Storydoc

How to Write a Startup Business Plan (10 Effective Steps)

Learn how to create an effective business plan in 10 easy steps and discover the transformative power of mentorship to elevate your startup's strategy.

create a startup business plan

Robin Waite

5 minute read

10 steps to create a business plan

Short answer

What should an effective business plan include?

An effective business plan should include the following elements:

  • Executive summary
  • Company description
  • Market analysis
  • Your products or services
  • Marketing and sales strategies
  • Organization and management
  • Financial projections
  • Funding requirements
  • Risk assessment
  • Conclusion and Call to Action

You need a strategic business plan to successfully navigate the startup world

Diving into the startup world without a clear plan is like setting sail without a compass ; you might drift aimlessly or even crash.

A solid business plan isn't just a piece of paper—it's your roadmap to success. It attracts the right investors, guides your decisions, and sets you on a clear path to victory.

In this article, I’ll walk you through 10 essential steps to craft that perfect plan. Plus, I’ll touch on the invaluable insights a business mentor can offer.

So, if you want to avoid common pitfalls and boost your chances of success, keep reading. Your startup's future might just depend on it.

Step 1: Executive summary

Think of the executive summary as the elevator pitch for your startup. It's a quick snapshot that captures the heart of your business idea, mission, and goals.

In this brief section, make sure to highlight who your target audience is, what sets you apart in the market, and your unique selling points.

And don't forget to give a glimpse of your financial outlook and any funding needs—it sets the stage for the details that follow.

Here's an example of an executive summary slide:

Executive summary slide example

Step 2: Company description

Here's where you tell your startup's story. It's not just a list of facts or a timeline. It's about painting a picture that connects with your readers.

Clearly outline your vision, mission, and the values that drive you. Share key milestones you've hit and where you currently stand in your business journey. This section gives depth to your startup, showing both where you've been and where you're headed.

Here's an example of a company introduction slide:

Company introduction slide example

Step 3: Market analysis

To thrive, you've got to know the lay of the land. That's where market analysis comes in. Start by zeroing in on your target audience and truly understanding what they're looking for.

Dive deep into industry trends, the overall market size, and where it's headed. And don't just know your competitors—understand what makes you stand out from the crowd.

Here's what a market analysis slide should look like:

Market analysis slide example

Step 4: Products or services

Here's your chance to shine a spotlight on what you're offering. What problems are your products or services solving? What makes them special? Whether it's a unique feature, a patent, or some groundbreaking tech, make it clear why your offerings are game-changers.

Here's an example of a solution slide:

Solution slide example

Step 5: Marketing and sales strategies

In today's crowded market, standing out is crucial. This step is all about your game plan to grab attention and win customers. Detail how you'll sell, where you'll promote, and how you'll get your products or services into the hands of those who need them.

Here's what a go-to-market slide should look like:

Go-to-market slide example

Step 6: Organization and management

Behind every great startup is a team of passionate people. Here, introduce your squad. Highlight their expertise, define their roles, and show the structure that keeps everything running smoothly.

If you've got advisors or partners in your corner, mention them—it shows you're serious about growing in every direction.

Here’s a full guide on how to create the perfect team slide for your startup . And here's a great example of one:

Team slide example

Step 7: Financial projections

Numbers don't lie, and in this step, they sketch out your startup's potential future. Dive into the financials, projecting where you see your revenue, expenses, and profits heading over the next few years.

By breaking down your initial costs and where you expect to get your funding, you give a clear view of how you're setting up for success.

Here's an example of a financials slide:

Financial projections slide example

Step 8: Funding requirements

Every startup needs fuel to get off the ground, and that fuel is capital. Here, be clear about how much you need to launch and keep things running.

Break down where every dollar will go, whether that's marketing, product development, or daily operations.

If you've already got some backers or have your eye on potential investors, mention them—it adds weight to your pitch.

Here's what a use of funds slide should look like:

Use of funds slide example

Step 9: Risk assessment

Every venture has its bumps in the road. Here, show that you're not just aware of potential challenges but that you've got a plan to tackle them. In assessing risks, it's crucial to choose the right business structure at the beginning. For examples, the formation of an LLC as a strategic measure not only protects your personal assets from business liabilities but also mitigates financial risks for stakeholders. By laying out your strategies for handling risks, you prove you're not just optimistic—you're realistic and ready.

Here's an example of a risk assessment slide:

Risk assessment slide example

Step 10: Conclusion and Call to Action

Time to wrap it up and rally your readers. Summarize the key points of your plan, driving home why your startup is a solid bet.

But remember, this isn't just a conclusion—it's a launchpad. Encourage readers to get involved, whether that's investing, partnering, or simply supporting your vision. Let's get this journey started!

And, if you need more information, check out our comprehensive guide on how to write a business plan .

Here's an example of a next step slide:

Next step slide example

Seek guidance from a business mentor

While a solid business plan is your startup's compass, adding guidance from a business mentor to your journey is like having a seasoned captain on board.

They bring a treasure trove of insights, lessons from past experiences, and a network of industry contacts. Their tailored advice doesn't just polish your plan—it also boosts your confidence and resilience, two must-haves for the unpredictable startup seas.

By embracing mentorship, you're signaling that you're all in on growth, ready to soak up wisdom and accelerate your path to success.

Why is a business plan crucial for startups?

Think of a business plan as your startup's GPS. It helps you navigate the twists and turns, pointing out both the challenges and the golden opportunities ahead. It's your master blueprint, detailing everything from your big-picture goals to your financial forecasts .

What role does a business mentor play in this process?

A business mentor serves as a seasoned guide in the startup journey. Drawing from their wealth of experience, they offer invaluable insights, helping startups navigate challenges and optimize their strategies. Their guidance is instrumental in making informed, strategic decisions.

How can a mentor enhance my market analysis?

Mentors have their finger on the pulse of the industry. They can help you get a clearer picture of market trends, spot who you're really up against, and gauge where the opportunities lie. With their insights, your market analysis won't just be good—it'll be top-notch.

Can a mentor assist in financial projections?

Absolutely. If your mentor has a financial background, they can be a goldmine. They'll help you craft projections that are both ambitious and grounded in reality. From revenue estimates to potential expenses, they'll ensure your numbers make sense.

How can you incorporate mentorship into the business plan?

Consider adding a dedicated section in your business plan to highlight the mentorship aspect. By detailing the insights and guidance you've received, or intend to seek, you underscore your commitment to informed growth. This proactive approach can resonate well with potential investors and stakeholders.

Business plan templates

Starting your business plan can feel like staring at a blank canvas—it's full of potential, but where do you begin? That's where interactive business plan templates come into play.

These templates serve as a structured guide, ensuring you don't miss any crucial details while allowing for flexibility and customization. They're designed to streamline the process, making it easier to organize your thoughts and present your vision in a coherent manner.

Ready to dive in? Grab a template from the library below and give your business plan a head start.

create a startup business plan

Robin Waite is a business coach based in the UK, bestselling author, and also regular business speaker. Robin's Fearless Business Accelerator covers pricing, productising services, and sales for coaches, consultants, and freelancers. Robin's passion is content marketing and blogging and he enjoys finding creative ways to make complex business topics simple for his readers.

create a startup business plan

Found this post useful?

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

Get notified as more awesome content goes live.

(No spam, no ads, opt-out whenever)

You've just joined an elite group of people that make the top performing 1% of sales and marketing collateral.

Create your best business plan to date

Try Storydoc interactive presentation maker for 14 days free (keep any presentation you make forever!)

  • Sources of Business Finance
  • Small Business Loans
  • Small Business Grants
  • Crowdfunding Sites
  • How to Get a Business Loan
  • Small Business Insurance Providers
  • Best Factoring Companies
  • Types of Bank Accounts
  • Best Banks for Small Business
  • Best Business Bank Accounts
  • Open a Business Bank Account
  • Bank Accounts for Small Businesses
  • Free Business Checking Accounts
  • Best Business Credit Cards
  • Get a Business Credit Card
  • Business Credit Cards for Bad Credit
  • Build Business Credit Fast
  • Business Loan Eligibility Criteria
  • Small-Business Bookkeeping Basics
  • How to Set Financial Goals
  • Business Loan Calculators
  • How to Calculate ROI
  • Calculate Net Income
  • Calculate Working Capital
  • Calculate Operating Income
  • Calculate Net Present Value (NPV)
  • Calculate Payroll Tax

How to Write a Business Plan in 9 Steps (+ Template and Examples)

' src=

Every successful business has one thing in common, a good and well-executed business plan. A business plan is more than a document, it is a complete guide that outlines the goals your business wants to achieve, including its financial goals . It helps you analyze results, make strategic decisions, show your business operations and growth.

If you want to start a business or already have one and need to pitch it to investors for funding, writing a good business plan improves your chances of attracting financiers. As a startup, if you want to secure loans from financial institutions, part of the requirements involve submitting your business plan.

Writing a business plan does not have to be a complicated or time-consuming process. In this article, you will learn the step-by-step process for writing a successful business plan.

You will also learn what you need a business plan for, tips and strategies for writing a convincing business plan, business plan examples and templates that will save you tons of time, and the alternatives to the traditional business plan.

Let’s get started.

What Do You Need A Business Plan For?

Businesses create business plans for different purposes such as to secure funds, monitor business growth, measure your marketing strategies, and measure your business success.

1. Secure Funds

One of the primary reasons for writing a business plan is to secure funds, either from financial institutions/agencies or investors.

For you to effectively acquire funds, your business plan must contain the key elements of your business plan . For example, your business plan should include your growth plans, goals you want to achieve, and milestones you have recorded.

A business plan can also attract new business partners that are willing to contribute financially and intellectually. If you are writing a business plan to a bank, your project must show your traction , that is, the proof that you can pay back any loan borrowed.

Also, if you are writing to an investor, your plan must contain evidence that you can effectively utilize the funds you want them to invest in your business. Here, you are using your business plan to persuade a group or an individual that your business is a source of a good investment.

2. Monitor Business Growth

A business plan can help you track cash flows in your business. It steers your business to greater heights. A business plan capable of tracking business growth should contain:

  • The business goals
  • Methods to achieve the goals
  • Time-frame for attaining those goals

A good business plan should guide you through every step in achieving your goals. It can also track the allocation of assets to every aspect of the business. You can tell when you are spending more than you should on a project.

You can compare a business plan to a written GPS. It helps you manage your business and hints at the right time to expand your business.

3. Measure Business Success

A business plan can help you measure your business success rate. Some small-scale businesses are thriving better than more prominent companies because of their track record of success.

Right from the onset of your business operation, set goals and work towards them. Write a plan to guide you through your procedures. Use your plan to measure how much you have achieved and how much is left to attain.

You can also weigh your success by monitoring the position of your brand relative to competitors. On the other hand, a business plan can also show you why you have not achieved a goal. It can tell if you have elapsed the time frame you set to attain a goal.

4. Document Your Marketing Strategies

You can use a business plan to document your marketing plans. Every business should have an effective marketing plan.

Competition mandates every business owner to go the extraordinary mile to remain relevant in the market. Your business plan should contain your marketing strategies that work. You can measure the success rate of your marketing plans.

In your business plan, your marketing strategy must answer the questions:

  • How do you want to reach your target audience?
  • How do you plan to retain your customers?
  • What is/are your pricing plans?
  • What is your budget for marketing?

Business Plan Infographic

How to Write a Business Plan Step-by-Step

1. create your executive summary.

The executive summary is a snapshot of your business or a high-level overview of your business purposes and plans . Although the executive summary is the first section in your business plan, most people write it last. The length of the executive summary is not more than two pages.

Executive Summary of the business plan

Generally, there are nine sections in a business plan, the executive summary should condense essential ideas from the other eight sections.

A good executive summary should do the following:

  • A Snapshot of Growth Potential. Briefly inform the reader about your company and why it will be successful)
  • Contain your Mission Statement which explains what the main objective or focus of your business is.
  • Product Description and Differentiation. Brief description of your products or services and why it is different from other solutions in the market.
  • The Team. Basic information about your company’s leadership team and employees
  • Business Concept. A solid description of what your business does.
  • Target Market. The customers you plan to sell to.
  • Marketing Strategy. Your plans on reaching and selling to your customers
  • Current Financial State. Brief information about what revenue your business currently generates.
  • Projected Financial State. Brief information about what you foresee your business revenue to be in the future.

The executive summary is the make-or-break section of your business plan. If your summary cannot in less than two pages cannot clearly describe how your business will solve a particular problem of your target audience and make a profit, your business plan is set on a faulty foundation.

Avoid using the executive summary to hype your business, instead, focus on helping the reader understand the what and how of your plan.

View the executive summary as an opportunity to introduce your vision for your company. You know your executive summary is powerful when it can answer these key questions:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What sector or industry are you in?
  • What are your products and services?
  • What is the future of your industry?
  • Is your company scaleable?
  • Who are the owners and leaders of your company? What are their backgrounds and experience levels?
  • What is the motivation for starting your company?
  • What are the next steps?

Writing the executive summary last although it is the most important section of your business plan is an excellent idea. The reason why is because it is a high-level overview of your business plan. It is the section that determines whether potential investors and lenders will read further or not.

The executive summary can be a stand-alone document that covers everything in your business plan. It is not uncommon for investors to request only the executive summary when evaluating your business. If the information in the executive summary impresses them, they will ask for the complete business plan.

If you are writing your business plan for your planning purposes, you do not need to write the executive summary.

2. Add Your Company Overview

The company overview or description is the next section in your business plan after the executive summary. It describes what your business does.

Adding your company overview can be tricky especially when your business is still in the planning stages. Existing businesses can easily summarize their current operations but may encounter difficulties trying to explain what they plan to become.

Your company overview should contain the following:

  • What products and services you will provide
  • Geographical markets and locations your company have a presence
  • What you need to run your business
  • Who your target audience or customers are
  • Who will service your customers
  • Your company’s purpose, mission, and vision
  • Information about your company’s founders
  • Who the founders are
  • Notable achievements of your company so far

When creating a company overview, you have to focus on three basics: identifying your industry, identifying your customer, and explaining the problem you solve.

If you are stuck when creating your company overview, try to answer some of these questions that pertain to you.

  • Who are you targeting? (The answer is not everyone)
  • What pain point does your product or service solve for your customers that they will be willing to spend money on resolving?
  • How does your product or service overcome that pain point?
  • Where is the location of your business?
  • What products, equipment, and services do you need to run your business?
  • How is your company’s product or service different from your competition in the eyes of your customers?
  • How many employees do you need and what skills do you require them to have?

After answering some or all of these questions, you will get more than enough information you need to write your company overview or description section. When writing this section, describe what your company does for your customers.

It describes what your business does

The company description or overview section contains three elements: mission statement, history, and objectives.

  • Mission Statement

The mission statement refers to the reason why your business or company is existing. It goes beyond what you do or sell, it is about the ‘why’. A good mission statement should be emotional and inspirational.

Your mission statement should follow the KISS rule (Keep It Simple, Stupid). For example, Shopify’s mission statement is “Make commerce better for everyone.”

When describing your company’s history, make it simple and avoid the temptation of tying it to a defensive narrative. Write it in the manner you would a profile. Your company’s history should include the following information:

  • Founding Date
  • Major Milestones
  • Location(s)
  • Flagship Products or Services
  • Number of Employees
  • Executive Leadership Roles

When you fill in this information, you use it to write one or two paragraphs about your company’s history.

Business Objectives

Your business objective must be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.) Failure to clearly identify your business objectives does not inspire confidence and makes it hard for your team members to work towards a common purpose.

3. Perform Market and Competitive Analyses to Proof a Big Enough Business Opportunity

The third step in writing a business plan is the market and competitive analysis section. Every business, no matter the size, needs to perform comprehensive market and competitive analyses before it enters into a market.

Performing market and competitive analyses are critical for the success of your business. It helps you avoid entering the right market with the wrong product, or vice versa. Anyone reading your business plans, especially financiers and financial institutions will want to see proof that there is a big enough business opportunity you are targeting.

This section is where you describe the market and industry you want to operate in and show the big opportunities in the market that your business can leverage to make a profit. If you noticed any unique trends when doing your research, show them in this section.

Market analysis alone is not enough, you have to add competitive analysis to strengthen this section. There are already businesses in the industry or market, how do you plan to take a share of the market from them?

You have to clearly illustrate the competitive landscape in your business plan. Are there areas your competitors are doing well? Are there areas where they are not doing so well? Show it.

Make it clear in this section why you are moving into the industry and what weaknesses are present there that you plan to explain. How are your competitors going to react to your market entry? How do you plan to get customers? Do you plan on taking your competitors' competitors, tap into other sources for customers, or both?

Illustrate the competitive landscape as well. What are your competitors doing well and not so well?

Answering these questions and thoughts will aid your market and competitive analysis of the opportunities in your space. Depending on how sophisticated your industry is, or the expectations of your financiers, you may need to carry out a more comprehensive market and competitive analysis to prove that big business opportunity.

Instead of looking at the market and competitive analyses as one entity, separating them will make the research even more comprehensive.

Market Analysis

Market analysis, boarding speaking, refers to research a business carried out on its industry, market, and competitors. It helps businesses gain a good understanding of their target market and the outlook of their industry. Before starting a company, it is vital to carry out market research to find out if the market is viable.

Market Analysis for Online Business

The market analysis section is a key part of the business plan. It is the section where you identify who your best clients or customers are. You cannot omit this section, without it your business plan is incomplete.

A good market analysis will tell your readers how you fit into the existing market and what makes you stand out. This section requires in-depth research, it will probably be the most time-consuming part of the business plan to write.

  • Market Research

To create a compelling market analysis that will win over investors and financial institutions, you have to carry out thorough market research . Your market research should be targeted at your primary target market for your products or services. Here is what you want to find out about your target market.

  • Your target market’s needs or pain points
  • The existing solutions for their pain points
  • Geographic Location
  • Demographics

The purpose of carrying out a marketing analysis is to get all the information you need to show that you have a solid and thorough understanding of your target audience.

Only after you have fully understood the people you plan to sell your products or services to, can you evaluate correctly if your target market will be interested in your products or services.

You can easily convince interested parties to invest in your business if you can show them you thoroughly understand the market and show them that there is a market for your products or services.

How to Quantify Your Target Market

One of the goals of your marketing research is to understand who your ideal customers are and their purchasing power. To quantify your target market, you have to determine the following:

  • Your Potential Customers: They are the people you plan to target. For example, if you sell accounting software for small businesses , then anyone who runs an enterprise or large business is unlikely to be your customers. Also, individuals who do not have a business will most likely not be interested in your product.
  • Total Households: If you are selling household products such as heating and air conditioning systems, determining the number of total households is more important than finding out the total population in the area you want to sell to. The logic is simple, people buy the product but it is the household that uses it.
  • Median Income: You need to know the median income of your target market. If you target a market that cannot afford to buy your products and services, your business will not last long.
  • Income by Demographics: If your potential customers belong to a certain age group or gender, determining income levels by demographics is necessary. For example, if you sell men's clothes, your target audience is men.

What Does a Good Market Analysis Entail?

Your business does not exist on its own, it can only flourish within an industry and alongside competitors. Market analysis takes into consideration your industry, target market, and competitors. Understanding these three entities will drastically improve your company’s chances of success.

Market Analysis Steps

You can view your market analysis as an examination of the market you want to break into and an education on the emerging trends and themes in that market. Good market analyses include the following:

  • Industry Description. You find out about the history of your industry, the current and future market size, and who the largest players/companies are in your industry.
  • Overview of Target Market. You research your target market and its characteristics. Who are you targeting? Note, it cannot be everyone, it has to be a specific group. You also have to find out all information possible about your customers that can help you understand how and why they make buying decisions.
  • Size of Target Market: You need to know the size of your target market, how frequently they buy, and the expected quantity they buy so you do not risk overproducing and having lots of bad inventory. Researching the size of your target market will help you determine if it is big enough for sustained business or not.
  • Growth Potential: Before picking a target market, you want to be sure there are lots of potential for future growth. You want to avoid going for an industry that is declining slowly or rapidly with almost zero growth potential.
  • Market Share Potential: Does your business stand a good chance of taking a good share of the market?
  • Market Pricing and Promotional Strategies: Your market analysis should give you an idea of the price point you can expect to charge for your products and services. Researching your target market will also give you ideas of pricing strategies you can implement to break into the market or to enjoy maximum profits.
  • Potential Barriers to Entry: One of the biggest benefits of conducting market analysis is that it shows you every potential barrier to entry your business will likely encounter. It is a good idea to discuss potential barriers to entry such as changing technology. It informs readers of your business plan that you understand the market.
  • Research on Competitors: You need to know the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors and how you can exploit them for the benefit of your business. Find patterns and trends among your competitors that make them successful, discover what works and what doesn’t, and see what you can do better.

