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begin with a good plan (or who are you and where are you going?)
by sandi tomlin-sutker

Every step in the exhilarating process of creating the magazine you are reading today has convinced us that WNC WOMAN is clearly “an idea whose time has come.” And so we want to share with you the steps we’ve taken, the challenges we’ve encountered in the hopes that you will benefit from our experience in growing this business.

Every business advisor and every financial institution stresses the need for a sound business plan. But what is that really? Is is a budget or cash flow projection? Is it about what your product or service will be? Or is it about your overall Vision and Values? Early in our process, we learned of Oxygen Television’s Build Your Own Business contest that offered four grants to new or expanding women’s businesses. Of course we applied, having to answer ten questions (essentially ten elements of a business plan) with a limit of only 150 words per question. This limitation forced us to carefully refine exactly what we wanted to do and why and how!

Since an important component of this magazine is the “Women Minding Their Own Business” section, we want to use our own experience as a case study as we share (over the next several months) the ten questions, our answers, parts of the process of arriving at them and how we think you can utilize this process to begin your own business.

Here, then, are the Questions:

1. Describe your business idea, product or service.
2. What are your overall business goals?
3. What are the risks and challenges involved in your venture?4. Who is your competition? Why would a consumer purchase your product or use your service over your competitor’s?
5. Why is there a need for your business? Describe any trends relevant to your business idea.
6. Who is/will be your customer?
7. What is your background and relevant experience? Is this a solo venture or are other people going to work for/with you? 8. What would you do with the $10,000 grant? What are your start-up costs and overall proposed budget plan?
9. When do you/did you start realizing sales? How long before you make a profit? 10. What is the inspiration and/or motivation behind your idea?

Beginning at the beginning, we had to determine just exactly what our product would be. We knew it was a women’s magazine but what would be the format, the size, the paper type? And how many copies, distributed where? Just beginning to answer this took a lot of research into a surprisingly large range of options.

We gathered several focus groups of women to help us. We found that they had very definite ideas about what size paper was most comfortable to hold and read; they didn’t want ink rubbing off on their hands (and then onto their clothes!).

There was a strong consensus about what articles this new magazine should carry, who the initial audience would be, and how we would need to find ways to involve as many women’s communities as possible.

When the discussion of this all began, we imagined a print publication with a website that would be merely a place to archive articles. Then we found that many women wanted a place for discussions online, a calendar we could update weekly, and even a marketplace for local arts and crafts. So the website became a more vital and interactive part of our “product”.

We really can’t stress too strongly the importance of this step. In our case, we went through several “final” decisions, only to shift when we learned some new details, got a new suggestion, had a flash of insight, or found a limitation we hadn’t known about earlier. Take your time with this step of your plan; it truly is the foundation on which you will build and grow your own business.

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker is Associate Editor of WNC WOMAN. She also owns The Natural Home in downtown Asheville and is a proud and doting Grandma to Lily and Eli.

Western North Carolina Woman
WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA WOMAN
is a publication of INFINITE CIRCLES, INC.

PO BOX 1332 • MARS HILL NC 28754 • 828-689-2988

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