with a good plan (or who are you and where are you going?)
by sandi tomlin-sutker
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 weve taken, the challenges weve
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 Televisions
Build Your Own Business contest that offered four grants to
new or expanding womens 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!
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.
then, are the Questions:
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 competitors?
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?
at the beginning, we had to determine just exactly what our
product would be. We knew it was a womens 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.
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 didnt want ink
rubbing off on their hands (and then onto their clothes!).
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 womens communities
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.
really cant 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 hadnt 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.
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.