The market analysis section is not just for talking about your target market, industry, and competitors. You also have to explain how your company can fill the hole you have identified in the market.

Here are some questions you can answer that can help you position your product or service in a positive light to your readers.

  • Is your product or service of superior quality?
  • What additional features do you offer that your competitors do not offer?
  • Are you targeting a ‘new’ market?

Basically, your market analysis should include an analysis of what already exists in the market and an explanation of how your company fits into the market.

Competitive Analysis

In the competitive analysis section, y ou have to understand who your direct and indirect competitions are, and how successful they are in the marketplace. It is the section where you assess the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors, the advantage(s) they possess in the market and show the unique features or qualities that make you different from your competitors.

Four Steps to Create a Competitive Marketing Analysis

Many businesses do market analysis and competitive analysis together. However, to fully understand what the competitive analysis entails, it is essential to separate it from the market analysis.

Competitive analysis for your business can also include analysis on how to overcome barriers to entry in your target market.

The primary goal of conducting a competitive analysis is to distinguish your business from your competitors. A strong competitive analysis is essential if you want to convince potential funding sources to invest in your business. You have to show potential investors and lenders that your business has what it takes to compete in the marketplace successfully.

Competitive analysis will s how you what the strengths of your competition are and what they are doing to maintain that advantage.

When doing your competitive research, you first have to identify your competitor and then get all the information you can about them. The idea of spending time to identify your competitor and learn everything about them may seem daunting but it is well worth it.

Find answers to the following questions after you have identified who your competitors are.

  • What are your successful competitors doing?
  • Why is what they are doing working?
  • Can your business do it better?
  • What are the weaknesses of your successful competitors?
  • What are they not doing well?
  • Can your business turn its weaknesses into strengths?
  • How good is your competitors’ customer service?
  • Where do your competitors invest in advertising?
  • What sales and pricing strategies are they using?
  • What marketing strategies are they using?
  • What kind of press coverage do they get?
  • What are their customers saying about your competitors (both the positive and negative)?

If your competitors have a website, it is a good idea to visit their websites for more competitors’ research. Check their “About Us” page for more information.

How to Perform Competitive Analysis

If you are presenting your business plan to investors, you need to clearly distinguish yourself from your competitors. Investors can easily tell when you have not properly researched your competitors.

Take time to think about what unique qualities or features set you apart from your competitors. If you do not have any direct competition offering your product to the market, it does not mean you leave out the competitor analysis section blank. Instead research on other companies that are providing a similar product, or whose product is solving the problem your product solves.

The next step is to create a table listing the top competitors you want to include in your business plan. Ensure you list your business as the last and on the right. What you just created is known as the competitor analysis table.

Direct vs Indirect Competition

You cannot know if your product or service will be a fit for your target market if you have not understood your business and the competitive landscape.

There is no market you want to target where you will not encounter competition, even if your product is innovative. Including competitive analysis in your business plan is essential.

If you are entering an established market, you need to explain how you plan to differentiate your products from the available options in the market. Also, include a list of few companies that you view as your direct competitors The competition you face in an established market is your direct competition.

In situations where you are entering a market with no direct competition, it does not mean there is no competition there. Consider your indirect competition that offers substitutes for the products or services you offer.

For example, if you sell an innovative SaaS product, let us say a project management software , a company offering time management software is your indirect competition.

There is an easy way to find out who your indirect competitors are in the absence of no direct competitors. You simply have to research how your potential customers are solving the problems that your product or service seeks to solve. That is your direct competition.

Factors that Differentiate Your Business from the Competition

There are three main factors that any business can use to differentiate itself from its competition. They are cost leadership, product differentiation, and market segmentation.

1. Cost Leadership

A strategy you can impose to maximize your profits and gain an edge over your competitors. It involves offering lower prices than what the majority of your competitors are offering.

A common practice among businesses looking to enter into a market where there are dominant players is to use free trials or pricing to attract as many customers as possible to their offer.

2. Product Differentiation

Your product or service should have a unique selling proposition (USP) that your competitors do not have or do not stress in their marketing.

Part of the marketing strategy should involve making your products unique and different from your competitors. It does not have to be different from your competitors, it can be the addition to a feature or benefit that your competitors do not currently have.

3. Market Segmentation

As a new business seeking to break into an industry, you will gain more success from focusing on a specific niche or target market, and not the whole industry.

If your competitors are focused on a general need or target market, you can differentiate yourself from them by having a small and hyper-targeted audience. For example, if your competitors are selling men’s clothes in their online stores , you can sell hoodies for men.

4. Define Your Business and Management Structure

The next step in your business plan is your business and management structure. It is the section where you describe the legal structure of your business and the team running it.

Your business is only as good as the management team that runs it, while the management team can only strive when there is a proper business and management structure in place.

If your company is a sole proprietor or a limited liability company (LLC), a general or limited partnership, or a C or an S corporation, state it clearly in this section.

Use an organizational chart to show the management structure in your business. Clearly show who is in charge of what area in your company. It is where you show how each key manager or team leader’s unique experience can contribute immensely to the success of your company. You can also opt to add the resumes and CVs of the key players in your company.

The business and management structure section should show who the owner is, and other owners of the businesses (if the business has other owners). For businesses or companies with multiple owners, include the percent ownership of the various owners and clearly show the extent of each others’ involvement in the company.

Investors want to know who is behind the company and the team running it to determine if it has the right management to achieve its set goals.

Management Team

The management team section is where you show that you have the right team in place to successfully execute the business operations and ideas. Take time to create the management structure for your business. Think about all the important roles and responsibilities that you need managers for to grow your business.

Include brief bios of each key team member and ensure you highlight only the relevant information that is needed. If your team members have background industry experience or have held top positions for other companies and achieved success while filling that role, highlight it in this section.

Create Management Team For Business Plan

A common mistake that many startups make is assigning C-level titles such as (CMO and CEO) to everyone on their team. It is unrealistic for a small business to have those titles. While it may look good on paper for the ego of your team members, it can prevent investors from investing in your business.

Instead of building an unrealistic management structure that does not fit your business reality, it is best to allow business titles to grow as the business grows. Starting everyone at the top leaves no room for future change or growth, which is bad for productivity.

Your management team does not have to be complete before you start writing your business plan. You can have a complete business plan even when there are managerial positions that are empty and need filling.

If you have management gaps in your team, simply show the gaps and indicate you are searching for the right candidates for the role(s). Investors do not expect you to have a full management team when you are just starting your business.

Key Questions to Answer When Structuring Your Management Team

  • Who are the key leaders?
  • What experiences, skills, and educational backgrounds do you expect your key leaders to have?
  • Do your key leaders have industry experience?
  • What positions will they fill and what duties will they perform in those positions?
  • What level of authority do the key leaders have and what are their responsibilities?
  • What is the salary for the various management positions that will attract the ideal candidates?

Additional Tips for Writing the Management Structure Section

1. Avoid Adding ‘Ghost’ Names to Your Management Team

There is always that temptation to include a ‘ghost’ name to your management team to attract and influence investors to invest in your business. Although the presence of these celebrity management team members may attract the attention of investors, it can cause your business to lose any credibility if you get found out.

Seasoned investors will investigate further the members of your management team before committing fully to your business If they find out that the celebrity name used does not play any actual role in your business, they will not invest and may write you off as dishonest.

2. Focus on Credentials But Pay Extra Attention to the Roles

Investors want to know the experience that your key team members have to determine if they can successfully reach the company’s growth and financial goals.

While it is an excellent boost for your key management team to have the right credentials, you also want to pay extra attention to the roles they will play in your company.

Organizational Chart

Organizational chart Infographic

Adding an organizational chart in this section of your business plan is not necessary, you can do it in your business plan’s appendix.

If you are exploring funding options, it is not uncommon to get asked for your organizational chart. The function of an organizational chart goes beyond raising money, you can also use it as a useful planning tool for your business.

An organizational chart can help you identify how best to structure your management team for maximum productivity and point you towards key roles you need to fill in the future.

You can use the organizational chart to show your company’s internal management structure such as the roles and responsibilities of your management team, and relationships that exist between them.

5. Describe Your Product and Service Offering

In your business plan, you have to describe what you sell or the service you plan to offer. It is the next step after defining your business and management structure. The products and services section is where you sell the benefits of your business.

Here you have to explain how your product or service will benefit your customers and describe your product lifecycle. It is also the section where you write down your plans for intellectual property like patent filings and copyrighting.

The research and development that you are undertaking for your product or service need to be explained in detail in this section. However, do not get too technical, sell the general idea and its benefits.

If you have any diagrams or intricate designs of your product or service, do not include them in the products and services section. Instead, leave them for the addendum page. Also, if you are leaving out diagrams or designs for the addendum, ensure you add this phrase “For more detail, visit the addendum Page #.”

Your product and service section in your business plan should include the following:

  • A detailed explanation that clearly shows how your product or service works.
  • The pricing model for your product or service.
  • Your business’ sales and distribution strategy.
  • The ideal customers that want your product or service.
  • The benefits of your products and services.
  • Reason(s) why your product or service is a better alternative to what your competitors are currently offering in the market.
  • Plans for filling the orders you receive
  • If you have current or pending patents, copyrights, and trademarks for your product or service, you can also discuss them in this section.

What to Focus On When Describing the Benefits, Lifecycle, and Production Process of Your Products or Services

In the products and services section, you have to distill the benefits, lifecycle, and production process of your products and services.

When describing the benefits of your products or services, here are some key factors to focus on.

  • Unique features
  • Translating the unique features into benefits
  • The emotional, psychological, and practical payoffs to attract customers
  • Intellectual property rights or any patents

When describing the product life cycle of your products or services, here are some key factors to focus on.

  • Upsells, cross-sells, and down-sells
  • Time between purchases
  • Plans for research and development.

When describing the production process for your products or services, you need to think about the following:

  • The creation of new or existing products and services.
  • The sources for the raw materials or components you need for production.
  • Assembling the products
  • Maintaining quality control
  • Supply-chain logistics (receiving the raw materials and delivering the finished products)
  • The day-to-day management of the production processes, bookkeeping, and inventory.

Tips for Writing the Products or Services Section of Your Business Plan

1. Avoid Technical Descriptions and Industry Buzzwords

The products and services section of your business plan should clearly describe the products and services that your company provides. However, it is not a section to include technical jargons that anyone outside your industry will not understand.

A good practice is to remove highly detailed or technical descriptions in favor of simple terms. Industry buzzwords are not necessary, if there are simpler terms you can use, then use them. If you plan to use your business plan to source funds, making the product or service section so technical will do you no favors.

2. Describe How Your Products or Services Differ from Your Competitors

When potential investors look at your business plan, they want to know how the products and services you are offering differ from that of your competition. Differentiating your products or services from your competition in a way that makes your solution more attractive is critical.

If you are going the innovative path and there is no market currently for your product or service, you need to describe in this section why the market needs your product or service.

For example, overnight delivery was a niche business that only a few companies were participating in. Federal Express (FedEx) had to show in its business plan that there was a large opportunity for that service and they justified why the market needed that service.

3. Long or Short Products or Services Section

Should your products or services section be short? Does the long products or services section attract more investors?

There are no straightforward answers to these questions. Whether your products or services section should be long or relatively short depends on the nature of your business.

If your business is product-focused, then automatically you need to use more space to describe the details of your products. However, if the product your business sells is a commodity item that relies on competitive pricing or other pricing strategies, you do not have to use up so much space to provide significant details about the product.

Likewise, if you are selling a commodity that is available in numerous outlets, then you do not have to spend time on writing a long products or services section.

The key to the success of your business is most likely the effectiveness of your marketing strategies compared to your competitors. Use more space to address that section.

If you are creating a new product or service that the market does not know about, your products or services section can be lengthy. The reason why is because you need to explain everything about the product or service such as the nature of the product, its use case, and values.

A short products or services section for an innovative product or service will not give the readers enough information to properly evaluate your business.

4. Describe Your Relationships with Vendors or Suppliers

Your business will rely on vendors or suppliers to supply raw materials or the components needed to make your products. In your products and services section, describe your relationships with your vendors and suppliers fully.

Avoid the mistake of relying on only one supplier or vendor. If that supplier or vendor fails to supply or goes out of business, you can easily face supply problems and struggle to meet your demands. Plan to set up multiple vendor or supplier relationships for better business stability.

5. Your Primary Goal Is to Convince Your Readers

The primary goal of your business plan is to convince your readers that your business is viable and to create a guide for your business to follow. It applies to the products and services section.

When drafting this section, think like the reader. See your reader as someone who has no idea about your products and services. You are using the products and services section to provide the needed information to help your reader understand your products and services. As a result, you have to be clear and to the point.

While you want to educate your readers about your products or services, you also do not want to bore them with lots of technical details. Show your products and services and not your fancy choice of words.

Your products and services section should provide the answer to the “what” question for your business. You and your management team may run the business, but it is your products and services that are the lifeblood of the business.

Key Questions to Answer When Writing your Products and Services Section

Answering these questions can help you write your products and services section quickly and in a way that will appeal to your readers.

  • Are your products existing on the market or are they still in the development stage?
  • What is your timeline for adding new products and services to the market?
  • What are the positives that make your products and services different from your competitors?
  • Do your products and services have any competitive advantage that your competitors’ products and services do not currently have?
  • Do your products or services have any competitive disadvantages that you need to overcome to compete with your competitors? If your answer is yes, state how you plan to overcome them,
  • How much does it cost to produce your products or services? How much do you plan to sell it for?
  • What is the price for your products and services compared to your competitors? Is pricing an issue?
  • What are your operating costs and will it be low enough for you to compete with your competitors and still take home a reasonable profit margin?
  • What is your plan for acquiring your products? Are you involved in the production of your products or services?
  • Are you the manufacturer and produce all the components you need to create your products? Do you assemble your products by using components supplied by other manufacturers? Do you purchase your products directly from suppliers or wholesalers?
  • Do you have a steady supply of products that you need to start your business? (If your business is yet to kick-off)
  • How do you plan to distribute your products or services to the market?

You can also hint at the marketing or promotion plans you have for your products or services such as how you plan to build awareness or retain customers. The next section is where you can go fully into details about your business’s marketing and sales plan.

6. Show and Explain Your Marketing and Sales Plan

Providing great products and services is wonderful, but it means nothing if you do not have a marketing and sales plan to inform your customers about them. Your marketing and sales plan is critical to the success of your business.

The sales and marketing section is where you show and offer a detailed explanation of your marketing and sales plan and how you plan to execute it. It covers your pricing plan, proposed advertising and promotion activities, activities and partnerships you need to make your business a success, and the benefits of your products and services.

There are several ways you can approach your marketing and sales strategy. Ideally, your marketing and sales strategy has to fit the unique needs of your business.

In this section, you describe how the plans your business has for attracting and retaining customers, and the exact process for making a sale happen. It is essential to thoroughly describe your complete marketing and sales plans because you are still going to reference this section when you are making financial projections for your business.

Outline Your Business’ Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

The sales and marketing section is where you outline your business’s unique selling proposition (USP). When you are developing your unique selling proposition, think about the strongest reasons why people should buy from you over your competition. That reason(s) is most likely a good fit to serve as your unique selling proposition (USP).

Target Market and Target Audience

Plans on how to get your products or services to your target market and how to get your target audience to buy them go into this section. You also highlight the strengths of your business here, particularly what sets them apart from your competition.

Target Market Vs Target Audience

Before you start writing your marketing and sales plan, you need to have properly defined your target audience and fleshed out your buyer persona. If you do not first understand the individual you are marketing to, your marketing and sales plan will lack any substance and easily fall.

Creating a Smart Marketing and Sales Plan

Marketing your products and services is an investment that requires you to spend money. Like any other investment, you have to generate a good return on investment (ROI) to justify using that marketing and sales plan. Good marketing and sales plans bring in high sales and profits to your company.

Avoid spending money on unproductive marketing channels. Do your research and find out the best marketing and sales plan that works best for your company.

Your marketing and sales plan can be broken into different parts: your positioning statement, pricing, promotion, packaging, advertising, public relations, content marketing, social media, and strategic alliances.

Your Positioning Statement

Your positioning statement is the first part of your marketing and sales plan. It refers to the way you present your company to your customers.

Are you the premium solution, the low-price solution, or are you the intermediary between the two extremes in the market? What do you offer that your competitors do not that can give you leverage in the market?

Before you start writing your positioning statement, you need to spend some time evaluating the current market conditions. Here are some questions that can help you to evaluate the market

  • What are the unique features or benefits that you offer that your competitors lack?
  • What are your customers’ primary needs and wants?
  • Why should a customer choose you over your competition? How do you plan to differentiate yourself from the competition?
  • How does your company’s solution compare with other solutions in the market?

After answering these questions, then you can start writing your positioning statement. Your positioning statement does not have to be in-depth or too long.

All you need to explain with your positioning statement are two focus areas. The first is the position of your company within the competitive landscape. The other focus area is the core value proposition that sets your company apart from other alternatives that your ideal customer might consider.

Here is a simple template you can use to develop a positioning statement.

For [description of target market] who [need of target market], [product or service] [how it meets the need]. Unlike [top competition], it [most essential distinguishing feature].

For example, let’s create the positioning statement for fictional accounting software and QuickBooks alternative , TBooks.

“For small business owners who need accounting services, TBooks is an accounting software that helps small businesses handle their small business bookkeeping basics quickly and easily. Unlike Wave, TBooks gives small businesses access to live sessions with top accountants.”

You can edit this positioning statement sample and fill it with your business details.

After writing your positioning statement, the next step is the pricing of your offerings. The overall positioning strategy you set in your positioning statement will often determine how you price your products or services.

Pricing is a powerful tool that sends a strong message to your customers. Failure to get your pricing strategy right can make or mar your business. If you are targeting a low-income audience, setting a premium price can result in low sales.

You can use pricing to communicate your positioning to your customers. For example, if you are offering a product at a premium price, you are sending a message to your customers that the product belongs to the premium category.

Basic Rules to Follow When Pricing Your Offering

Setting a price for your offering involves more than just putting a price tag on it. Deciding on the right pricing for your offering requires following some basic rules. They include covering your costs, primary and secondary profit center pricing, and matching the market rate.

  • Covering Your Costs: The price you set for your products or service should be more than it costs you to produce and deliver them. Every business has the same goal, to make a profit. Depending on the strategy you want to use, there are exceptions to this rule. However, the vast majority of businesses follow this rule.
  • Primary and Secondary Profit Center Pricing: When a company sets its price above the cost of production, it is making that product its primary profit center. A company can also decide not to make its initial price its primary profit center by selling below or at even with its production cost. It rather depends on the support product or even maintenance that is associated with the initial purchase to make its profit. The initial price thus became its secondary profit center.
  • Matching the Market Rate: A good rule to follow when pricing your products or services is to match your pricing with consumer demand and expectations. If you price your products or services beyond the price your customer perceives as the ideal price range, you may end up with no customers. Pricing your products too low below what your customer perceives as the ideal price range may lead to them undervaluing your offering.

Pricing Strategy

Your pricing strategy influences the price of your offering. There are several pricing strategies available for you to choose from when examining the right pricing strategy for your business. They include cost-plus pricing, market-based pricing, value pricing, and more.

Pricing strategy influences the price of offering

  • Cost-plus Pricing: This strategy is one of the simplest and oldest pricing strategies. Here you consider the cost of producing a unit of your product and then add a profit to it to arrive at your market price. It is an effective pricing strategy for manufacturers because it helps them cover their initial costs. Another name for the cost-plus pricing strategy is the markup pricing strategy.
  • Market-based Pricing: This pricing strategy analyses the market including competitors’ pricing and then sets a price based on what the market is expecting. With this pricing strategy, you can either set your price at the low-end or high-end of the market.
  • Value Pricing: This pricing strategy involves setting a price based on the value you are providing to your customer. When adopting a value-based pricing strategy, you have to set a price that your customers are willing to pay. Service-based businesses such as small business insurance providers , luxury goods sellers, and the fashion industry use this pricing strategy.

After carefully sorting out your positioning statement and pricing, the next item to look at is your promotional strategy. Your promotional strategy explains how you plan on communicating with your customers and prospects.

As a business, you must measure all your costs, including the cost of your promotions. You also want to measure how much sales your promotions bring for your business to determine its usefulness. Promotional strategies or programs that do not lead to profit need to be removed.

There are different types of promotional strategies you can adopt for your business, they include advertising, public relations, and content marketing.

