

Arora explained that fraud insurance is important for business checking accounts in which more than one person has access to the account, especially when the accounts normally have multiple transactions on a daily basis.

If you’ve been thinking about offering your employees retirement plans such as 401(k) plans or pensions, look beyond your insurance agent to your bank, Martin said. Increasingly, banks are offering retirement-account setup and maintenance as a bonus feature for their business customers. This is an attractive incentive when hiring employees.

“Retirement benefits can be a great way for you to more deeply invest in your staff and may be the difference between a great job applicant choosing you over your competition,” Martin told Business News Daily.

If you plan to offer health insurance to your staff, using your own bank to make deposits into a health savings account for employees simplifies the process.  You may even save a little money by doing this.

“Some employers will save money on their payroll taxes as a result of making deposits directly to an employee HSA account, 401(k) or supplemental insurance program,” Martin said.

Money-saving offers from other companies are valuable bonus features available with some small business banking packages. Martin noted that some banks offer discounts on partner goods and services because of the sheer volume of purchases by bank customers.

Ask your banker for a list of partner companies offering discounts to small business banking customers. Typical partners include hotels, insurance companies, airlines and office-supply stores.

One risk of issuing company credit cards is that staff may use them for nonbusiness expenses. A service that gives small business owners control over staff spending can reduce that risk.

“Busy employers are concerned about how much or what their employees are spending on their corporate credit cards,” Martin said. “One of the newest features added to certain banks’ offerings for small business owners is Visa card payment controls.”

This feature lets small business owners set limits on daily spending, the days and times of transactions, as well as the locations or geographic areas where the cards can be used.

5 Ways to Getting a Small Business Loan

Small business owners looking for capital may want to spend some time preparing for the process.  That’s because, Marc Scheipe, chief financial officer at Sage North America, says preparation can make all the difference in whether a company receives the funding they desire.

Scheipe, a former small business owner himself, says that prepared businesses going through the financing process have a better chance of gaining loan approval. To help businesses in their journey, Scheipe offers the following tips to small business owners.

  • Provide detailed information— Don’t skimp on specifics with banks. Show exactly how you will use the requested funds and how much you need to accomplish your goals.  Lenders appreciate attention to detail and preparedness when it comes to the facts.  For example, if you are looking to purchase a new piece of equipment, provide quotes on the exact costs, how much capital you need to facilitate this purchase and specifically how the new equipment will help grow your business.
  • Be prepared to share your financial information – all of it – Provide your lender with all the financial background on your company, future growth plans, and often your personal financial information.  By offering this information up front, it will allow a bank to gain an understanding of your complete financial situation and it will ultimately reduce the time to finalize your loan package.  The more information you have to illustrate that you’ve run your business well in the past gives banks the confidence they need to invest in you for the future.  The more information you provide, the easier it will be for your loan officer to get your loan approved.  Banks are in business to loan money, so this is a win-win for both sides.
  • The more the merrier– Research and make a list of five potential lenders and start at your first choice.  If approved for a loan, continue to shop the market for the best rate if you have time.  If declined, keep trying!  Too often, mostly due to lack of time, business owners stop at the first or second negative response.  Be prepared to seek a loan from a minimum of five lenders.  And learn from your mistakes.  If one lender turns you down for one reason or another, learn from this feedback and adjust your approach with the next lender.
  • Seek out Small Business Administration assistance— SBA lenders are a great resource for small businesses.  There are counselors who can assist you with the loan process.  Additionally, the more you know about the products that are available for your unique situation, the better your chances are at securing a yes response to your application.  Visitwww.sba.gov, to learn more about SBA loans.
  • Think local— There are all types of lending institutions, but community lenders are often best equipped to appreciate how your company works within the local business environment.  Community lenders’ key insights can range from local market dynamics, to cash flow timing issues, and they frequently understand your ability to achieve success.  It is always important when working with a local lender to highlight your involvement outside of work within the community.  This is a great demonstration of your commitment to the community where you both live and work.

Tips to Launch Your Own Clothing Line

Matthew Johnson, owner and designer at Seventhfury Studios andSeventh.Ink Shirts and Apparel, founded Seventh.Ink in 2007 as a way to showcase his artwork on clothing. Before he began producing and selling his shirts, hoodies and accessories, which includes patches, pins, and art, he took the time to learn everything he could about the fashion industry.

