You think it’s not necessary to write a business plan because you’re a craftsman/woman not a corporate type. Maybe you think no one will ever see this document, so why bother? I’ll tell you why:
- Your planning processes is clarified and focused and your time, supplies, and effort are not wasted
- You know exactly how much money you need and what you need it for now and in the future.
- If you need a loan or other type of funding, you have a plan when the lenders ask for it
Start writing. Right now, don’t worry about format too much or about what is “supposed” to be in a business plan. This is for you right now. You’ll make it all “business” proper later if you need to (there are many free templates out there). Start off with why you want to start this business. It’s time for specifics. Do you expect to earn enough money to support your family? Or earn enough to pay off your new car? Maybe you want to earn enough to support your “habit”. That last reason is why I started. I found that creating beaded jewelry was expensive, and I thought if I sold a few pieces that would pay for more.
Let’s Discuss the Obvious
|Name your business. Take your time with this. You can even wait until you’re done writing the business plan, but you need to think about it now. Everything you do with this business will be branded, and you want that name to stand out.
While this is running through your head, you also need to consider your target buyer. If you’re making expensive clothes and targeting college students, your business will fail. Think carefully about your ideal customer. Mine makes me nervous. I’m targeting women that like elegant jewelry and can afford it. These women have good taste and an eye for details. What if their eye for detail picks up an error in my work? Will they still buy it? Will they tell the world I’m a horrible artisan? Maybe, and so that puts some pressure on me. However, the right people are SEEING me. My business is less likely to fail because my target customer can afford my product.
State where you will sell. You can have a brick and mortar location or one option available in the 21st century is an online cart. Places like Etsy and ArtFire provide digital storefronts for your goods. All businesses (or at least all with smart owners) have an online presence (a topic for another article). You should too. You will need a brick and mortar location because you will need some type of workshop. Craft fairs are a great place to sell. Check your community to see what’s coming. Many small businesses start at home. I have a corner of the basement that a friend calls the Jewelry Station. You’ve probably already decided about your workshop, don’t neglect your online presence either. Write step by step what you want (a bulleted list works great). This is your time to write a wish list. Examples of things on the list would be a table to work at, stands for tools, an ergonomic chair, new tools, and you get the idea.
Determine what you will sell. So, I’ve decided to sell jewelry. Done. Not really. Earrings? Bracelets? Necklaces? All of that? How many of each? Which ones? There is a lot to decide here. Make another wish list of all the designs and ideas you’d like produce. Be clear and specific and include drawings or photos of prototypes. How many of each? Well, that’s something you’ll have to research for your industry. Storage room may be an important consideration.
Prune your lists. You’ve made your lists and now it’s time to see what can be supported now and what will have to wait until later to be upgraded. Do not delete any items, just move them to a list that is for future projects. In my case, my wish list included tools. It became clear that with the startup funds I had, I had to choose between new tools and supplies. My old tools worked, they just hurt my hands. My plan listed new tools as future purchases. I chose 5 earrings to produce. I had a lot more designs and plans than that, but I had to be realistic about time and costs. I ended up with 2 lists: one with what I could do with my start-up funds, the second with what I’d do once I was making a profit.
Develop a timeline. Be specific. List due dates for yourself. I had a goal to build inventory of my 5 designs. I wanted 5 sets by June 19, and I was starting May 16. Why did I choose those dates? I wanted to officially launch my business when I got back from vacation on June 27. There is nothing magical about those dates. They are what worked for me. Choose what works for you. At the same time, I was setting up my online presence and included deadlines for that work as well. Do not create difficult to reach deadlines. There is no purpose behind “pushing” or “testing” yourself. What you’re actually doing is setting yourself up for failure. Instead, set yourself up for success. Create deadlines that can be met with a minimum of stress. Remember, making your product is supposed to be fun! Keep in mind that this document will also take time to write. Depending on demands on your time, it could take days. Don’t sweat it, “just keep swimming”.
Explain your funding. Once again, be specific. Are you going to use your savings to buy supplies? Do you have money already set aside? Pull out those lists I mentioned earlier. Everything on the final list needs to be paid for. If your workshop is your home, then that’s already paid for. Your list of future projects and needs should be examined. Will you pay for these things with the profits from what you first sell? Or do you want it all now? If you want all it now, you’re going to have to convince someone to give you money. Will you get a loan? What institutions will you research? Maybe you can get a grant and need to do some research. I found that a table works well for organizing these ideas. Make deadlines for yourself and include them on your timeline. Up to this point, writing this document has been just for your benefit. If you’re going for a loan, then your business plan becomes something even more important.
Plan your marketing strategy. I’ve noticed that most artisans like this even less than procuring funding. I fall into that group. I don’t have the luxury of ignoring this. I’m selling most of my work online, and some at craft fairs. I have to find ways to get people to visit my ArtFire shop. Below is a list of what I’ve learned. This is an on-going process, so I will post updates in this blog.
- Get a custom domain name; and I’ll say it again Get a custom domain name
- Yes it’s that important, it’s the 21st century and the best way for customers to find you is through the internet and the best way for them contact you is through email
- If you have a custom domain, then you have a custom email; for example my domain is cbeadedesigns.com so my url is www.cbeadedesigns.com and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org
- I used Google Domains because it was cheap and easy, but there are other providers out there
- If you’re not happy with what these guys offer, do a google search and you’ll have many more to choose from
- Use Facebook
- You’re either on it already or avoiding it like the plague (you can’t avoid it any longer)
- Social media is an integral part of 21st century society, so use it to your advantage
- I can only stomach a limited amount of social media; that’s my personal hang up. I’ve chosen to stick with just Facebook and Pinterest and am willing to pay for some of the advertising capabilities as a trade off for not being on other social media, but you choose your media (and it can be everything!)
- Marketing Tips from Entrepeneur.com
- Write a blog
- Uh, oh the cat is out of the bag! The more places you are present online with your business name and branding, the easier it is for potential customers to find you
- Follow other blogs and discussion groups and post good comments
- Link your online sites to each other
- Get your blog on Facebook, get your Facebook on your blog
- Get your website on Facebook, get Facebook on your website
- And on and on
- Business accounts are available for most of these media
- Facebook: do not make a whole new profile; instead from your current profile, make a business page
- Enter a contest
- Beading suppliers frequently have design contests; if I win, it’s great publicity; if don’t I’ve got a new design; win-win, right?
- Create email lists
- One is family and friends and your messages will be something like “I don’t expect you to buy, but I really need your likes/favorites and comments to improve my visibility and dependability ratings”
- Another is potential (or past) customers where you’ll give them your Facebook page, web page, email address and a featured item that you have in stock or something special coming down the line (like a craft show you’ll be at)
That’s all for this article. I look forward to seeing your comments and my next article will be about keeping risks low when starting out.