Advertising

Your business plan should include your advertising plan which can be found in the marketing and sales plan section. You need to include an overview of your advertising plans such as the areas you plan to spend money on to advertise your business and offers.

Ensure that you make it clear in this section if your business will be advertising online or using the more traditional offline media, or the combination of both online and offline media. You can also include the advertising medium you want to use to raise awareness about your business and offers.

Some common online advertising mediums you can use include social media ads, landing pages, sales pages, SEO, Pay-Per-Click, emails, Google Ads, and others. Some common traditional and offline advertising mediums include word of mouth, radios, direct mail, televisions, flyers, billboards, posters, and others.

A key component of your advertising strategy is how you plan to measure the effectiveness and success of your advertising campaign. There is no point in sticking with an advertising plan or medium that does not produce results for your business in the long run.

Public Relations

A great way to reach your customers is to get the media to cover your business or product. Publicity, especially good ones, should be a part of your marketing and sales plan. In this section, show your plans for getting prominent reviews of your product from reputable publications and sources.

Your business needs that exposure to grow. If public relations is a crucial part of your promotional strategy, provide details about your public relations plan here.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is a popular promotional strategy used by businesses to inform and attract their customers. It is about teaching and educating your prospects on various topics of interest in your niche, it does not just involve informing them about the benefits and features of the products and services you have,

The Benefits of Content Marketing

Businesses publish content usually for free where they provide useful information, tips, and advice so that their target market can be made aware of the importance of their products and services. Content marketing strategies seek to nurture prospects into buyers over time by simply providing value.

Your company can create a blog where it will be publishing content for its target market. You will need to use the best website builder such as Wix and Squarespace and the best web hosting services such as Bluehost, Hostinger, and other Bluehost alternatives to create a functional blog or website.

If content marketing is a crucial part of your promotional strategy (as it should be), detail your plans under promotions.

Including high-quality images of the packaging of your product in your business plan is a lovely idea. You can add the images of the packaging of that product in the marketing and sales plan section. If you are not selling a product, then you do not need to include any worry about the physical packaging of your product.

When organizing the packaging section of your business plan, you can answer the following questions to make maximum use of this section.

  • Is your choice of packaging consistent with your positioning strategy?
  • What key value proposition does your packaging communicate? (It should reflect the key value proposition of your business)
  • How does your packaging compare to that of your competitors?

Social Media

Your 21st-century business needs to have a good social media presence. Not having one is leaving out opportunities for growth and reaching out to your prospect.

You do not have to join the thousands of social media platforms out there. What you need to do is join the ones that your customers are active on and be active there.

Most popular social media platforms

Businesses use social media to provide information about their products such as promotions, discounts, the benefits of their products, and content on their blogs.

Social media is also a platform for engaging with your customers and getting feedback about your products or services. Make no mistake, more and more of your prospects are using social media channels to find more information about companies.

You need to consider the social media channels you want to prioritize your business (prioritize the ones your customers are active in) and your branding plans in this section.

Choosing the right social media platform

Strategic Alliances

If your company plans to work closely with other companies as part of your sales and marketing plan, include it in this section. Prove details about those partnerships in your business plan if you have already established them.

Strategic alliances can be beneficial for all parties involved including your company. Working closely with another company in the form of a partnership can provide access to a different target market segment for your company.

The company you are partnering with may also gain access to your target market or simply offer a new product or service (that of your company) to its customers.

Mutually beneficial partnerships can cover the weaknesses of one company with the strength of another. You should consider strategic alliances with companies that sell complimentary products to yours. For example, if you provide printers, you can partner with a company that produces ink since the customers that buy printers from you will also need inks for printing.

Steps Involved in Creating a Marketing and Sales Plan

1. Focus on Your Target Market

Identify who your customers are, the market you want to target. Then determine the best ways to get your products or services to your potential customers.

2. Evaluate Your Competition

One of the goals of having a marketing plan is to distinguish yourself from your competition. You cannot stand out from them without first knowing them in and out.

You can know your competitors by gathering information about their products, pricing, service, and advertising campaigns.

These questions can help you know your competition.

  • What makes your competition successful?
  • What are their weaknesses?
  • What are customers saying about your competition?

3. Consider Your Brand

Customers' perception of your brand has a strong impact on your sales. Your marketing and sales plan should seek to bolster the image of your brand. Before you start marketing your business, think about the message you want to pass across about your business and your products and services.

4. Focus on Benefits

The majority of your customers do not view your product in terms of features, what they want to know is the benefits and solutions your product offers. Think about the problems your product solves and the benefits it delivers, and use it to create the right sales and marketing message.

Your marketing plan should focus on what you want your customer to get instead of what you provide. Identify those benefits in your marketing and sales plan.

5. Focus on Differentiation

Your marketing and sales plan should look for a unique angle they can take that differentiates your business from the competition, even if the products offered are similar. Some good areas of differentiation you can use are your benefits, pricing, and features.

Key Questions to Answer When Writing Your Marketing and Sales Plan

  • What is your company’s budget for sales and marketing campaigns?
  • What key metrics will you use to determine if your marketing plans are successful?
  • What are your alternatives if your initial marketing efforts do not succeed?
  • Who are the sales representatives you need to promote your products or services?
  • What are the marketing and sales channels you plan to use? How do you plan to get your products in front of your ideal customers?
  • Where will you sell your products?

You may want to include samples of marketing materials you plan to use such as print ads, website descriptions, and social media ads. While it is not compulsory to include these samples, it can help you better communicate your marketing and sales plan and objectives.

The purpose of the marketing and sales section is to answer this question “How will you reach your customers?” If you cannot convincingly provide an answer to this question, you need to rework your marketing and sales section.

7. Clearly Show Your Funding Request

If you are writing your business plan to ask for funding from investors or financial institutions, the funding request section is where you will outline your funding requirements. The funding request section should answer the question ‘How much money will your business need in the near future (3 to 5 years)?’

A good funding request section will clearly outline and explain the amount of funding your business needs over the next five years. You need to know the amount of money your business needs to make an accurate funding request.

Also, when writing your funding request, provide details of how the funds will be used over the period. Specify if you want to use the funds to buy raw materials or machinery, pay salaries, pay for advertisements, and cover specific bills such as rent and electricity.

In addition to explaining what you want to use the funds requested for, you need to clearly state the projected return on investment (ROI) . Investors and creditors want to know if your business can generate profit for them if they put funds into it.

Ensure you do not inflate the figures and stay as realistic as possible. Investors and financial institutions you are seeking funds from will do their research before investing money in your business.

If you are not sure of an exact number to request from, you can use some range of numbers as rough estimates. Add a best-case scenario and a work-case scenario to your funding request. Also, include a description of your strategic future financial plans such as selling your business or paying off debts.

Funding Request: Debt or Equity?

When making your funding request, specify the type of funding you want. Do you want debt or equity? Draw out the terms that will be applicable for the funding, and the length of time the funding request will cover.

Case for Equity

If your new business has not yet started generating profits, you are most likely preparing to sell equity in your business to raise capital at the early stage. Equity here refers to ownership. In this case, you are selling a portion of your company to raise capital.

Although this method of raising capital for your business does not put your business in debt, keep in mind that an equity owner may expect to play a key role in company decisions even if he does not hold a major stake in the company.

Most equity sales for startups are usually private transactions . If you are making a funding request by offering equity in exchange for funding, let the investor know that they will be paid a dividend (a share of the company’s profit). Also, let the investor know the process for selling their equity in your business.

Case for Debt

You may decide not to offer equity in exchange for funds, instead, you make a funding request with the promise to pay back the money borrowed at the agreed time frame.

When making a funding request with an agreement to pay back, note that you will have to repay your creditors both the principal amount borrowed and the interest on it. Financial institutions offer this type of funding for businesses.

Large companies combine both equity and debt in their capital structure. When drafting your business plan, decide if you want to offer both or one over the other.

Before you sell equity in exchange for funding in your business, consider if you are willing to accept not being in total control of your business. Also, before you seek loans in your funding request section, ensure that the terms of repayment are favorable.

You should set a clear timeline in your funding request so that potential investors and creditors can know what you are expecting. Some investors and creditors may agree to your funding request and then delay payment for longer than 30 days, meanwhile, your business needs an immediate cash injection to operate efficiently.

Additional Tips for Writing the Funding Request Section of your Business Plan

The funding request section is not necessary for every business, it is only needed by businesses who plan to use their business plan to secure funding.

If you are adding the funding request section to your business plan, provide an itemized summary of how you plan to use the funds requested. Hiring a lawyer, accountant, or other professionals may be necessary for the proper development of this section.

You should also gather and use financial statements that add credibility and support to your funding requests. Ensure that the financial statements you use should include your projected financial data such as projected cash flows, forecast statements, and expenditure budgets.

If you are an existing business, include all historical financial statements such as cash flow statements, balance sheets and income statements .

Provide monthly and quarterly financial statements for a year. If your business has records that date back beyond the one-year mark, add the yearly statements of those years. These documents are for the appendix section of your business plan.

8. Detail Your Financial Plan, Metrics, and Projections

If you used the funding request section in your business plan, supplement it with a financial plan, metrics, and projections. This section paints a picture of the past performance of your business and then goes ahead to make an informed projection about its future.

The goal of this section is to convince readers that your business is going to be a financial success. It outlines your business plan to generate enough profit to repay the loan (with interest if applicable) and to generate a decent return on investment for investors.

If you have an existing business already in operation, use this section to demonstrate stability through finance. This section should include your cash flow statements, balance sheets, and income statements covering the last three to five years. If your business has some acceptable collateral that you can use to acquire loans, list it in the financial plan, metrics, and projection section.

Apart from current financial statements, this section should also contain a prospective financial outlook that spans the next five years. Include forecasted income statements, cash flow statements, balance sheets, and capital expenditure budget.

If your business is new and is not yet generating profit, use clear and realistic projections to show the potentials of your business.

When drafting this section, research industry norms and the performance of comparable businesses. Your financial projections should cover at least five years. State the logic behind your financial projections. Remember you can always make adjustments to this section as the variables change.

The financial plan, metrics, and projection section create a baseline which your business can either exceed or fail to reach. If your business fails to reach your projections in this section, you need to understand why it failed.

Investors and loan managers spend a lot of time going through the financial plan, metrics, and projection section compared to other parts of the business plan. Ensure you spend time creating credible financial analyses for your business in this section.

Many entrepreneurs find this section daunting to write. You do not need a business degree to create a solid financial forecast for your business. Business finances, especially for startups, are not as complicated as they seem. There are several online tools and templates that make writing this section so much easier.

Use Graphs and Charts

The financial plan, metrics, and projection section is a great place to use graphs and charts to tell the financial story of your business. Charts and images make it easier to communicate your finances.

Accuracy in this section is key, ensure you carefully analyze your past financial statements properly before making financial projects.

Address the Risk Factors and Show Realistic Financial Projections

Keep your financial plan, metrics, and projection realistic. It is okay to be optimistic in your financial projection, however, you have to justify it.

You should also address the various risk factors associated with your business in this section. Investors want to know the potential risks involved, show them. You should also show your plans for mitigating those risks.

What You Should In The Financial Plan, Metrics, and Projection Section of Your Business Plan

The financial plan, metrics, and projection section of your business plan should have monthly sales and revenue forecasts for the first year. It should also include annual projections that cover 3 to 5 years.

A three-year projection is a basic requirement to have in your business plan. However, some investors may request a five-year forecast.

Your business plan should include the following financial statements: sales forecast, personnel plan, income statement, income statement, cash flow statement, balance sheet, and an exit strategy.

1. Sales Forecast

Sales forecast refers to your projections about the number of sales your business is going to record over the next few years. It is typically broken into several rows, with each row assigned to a core product or service that your business is offering.

One common mistake people make in their business plan is to break down the sales forecast section into long details. A sales forecast should forecast the high-level details.

For example, if you are forecasting sales for a payroll software provider, you could break down your forecast into target market segments or subscription categories.

Benefits of Sales Forecasting

Your sales forecast section should also have a corresponding row for each sales row to cover the direct cost or Cost of Goods Sold (COGS). The objective of these rows is to show the expenses that your business incurs in making and delivering your product or service.

Note that your Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) should only cover those direct costs incurred when making your products. Other indirect expenses such as insurance, salaries, payroll tax, and rent should not be included.

For example, the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) for a restaurant is the cost of ingredients while for a consulting company it will be the cost of paper and other presentation materials.

Factors that affect sales forecasting

2. Personnel Plan

The personnel plan section is where you provide details about the payment plan for your employees. For a small business, you can easily list every position in your company and how much you plan to pay in the personnel plan.

However, for larger businesses, you have to break the personnel plan into functional groups such as sales and marketing.

The personnel plan will also include the cost of an employee beyond salary, commonly referred to as the employee burden. These costs include insurance, payroll taxes , and other essential costs incurred monthly as a result of having employees on your payroll.

True HR Cost Infographic

3. Income Statement

The income statement section shows if your business is making a profit or taking a loss. Another name for the income statement is the profit and loss (P&L). It takes data from your sales forecast and personnel plan and adds other ongoing expenses you incur while running your business.

The income statement section

Every business plan should have an income statement. It subtracts your business expenses from its earnings to show if your business is generating profit or incurring losses.

The income statement has the following items: sales, Cost of Goods Sold (COGS), gross margin, operating expenses, total operating expenses, operating income , total expenses, and net profit.

  • Sales refer to the revenue your business generates from selling its products or services. Other names for sales are income or revenue.
  • Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) refers to the total cost of selling your products. Other names for COGS are direct costs or cost of sales. Manufacturing businesses use the Costs of Goods Manufactured (COGM) .
  • Gross Margin is the figure you get when you subtract your COGS from your sales. In your income statement, you can express it as a percentage of total sales (Gross margin / Sales = Gross Margin Percent).
  • Operating Expenses refer to all the expenses you incur from running your business. It exempts the COGS because it stands alone as a core part of your income statement. You also have to exclude taxes, depreciation, and amortization. Your operating expenses include salaries, marketing expenses, research and development (R&D) expenses, and other expenses.
  • Total Operating Expenses refers to the sum of all your operating expenses including those exemptions named above under operating expenses.
  • Operating Income refers to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. It is simply known as the acronym EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization). Calculating your operating income is simple, all you need to do is to subtract your COGS and total operating expenses from your sales.
  • Total Expenses refer to the sum of your operating expenses and your business’ interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.
  • Net profit shows whether your business has made a profit or taken a loss during a given timeframe.

4. Cash Flow Statement

The cash flow statement tracks the money you have in the bank at any given point. It is often confused with the income statement or the profit and loss statement. They are both different types of financial statements. The income statement calculates your profits and losses while the cash flow statement shows you how much you have in the bank.

Cash Flow Statement Example

5. Balance Sheet

The balance sheet is a financial statement that provides an overview of the financial health of your business. It contains information about the assets and liabilities of your company, and owner’s or shareholders’ equity.

You can get the net worth of your company by subtracting your company’s liabilities from its assets.

Balance sheet Formula

6. Exit Strategy

The exit strategy refers to a probable plan for selling your business either to the public in an IPO or to another company. It is the last thing you include in the financial plan, metrics, and projection section.

You can choose to omit the exit strategy from your business plan if you plan to maintain full ownership of your business and do not plan on seeking angel investment or virtual capitalist (VC) funding.

Investors may want to know what your exit plan is. They invest in your business to get a good return on investment.

Your exit strategy does not have to include long and boring details. Ensure you identify some interested parties who may be interested in buying the company if it becomes a success.

Exit Strategy Section of Business Plan Infographic

Key Questions to Answer with Your Financial Plan, Metrics, and Projection

Your financial plan, metrics, and projection section helps investors, creditors, or your internal managers to understand what your expenses are, the amount of cash you need, and what it takes to make your company profitable. It also shows what you will be doing with any funding.

You do not need to show actual financial data if you do not have one. Adding forecasts and projections to your financial statements is added proof that your strategy is feasible and shows investors you have planned properly.

Here are some key questions to answer to help you develop this section.

  • What is your sales forecast for the next year?
  • When will your company achieve a positive cash flow?
  • What are the core expenses you need to operate?
  • How much money do you need upfront to operate or grow your company?
  • How will you use the loans or investments?

9. Add an Appendix to Your Business Plan

Adding an appendix to your business plan is optional. It is a useful place to put any charts, tables, legal notes, definitions, permits, résumés, and other critical information that do not fit into other sections of your business plan.

The appendix section is where you would want to include details of a patent or patent-pending if you have one. You can always add illustrations or images of your products here. It is the last section of your business plan.

When writing your business plan, there are details you cut short or remove to prevent the entire section from becoming too lengthy. There are also details you want to include in the business plan but are not a good fit for any of the previous sections. You can add that additional information to the appendix section.

Businesses also use the appendix section to include supporting documents or other materials specially requested by investors or lenders.

You can include just about any information that supports the assumptions and statements you made in the business plan under the appendix. It is the one place in the business plan where unrelated data and information can coexist amicably.

If your appendix section is lengthy, try organizing it by adding a table of contents at the beginning of the appendix section. It is also advisable to group similar information to make it easier for the reader to access them.

A well-organized appendix section makes it easier to share your information clearly and concisely. Add footnotes throughout the rest of the business plan or make references in the plan to the documents in the appendix.

The appendix section is usually only necessary if you are seeking funding from investors or lenders, or hoping to attract partners.

People reading business plans do not want to spend time going through a heap of backup information, numbers, and charts. Keep these documents or information in the Appendix section in case the reader wants to dig deeper.

Common Items to Include in the Appendix Section of Your Business Plan

The appendix section includes documents that supplement or support the information or claims given in other sections of the business plans. Common items you can include in the appendix section include:

  • Additional data about the process of manufacturing or creation
  • Additional description of products or services such as product schematics
  • Additional financial documents or projections
  • Articles of incorporation and status
  • Backup for market research or competitive analysis
  • Bank statements
  • Business registries
  • Client testimonials (if your business is already running)
  • Copies of insurances
  • Credit histories (personal or/and business)
  • Deeds and permits
  • Equipment leases
  • Examples of marketing and advertising collateral
  • Industry associations and memberships
  • Images of product
  • Intellectual property
  • Key customer contracts
  • Legal documents and other contracts
  • Letters of reference
  • Links to references
  • Market research data
  • Organizational charts
  • Photographs of potential facilities
  • Professional licenses pertaining to your legal structure or type of business
  • Purchase orders
  • Resumes of the founder(s) and key managers
  • State and federal identification numbers or codes
  • Trademarks or patents’ registrations

Avoid using the appendix section as a place to dump any document or information you feel like adding. Only add documents or information that you support or increase the credibility of your business plan.

Tips and Strategies for Writing a Convincing Business Plan

To achieve a perfect business plan, you need to consider some key tips and strategies. These tips will raise the efficiency of your business plan above average.

1. Know Your Audience

When writing a business plan, you need to know your audience . Business owners write business plans for different reasons. Your business plan has to be specific. For example, you can write business plans to potential investors, banks, and even fellow board members of the company.

The audience you are writing to determines the structure of the business plan. As a business owner, you have to know your audience. Not everyone will be your audience. Knowing your audience will help you to narrow the scope of your business plan.

Consider what your audience wants to see in your projects, the likely questions they might ask, and what interests them.

  • A business plan used to address a company's board members will center on its employment schemes, internal affairs, projects, stakeholders, etc.
  • A business plan for financial institutions will talk about the size of your market and the chances for you to pay back any loans you demand.
  • A business plan for investors will show proof that you can return the investment capital within a specific time. In addition, it discusses your financial projections, tractions, and market size.

2. Get Inspiration from People

Writing a business plan from scratch as an entrepreneur can be daunting. That is why you need the right inspiration to push you to write one. You can gain inspiration from the successful business plans of other businesses. Look at their business plans, the style they use, the structure of the project, etc.

To make your business plan easier to create, search companies related to your business to get an exact copy of what you need to create an effective business plan. You can also make references while citing examples in your business plans.

When drafting your business plan, get as much help from others as you possibly can. By getting inspiration from people, you can create something better than what they have.

3. Avoid Being Over Optimistic

Many business owners make use of strong adjectives to qualify their content. One of the big mistakes entrepreneurs make when preparing a business plan is promising too much.

The use of superlatives and over-optimistic claims can prepare the audience for more than you can offer. In the end, you disappoint the confidence they have in you.

In most cases, the best option is to be realistic with your claims and statistics. Most of the investors can sense a bit of incompetency from the overuse of superlatives. As a new entrepreneur, do not be tempted to over-promise to get the interests of investors.

The concept of entrepreneurship centers on risks, nothing is certain when you make future analyses. What separates the best is the ability to do careful research and work towards achieving that, not promising more than you can achieve.