“It really does pay to do your research,” Johnson told Business News Daily. “Read articles and interviews from your favorite brands, talk to those brands and check out websites like How to Start a Clothing Company (HTSACC) to get as much insight as you can.”

In an article for Entrepreneur, contributor Toby Nwazor said that knowing where to produce the clothing line is an extremely important decision because the clothing line’s initial quality will be what the business’ reputation is based on, for better or for worse.

The fashion market has always been a crowded one, so to stand out, you need something truly unique. Albam Clothing, a U.K.-based menswear brand started in 2006, started with co-founder Alastair Rae and his business partner designing with eight original styles, which would become Albam’s line of high-quality men’s fashion.

“The idea was borne out of a joint frustration that we had over the price and quality of men’s clothing available at the time,” Rae said.

Albam’s success stems from its founders’ dedication to producing something different than what was out there on the market. Similarly, Johnson stressed the importance of bringing something fresh to the table.

“If you squeeze out the same thing that everyone else is making, people are going to go with the existing brand instead of you,” he said.

To build up your initial inventory, you’ll need the money to produce it. HTSACC defines an “indie” clothing line as one that wants to produce high-quality products and plans to expand in the future once the brand grows. The site estimates that indie brands need a minimum of $500 to get going. If you want in-house production, it could take as much as $10,000 in startup costs. Five hundred dollars to $2500 is usually where most indie brands land.

“I ended up doing preorder designs once I got the hang of the business,” Johnson said.  “I was able to get an idea of what was selling and have the funds up front to pay for production.”

Nwazor wrote that to ensure a profit, the entrepreneur must establish wholesale and retail rates higher than the expenses. A target for these rates would be to earn a profit margin 30 to 50 percent higher than associated expenses, he said.

Making your own clothes by hand is fine when you only have a few customers, but as your brand grows, you may need to outsource in order to scale your operation. Johnson enlisted the help of a screen-printing friend to produce the clothing for his Florida-based company. Rae, on the other hand, was developing new fabrics for Albam clothes and wanted to find local manufacturers right off the bat.

“A big challenge for us was convincing factories that we were serious about manufacturing in the U.K.,” Rae said. “They were not used to new businesses approaching them.”

To prepare for manufacturing, Nwazor suggested securing capital through investments from others, typically loans, or from the entrepreneur’s personal money. The initial investment will range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, depending upon inventory and quality.

Knowing how to market is critical for success. Having a good website for you brand makes it easier for customers to shop for your products, but advertising is what drives them to the site. Johnson quickly learned that paid advertising just wasn’t worth it.

“I realized that word of mouth was the best way to spread the news about my brand without dropping a lot of money,” he said.

Nwazor agrees that a great online presence is important.

“You have a lot to lose if you don’t move your business online, because the online commerce market is more important than brick-and-mortar location,” he wrote.

“Listen to your customers’ feedback,” Rae advised. “Don’t be afraid to remake old styles that customers are asking for, or kill a best-seller if it feels like the right thing to do.”

Johnson also recommended getting customer input before making major changes, and if you do modify your brand, do it slowly.

“A sudden switch is not only going to make customers question [your brand], but it’ll likely cause sales to plummet because people have a tough time with major changes when they have a good thing going,” Johnson said.

Like any startup, clothing lines take a lot of hard work and dedication. You will meet some challenges along the way, but if you believe in yourself and your brand, you’ll succeed.

7 Business Ideas for Food Lovers

Farm-to-table restaurateur

If you’re an avid home chef, you know fresh ingredients make the best meals. Nothing says fresh, healthy and local like a farm-to-table restaurant. What’s more, owning a successful farm-to-table restaurant helps support local farmers, thereby strengthening your community through the love of healthy, fresh foods.

Jams & preserves maker

There are few foods that are easier to hand-make and package in large quantities than jam. With access to a steady supply of high-quality fruits and mason jars, you can go into the jam-making business in no time. First, build a repertoire of tried-and-true jam recipes. Then create branded labels and sell your goods at local fairs, farmers markets and events.

Catering

Have you ever hosted a dinner party or holiday meal and found yourself barely able to enjoy it because of all the preparation? If you’re a skilled home cook that can create delicious meals for a large group of people, you can help alleviate the stress of planning and preparing food for parties as a caterer. While bigger events like weddings and Sweet 16s might be hard to handle without a team, you could likely handle smaller home gatherings by yourself or with a business partner. Make sure you have enough kitchen space to prepare the meals and the means to transport the food to your clients.