To make an excellent first impression as an entrepreneur, replace superlatives with compelling data-driven content. In this way, you are more specific than someone promising a huge ROI from an investment.

4. Keep it Simple and Short

When writing business plans, ensure you keep them simple throughout. Irrespective of the purpose of the business plan, your goal is to convince the audience.

One way to achieve this goal is to make them understand your proposal. Therefore, it would be best if you avoid the use of complex grammar to express yourself. It would be a huge turn-off if the people you want to convince are not familiar with your use of words.

Another thing to note is the length of your business plan. It would be best if you made it as brief as possible.

You hardly see investors or agencies that read through an extremely long document. In that case, if your first few pages can’t convince them, then you have lost it. The more pages you write, the higher the chances of you derailing from the essential contents.

To ensure your business plan has a high conversion rate, you need to dispose of every unnecessary information. For example, if you have a strategy that you are not sure of, it would be best to leave it out of the plan.

5. Make an Outline and Follow Through

A perfect business plan must have touched every part needed to convince the audience. Business owners get easily tempted to concentrate more on their products than on other sections. Doing this can be detrimental to the efficiency of the business plan.

For example, imagine you talking about a product but omitting or providing very little information about the target audience. You will leave your clients confused.

To ensure that your business plan communicates your full business model to readers, you have to input all the necessary information in it. One of the best ways to achieve this is to design a structure and stick to it.

This structure is what guides you throughout the writing. To make your work easier, you can assign an estimated word count or page limit to every section to avoid making it too bulky for easy reading. As a guide, the necessary things your business plan must contain are:

  • Table of contents
  • Introduction
  • Product or service description
  • Target audience
  • Market size
  • Competition analysis
  • Financial projections

Some specific businesses can include some other essential sections, but these are the key sections that must be in every business plan.

6. Ask a Professional to Proofread

When writing a business plan, you must tie all loose ends to get a perfect result. When you are done with writing, call a professional to go through the document for you. You are bound to make mistakes, and the way to correct them is to get external help.

You should get a professional in your field who can relate to every section of your business plan. It would be easier for the professional to notice the inner flaws in the document than an editor with no knowledge of your business.

In addition to getting a professional to proofread, get an editor to proofread and edit your document. The editor will help you identify grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and inappropriate writing styles.

Writing a business plan can be daunting, but you can surmount that obstacle and get the best out of it with these tips.

Business Plan Examples and Templates That’ll Save You Tons of Time

1. hubspot's one-page business plan.

HubSpot's One Page Business Plan

The one-page business plan template by HubSpot is the perfect guide for businesses of any size, irrespective of their business strategy. Although the template is condensed into a page, your final business plan should not be a page long! The template is designed to ask helpful questions that can help you develop your business plan.

Hubspot’s one-page business plan template is divided into nine fields:

  • Business opportunity
  • Company description
  • Industry analysis
  • Target market
  • Implementation timeline
  • Marketing plan
  • Financial summary
  • Funding required

2. Bplan’s Free Business Plan Template

Bplan’s Free Business Plan Template

Bplans' free business plan template is investor-approved. It is a rich template used by prestigious educational institutions such as Babson College and Princeton University to teach entrepreneurs how to create a business plan.

The template has six sections: the executive summary, opportunity, execution, company, financial plan, and appendix. There is a step-by-step guide for writing every little detail in the business plan. Follow the instructions each step of the way and you will create a business plan that impresses investors or lenders easily.

3. HubSpot's Downloadable Business Plan Template

HubSpot's Downloadable Business Plan Template

HubSpot’s downloadable business plan template is a more comprehensive option compared to the one-page business template by HubSpot. This free and downloadable business plan template is designed for entrepreneurs.

The template is a comprehensive guide and checklist for business owners just starting their businesses. It tells you everything you need to fill in each section of the business plan and how to do it.

There are nine sections in this business plan template: an executive summary, company and business description, product and services line, market analysis, marketing plan, sales plan, legal notes, financial considerations, and appendix.

4. Business Plan by My Own Business Institute

The Business Profile

My Own Business Institute (MOBI) which is a part of Santa Clara University's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship offers a free business plan template. You can either copy the free business template from the link provided above or download it as a Word document.

The comprehensive template consists of a whopping 15 sections.

  • The Business Profile
  • The Vision and the People
  • Home-Based Business and Freelance Business Opportunities
  • Organization
  • Licenses and Permits
  • Business Insurance
  • Communication Tools
  • Acquisitions
  • Location and Leasing
  • Accounting and Cash Flow
  • Opening and Marketing
  • Managing Employees
  • Expanding and Handling Problems

There are lots of helpful tips on how to fill each section in the free business plan template by MOBI.

5. Score's Business Plan Template for Startups

Score's Business Plan Template for Startups

Score is an American nonprofit organization that helps entrepreneurs build successful companies. This business plan template for startups by Score is available for free download. The business plan template asks a whooping 150 generic questions that help entrepreneurs from different fields to set up the perfect business plan.

The business plan template for startups contains clear instructions and worksheets, all you have to do is answer the questions and fill the worksheets.

There are nine sections in the business plan template: executive summary, company description, products and services, marketing plan, operational plan, management and organization, startup expenses and capitalization, financial plan, and appendices.

The ‘refining the plan’ resource contains instructions that help you modify your business plan to suit your specific needs, industry, and target audience. After you have completed Score’s business plan template, you can work with a SCORE mentor for expert advice in business planning.

6. Minimalist Architecture Business Plan Template by Venngage

Minimalist Architecture Business Plan Template by Venngage

The minimalist architecture business plan template is a simple template by Venngage that you can customize to suit your business needs .

There are five sections in the template: an executive summary, statement of problem, approach and methodology, qualifications, and schedule and benchmark. The business plan template has instructions that guide users on what to fill in each section.

7. Small Business Administration Free Business Plan Template

Small Business Administration Free Business Plan Template

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers two free business plan templates, filled with practical real-life examples that you can model to create your business plan. Both free business plan templates are written by fictional business owners: Rebecca who owns a consulting firm, and Andrew who owns a toy company.

There are five sections in the two SBA’s free business plan templates.

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Service Line
  • Marketing and Sales

8. The $100 Startup's One-Page Business Plan

The $100 Startup's One Page Business Plan

The one-page business plan by the $100 startup is a simple business plan template for entrepreneurs who do not want to create a long and complicated plan . You can include more details in the appendices for funders who want more information beyond what you can put in the one-page business plan.

There are five sections in the one-page business plan such as overview, ka-ching, hustling, success, and obstacles or challenges or open questions. You can answer all the questions using one or two sentences.

9. PandaDoc’s Free Business Plan Template

PandaDoc’s Free Business Plan Template

The free business plan template by PandaDoc is a comprehensive 15-page document that describes the information you should include in every section.

There are 11 sections in PandaDoc’s free business plan template.

  • Executive summary
  • Business description
  • Products and services
  • Operations plan
  • Management organization
  • Financial plan
  • Conclusion / Call to action
  • Confidentiality statement

You have to sign up for its 14-day free trial to access the template. You will find different business plan templates on PandaDoc once you sign up (including templates for general businesses and specific businesses such as bakeries, startups, restaurants, salons, hotels, and coffee shops)

PandaDoc allows you to customize its business plan templates to fit the needs of your business. After editing the template, you can send it to interested parties and track opens and views through PandaDoc.

10. Invoiceberry Templates for Word, Open Office, Excel, or PPT

Invoiceberry Templates Business Concept

InvoiceBerry is a U.K based online invoicing and tracking platform that offers free business plan templates in .docx, .odt, .xlsx, and .pptx formats for freelancers and small businesses.

Before you can download the free business plan template, it will ask you to give it your email address. After you complete the little task, it will send the download link to your inbox for you to download. It also provides a business plan checklist in .xlsx file format that ensures you add the right information to the business plan.

Alternatives to the Traditional Business Plan

A business plan is very important in mapping out how one expects their business to grow over a set number of years, particularly when they need external investment in their business. However, many investors do not have the time to watch you present your business plan. It is a long and boring read.

Luckily, there are three alternatives to the traditional business plan (the Business Model Canvas, Lean Canvas, and Startup Pitch Deck). These alternatives are less laborious and easier and quicker to present to investors.

Business Model Canvas (BMC)

The business model canvas is a business tool used to present all the important components of setting up a business, such as customers, route to market, value proposition, and finance in a single sheet. It provides a very focused blueprint that defines your business initially which you can later expand on if needed.

Business Model Canvas (BMC) Infographic

The sheet is divided mainly into company, industry, and consumer models that are interconnected in how they find problems and proffer solutions.

Segments of the Business Model Canvas

The business model canvas was developed by founder Alexander Osterwalder to answer important business questions. It contains nine segments.

Segments of the Business Model Canvas

  • Key Partners: Who will be occupying important executive positions in your business? What do they bring to the table? Will there be a third party involved with the company?
  • Key Activities: What important activities will production entail? What activities will be carried out to ensure the smooth running of the company?
  • The Product’s Value Propositions: What does your product do? How will it be different from other products?
  • Customer Segments: What demography of consumers are you targeting? What are the habits of these consumers? Who are the MVPs of your target consumers?
  • Customer Relationships: How will the team support and work with its customer base? How do you intend to build and maintain trust with the customer?
  • Key Resources: What type of personnel and tools will be needed? What size of the budget will they need access to?
  • Channels: How do you plan to create awareness of your products? How do you intend to transport your product to the customer?
  • Cost Structure: What is the estimated cost of production? How much will distribution cost?
  • Revenue Streams: For what value are customers willing to pay? How do they prefer to pay for the product? Are there any external revenues attached apart from the main source? How do the revenue streams contribute to the overall revenue?

Lean Canvas

The lean canvas is a problem-oriented alternative to the standard business model canvas. It was proposed by Ash Maurya, creator of Lean Stack as a development of the business model generation. It uses a more problem-focused approach and it majorly targets entrepreneurs and startup businesses.

The lean canvas is a problem oriented alternative to the standard business model canvas

Lean Canvas uses the same 9 blocks concept as the business model canvas, however, they have been modified slightly to suit the needs and purpose of a small startup. The key partners, key activities, customer relationships, and key resources are replaced by new segments which are:

  • Problem: Simple and straightforward number of problems you have identified, ideally three.
  • Solution: The solutions to each problem.
  • Unfair Advantage: Something you possess that can't be easily bought or replicated.
  • Key Metrics: Important numbers that will tell how your business is doing.

Startup Pitch Deck

While the business model canvas compresses into a factual sheet, startup pitch decks expand flamboyantly.

Pitch decks, through slides, convey your business plan, often through graphs and images used to emphasize estimations and observations in your presentation. Entrepreneurs often use pitch decks to fully convince their target audience of their plans before discussing funding arrangements.

Startup Pitch Deck Presentation

Considering the likelihood of it being used in a small time frame, a good startup pitch deck should ideally contain 20 slides or less to have enough time to answer questions from the audience.

Unlike the standard and lean business model canvases, a pitch deck doesn't have a set template on how to present your business plan but there are still important components to it. These components often mirror those of the business model canvas except that they are in slide form and contain more details.

Airbnb Pitch Deck

Using Airbnb (one of the most successful start-ups in recent history) for reference, the important components of a good slide are listed below.

  • Cover/Introduction Slide: Here, you should include your company's name and mission statement. Your mission statement should be a very catchy tagline. Also, include personal information and contact details to provide an easy link for potential investors.
  • Problem Slide: This slide requires you to create a connection with the audience or the investor that you are pitching. For example in their pitch, Airbnb summarized the most important problems it would solve in three brief points – pricing of hotels, disconnection from city culture, and connection problems for local bookings.
  • Solution Slide: This slide includes your core value proposition. List simple and direct solutions to the problems you have mentioned
  • Customer Analysis: Here you will provide information on the customers you will be offering your service to. The identity of your customers plays an important part in fundraising as well as the long-run viability of the business.
  • Market Validation: Use competitive analysis to show numbers that prove the presence of a market for your product, industry behavior in the present and the long run, as well as the percentage of the market you aim to attract. It shows that you understand your competitors and customers and convinces investors of the opportunities presented in the market.
  • Business Model: Your business model is the hook of your presentation. It may vary in complexity but it should generally include a pricing system informed by your market analysis. The goal of the slide is to confirm your business model is easy to implement.
  • Marketing Strategy: This slide should summarize a few customer acquisition methods that you plan to use to grow the business.
  • Competitive Advantage: What this slide will do is provide information on what will set you apart and make you a more attractive option to customers. It could be the possession of technology that is not widely known in the market.
  • Team Slide: Here you will give a brief description of your team. Include your key management personnel here and their specific roles in the company. Include their educational background, job history, and skillsets. Also, talk about their accomplishments in their careers so far to build investors' confidence in members of your team.
  • Traction Slide: This validates the company’s business model by showing growth through early sales and support. The slide aims to reduce any lingering fears in potential investors by showing realistic periodic milestones and profit margins. It can include current sales, growth, valuable customers, pre-orders, or data from surveys outlining current consumer interest.
  • Funding Slide: This slide is popularly referred to as ‘the ask'. Here you will include important details like how much is needed to get your business off the ground and how the funding will be spent to help the company reach its goals.
  • Appendix Slides: Your pitch deck appendix should always be included alongside a standard pitch presentation. It consists of additional slides you could not show in the pitch deck but you need to complement your presentation.

It is important to support your calculations with pictorial renditions. Infographics, such as pie charts or bar graphs, will be more effective in presenting the information than just listing numbers. For example, a six-month graph that shows rising profit margins will easily look more impressive than merely writing it.

Lastly, since a pitch deck is primarily used to secure meetings and you may be sharing your pitch with several investors, it is advisable to keep a separate public version that doesn't include financials. Only disclose the one with projections once you have secured a link with an investor.

Advantages of the Business Model Canvas, Lean Canvas, and Startup Pitch Deck over the Traditional Business Plan

  • Time-Saving: Writing a detailed traditional business plan could take weeks or months. On the other hand, all three alternatives can be done in a few days or even one night of brainstorming if you have a comprehensive understanding of your business.
  • Easier to Understand: Since the information presented is almost entirely factual, it puts focus on what is most important in running the business. They cut away the excess pages of fillers in a traditional business plan and allow investors to see what is driving the business and what is getting in the way.
  • Easy to Update: Businesses typically present their business plans to many potential investors before they secure funding. What this means is that you may regularly have to amend your presentation to update statistics or adjust to audience-specific needs. For a traditional business plan, this could mean rewriting a whole section of your plan. For the three alternatives, updating is much easier because they are not voluminous.
  • Guide for a More In-depth Business Plan: All three alternatives have the added benefit of being able to double as a sketch of your business plan if the need to create one arises in the future.

Business Plan FAQ

Business plans are important for any entrepreneur who is looking for a framework to run their company over some time or seeking external support. Although they are essential for new businesses, every company should ideally have a business plan to track their growth from time to time.  They can be used by startups seeking investments or loans to convey their business ideas or an employee to convince his boss of the feasibility of starting a new project. They can also be used by companies seeking to recruit high-profile employee targets into key positions or trying to secure partnerships with other firms.

Business plans often vary depending on your target audience, the scope, and the goals for the plan. Startup plans are the most common among the different types of business plans.  A start-up plan is used by a new business to present all the necessary information to help get the business up and running. They are usually used by entrepreneurs who are seeking funding from investors or bank loans. The established company alternative to a start-up plan is a feasibility plan. A feasibility plan is often used by an established company looking for new business opportunities. They are used to show the upsides of creating a new product for a consumer base. Because the audience is usually company people, it requires less company analysis. The third type of business plan is the lean business plan. A lean business plan is a brief, straight-to-the-point breakdown of your ideas and analysis for your business. It does not contain details of your proposal and can be written on one page. Finally, you have the what-if plan. As it implies, a what-if plan is a preparation for the worst-case scenario. You must always be prepared for the possibility of your original plan being rejected. A good what-if plan will serve as a good plan B to the original.

A good business plan has 10 key components. They include an executive plan, product analysis, desired customer base, company analysis, industry analysis, marketing strategy, sales strategy, financial projection, funding, and appendix. Executive Plan Your business should begin with your executive plan. An executive plan will provide early insight into what you are planning to achieve with your business. It should include your mission statement and highlight some of the important points which you will explain later. Product Analysis The next component of your business plan is your product analysis. A key part of this section is explaining the type of item or service you are going to offer as well as the market problems your product will solve. Desired Consumer Base Your product analysis should be supplemented with a detailed breakdown of your desired consumer base. Investors are always interested in knowing the economic power of your market as well as potential MVP customers. Company Analysis The next component of your business plan is your company analysis. Here, you explain how you want to run your business. It will include your operational strategy, an insight into the workforce needed to keep the company running, and important executive positions. It will also provide a calculation of expected operational costs.  Industry Analysis A good business plan should also contain well laid out industry analysis. It is important to convince potential investors you know the companies you will be competing with, as well as your plans to gain an edge on the competition. Marketing Strategy Your business plan should also include your marketing strategy. This is how you intend to spread awareness of your product. It should include a detailed explanation of the company brand as well as your advertising methods. Sales Strategy Your sales strategy comes after the market strategy. Here you give an overview of your company's pricing strategy and how you aim to maximize profits. You can also explain how your prices will adapt to market behaviors. Financial Projection The financial projection is the next component of your business plan. It explains your company's expected running cost and revenue earned during the tenure of the business plan. Financial projection gives a clear idea of how your company will develop in the future. Funding The next component of your business plan is funding. You have to detail how much external investment you need to get your business idea off the ground here. Appendix The last component of your plan is the appendix. This is where you put licenses, graphs, or key information that does not fit in any of the other components.

The business model canvas is a business management tool used to quickly define your business idea and model. It is often used when investors need you to pitch your business idea during a brief window.

A pitch deck is similar to a business model canvas except that it makes use of slides in its presentation. A pitch is not primarily used to secure funding, rather its main purpose is to entice potential investors by selling a very optimistic outlook on the business.

Business plan competitions help you evaluate the strength of your business plan. By participating in business plan competitions, you are improving your experience. The experience provides you with a degree of validation while practicing important skills. The main motivation for entering into the competitions is often to secure funding by finishing in podium positions. There is also the chance that you may catch the eye of a casual observer outside of the competition. These competitions also provide good networking opportunities. You could meet mentors who will take a keen interest in guiding you in your business journey. You also have the opportunity to meet other entrepreneurs whose ideas can complement yours.

Exlore Further

  • 12 Key Elements of a Business Plan (Top Components Explained)
  • 13 Sources of Business Finance For Companies & Sole Traders
  • 5 Common Types of Business Structures (+ Pros & Cons)
  • How to Buy a Business in 8 Steps (+ Due Diligence Checklist)

Was This Article Helpful?

Martin luenendonk.

' src=

Martin loves entrepreneurship and has helped dozens of entrepreneurs by validating the business idea, finding scalable customer acquisition channels, and building a data-driven organization. During his time working in investment banking, tech startups, and industry-leading companies he gained extensive knowledge in using different software tools to optimize business processes.

This insights and his love for researching SaaS products enables him to provide in-depth, fact-based software reviews to enable software buyers make better decisions.

How to Start a Business: A Startup Guide for Entrepreneurs [Template]

Scott Weiss

Published: February 15, 2024

I started a local HVAC business in the summer of 2020, and since then, I’ve learned a lot about which steps are most important for getting a business venture off the ground. To help you make your business idea a reality, I've put together a complete guide that walks you through the steps of starting a business.

how to start a business; entrepreneur learning how to start a business and talking to suppliers

The guide covers every step I’ve discovered you need to start a business, from the paperwork and finances to creating your business plan and growing your business online. At the bottom, you’ll find a library of the best free tools and resources to start selling and marketing your products and services.

Use the links below to navigate to each section of the guide:

  • What do you need to start a business?

How to Start a Business

How to make a business plan, how to decide on a company name.

  • How to Choose a Business Structure

How to Register Your Business

How to comply with legal requirements, how to find funding for your new business, how to create a brand identity for your new business, tips for starting a business, resources to start a business, how to start a business online.

Let's get started.

Every budding entrepreneur wants more visitors, more qualified leads, and more revenue. But starting a business isn’t one of those “if you build it, they will come” situations. So much of getting a startup off the ground has to do with timing, planning, and the market, so consider if the economic conditions are right to start a company and whether you can successfully penetrate the market with your solution.

In order to build and run a successful company , you’ll also need to create and fine-tune a business plan, assess your finances, complete all the legal paperwork, pick your partners, research apps for startup growth, choose the best tools and systems to help you get your marketing and sales off the ground … and a whole lot more.

When I first started my business, I felt overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of requirements, which is why I’ve summed up the process to make it easier for you.

In brief, the requirements for starting a business are:

  • A business plan.
  • A business name.
  • An ownership or business structure.
  • A business registration certificate.
  • A legal license or seller’s permit (as well as other legal documents).
  • A source of funding.
  • A brand identity.

Without these elements in place, you unnecessarily risk your new business’s future. Now let’s go over these basic steps for starting a business.

  • Write a business plan.
  • Choose a business name.
  • Choose an ownership structure.
  • Register your business.
  • Review and comply with legal requirements.
  • Apply for funding.
  • Create a brand identity.

Having a great business idea is only part of the journey. In order to be successful, you’ll need to take a few steps to get it off the ground. In order to refine your business idea and set yourself up for success, consider doing the following:

1. Write a business plan.

Your business plan maps out the details of your business, including how it’s structured, what product or service you’ll sell, and how you’ll be selling it. Creating a business plan will help you find any obstacles on the horizon before you jump into running a business.

Pro tip: Remember that part of a business plan is telling investors or funders which specific items you need funding for. Be sure to list what you need to be funded, the reasoning behind items, and how long you will need funding.

Recommended Reading:

  • What is a Business Plan? Definition, Tips, and Templates
  • How to Build a Detailed Business Plan That Stands Out
  • How to Write an Ecommerce Business Plan
  • How to Become an Entrepreneur With No Money or Experience

70 Small Business Ideas for Anyone Who Wants to Run Their Own Business

Jump to: How to Start a Business Plan →

Featured Resource: Free Business Plan Template

create a startup business plan

Below are the key elements in a business plan template, details about what goes into each of them, and example sections at the bottom. You’ll also learn tips for writing a business plan .

1. Use a business plan template .

create a startup business plan

The executive summary should be about a page long. It should cover:

  • Overview . Briefly explain what the company is, where you’ll be located, what you’ll sell, and who you’ll sell to.
  • Company profile. Briefly explain the business structure, who owns it, what prior experience/skills they’ll bring to the table, and who the first hires might be.
  • Products or services . Briefly explain what you’ll sell.
  • The market. Briefly explain your main findings from your market analysis and product market fit .
  • Financial considerations . Briefly explain how you plan to fund the business and what your financial projections are.

Featured Resource: Executive Summary Template

create a startup business plan

On the marketing side, you’ll want to cover answers to questions like:

  • How do you plan to penetrate the market?
  • How will you grow your business?
  • Which channels will you focus on for distribution?
  • How will you communicate with your customers?

Pro tip: Marketing trends change year after year, so be sure to keep up on the latest trends by subscribing to the Hubspot Marketing blog .

On the sales side, you’ll need to cover answers to questions like:

  • What’s your sales strategy ?
  • What will your sales team look like, and how do you plan to grow it over time?
  • How do you plan to scale for growth ?
  • How many sales calls will you need to make to make a sale?
  • What’s the average price per sale?

Speaking of average price per sale, you’ll want to go into your pricing strategy as well.

Featured Resource: Marketing & Sales Alignment Template

create a startup business plan

More importantly, it typically doesn’t entail giving partial ownership of the business away. Instead, it’s a way of getting funding not from potential co-owners, but from potential fans and customers who want to support the business idea, but not necessarily own it.

What you give donors in exchange is entirely up to you — and typically, people will come away with early access to a product, or a special version of a product, or a meet-and-greet with the founders.

Pro tip: Choose the right platform for your crowdfunding campaign type. Some platforms are more geared towards traditional investors, while others are for donations. Learn more about crowdfunding here .

5. Venture Capital Financing

Only a very small percentage of businesses are either fit for venture capital or have access to it. All the other methods described earlier are available to the vast majority of new businesses.

If you’re looking for a significant amount of money to start your company and can prove you can quickly grow its value, then venture capital financing is probably the right move for you.

Venture capital financing usually means one or more venture capital firms make large investments in your company in exchange for preferred stock of the company — but, in addition to getting that preferred return as they would in series seed financing, venture capital investors also usually get governance rights, like a seat on the Board of Directors or approval rights on certain transactions.

VC financing typically occurs when a company can demonstrate a significant business opportunity to quickly grow the value of the company but requires significant capital to do so.

Pro tip: A lot of venture capital financing is simply being in the right room with the right people. Make sure to network extensively if this is your approach to financing.

When you’re first starting a business, you’ll need to build the foundation for a strong brand identity. Your brand identity is about your values, how you communicate concepts, and which emotions you want your customers to feel when they interact with your business. Having a consistent brand identity to promote your business will make you look more professional and help you attract new customers.

Here’s what you need to do to develop your brand identity:

1. Design a logo.

Creating the right logo for your business requires careful thought and consideration. It should be representative of your brand’s purpose and target audience, while also being memorable and distinct from competitors.

To start, you need a deep understanding of your business’s mission, values, and target audience. Think beyond what your company does and truly examine why you do what you do and who you do it for. This knowledge will serve as the foundation for your logo.

Conducting market research and identifying current logo trends can help you understand what works well for others and strategize on how to stand out. Then, start brainstorming design ideas that showcase what makes your business unique.

For instance, you could try writing out a list of words that best describe your business and what makes it special and then use those words as inspiration to start sketching ideas and concepts.

Once you have some sketches created, pick which ones you think are the best and share them with stakeholders, colleagues, and buyer personas to gather feedback and refine your design. After narrowing down a design, you’ll want to test its versatility and scalability to ensure it works well in different sizes and formats.

Pro tip: Check out this blog on designing your logo, and then try out different logo design features in Canva’s logo maker .

2. Develop a visual identity.

Your brand’s visual identity doesn’t stop at creating a logo — you’ll also need to establish guidelines for typography, color palette, imagery, and other graphic elements. The more consistent your brand is with its visuals, the more consumers will be able to recognize and trust it.

To get started, consider creating a brand mood board. Ask yourself: What kind of emotions do you want your brand to evoke? Is there a specific visual aesthetic that you want to emulate? This can help you gather visual inspiration that resonates with your brand.

Choose your color palette and typography wisely. Spend some time researching color theory , as color can have a major impact on how people perceive your brand. Make sure your typography is readable and looks good across different sizes and formats.

Additionally, you should create other visual assets such as patterns, shapes, illustrations, and icons that pair well with your color palette and typography.

Pro tip: If design and color palettes aren’t your thing, consider hiring a freelance graphic designer on LinkedIn or Fiverr to help you create your visual identity and incorporate it into your logo and overall design.

3. Craft a tagline.

In just a few words, your tagline should encapsulate your brand’s essence and communicate its value. Think of it as a written or verbal version of your logo. Both elements are created to immediately capture the attention of your audience. Even if consumers don’t remember anything about your product or service, they will remember a catchy tagline.

When crafting your tagline, keep it simple. You want your tagline to be memorable, so aim for a short phrase and focus on key benefits or unique aspects of your brand. Also consider using techniques like alliteration, rhyme, or play on words to make your tagline stand out — just make sure it aligns with the rest of your brand’s voice and tone.

Pro tip: This is another element of starting a business that could benefit from someone with experience. A marketing consultant or a content writer could help you establish a compelling tagline with the next step of developing your voice and tone.

4. Develop your voice and tone.

Your brand voice refers to the personality that your brand adopts in its communication with its audience. It provides direction on what to say and how to say it, allowing you to differentiate yourself and cut through the noise.

A well-defined brand voice helps create a distinct and memorable identity for your brand, allowing you to connect with your target audience on a deeper and more meaningful level.

When determining the appropriate voice and tone for your brand, remember that consistency is key. Ensure that your brand voice and tone align with your brand’s values, mission, and positioning. Alignment between your brand’s personality and its communication style is crucial for building trust and authenticity.

Pro tip: Adapt your voice and tone to suit the preferences and understanding of your audience. Additionally, use emotion and storytelling techniques to engage your audience and resonate with them.

5. Create brand guidelines.

Once you determine all of the previously mentioned brand elements, establish a set of brand guidelines that communicate how to appropriately use them. Having these rules and standards set in place ensures consistent and cohesive messaging and representation for your brand.

Get started by defining the rules for using your brand elements across different channels and applications, such as digital and print media, social media profiles, web design, packaging, and any other relevant materials.

Show practical examples of correct and incorrect usage scenarios to demonstrate the do’s and don’ts of brand representation. This helps stakeholders and users understand the guidelines and their application. You can also offer your team templates or mock-ups to ensure correct implementation.

Once the brand guidelines are set, distribute them to internal stakeholders and relevant external partners. To make sure everyone’s on the same page, take the time to review the guidelines with everyone and consider conducting training sessions if necessary.

As your brand evolves, so should your brand guidelines. Continuously review and update them to reflect any changes or refinements. Keep the guidelines easily accessible and communicate any updates effectively.

Pro tip: A writing style guide is a great place to start when creating brand guidelines. Check out this blog on brand style guide examples.

create a startup business plan

Starting a business online is a little different from starting a traditional business. Here are some important steps for starting and scaling your business online.

1. Determine your niche and business idea.

Your business niche is the target focus area for your product or service. It’s important to choose a niche because customers like brands and businesses that specifically cater to their needs. Most customers are more likely to purchase products or services from a brand that provides personalized experiences.

When determining your niche and business idea, first identify your target audience and specify everything from their age to their interests. Then, use that information to figure out their principal need. If your product doesn’t resolve a specific need, your business will fail to get off the ground.

Pro tip: You should have a good idea of the market at this point. Use that knowledge to position yourself in a way that differentiates you from your competitors.

2. Conduct market research.

Conduct market research to understand what product or service you should offer, whom you should serve, and where you face the stiffest competition. From physical goods to digital downloads, understanding your target market and competitors will help you determine how to best position your product.

Your research should help you create a strong selling proposition . In other words, what makes your business unique? Why should someone buy from you?

Pro tip: Sometimes, market research is as easy as calling around to competitors and getting a quote on services. Make sure your pricing is competitive but not so low as to be unsustainable.

3. Learn online business laws.

While online businesses may require fewer licenses and permits than traditional businesses, there are still legal requirements that you will need to adhere to. Be sure to check:

  • What kind of business license (if any) do you need to start operations?
  • What legal structure makes the most sense for your company?
  • Are there any permits that you need to obtain?
  • Are there any inspections that you need to pass?
  • Do you need a sales tax license?
  • Are there any specific regulations applicable to online businesses only?
  • What are the laws regarding hiring contractors and hiring employees?

Pro tip: Check out this article for more information on starting an online business and navigating online laws.

4 . Make sure your business is insured.

Depending on your business type, you may be required by state law to be both licensed and insured. HVAC businesses have a lot of liability as they involve both plumbing and electricity. I spoke with several insurance agents before deciding on the best insurance for my business needs.

There are also many different business insurance types, such as:

  • Liability insurance.
  • Worker’s comp.
  • Property insurance (think your business location, tools, and equipment you use).
  • And more. Be sure to research these different insurance types and purchase the necessary ones.

Pro tip: Check out this article on small business insurance.

5. Create a website.

After handling the research, taking care of legalities, and honing your products or services, it is time to create your website . When creating your website, you will need to choose a strong ecommerce platform that will allow you to sell products online.

Pro tip: Check out Hubspot’s free CMS tool for website building here.

6. Set up shop.

Once your website is complete, it’s time to add products or services to your store. When adding your products, pay attention to product images and descriptions. Having a crisp image and a detailed but concise description will help your audience maneuver your website smoothly.

After you have finished setting up your store, it’s critical to ensure you offer a seamless shipping or delivery experience to your buyers. For example, you can use HubSpot to manage quality control before you ship products out.

Finally, you want to make sure everything is working before you hit the live button on your website. Make sure that everything is clickable and that all pages look good across all devices and browsers. Once you’ve checked that, you are ready to go live.

Pro tip: If you take credit card information on your website, you will need to abide by compliance laws that ensure the safety of sensitive data. Read more on credit card compliance .

7. Create a marketing plan.

You’ve created an awesome product, and now it’s time to get the word out. In other words, it’s time to grow your audience. There are numerous ways to reach your target customer, including:

  • Social media : Use hashtags and paid ads to expand your reach.
  • Influencer marketing : Send free samples to “celebrities” in your niche.
  • Facebook groups : Connect with your target market on this platform.
  • Google advertising : Put your products in front of people all over the web.
  • Content marketing : Publish blog posts to bring organic traffic to your site.
  • Word-of-mouth : Encourage customers to spread the word.
  • YouTube videos : Start a channel to showcase your products.

Pro Tip: Google ads and LinkedIn ads regularly offer discounts or free ad money; consider using these promos to try online advertisements out.

8 . Grow your business.

You’ve heard it said that in business, you’re either growing or you’re dying. Here are a couple of tips for growing your business online:

  • Reduce the amount of time it takes online viewers to receive value from you and your brand.
  • Answer the questions no one in your industry is answering — for example, a lot of companies won’t talk about pricing, forcing customers to keep looking for someone who will.
  • Create a dynamic website that changes with the times. Update your images and writing to reflect what’s happening with your business now, and ensure your website isn’t dating you.
  • Invest in content and SEO . They aren’t cheap, but they are really important for being found online, organically.

Pro tip: Check out this blog on how to become an SEO expert, according to HubSpot’s SEO team.

9. Watch your income and expenditures closely.

The first year of your business is an essential set point for discovering your overhead and your profit. Have a date in mind of when you want your business to start turning a profit and a solid plan for if you aren’t meeting that goal. Read further on potential exit strategies below.

Pro tip: Use a free business budget template to monitor your finances.

10. Plan for an exit strategy.

If you’re like me, you didn’t consider an exit strategy when thinking up your business. You probably assumed you’d run your business for the foreseeable future. However, economic uncertainty or unexpected success can both impact the end of your business. In fact, 90% of startups fail , which makes it a wise choice to know under what circumstances you would close down your business.

You could also experience unexpected buzz and success and be offered a buyout. A good exit strategy will plan for this as well. What amount of money would make selling worth it? Consider also how long you would have to run your business before considering offers. Some want to sell high and fast, whereas other business owners want to see where things go during a set amount of time.

An exit strategy could also include who you want to inherit your business, maybe family or an employee.

Pro tip: Check out this blog on the importance of having an exit strategy.

Next Steps: Getting Ready to Launch Your Business

I know from experience that being a small business owner isn’t easy, but with the right plan, you can set up your business for success. Be sure to check and know your requirements, have a solid business plan, and submit your legal paperwork before you take your business live. Once you have a solid business plan and the financing to execute your goals, you’ll be well on the path to launching a successful enterprise.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Apply for a job, keep track of important information, and prepare for an  interview with the help of this free job seekers kit.

Don't forget to share this post!

Related articles.

How to Write a Business Proposal [Examples + Template]

How to Write a Business Proposal [Examples + Template]

Amazon Affiliate Program: How to Become an Amazon Associate to Boost Income

Amazon Affiliate Program: How to Become an Amazon Associate to Boost Income

A Complete Guide to Successful Brand Positioning

A Complete Guide to Successful Brand Positioning

70 Small Business Ideas for Anyone Who Wants to Run Their Own Business

Door-to-Door Sales: The Complete Guide

Product Differentiation and What it Means for Your Brand

Product Differentiation and What it Means for Your Brand

The 25 Best PayPal Alternatives of 2023

The 25 Best PayPal Alternatives of 2023

The First-Mover Advantage, Explained

The First-Mover Advantage, Explained

Intrapreneurship vs. Entrepreneurship: What's the Difference?

Intrapreneurship vs. Entrepreneurship: What's the Difference?

What Are Current Assets? Definition + Examples

What Are Current Assets? Definition + Examples

9 templates to help you brainstorm a business name, develop your business plan, and pitch your idea to investors.

Powerful and easy-to-use sales software that drives productivity, enables customer connection, and supports growing sales orgs

Home > Business > Business Startup

How To Write a Business Plan

Stephanie Coleman

We are committed to sharing unbiased reviews. Some of the links on our site are from our partners who compensate us. Read our editorial guidelines and advertising disclosure .

How-to-write-a-business-plan

Starting a business is a wild ride, and a solid business plan can be the key to keeping you on track. A business plan is essentially a roadmap for your business — outlining your goals, strategies, market analysis and financial projections. Not only will it guide your decision-making, a business plan can help you secure funding with a loan or from investors .

Writing a business plan can seem like a huge task, but taking it one step at a time can break the plan down into manageable milestones. Here is our step-by-step guide on how to write a business plan.

Table of contents

  • Write your executive summary
  • Do your market research homework
  • Set your business goals and objectives
  • Plan your business strategy
  • Describe your product or service
  • Crunch the numbers
  • Finalize your business plan

create a startup business plan

By signing up I agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy .

Step 1: Write your executive summary

Though this will be the first page of your business plan , we recommend you actually write the executive summary last. That’s because an executive summary highlights what’s to come in the business plan but in a more condensed fashion.

An executive summary gives stakeholders who are reading your business plan the key points quickly without having to comb through pages and pages. Be sure to cover each successive point in a concise manner, and include as much data as necessary to support your claims.

You’ll cover other things too, but answer these basic questions in your executive summary:

  • Idea: What’s your business concept? What problem does your business solve? What are your business goals?
  • Product: What’s your product/service and how is it different?
  • Market: Who’s your audience? How will you reach customers?
  • Finance: How much will your idea cost? And if you’re seeking funding, how much money do you need? How much do you expect to earn? If you’ve already started, where is your revenue at now?

create a startup business plan

Step 2: Do your market research homework

The next step in writing a business plan is to conduct market research . This involves gathering information about your target market (or customer persona), your competition, and the industry as a whole. You can use a variety of research methods such as surveys, focus groups, and online research to gather this information. Your method may be formal or more casual, just make sure that you’re getting good data back.

This research will help you to understand the needs of your target market and the potential demand for your product or service—essential aspects of starting and growing a successful business.

Step 3: Set your business goals and objectives

Once you’ve completed your market research, you can begin to define your business goals and objectives. What is the problem you want to solve? What’s your vision for the future? Where do you want to be in a year from now?

Use this step to decide what you want to achieve with your business, both in the short and long term. Try to set SMART goals—specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound benchmarks—that will help you to stay focused and motivated as you build your business.

Step 4: Plan your business strategy

Your business strategy is how you plan to reach your goals and objectives. This includes details on positioning your product or service, marketing and sales strategies, operational plans, and the organizational structure of your small business.

Make sure to include key roles and responsibilities for each team member if you’re in a business entity with multiple people.

Step 5: Describe your product or service

In this section, get into the nitty-gritty of your product or service. Go into depth regarding the features, benefits, target market, and any patents or proprietary tech you have. Make sure to paint a clear picture of what sets your product apart from the competition—and don’t forget to highlight any customer benefits.

Step 6: Crunch the numbers

Financial analysis is an essential part of your business plan. If you’re already in business that includes your profit and loss statement , cash flow statement and balance sheet .

These financial projections will give investors and lenders an understanding of the financial health of your business and the potential return on investment.

You may want to work with a financial professional to ensure your financial projections are realistic and accurate.

Step 7: Finalize your business plan

Once you’ve completed everything, it's time to finalize your business plan. This involves reviewing and editing your plan to ensure that it is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

You should also have someone else review your plan to get a fresh perspective and identify any areas that may need improvement. You could even work with a free SCORE mentor on your business plan or use a SCORE business plan template for more detailed guidance.

Compare the Top Small-Business Banks

$0.00

$0.00

$0.00

$10.00 (waivable)

$0.00

Data effective 1/10/23. At publishing time, rates, fees, and requirements are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

The takeaway

Writing a business plan is an essential process for any forward-thinking entrepreneur or business owner. A business plan requires a lot of up-front research, planning, and attention to detail, but it’s worthwhile. Creating a comprehensive business plan can help you achieve your business goals and secure the funding you need.

Related content

  • 5 Best Business Plan Software and Tools in 2023 for Your Small Business
  • How to Get a Business License: What You Need to Know
  • What Is a Cash Flow Statement?

Best Small Business Loans

Upstart Personal Loans Review

5202 W Douglas Corrigan Way Salt Lake City, UT 84116

Accounting & Payroll

Point of Sale

Payment Processing

Inventory Management

Human Resources

Other Services

Best Inventory Management Software

Best Small Business Accounting Software

Best Payroll Software

Best Mobile Credit Card Readers

Best POS Systems

Best Tax Software

Stay updated on the latest products and services anytime anywhere.

By signing up, you agree to our Terms of Use  and  Privacy Policy .