Specialty food maker

With an increasing number of Americans living with food allergies and dietary restrictions, the market for vegan and gluten-free specialty items has grown exponentially. In fact, a May 2013 report by Markets and Markets predicts a compound annual growth rate of 10.2 percent for gluten-free products alone. With a little research, you could learn to make these specialty snacks and baked goods to package and sell.

Grocery delivery

On-the-go working parents barely have time to cook dinner, let alone shop for groceries. If you have a spacious vehicle and some spare time during evenings and weekends, you can help these busy families by making supermarket runs for them. Clients can send you their grocery lists and pay for the items you pick up. Then you can make a profit by charging for time and delivery. Make an effort to compare prices for the best deals, and shop wholesale for common items to save them money. A unique spin on this concept is ingredient delivery, where you deliver the products and recipes needed to prepare specific meals.

Food truck

Want to open a restaurant without paying for retail space and tons of kitchen equipment? With a decent set of wheels and a small-scale food prep station, you can. Decreased startup costs, competitive pricing and lower risk of failure are just a few of the reasons why food trucks are a great alternative to brick-and-mortar restaurants. Pick a specific type of food or cuisine you’re familiar with and work on perfecting recipes in that category to sell at your mobile eatery.

Personal chef

Another way to tap into the “busy family” market is by offering personal chef services. This business requires you to plan and prepare weekly or daily meals for your clients, so strong cooking skills and a working knowledge of nutrition and special diets (if applicable) are a must. While you don’t necessarily need to have graduated from culinary school, taking a few cooking classes will boost your credibility. If you’ve ever fantasized about working for a celebrity, this might be your ticket in: A lot of high-profile individuals employ personal chefs to maintain a healthy diet with their round-the-clock work schedule.

7 Small Business Ideas

Online retailer

You don’t have to be a big-box retailer to start an online store. Whether you sell directly to consumers or use a drop-shipping service, all you need is a website and the right e-commerce software to get started. You can sell your own products or items from niche suppliers.

Event planner

Do you love throwing parties and organizing meetings? Start an event-planning business and turn your passion into a profitable venture. As an event planner, you can help individuals and corporations plan their need to be resourceful and have a keen eye for detail. You will also need the patience to deal with clients’ demands and the ability to stay calm during stressful situations and unforeseen disasters.

Yard work

Got rake, will travel? Most landscapers will cut grass, but they don’t necessarily do the stuff that most homeowners don’t have time to do themselves, such as weeding, planting, leaf raking, snow shoveling, hanging or removing holiday decorations. With little more than some work gloves and a ladder, you could be in business in no time.

Computer maintenance

Got a tech background? With the proliferation of tablets, smartphones and laptops for every member of the family, there are lots of opportunities to provide private computer services such as anti-virus software installation, desktop cleanups, software downloads and printer hookups.

Virtual assistant

If you’ve got a background in administrative work but want to work for yourself, this might be a perfect opportunity for you. Virtual assistants work remotely and do all the things a business owner or manager doesn’t have time to do, such as open and answer emails, follow up with customers, invoice customers or pay bills. All of these tasks and more can all be done from your own home computer via the cloud.

Bookkeeper

ery few businesses can live without a bookkeeper. But that doesn’t mean they have to have one on staff. If you’ve got a background in finance, you can offer affordable bookkeeping services as an independent contractor. You may have to log a few in-office hours during tax season, but in most cases, the work can be done remotely.

Social media consultant

If using social media comes as naturally to you as breathing, you may have a career as a social media consultant. There’s no doubt that social media offers unprecedented marketing opportunities for businesses, but only if they know how to use it.

6 Handmade Business Ideas

3D printed figures and art

With the advent of cheap, quality 3D printers, so to has a class of 3D artisans arisen. Whether it’s cartoon or video game characters or decorative works of art, 3D printers represent a new medium that allow artists to try new things and that shoppers will love.

To 3D print your own creations, you’ll need some design knowledge. However, you can easily get started with scores of open source designs available for free online. Experiment with all sorts of different prints to cater to all sorts of tastes and fandoms!

Knitting and crocheting

Handmade scarves, hats and blankets are big sellers in the online marketplace. Wholesale yarn is relatively inexpensive, and depending on how quickly you can knit, you’ll be able to build up your inventory and spend more time marketing your store. Once you’ve mastered the basics of this art, you can move on to designing your own unique, colorful patterns. Don’t know how to knit or crochet?

Baked goods

If you frequently find yourself whipping up a batch of cookies to stave off boredom, why not get paid for it by opening a bakery? Find desserts that you can replicate perfectly every time, and accept orders online to deliver or ship to local areas. This is a great business to run in your spare time, as you can fill orders during evenings and weekends. The best part about being in the baked goods business? You’ll never find any shortage of volunteers to help you eat your mistakes.

Bags

Handmade bags can be made out of a variety of materials. Using recycled fabrics and other materials from around your home, create bags and purses in different sizes, styles and colors to appeal to a wide customer base.

Jams and preserves

There are few foods that are easier to hand-make and package in large quantities than jam. With access to a steady supply of high-quality fruits and mason jars, you can go into the jam-making business in no time. First, build a repertoire of tried-and-true jam recipes. Then create branded labels and sell your goods online or at local fairs, farmers markets and events.

Candles

Handmade candles are fairly easy and inexpensive to make with the right materials. All you need are wax, wicks and scented oils to make unique, fragrant candles right in your kitchen. While you’ll need to keep a close eye on your products as you make them, once you master the art, there’s no limit to the shapes, sizes and scents of candles you can create.

5 Smart Business Ideas for 2017

Estate sales

People regularly need to liquidate the contents of their homes, whether it’s in the event of an inheritance, the result of a divorce, or just a regular old move. That’s where estate sales come in.

You don’t have to be a licensed appraiser (though it helps) to price out a home and organize a sale. Once you’ve established prices for all of the contents for sale, advertise and organize a day to bring in members of the public to buy the products. In the end, you can take a tidy percentage of the gross sales, and the homeowner walks away happy, without the headache of getting rid of all their stuff.

Cannabis licensing consultancy

With both the legal and medicinal cannabis markets continuing their rapid growth, now is a great time to start a cannabis licensing consultancy. Once you familiarize yourself with the different state regulations and the major players in the approval process, you’re ready to start helping dispensaries and grows attain their licenses and approvals.

According to Medical Marijuana Inc. the medicinal market alone in 2015 was worth nearly $600 million. Add to that the continuous legalization of recreational use in states throughout the country and you have a fledgling market with room to grow. Now is the time to get into this burgeoning industry.

Social media consulting

Sure, there are plenty of businesses offering social media consulting services, but you can stand out from the crowd by focusing primarily on networks that are still gathering steam with businesses. Facebook and Twitter are still the top networks, but businesses tend to struggle the most with platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and Snapchat. All of these platforms have huge audiences but many businesses don’t realize how big they really are, how effective they can be and how to make them work for their niche. Periscope, Twitter’s live-streaming app, has more than 10 million active accounts, for example, and Snapchat has more than 100 million users, according to The Verge. Tumblr and Instagram have more than 400 million users, and Pinterest has over 100 million.

If you’ve got a background in social media and a deep understanding of these particular platforms, try starting a social consulting business that focuses less on the basics and more on helping businesses take advantage of the millions of users they’re not reaching by sticking solely with Facebook and Twitter.

Healthy fast food

If you’ve ever dreamed of opening a restaurant or a food truck, this just might be the time to do it. JWTIntelligence’s report noted that millennials are more health-conscious than ever, and “guilt-free” takeout food will become an increasingly popular culinary trend. Consumers are looking for competitive pricing on local, seasonal dishes that they can take on-the-go with them.

Multicultural marketing expert

All businesses are looking for new ways to connect with their customers, but many are missing the mark when it comes to connecting with minorities. Research from direct advertising firm AccurateLeads found that marketers who don’t target minorities are losing out on a $3 trillion market.

The study shows many companies fail at reaching minority customers because they don’t take the time to know that audience. To reach those targeted shoppers, businesses must recognize the places where the consumer resides and design a specific message not just for one ethnicity, but for cultures among those segments.

This has created an opening for marketers looking to stand out from the crowd. Lisa Skriloff, founder of Multicultural Marketing Resources, Inc., said with minority populations growing at a faster rate than Caucasians, businesses that want to succeed must tap into the minority markets.