Disclaimer: The information featured in this article is based on our best estimates of pricing, package details, contract stipulations, and service available at the time of writing. All information is subject to change. Pricing will vary based on various factors, including, but not limited to, the customer’s location, package chosen, added features and equipment, the purchaser’s credit score, etc. For the most accurate information, please ask your customer service representative. Clarify all fees and contract details before signing a contract or finalizing your purchase.

Our mission is to help consumers make informed purchase decisions. While we strive to keep our reviews as unbiased as possible, we do receive affiliate compensation through some of our links. This can affect which services appear on our site and where we rank them. Our affiliate compensation allows us to maintain an ad-free website and provide a free service to our readers. For more information, please see our  Privacy Policy Page . |

© Business.org 2024 All Rights Reserved.

  • Design for Business
  • Most Recent
  • Presentations
  • Infographics
  • Data Visualizations
  • Forms and Surveys
  • Video & Animation
  • Case Studies
  • Digital Marketing
  • Design Inspiration
  • Visual Thinking
  • Product Updates
  • Visme Webinars
  • Artificial Intelligence

How to Write a Business Plan: Beginner’s Guide (& Templates)

How to Write a Business Plan: Beginner’s Guide (& Templates)

Written by: Chloe West

An illustration showing a woman standing in front of a folder containing her business plan.

Thinking about starting a business? One of the first steps you’ll need to take is to write a business plan. A business plan can help guide you through your financial planning, marketing strategy, unique selling point and more.

Making sure you start your new business off on the right foot is key, and we’re here to help. We’ve put together this guide to help you write your first business plan. Or, you can skip the guide and dive right into a business plan template .

Ready to get started?

Here’s a short selection of 8 easy-to-edit business plan templates you can edit, share and download with Visme. View more templates below:

create a startup business plan

8-Step Process for Writing a Business Plan

What is a business plan, why is a business plan important, step #1: write your executive summary, step #2: put together your company description, step #3: conduct your market analysis, step #4: research your competition, step #5: outline your products or services, step #6: summarize your financial plan, step #7: determine your marketing strategy, step #8: showcase your organizational chart, 14 business plan templates to help you get started.

A business plan is a document that helps potential new business owners flesh out their business idea and put together a bird’s eye view of their business. Writing a business plan is an essential step in any startup’s ideation process.

Business plans help determine demographics, market analysis, competitive analysis, financial projections, new products or services, and so much more.

Each of these bits of information are important to have on hand when you’re trying to start a business or pitching investors for funds.

Here’s an example of a business plan that you can customize to incorporate your own business information.

A business plan template available to customize with your own information in Visme.

We’re going to walk you through some of the most important parts of your business plan as well as how to write your own business plan in 8 easy steps.

If you’re in the beginning stages of starting a business , you might be wondering if it’s really worth your time to write out your business plan. 

We’re here to tell you that it is.

A business plan is important for a number of reasons, but mostly because it helps to set you up for success right from the start.

Here are four reasons to prove to you why you need to start your business off on the right foot with a plan.

Reason #1: Set Realistic Goals and Milestones

Putting together a business plan helps you to set your objectives for growth and make realistic goals while you begin your business. 

By laying out each of the steps you need to take in order to build a successful business, you’re able to be more reasonable about what your timeline is for achieving everything as well as what your financial projections are.

The best way to set goals is using the SMART goals guidelines, outlined below.

An infographic on creating smart goals.

Reason #2: Grow Your Business Faster

Having a business plan helps you be more organized and strategic, improving the overall performance of your business as you start out. In fact, one study found that businesses with a plan grow 30% faster than businesses that don’t.

Doesn’t that sound reason enough alone to start out your business venture with a solidified plan? We thought so too, but we’ve still got two more reasons.

Reason #3: Minimize Risk

Starting a new business is uncharted territory. However, when you start with a roadmap for your journey, it makes it easier to see success and minimize the risks that come with startups.

Minimize risk and maximize profitability by documenting the most important parts of your business planning.

Reason #4: Secure Funding

And finally, our last reason that business plans are so important is that if you plan to pitch investors for funding for your new venture, they’re almost always going to want to see a detailed business plan before deciding whether or not to invest.

You can easily create your business plan and investor pitch deck right here with Visme. Just sign up for a free account below to get started. 

Hey executives! Looking to cut design costs?

  • Spend less time on presentations and more time strategizing
  • Ensure your brand looks and feels visually consistent across all your organization's documents
  • Impress clients and stakeholders with boardroom ready presentations

Sign up. It’s free.

create a startup business plan

The executive summary is a brief overview of your entire business plan, giving anyone who reads through your document a quick understanding of what they’re going to learn about your business idea.

However, you need to remember that some of the people who are going to read your business plan don’t want to or have time to read the entire thing. So your executive summary needs to incorporate all of the most important aspects of your plan.

Here’s an example of an executive summary from a business plan template you can customize and turn into your own.

An executive summary page from a business plan template.

Your executive summary should include:

  • Key objective(s)
  • Market research
  • Competitor information
  • Products/services
  • Value proposition
  • Overview of your financial plan
  • How you’re going to actually start your business

One thing to note is that you should actually write your executive summary after the rest of your business plan so that you can properly summarize everything you’ve already created.

So at this point, simply leave a page blank for your executive summary so you can come back to it at the end of your business plan.

An executive summary section of a business plan.

The next step is to write out a full description of your business and its core offerings. This section of your business plan should include your mission statement and objectives, along with your company history or overview.

In this section, you may also briefly describe your business formation details from a legal perspective.

Mission Statement

Don’t spend too much time trying to craft this. Your mission statement is a simple “why” you started this business. What are you trying to achieve? Or what does your business solve?

This can be anything from one single quote or a paragraph, but it doesn’t need to be much longer than that. In fact, this could be very similar to your value proposition.

A mission statement page from a business plan template.

What are your goals? What do you plan to achieve in the first 90 days or one year of your business? What kind of impact do you hope to make on the market?

These are all good points to include in your objectives section so anyone reading your business plan knows upfront what you hope to achieve.

History or Overview

If you’re not launching a brand new business or if you’ve previously worked on another iteration of this business, let potential investors know the history of your company.

If not, simply provide an overview of your business, sharing what it does or what it will do.

A business overview page from a business plan template.

Your third step is to conduct a market analysis so you know how your business will fit into its target market. This page in your business plan is simply meant to summarize your findings. Most of your time should be spent actually doing the research.

Your market analysis needs to look at things like:

  • Market size, and if it’s grown in recent years or shrinking
  • The segment of the market you plan to target
  • Demographics and behavior of your target audience
  • The demand for your product or service
  • Your competitive advantage or differentiation strategy
  • The average price of your product or service

Put together a summary of your market analysis and industry research in a 1-2 page format, like we see below.

A market analysis page in a business plan template.

Your next step is to conduct a competitive analysis. While you likely touched on this briefly during your market analysis, now is the time to do a deep dive so that you have a good grasp on what your competitors are doing and how they are generating customers.

Start by creating a profile of all your existing competitors, or at the very least, your closest competitors – the ones who are offering very similar products or services to you, or are in a similar vicinity (if you’re opening a brick and mortar store).

Focus on their strengths and what they’re doing really well so that you can emulate their best qualities in your own way. Then, look at their weaknesses and what your business can do better.

Take note of their current marketing strategy, including the outlets you see a presence, whether it’s on social media, you hear a radio ad, you see a TV ad, etc. You won’t always find all of their marketing channels, but see what you can find online and on their website.

A competitive analysis page in a business plan template.

After this, take a minute to identify potential competitors based on markets you might try out in the future, products or services you plan to add to your offerings, and more.

Then put together a page or two in your business plan that highlights your competitive advantage and how you’ll be successful breaking into the market.

Step five is to dedicate a page to the products or services that your business plans to offer.

Put together a quick list and explanation of what each of the initial product or service offerings will be, but steer clear of industry jargon or buzzwords. This should be written in plain language so anyone reading has a full understanding of what your business will do.

A products and services page in a business plan template.

You can have a simple list like we see in the sample page above, or you can dive a little deeper. Depending on your type of business, it might be a good idea to provide additional information about what each product or service entails.

The next step is to work on the financial data of your new business. What will your overhead be? How will your business make money? What are your estimated expenses and profits over the first few months to a year? The expenses should cover all the spending whether they are recurring costs or just one-time LLC filing fees .

There is so much that goes into your financial plan for a new business, so this is going to take some time to compile. Especially because this section of your business plan helps potential cofounders or investors understand if the idea is even viable.

A financial analysis page from a business plan template.

Your financial plan should include at least five major sections:

  • Sales Forecast: The first thing you want to include is a forecast or financial projection of how much you think your business can sell over the next year or so. Break this down into the different products, services or facets of your business.
  • Balance Sheet: This section is essentially a statement of your company’s financial position. It includes existing assets, liabilities and equity to demonstrate the company’s overall financial health.
  • Income Statement: Also known as a profit and loss statement (P&L), this covers your projected expenses and revenue, showcasing whether your business will be profitable or not.
  • Operating Budget: A detailed outline of your business’s income and expenses. This should showcase that your business is bringing in more than it’s spending.
  • Cash Flow Statements: This tracks how much cash your business has at any given point, regardless of whether customers or clients have paid their bills or have 30-60+ days to do so.

While these are the most common financial statements, you may discover that there are other sections that you want to include or that lenders may want to see from you.

You can automate the process of looking through your documents with an OCR API , which will collect the data from all your financial statements and invoices.

The next step is coming up with a successful marketing plan so that you can actually get the word out about your business. 

Throughout your business plan, you’ve already researched your competitors and your target market, both of which are major components of a good marketing strategy. You need to know who you’re marketing to, and you want to do it better than your competition.

A marketing plan page from a business plan template.

On this page or throughout this section of your business plan, you need to focus on your chosen marketing channels and the types of marketing content you plan to create.

Start by taking a look at the channels that your competitors are on and make sure you have a good understanding of the demographics of each channel as well. You don’t want to waste time on a marketing channel that your target audience doesn’t use.

Then, create a list of each of your planned marketing avenues. It might look something like:

  • Social media ( Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest)
  • Email newsletter
  • Digital ads

Depending on the type of business you’re starting, this list could change quite a bit — and that’s okay. There is no one-size-fits-all marketing strategy, and you need to find the one that brings in the highest number of potential customers.

Your last section will be all about your leadership and management team members. Showcasing that you have a solid team right from the start can make potential investors feel better about funding your venture.

You can easily put together an organizational chart like the one below, with the founder/CEO at the top and each of your team leaders underneath alongside the department they’re in charge of.

An organizational chart template available in Visme.

Simply add an organizational chart like this as a page into your overall business plan and make sure it matches the rest of your design to create a cohesive document.

If you want to create a good business plan that sets your new business up for success and attracts new investors, it’s a good idea to start with a template. 

We’ve got 14 options below from a variety of different industries for you to choose from. You can customize every aspect of each template to fit your business branding and design preferences.

Template #1: Photography Business Plan Template

A photography business plan template available in Visme.

This feminine and minimalistic business plan template is perfect for getting started with any kind of creative business. Utilize this template to help outline the step-by-step process of getting your new business idea up and running.

Template #2: Real Estate Business Plan Template

A real estate business plan template available in Visme.

Looking for a more modern business plan design? This template is perfect for plainly laying out each of your business plans in an easy-to-understand format. Adjust the red accents with your business’s colors to personalize this template.

Template #3: Nonprofit Business Plan Template

A nonprofit business plan template available in Visme.

Creating a business and marketing plan for your nonprofit is still an essential step when you’re just starting out. You need to get the word out to increase donations and awareness for your cause.

Template #4: Restaurant Business Plan Template

A restaurant business plan template available in Visme.

If your business plan needs to rely heavily on showcasing photos of your products (like food), this template is perfect for you. Get potential investors salivating at the sight of your business plan, and they’re sure to provide the capital you need.

Template #5: Fashion Business Plan Template

A fashion business plan template available to customize in Visme.

Serifs are in. Utilize this template with stunning serif as all the headers to create a contemporary and trendy business plan design that fits your business. Adjust the colors to match your brand and easily input your own content.

Template #6: Daycare Business Plan Template

A daycare business plan template available in Visme.

Creating a more kid-friendly or playful business? This business plan template has bold colors and design elements that will perfectly represent your business and its mission. 

Use the pages you need, and remove any that you don’t. You can also duplicate pages and move the elements around to add even more content to your business plan.

Template #7: Consulting Business Plan Template

A consulting business plan template available in Visme.

This classic business plan template is perfect for a consulting business that wants to use a stunning visual design to talk about its services.

Template #8: Coffee Shop Business Plan Template

A coffee shop business plan template available in Visme.

Customize this coffee shop business plan template to match your own business idea. Adjust the colors to fit your brand or industry, replace photos with your own photography or stock photos that represent your business, and insert your own logo, fonts and colors throughout.

Template #9: SaaS Business Plan Template

A SaaS business plan template available in Visme.

A SaaS or service-based company also needs a solid business plan that lays out its financials, list of services, target market and more. This template is the perfect starting point.

Template #10: Small Business Plan Template

A small business plan template available in Visme.

Every startup or small business needs to start out with a strong business plan in order to start off on the right foot and set yourself up for success. This template is an excellent starting point for any small business.

Template #11: Ecommerce Business Plan Template

An ecommerce business plan template available in Visme.

An ecommerce business plan is ideal for planning out your pricing strategy of all of your online products, as well as the site you plan to use for setting up your store, whether WordPress, Shopify, Wix or something else.

Template #12: Startup Business Plan Template

A startup business plan template available in Visme.

Customize this template and make it your own! Edit and Download  

This is another generic business plan template for any type of startup to customize. Switch out the content, fonts and colors to match your startup branding and increase brand equity.

Template #13: One-Page Business Plan Template

A single page business plan template available in Visme.

Want just a quick business plan to get your idea going before you bite the bullet and map out your entire plan? This one-page template is perfect for those just starting to flesh out a new business idea.

Template #14: Salon Business Plan Template

A salon business plan template available in Visme.

This salon business plan template is easy on the design and utilizes a light color scheme to put more focus on the actual content. You can use the design as is or keep it as a basis for your own design elements.

Create Your Own Business Plan Today

Ready to write your business plan? Once you’ve created all of the most important sections, get started with a business plan template to really wow your investors and organize your startup plan.

Design beautiful visual content you can be proud of.

create a startup business plan

Trusted by leading brands

Capterra

Recommended content for you:

12 Customer Success Software to Help Your Business in 2024

Create Stunning Content!

Design visual brand experiences for your business whether you are a seasoned designer or a total novice.

create a startup business plan

About the Author

Chloe West is the content marketing manager at Visme. Her experience in digital marketing includes everything from social media, blogging, email marketing to graphic design, strategy creation and implementation, and more. During her spare time, she enjoys exploring her home city of Charleston with her son.

create a startup business plan

How to make a business plan

Strategic planning in Miro

Table of Contents

How to make a good business plan: step-by-step guide.

A business plan is a strategic roadmap used to navigate the challenging journey of entrepreneurship. It's the foundation upon which you build a successful business.

A well-crafted business plan can help you define your vision, clarify your goals, and identify potential problems before they arise.

But where do you start? How do you create a business plan that sets you up for success?

This article will explore the step-by-step process of creating a comprehensive business plan.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a formal document that outlines a business's objectives, strategies, and operational procedures. It typically includes the following information about a company:

Products or services

Target market

Competitors

Marketing and sales strategies

Financial plan

Management team

A business plan serves as a roadmap for a company's success and provides a blueprint for its growth and development. It helps entrepreneurs and business owners organize their ideas, evaluate the feasibility, and identify potential challenges and opportunities.

As well as serving as a guide for business owners, a business plan can attract investors and secure funding. It demonstrates the company's understanding of the market, its ability to generate revenue and profits, and its strategy for managing risks and achieving success.

Business plan vs. business model canvas

A business plan may seem similar to a business model canvas, but each document serves a different purpose.

A business model canvas is a high-level overview that helps entrepreneurs and business owners quickly test and iterate their ideas. It is often a one-page document that briefly outlines the following:

Key partnerships

Key activities

Key propositions

Customer relationships

Customer segments

Key resources

Cost structure

Revenue streams

On the other hand, a Business Plan Template provides a more in-depth analysis of a company's strategy and operations. It is typically a lengthy document and requires significant time and effort to develop.

A business model shouldn’t replace a business plan, and vice versa. Business owners should lay the foundations and visually capture the most important information with a Business Model Canvas Template . Because this is a fast and efficient way to communicate a business idea, a business model canvas is a good starting point before developing a more comprehensive business plan.

A business plan can aim to secure funding from investors or lenders, while a business model canvas communicates a business idea to potential customers or partners.

Why is a business plan important?

A business plan is crucial for any entrepreneur or business owner wanting to increase their chances of success.

Here are some of the many benefits of having a thorough business plan.

Helps to define the business goals and objectives

A business plan encourages you to think critically about your goals and objectives. Doing so lets you clearly understand what you want to achieve and how you plan to get there.

A well-defined set of goals, objectives, and key results also provides a sense of direction and purpose, which helps keep business owners focused and motivated.

Guides decision-making

A business plan requires you to consider different scenarios and potential problems that may arise in your business. This awareness allows you to devise strategies to deal with these issues and avoid pitfalls.

With a clear plan, entrepreneurs can make informed decisions aligning with their overall business goals and objectives. This helps reduce the risk of making costly mistakes and ensures they make decisions with long-term success in mind.

Attracts investors and secures funding

Investors and lenders often require a business plan before considering investing in your business. A document that outlines the company's goals, objectives, and financial forecasts can help instill confidence in potential investors and lenders.

A well-written business plan demonstrates that you have thoroughly thought through your business idea and have a solid plan for success.

Identifies potential challenges and risks

A business plan requires entrepreneurs to consider potential challenges and risks that could impact their business. For example:

Is there enough demand for my product or service?

Will I have enough capital to start my business?

Is the market oversaturated with too many competitors?

What will happen if my marketing strategy is ineffective?

By identifying these potential challenges, entrepreneurs can develop strategies to mitigate risks and overcome challenges. This can reduce the likelihood of costly mistakes and ensure the business is well-positioned to take on any challenges.

Provides a basis for measuring success

A business plan serves as a framework for measuring success by providing clear goals and financial projections . Entrepreneurs can regularly refer to the original business plan as a benchmark to measure progress. By comparing the current business position to initial forecasts, business owners can answer questions such as:

Are we where we want to be at this point?

Did we achieve our goals?

If not, why not, and what do we need to do?

After assessing whether the business is meeting its objectives or falling short, business owners can adjust their strategies as needed.

How to make a business plan step by step

The steps below will guide you through the process of creating a business plan and what key components you need to include.

1. Create an executive summary

Start with a brief overview of your entire plan. The executive summary should cover your business plan's main points and key takeaways.

Keep your executive summary concise and clear with the Executive Summary Template . The simple design helps readers understand the crux of your business plan without reading the entire document.

2. Write your company description

Provide a detailed explanation of your company. Include information on what your company does, the mission statement, and your vision for the future.

Provide additional background information on the history of your company, the founders, and any notable achievements or milestones.

3. Conduct a market analysis

Conduct an in-depth analysis of your industry, competitors, and target market. This is best done with a SWOT analysis to identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Next, identify your target market's needs, demographics, and behaviors.

Use the Competitive Analysis Template to brainstorm answers to simple questions like:

What does the current market look like?

Who are your competitors?

What are they offering?

What will give you a competitive advantage?

Who is your target market?

What are they looking for and why?

How will your product or service satisfy a need?

These questions should give you valuable insights into the current market and where your business stands.

4. Describe your products and services

Provide detailed information about your products and services. This includes pricing information, product features, and any unique selling points.

Use the Product/Market Fit Template to explain how your products meet the needs of your target market. Describe what sets them apart from the competition.

5. Design a marketing and sales strategy

Outline how you plan to promote and sell your products. Your marketing strategy and sales strategy should include information about your:

Pricing strategy

Advertising and promotional tactics

Sales channels

The Go to Market Strategy Template is a great way to visually map how you plan to launch your product or service in a new or existing market.

6. Determine budget and financial projections

Document detailed information on your business’ finances. Describe the current financial position of the company and how you expect the finances to play out.

Some details to include in this section are:

Startup costs

Revenue projections

Profit and loss statement

Funding you have received or plan to receive

Strategy for raising funds

7. Set the organization and management structure

Define how your company is structured and who will be responsible for each aspect of the business. Use the Business Organizational Chart Template to visually map the company’s teams, roles, and hierarchy.

As well as the organization and management structure, discuss the legal structure of your business. Clarify whether your business is a corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship, or LLC.

8. Make an action plan

At this point in your business plan, you’ve described what you’re aiming for. But how are you going to get there? The Action Plan Template describes the following steps to move your business plan forward. Outline the next steps you plan to take to bring your business plan to fruition.

Types of business plans

Several types of business plans cater to different purposes and stages of a company's lifecycle. Here are some of the most common types of business plans.

Startup business plan

A startup business plan is typically an entrepreneur's first business plan. This document helps entrepreneurs articulate their business idea when starting a new business.

Not sure how to make a business plan for a startup? It’s pretty similar to a regular business plan, except the primary purpose of a startup business plan is to convince investors to provide funding for the business. A startup business plan also outlines the potential target market, product/service offering, marketing plan, and financial projections.

Strategic business plan

A strategic business plan is a long-term plan that outlines a company's overall strategy, objectives, and tactics. This type of strategic plan focuses on the big picture and helps business owners set goals and priorities and measure progress.

The primary purpose of a strategic business plan is to provide direction and guidance to the company's management team and stakeholders. The plan typically covers a period of three to five years.

Operational business plan

An operational business plan is a detailed document that outlines the day-to-day operations of a business. It focuses on the specific activities and processes required to run the business, such as:

Organizational structure

Staffing plan

Production plan

Quality control

Inventory management

Supply chain

The primary purpose of an operational business plan is to ensure that the business runs efficiently and effectively. It helps business owners manage their resources, track their performance, and identify areas for improvement.

Growth-business plan

A growth-business plan is a strategic plan that outlines how a company plans to expand its business. It helps business owners identify new market opportunities and increase revenue and profitability. The primary purpose of a growth-business plan is to provide a roadmap for the company's expansion and growth.

The 3 Horizons of Growth Template is a great tool to identify new areas of growth. This framework categorizes growth opportunities into three categories: Horizon 1 (core business), Horizon 2 (emerging business), and Horizon 3 (potential business).

One-page business plan

A one-page business plan is a condensed version of a full business plan that focuses on the most critical aspects of a business. It’s a great tool for entrepreneurs who want to quickly communicate their business idea to potential investors, partners, or employees.

A one-page business plan typically includes sections such as business concept, value proposition, revenue streams, and cost structure.

Best practices for how to make a good business plan

Here are some additional tips for creating a business plan:

Use a template

A template can help you organize your thoughts and effectively communicate your business ideas and strategies. Starting with a template can also save you time and effort when formatting your plan.

Miro’s extensive library of customizable templates includes all the necessary sections for a comprehensive business plan. With our templates, you can confidently present your business plans to stakeholders and investors.

Be practical

Avoid overestimating revenue projections or underestimating expenses. Your business plan should be grounded in practical realities like your budget, resources, and capabilities.

Be specific

Provide as much detail as possible in your business plan. A specific plan is easier to execute because it provides clear guidance on what needs to be done and how. Without specific details, your plan may be too broad or vague, making it difficult to know where to start or how to measure success.

Be thorough with your research

Conduct thorough research to fully understand the market, your competitors, and your target audience . By conducting thorough research, you can identify potential risks and challenges your business may face and develop strategies to mitigate them.

Get input from others

It can be easy to become overly focused on your vision and ideas, leading to tunnel vision and a lack of objectivity. By seeking input from others, you can identify potential opportunities you may have overlooked.

Review and revise regularly

A business plan is a living document. You should update it regularly to reflect market, industry, and business changes. Set aside time for regular reviews and revisions to ensure your plan remains relevant and effective.

Create a winning business plan to chart your path to success

Starting or growing a business can be challenging, but it doesn't have to be. Whether you're a seasoned entrepreneur or just starting, a well-written business plan can make or break your business’ success.

The purpose of a business plan is more than just to secure funding and attract investors. It also serves as a roadmap for achieving your business goals and realizing your vision. With the right mindset, tools, and strategies, you can develop a visually appealing, persuasive business plan.

Ready to make an effective business plan that works for you? Check out our library of ready-made strategy and planning templates and chart your path to success.

Get on board in seconds

Join thousands of teams using Miro to do their best work yet.

create a startup business plan

Small Business Trends

How to create a business plan: examples & free template.

This guide has been designed to help you create a winning plan that stands out in the ever-evolving marketplace. U sing real-world examples and a free downloadable template, it will walk you through each step of the process.

Table of Contents

How to Write a Business Plan

Executive summary.

The Executive Summary serves as the gateway to your business plan, offering a snapshot of your venture’s core aspects. This section should captivate and inform, succinctly summarizing the essence of your plan.

Example: EcoTech is a technology company specializing in eco-friendly and sustainable products designed to reduce energy consumption and minimize waste. Our mission is to create innovative solutions that contribute to a cleaner, greener environment.

Overview and Business Objectives

This part of the plan demonstrates to investors and stakeholders your vision for growth and the practical steps you’ll take to get there.

Company Description

Include information about the company’s founders, their expertise, and why they are suited to lead the business to success. This section should paint a vivid picture of your business, its values, and its place in the industry.

Define Your Target Market

Example: Our target market comprises environmentally conscious consumers and businesses looking for innovative solutions to reduce their carbon footprint. Our ideal customers are those who prioritize sustainability and are willing to invest in eco-friendly products.

Market Analysis

Our research indicates a gap in the market for high-quality, innovative eco-friendly technology products that cater to both individual and business clients.

SWOT Analysis

Competitive analysis.

In this section, you’ll analyze your competitors in-depth, examining their products, services, market positioning, and pricing strategies. Understanding your competition allows you to identify gaps in the market and tailor your offerings to outperform them.

Organization and Management Team

Example: EcoTech’s organizational structure comprises the following key roles: CEO, CTO, CFO, Sales Director, Marketing Director, and R&D Manager. Our management team has extensive experience in technology, sustainability, and business development, ensuring that we are well-equipped to execute our business plan successfully.

Products and Services Offered

Marketing and sales strategy.

Describe the nature of your advertising campaigns and promotional activities, explaining how they will capture the attention of your target audience and convey the value of your products or services. Outline your sales strategy, including your sales process, team structure, and sales targets.

Logistics and Operations Plan

Inventory control is another crucial aspect, where you explain strategies for inventory management to ensure efficiency and reduce wastage. The section should also describe your production processes, emphasizing scalability and adaptability to meet changing market demands.

Financial Projections Plan

In the Financial Projections Plan, lay out a clear and realistic financial future for your business. This should include detailed projections for revenue, costs, and profitability over the next three to five years.

Income Statement

The income statement , also known as the profit and loss statement, provides a summary of your company’s revenues and expenses over a specified period. It helps you track your business’s financial performance and identify trends, ensuring you stay on track to achieve your financial goals.

Cash Flow Statement

SectionDescriptionExample
Executive SummaryBrief overview of the business planOverview of EcoTech and its mission
Overview & ObjectivesOutline of company's goals and strategiesMarket leadership in sustainable technology
Company DescriptionDetailed explanation of the company and its unique selling propositionEcoTech's history, mission, and vision
Target MarketDescription of ideal customers and their needsEnvironmentally conscious consumers and businesses
Market AnalysisExamination of industry trends, customer needs, and competitorsTrends in eco-friendly technology market
SWOT AnalysisEvaluation of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and ThreatsStrengths and weaknesses of EcoTech
Competitive AnalysisIn-depth analysis of competitors and their strategiesAnalysis of GreenTech and EarthSolutions
Organization & ManagementOverview of the company's structure and management teamKey roles and team members at EcoTech
Products & ServicesDescription of offerings and their unique featuresEnergy-efficient lighting solutions, solar chargers
Marketing & SalesOutline of marketing channels and sales strategiesDigital advertising, content marketing, influencer partnerships
Logistics & OperationsDetails about daily operations, supply chain, inventory, and quality controlPartnerships with manufacturers, quality control
Financial ProjectionsForecast of revenue, expenses, and profit for the next 3-5 yearsProjected growth in revenue and net profit
Income StatementSummary of company's revenues and expenses over a specified periodRevenue, Cost of Goods Sold, Gross Profit, Net Income
Cash Flow StatementOverview of cash inflows and outflows within the businessNet Cash from Operating Activities, Investing Activities, Financing Activities

Tips on Writing a Business Plan

3. Set realistic goals: Your business plan should outline achievable objectives that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). Setting realistic goals demonstrates your understanding of the market and increases the likelihood of success.

FREE Business Plan Template

To help you get started on your business plan, we have created a template that includes all the essential components discussed in the “How to Write a Business Plan” section. This easy-to-use template will guide you through each step of the process, ensuring you don’t miss any critical details.

What is a Business Plan?

Why you should write a business plan, what are the different types of business plans.

In today’s fast-paced business world, having a well-structured roadmap is more important than ever. A traditional business plan provides a comprehensive overview of your company’s goals and strategies, helping you make informed decisions and achieve long-term success. There are various types of business plans, each designed to suit different needs and purposes. Let’s explore the main types:

Type of Business PlanPurposeKey ComponentsTarget Audience
Startup Business PlanOutlines the company's mission, objectives, target market, competition, marketing strategies, and financial projections.Mission Statement, Company Description, Market Analysis, Competitive Analysis, Organizational Structure, Marketing and Sales Strategy, Financial Projections.Entrepreneurs, Investors
Internal Business PlanServes as a management tool for guiding the company's growth, evaluating its progress, and ensuring that all departments are aligned with the overall vision.Strategies, Milestones, Deadlines, Resource Allocation.Internal Team Members
Strategic Business PlanOutlines long-term goals and the steps to achieve them.SWOT Analysis, Market Research, Competitive Analysis, Long-Term Goals.Executives, Managers, Investors
Feasibility Business PlanAssesses the viability of a business idea.Market Demand, Competition, Financial Projections, Potential Obstacles.Entrepreneurs, Investors
Growth Business PlanFocuses on strategies for scaling up an existing business.Market Analysis, New Product/Service Offerings, Financial Projections.Business Owners, Investors
Operational Business PlanOutlines the company's day-to-day operations.Processes, Procedures, Organizational Structure.Managers, Employees
Lean Business PlanA simplified, agile version of a traditional plan, focusing on key elements.Value Proposition, Customer Segments, Revenue Streams, Cost Structure.Entrepreneurs, Startups
One-Page Business PlanA concise summary of your company's key objectives, strategies, and milestones.Key Objectives, Strategies, Milestones.Entrepreneurs, Investors, Partners
Nonprofit Business PlanOutlines the mission, goals, target audience, fundraising strategies, and budget allocation for nonprofit organizations.Mission Statement, Goals, Target Audience, Fundraising Strategies, Budget.Nonprofit Leaders, Board Members, Donors
Franchise Business PlanFocuses on the franchisor's requirements, as well as the franchisee's goals, strategies, and financial projections.Franchise Agreement, Brand Standards, Marketing Efforts, Operational Procedures, Financial Projections.Franchisors, Franchisees, Investors

Using Business Plan Software

Enloop is a robust business plan software that automatically generates a tailored plan based on your inputs. It provides industry-specific templates, financial forecasting, and a unique performance score that updates as you make changes to your plan. Enloop also offers a free version, making it accessible for businesses on a budget.

SoftwareKey FeaturesUser InterfaceAdditional Features
LivePlanOver 500 sample plans, financial forecasting tools, progress tracking against KPIsUser-friendly, visually appealingAllows creation of professional-looking business plans
UpmetricsCustomizable templates, financial forecasting tools, collaboration capabilitiesSimple and intuitiveProvides a resource library for business planning
BizplanDrag-and-drop builder, modular sections, financial forecasting tools, progress trackingSimple, visually engagingDesigned to simplify the business planning process
EnloopIndustry-specific templates, financial forecasting tools, automatic business plan generation, unique performance scoreRobust, user-friendlyOffers a free version, making it accessible for businesses on a budget
Tarkenton GoSmallBizGuided business plan builder, customizable templates, financial projection toolsUser-friendlyOffers CRM tools, legal document templates, and additional resources for small businesses

Business Plan FAQs

What is a good business plan, what are the 3 main purposes of a business plan, can i write a business plan by myself.

We also have examples for specific industries, including a using food truck business plan , salon business plan , farm business plan , daycare business plan , and restaurant business plan .

Is it possible to create a one-page business plan?

How long should a business plan be, what is a business plan outline, what are the 5 most common business plan mistakes, what questions should be asked in a business plan.

A business plan should address questions such as: What problem does the business solve? Who is the specific target market ? What is the unique selling proposition? What are the company’s objectives? How will it achieve those objectives?

What’s the difference between a business plan and a strategic plan?

How is business planning for a nonprofit different.

How to Write a Business Plan (Plus Examples & Templates)

May 24, 2021

How to Write a Business Plan (Plus Examples & Templates)

Have you ever wondered how to write a business plan step by step? Mike Andes, told us: 

This guide will help you write a business plan to impress investors.

Throughout this process, we’ll get information from Mike Andes, who started Augusta Lawn Care Services when he was 12 and turned it into a franchise with over 90 locations. He has gone on to help others learn how to write business plans and start businesses.  He knows a thing or two about writing  business plans!

We’ll start by discussing the definition of a business plan. Then we’ll discuss how to come up with the idea, how to do the market research, and then the important elements in the business plan format. Keep reading to start your journey!

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is simply a road map of what you are trying to achieve with your business and how you will go about achieving it. It should cover all elements of your business including: 

  • Finding customers
  • Plans for developing a team
  •  Competition
  • Legal structures
  • Key milestones you are pursuing

If you aren’t quite ready to create a business plan, consider starting by reading our business startup guide .

Get a Business Idea

Before you can write a business plan, you have to have a business idea. You may see a problem that needs to be solved and have an idea how to solve it, or you might start by evaluating your interests and skills. 

Mike told us, “The three things I suggest asking yourself when thinking about starting a business are:

  • What am I good at?
  • What would I enjoy doing?
  • What can I get paid for?”

Three adjoining circles about business opportunity

If all three of these questions don’t lead to at least one common answer, it will probably be a much harder road to success. Either there is not much market for it, you won’t be good at it, or you won’t enjoy doing it. 

As Mike told us, “There’s enough stress starting and running a business that if you don’t like it or aren’t good at it, it’s hard to succeed.”

If you’d like to hear more about Mike’s approach to starting a business, check out our YouTube video

Conduct Market Analysis

Market analysis is focused on establishing if there is a target market for your products and services, how large the target market is, and identifying the demographics of people or businesses that would be interested in the product or service. The goal here is to establish how much money your business concept can make.

Product and Service Demand

An image showing product service and demand

A search engine is your best friend when trying to figure out if there is demand for your products and services. Personally, I love using presearch.org because it lets you directly search on a ton of different platforms including Google, Youtube, Twitter, and more. Check out the screenshot for the full list of search options.

With quick web searches, you can find out how many competitors you have, look through their reviews, and see if there are common complaints about the competitors. Bad reviews are a great place to find opportunities to offer better products or services. 

If there are no similar products or services, you may have stumbled upon something new, or there may just be no demand for it. To find out, go talk to your most honest friend about the idea and see what they think. If they tell you it’s dumb or stare at you vacantly, there’s probably no market for it.

You can also conduct a survey through social media to get public opinion on your idea. Using Facebook Business Manager , you could get a feel for who would be interested in your product or service.

 I ran a quick test of how many people between 18-65  you could reach in the U.S. during a week. It returned an estimated 700-2,000 for the total number of leads, which is enough to do a fairly accurate statistical analysis.

Identify Demographics of Target Market

Depending on what type of business you want to run, your target market will be different. The narrower the demographic, the fewer potential customers you’ll have. If you did a survey, you’ll be able to use that data to help define your target audience. Some considerations you’ll want to consider are:

  • Other Interests
  • Marital Status
  • Do they have kids?

Once you have this information, it can help you narrow down your options for location and help define your marketing further. One resource that Mike recommended using is the Census Bureau’s Quick Facts Map . He told us,  

“It helps you quickly evaluate what the best areas are for your business to be located.”

How to Write a Business Plan

Business plan development

Now that you’ve developed your idea a little and established there is a market for it, you can begin writing a business plan. Getting started is easier with the business plan template we created for you to download. I strongly recommend using it as it is updated to make it easier to create an action plan. 

Each of the following should be a section of your business plan:

  • Business Plan Cover Page
  • Table of Contents
  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Description of Products and Services

SWOT Analysis

  • Competitor Data
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Marketing Expenses Strategy 

Pricing Strategy

  • Distribution Channel Assessment
  • Operational Plan
  • Management and Organizational Strategy
  • Financial Statements and/or Financial Projections

We’ll look into each of these. Don’t forget to download our free business plan template (mentioned just above) so you can follow along as we go. 

How to Write a Business Plan Step 1. Create a Cover Page

The first thing investors will see is the cover page for your business plan. Make sure it looks professional. A great cover page shows that you think about first impressions.

A good business plan should have the following elements on a cover page:

  • Professionally designed logo
  • Company name
  • Mission or Vision Statement
  • Contact Info

Basically, think of a cover page for your business plan like a giant business card. It is meant to capture people’s attention but be quickly processed.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 2. Create a Table of Contents

Most people are busy enough that they don’t have a lot of time. Providing a table of contents makes it easy for them to find the pages of your plan that are meaningful to them.

A table of contents will be immediately after the cover page, but you can include it after the executive summary. Including the table of contents immediately after the executive summary will help investors know what section of your business plan they want to review more thoroughly.

Check out Canva’s article about creating a  table of contents . It has a ton of great information about creating easy access to each section of your business plan. Just remember that you’ll want to use different strategies for digital and hard copy business plans.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 3. Write an Executive Summary

A notepad with a written executive summary for business plan writing

An executive summary is where your business plan should catch the readers interest.  It doesn’t need to be long, but should be quick and easy to read.

Mike told us,

How long should an executive summary bein an informal business plan?

For casual use, an executive summary should be similar to an elevator pitch, no more than 150-160 words, just enough to get them interested and wanting more. Indeed has a great article on elevator pitches .  This can also be used for the content of emails to get readers’ attention.

It consists of three basic parts:

  • An introduction to you and your business.
  • What your business is about.
  • A call to action

Example of an informal executive summary 

One of the best elevator pitches I’ve used is:

So far that pitch has achieved a 100% success rate in getting partnerships for the business.

What should I include in an executive summary for investors?

Investors are going to need a more detailed executive summary if you want to secure financing or sell equity. The executive summary should be a brief overview of your entire business plan and include:

  • Introduction of yourself and company.
  • An origin story (Recognition of a problem and how you came to solution)
  • An introduction to your products or services.
  • Your unique value proposition. Make sure to include intellectual property.
  • Where you are in the business life cycle
  • Request and why you need it.

Successful business plan examples

The owner of Urbanity told us he spent 2 months writing a 75-page business plan and received a $250,000 loan from the bank when he was 23. Make your business plan as detailed as possible when looking for financing. We’ve provided a template to help you prepare the portions of a business plan that banks expect.

Here’s the interview with the owner of Urbanity:

When to write an executive summary?

Even though the summary is near the beginning of a business plan, you should write it after you complete the rest of a business plan. You can’t talk about revenue, profits, and expected expenditures if you haven’t done the market research and created a financial plan.

What mistakes do people make when writing an executive summary?

Business owners commonly go into too much detail about the following items in an executive summary:

  • Marketing and sales processes
  • Financial statements
  • Organizational structure
  • Market analysis

These are things that people will want to know later, but they don’t hook the reader. They won’t spark interest in your small business, but they’ll close the deal.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 4. Company Description

Every business plan should include a company description. A great business plan will include the following elements while describing the company:

  • Mission statement
  • Philosophy and vision
  • Company goals

Target market

  • Legal structure

Let’s take a look at what each section includes in a good business plan.

Mission Statement

A mission statement is a brief explanation of why you started the company and what the company’s main focus is. It should be no more than one or two sentences. Check out HubSpot’s article 27 Inspiring Mission Statement for a great read on informative and inspiring mission and vision statements. 

Company Philosophy and Vision

Writing the company philosophy and vision

The company philosophy is what drives your company. You’ll normally hear them called core values.  These are the building blocks that make your company different. You want to communicate your values to customers, business owners, and investors as often as possible to build a company culture, but make sure to back them up.

What makes your company different?

Each company is different. Your new business should rise above the standard company lines of honesty, integrity, fun, innovation, and community when communicating your business values. The standard answers are corporate jargon and lack authenticity. 

Examples of core values

One of my clients decided to add a core values page to their website. As a tech company they emphasized the values:

  •  Prioritize communication.
  •  Never stop learning.
  •  Be transparent.
  •  Start small and grow incrementally.

These values communicate how the owner and the rest of the company operate. They also show a value proposition and competitive advantage because they specifically focus on delivering business value from the start. These values also genuinely show what the company is about and customers recognize the sincerity. Indeed has a great blog about how to identify your core values .

What is a vision statement?

A vision statement communicate the long lasting change a business pursues. The vision helps investors and customers understand what your company is trying to accomplish. The vision statement goes beyond a mission statement to provide something meaningful to the community, customer’s lives, or even the world.

Example vision statements

The Alzheimer’s Association is a great example of a vision statement:

A world without Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementia.

It clearly tells how they want to change the world. A world without Alzheimers might be unachievable, but that means they always have room for improvement.

Business Goals

You have to measure success against goals for a business plan to be meaningful. A business plan helps guide a company similar to how your GPS provides a road map to your favorite travel destination. A goal to make as much money as possible is not inspirational and sounds greedy.

Sure, business owners want to increase their profits and improve customer service, but they need to present an overview of what they consider success. The goals should help everyone prioritize their work.

How far in advance should a business plan?

Business planning should be done at least one year in advance, but many banks and investors prefer three to five year business plans. Longer plans show investors that the management team  understands the market and knows the business is operating in a constantly shifting market. In addition, a plan helps businesses to adjust to changes because they have already considered how to handle them.

Example of great business goals

My all time-favorite long-term company goals are included in Tesla’s Master Plan, Part Deux . These goals were written in 2016 and drive the company’s decisions through 2026. They are the reason that investors are so forgiving when Elon Musk continually fails to meet his quarterly and annual goals.

If the progress aligns with the business plan investors are likely to continue to believe in the company. Just make sure the goals are reasonable or you’ll be discredited (unless you’re Elon Musk).

A man holding an iPad with a cup of coffee on his desk

You did target market research before creating a business plan. Now it’s time to add it to the plan so others understand what your ideal customer looks like. As a new business owner, you may not be considered an expert in your field yet, so document everything. Make sure the references you use are from respectable sources. 

Use information from the specific lender when you are applying for lending. Most lenders provide industry research reports and using their data can strengthen the position of your business plan.

A small business plan should include a section on the external environment. Understanding the industry is crucial because we don’t plan a business in a vacuum. Make sure to research the industry trends, competitors, and forecasts. I personally prefer IBIS World for my business research. Make sure to answer questions like:

  • What is the industry outlook long-term and short-term?
  • How will your business take advantage of projected industry changes and trends?
  • What might happen to your competitors and how will your business successfully compete?

Industry resources

Some helpful resources to help you establish more about your industry are:

  • Trade Associations
  • Federal Reserve
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics

Legal Structure

There are five basic types of legal structures that most people will utilize:

  • Sole proprietorships
  • Limited Liability Companies (LLC)

Partnerships

Corporations.

  • Franchises.

Each business structure has their pros and cons. An LLC is the most common legal structure due to its protection of personal assets and ease of setting up. Make sure to specify how ownership is divided and what roles each owner plays when you have more than one business owner.

You’ll have to decide which structure is best for you, but we’ve gathered information on each to make it easier.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the easiest legal structure to set up but doesn’t protect the owner’s personal assets from legal issues. That means if something goes wrong, you could lose both your company and your home.

To start a sole proprietorship, fill out a special tax form called a  Schedule C . Sole proprietors can also join the American Independent Business Alliance .

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC is the most common business structure used in the United States because an LLC protects the owner’s personal assets. It’s similar to partnerships and corporations, but can be a single-member LLC in most states. An LLC requires a document called an operating agreement.

Each state has different requirements. Here’s a link to find your state’s requirements . Delaware and Nevada are common states to file an LLC because they are really business-friendly. Here’s a blog on the top 10 states to get an LLC.

Partnerships are typically for legal firms. If you choose to use a partnership choose a Limited Liability Partnership. Alternatively, you can just use an LLC.

Corporations are typically for massive organizations. Corporations have taxes on both corporate and income tax so unless you plan on selling stock, you are better off considering an LLC with S-Corp status . Investopedia has good information corporations here .

An iPad with colored pens on a desk

There are several opportunities to purchase successful franchises. TopFranchise.com has a list of companies in a variety of industries that offer franchise opportunities. This makes it where an entrepreneur can benefit from the reputation of an established business that has already worked out many of the kinks of starting from scratch.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 5. Products and Services

This section of the business plan should focus on what you sell, how you source it, and how you sell it. You should include:

  • Unique features that differentiate your business products from competitors
  • Intellectual property
  • Your supply chain
  • Cost and pricing structure 

Questions to answer about your products and services

Mike gave us a list  of the most important questions to answer about your product and services:

  • How will you be selling the product? (in person, ecommerce, wholesale, direct to consumer)?
  • How do you let them know they need a product?
  • How do you communicate the message?
  • How will you do transactions?
  • How much will you be selling it for?
  • How many do you think you’ll sell and why?

Make sure to use the worksheet on our business plan template .

How to Write a Business Plan Step 6. Sales and Marketing Plan

The marketing and sales plan is focused on the strategy to bring awareness to your company and guides how you will get the product to the consumer.  It should contain the following sections:

SWOT Analysis stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Not only do you want to identify them, but you also want to document how the business plans to deal with them.

Business owners need to do a thorough job documenting how their service or product stacks up against the competition.

If proper research isn’t done, investors will be able to tell that the owner hasn’t researched the competition and is less likely to believe that the team can protect its service from threats by the more well-established competition. This is one of the most common parts of a presentation that trips up business owners presenting on Shark Tank .

SWOT Examples

Business plan SWOT analysis

Examples of strengths and weaknesses could be things like the lack of cash flow, intellectual property ownership, high costs of suppliers, and customers’ expectations on shipping times.

Opportunities could be ways to capitalize on your strengths or improve your weaknesses, but may also be gaps in the industry. This includes:

  • Adding offerings that fit with your current small business
  • Increase sales to current customers
  • Reducing costs through bulk ordering
  • Finding ways to reduce inventory
  •  And other areas you can improve

Threats will normally come from outside of the company but could also be things like losing a key member of the team. Threats normally come from competition, regulations, taxes, and unforeseen events.

The management team should use the SWOT analysis to guide other areas of business planning, but it absolutely has to be done before a business owner starts marketing. 

Include Competitor Data in Your Business Plan

When you plan a business, taking into consideration the strengths and weaknesses of the competition is key to navigating the field. Providing an overview of your competition and where they are headed shows that you are invested in understanding the industry.

For smaller businesses, you’ll want to search both the company and the owners names to see what they are working on. For publicly held corporations, you can find their quarterly and annual reports on the SEC website .

What another business plans to do can impact your business. Make sure to include things that might make it attractive for bigger companies to outsource to a small business.

Marketing Strategy

The marketing and sales part of business plans should be focused on how you are going to make potential customers aware of your business and then sell to them.

If you haven’t already included it, Mike recommends:

“They’ll want to know about Demographics, ages, and wealth of your target market.”

Make sure to include the Total addressable market .  The term refers to the value if you captured 100% of the market.

Advertising Strategy

You’ll explain what formats of advertising you’ll be using. Some possibilities are:

  • Online: Facebook and Google are the big names to work with here.
  • Print : Print can be used to reach broad groups or targeted markets. Check out this for tips .
  • Radio : iHeartMedia is one of the best ways to advertise on the radio
  • Cable television : High priced, hard to measure ROI, but here’s an explanation of the process
  • Billboards: Attracting customers with billboards can be beneficial in high traffic areas.

You’ll want to define how you’ll be using each including frequency, duration, and cost. If you have the materials already created, including pictures or links to the marketing to show creative assets.

Mike told us “Most businesses are marketing digitally now due to Covid, but that’s not always the right answer.”

Make sure the marketing strategy will help team members or external marketing agencies stay within the brand guidelines .

An iPad with graph about pricing strategy

This section of a business plan should be focused on pricing. There are a ton of pricing strategies that may work for different business plans. Which one will work for you depends on what kind of a business you run.

Some common pricing strategies are:

  • Value-based pricing – Commonly used with home buying and selling or other products that are status symbols.
  • Skimming pricing – Commonly seen in video game consoles, price starts off high to recoup expenses quickly, then reduces over time.
  • Competition-based pricing – Pricing based on competitors’ pricing is commonly seen at gas stations.
  • Freemium services –  Commonly used for software, where there is a free plan, then purchase options for more functionality.

HubSpot has a great calculator and blog on pricing strategies.

Beyond explaining what strategy your business plans to use, you should include references for how you came to this pricing strategy and how it will impact your cash flow.

Distribution Plan

This part of a business plan is focused on how the product or service is going to go through the supply chain. These may include multiple divisions or multiple companies. Make sure to include any parts of the workflow that are automated so investors can see where cost savings are expected and when.

Supply Chain Examples

For instance, lawn care companies  would need to cover aspects such as:

  • Suppliers for lawn care equipment and tools
  • Any chemicals or treatments needed
  • Repair parts for sprinkler systems
  • Vehicles to transport equipment and employees
  • Insurance to protect the company vehicles and people.

Examples of Supply Chains

These are fairly flat supply chains compared to something like a clothing designer where the clothes would go through multiple vendors. A clothing company might have the following supply chain:

  • Raw materials
  • Shipping of raw materials
  • Converting of raw materials to thread
  • Shipping thread to produce garments
  • Garment producer
  • Shipping to company
  • Company storage
  • Shipping to retail stores

There have been advances such as print on demand that eliminate many of these steps. If you are designing completely custom clothing, all of this would need to be planned to keep from having business disruptions.

The main thing to include in the business plan is the list of suppliers, the path the supply chain follows, the time from order to the customer’s home, and the costs associated with each step of the process.

According to BizPlanReview , a business plan without this information is likely to get rejected because they have failed to research the key elements necessary to make sales to the customer.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 7. Company Organization and Operational Plan

This part of the business plan is focused on how the business model will function while serving customers.  The business plan should provide an overview of  how the team will manage the following aspects:

Quality Control

  • Legal environment

Let’s look at each for some insight.

Production has already been discussed in previous sections so I won’t go into it much. When writing a business plan for investors, try to avoid repetition as it creates a more simple business plan.

If the organizational plan will be used by the team as an overview of how to perform the best services for the customer, then redundancy makes more sense as it communicates what is important to the business.

A wooden stamp with the words "quality control"

Quality control policies help to keep the team focused on how to verify that the company adheres to the business plan and meets or exceeds customer expectations.

Quality control can be anything from a standard that says “all labels on shirts can be no more than 1/16″ off center” to a defined checklist of steps that should be performed and filled out for every customer.

There are a variety of organizations that help define quality control including:

  • International Organization for Standardization – Quality standards for energy, technology, food, production environments, and cybersecurity
  • AICPA – Standard defined for accounting.
  • The Joint Commission – Healthcare
  • ASHRAE – HVAC best practices

You can find lists of the organizations that contribute most to the government regulation of industries on Open Secrets . Research what the leaders in your field are doing. Follow their example and implement it in your quality control plan.

For location, you should use information from the market research to establish where the location will be. Make sure to include the following in the location documentation.

  • The size of your location
  • The type of building (retail, industrial, commercial, etc.)
  • Zoning restrictions – Urban Wire has a good map on how zoning works in each state
  • Accessibility – Does it meet ADA requirements?
  • Costs including rent, maintenance, utilities, insurance and any buildout or remodeling costs
  • Utilities – b.e.f. has a good energy calculator .

Legal Environment

The legal requirement section is focused on defining how to meet the legal requirements for your industry. A good business plan should include all of the following:

  • Any licenses and/or permits that are needed and whether you’ve obtained them
  • Any trademarks, copyrights, or patents that you have or are in the process of applying for
  • The insurance coverage your business requires and how much it costs
  • Any environmental, health, or workplace regulations affecting your business
  • Any special regulations affecting your industry
  • Bonding requirements, if applicable

Your local SBA office can help you establish requirements in your area. I strongly recommend using them. They are a great resource.

Your business plan should include a plan for company organization and hiring. While you may be the only person with the company right now, down the road you’ll need more people. Make sure to consider and document the answers to the following questions:

  • What is the current leadership structure and what will it look like in the future?
  • What types of employees will you have? Are there any licensing or educational requirements?
  • How many employees will you need?
  • Will you ever hire freelancers or independent contractors?
  • What is each position’s job description?
  • What is the pay structure (hourly, salaried, base plus commission, etc.)?
  • How do you plan to find qualified employees and contractors?

One of the most crucial parts of a business plan is the organizational chart. This simply shows the positions the company will need, who is in charge of them and the relationship of each of them. It will look similar to this:

Organization chart

Our small business plan template has a much more in-depth organizational chart you can edit to include when you include the organizational chart in your business plan.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 8. Financial Statements 

No business plan is complete without financial statements or financial projections. The business plan format will be different based on whether you are writing a business plan to expand a business or a startup business plan. Let’s dig deeper into each.

Provide All Financial Income from an Existing Business

An existing business should use their past financial documents including the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement to find trends to estimate the next 3-5 years.

You can create easy trendlines in excel to predict future revenue, profit and loss, cash flow, and other changes in year-over-year performance. This will show your expected performance assuming business continues as normal.

If you are seeking an investment, then the business is probably not going to continue as normal. Depending on the financial plan and the purpose of getting financing, adjustments may be needed to the following:

  • Higher Revenue if expanding business
  • Lower Cost of Goods Sold if purchasing inventory with bulk discounts
  • Adding interest if utilizing financing (not equity deal)
  • Changes in expenses
  • Addition of financing information to the cash flow statement
  • Changes in Earnings per Share on the balance sheet

Financial modeling is a challenging subject, but there are plenty of low-cost courses on the subject. If you need help planning your business financial documentation take some time to watch some of them.

Make it a point to document how you calculated all the changes to the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement in your business plan so that key team members or investors can verify your research.

Financial Projections For A Startup Business Plan

Unlike an existing business, a startup doesn’t have previous success to model its future performance. In this scenario, you need to focus on how to make a business plan realistic through the use of industry research and averages.

Mike gave the following advice in his interview:

Financial Forecasting Mistakes

One of the things a lot of inexperienced people use is the argument, “If I get one percent of the market, it is worth $100 million.” If you use this, investors are likely to file the document under bad business plan examples.

Let’s use custom t-shirts as an example.

Credence Research estimated in 2018 there were 11,334,800,000 custom t-shirts sold for a total of $206.12 Billion, with a 6% compound annual growth rate.

With that data,  you can calculate that the industry will grow to $270 Billion in 2023 and that the average shirt sold creates $18.18 in revenue.

Combine that with an IBIS World estimate of 11,094 custom screen printers and that means even if you become an average seller, you’ll get .009% of the market.

Here’s a table for easier viewing of that information.

A table showing yearly revenue of a business

The point here is to make sure your business proposal examples make sense.

You’ll need to know industry averages such as cost of customer acquisition, revenue per customer, the average cost of goods sold, and admin costs to be able to create accurate estimates.

Our simple business plan templates walk you through most of these processes. If you follow them you’ll have a good idea of how to write a business proposal.

How to Write a Business Plan Step 9. Business Plan Example of Funding Requests

What is a business plan without a plan on how to obtain funding?

The Small Business Administration has an example for a pizza restaurant that theoretically needed nearly $20k to make it through their first month.

In our video, How to Start a $500K/Year T-Shirt Business (Pt. 1 ), Sanford Booth told us he needed about $200,000 to start his franchise and broke even after 4 months.

Freshbooks estimates it takes on average 2-3 years for a business to be profitable, which means the fictitious pizza company from the SBA could need up to $330k to make it through that time and still pay their bills for their home and pizza shop.

Not every business needs that much to start, but realistically it’s a good idea to assume that you need a fairly large cushion.

Ways to get funding for a small business

There are a variety of ways to cover this. the most common are:

  • Bootstrapping – Using your savings without external funding.
  • Taking out debt – loans, credit cards
  • Equity, Seed Funding – Ownership of a percentage of the company in exchange for current funds
  • Crowdsourcing – Promising a good for funding to create the product

Keep reading for more tips on how to write a business plan.

How funding will be used

When asking for business financing make sure to include:

  • How much to get started?
  • What is the minimum viable product and how soon can you make money?
  • How will the money be spent?

Mike emphasized two aspects that should be included in every plan, 

How to Write a Business Plan Resources

Here are some links to a business plan sample and business plan outline. 

  • Sample plan

It’s also helpful to follow some of the leading influencers in the business plan writing community. Here’s a list:

  • Wise Plans –  Shares a lot of information on starting businesses and is a business plan writing company.
  • Optimus Business Plans –  Another business plan writing company.
  • Venture Capital – A venture capital thread that can help give you ideas.

How to Write a Business Plan: What’s Next?

We hope this guide about how to write a simple business plan step by step has been helpful. We’ve covered:

  • The definition of a business plan
  • Coming up with a business idea
  • Performing market research
  • The critical components of a business plan
  • An example business plan

In addition, we provided you with a simple business plan template to assist you in the process of writing your startup business plan. The startup business plan template also includes a business model template that will be the key to your success.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of our business hub .

Have you written a business plan before? How did it impact your ability to achieve your goals?

80% of businesses fail... Learn how not to.

Learn from business failures and successes in 5 min or less. The stories, frameworks, and tactics that will make you a 10x better founder.

create a startup business plan

Brandon Boushy

Related articles

create a startup business plan

The 15 Best HR Outsourcing Companies (2024)

Which HR Tasks Can Be Outsourced?

  • HR Consulting
  • Benefits Administration
  • Time Tracking
  • Insurance Services
  • Performance Management
  • Payroll Administration
  • Bookkeeping
  • Client Management
  • Policy Compliance Management
  • Unemployment Claims
  • Policy Development
  • Staff Training and Coaching
  • Labor Law Compliance
  • Employee Termination
  • Audit and Wage-Claim Assistance
  • Talent Management

SaaS Providers

Business process outsourcing, single source outsourcing, shared services, professional employer organizations.

  • BambooHR - Primarily concerned with hiring, compensation, and analyzing performance. Includes payroll as an additional service.
  • Deputy - Scheduling, time tracking, and labor law compliance. Has a free edition.
  • Gusto - Gusto was PC Mag's 2021 Best HR software payroll selection, but they have software to help with other processes as well.

A white sketchpad and a black pen on a desk

What are the benefits of HR Outsourcing For Small Businesses?

  • Better compliance with federal, state, and local regulations.

Increased growth of the business

  • Potentially reduced cost of administrative services
  • Ability to offer better benefits.

Outsourced HR helps small businesses comply with regulations

Outsourced hr reduces the cost of administrative services.

A group of people at a desk planning on cost reductioin

  • Hire internal HR staff
  • Outsourced human resources

Ability to offer better benefits

IBM Institute of Business Value graph

The cons of HR outsourcing

Hr services do things their way, you might pay for hr tasks you don't need..

  • Outsourcing staff gives you less control of the hiring process

HR companies have consistently poor communication reviews

Questions to ask when talking to hr service companies.

A brown cork board with a torn white paper on top

  • Does your payroll service include time tracking apps to help collect employees' hours and reimbursable expenses?
  • Does your HR technology easily integrate with my current HR systems?
  • Is workers' compensation included in your full-service HR package?
  • What will I need to do to make sure your HR systems and HR department can handle my payroll in the future without me being actively involved?
  • If I have HR-related compliance requests, what process do we have to go through?

Outsourcing HR staff gives you less control of the hiring process

Reviewing hr outsourcing services.

  • Gathered a list of the 16 companies that have been reviewed by top-ranking blogs.
  • Reviewed each company's website and compared it to the 15 services typically offered by HR outsourcing companies (If they offer the service, they get a 100. If unsure, or no, they get a 0).
  • Compared the number of plans they offered with a maximum of 10, then multiplied by 10 get scores ranging from 10-100.
  • As long as the website did not have a major issue, they got an extra 100 points for their website. CPE HR (given a zero for broken links) and G&A Partners (80 because there wasn't additional information where I wanted it) were the only ones penalized.
  • Then I compared reviews on Capterra and Trust Pilot and took whichever had more reviews. I used the calculation, (# of reviews* stars given)/100=Score from 0-100. This step is for purpose of giving extra weight to ones with more reviews.
  • Multiplied average stars by 20 to get a score from zero to 100. This step was to reward the strength of reviews.
  • Added all scores up and divided by 19 to create a score that will range between 0 and 100.

The Best Small Business HR Outsourcing Companies & Services

A lady holding a white card

ADP is the top-ranked company

Hr tasks adp offers:, what makes adp the best hr outsourcing organization:, what is adp the best at.

ADP website and the services they offer

ADP Features, Pricing, and Reviews:

Paychex comes in at number 2, hr tasks paychex offers:, what makes paychex one of the best hr outsourcing organizations, what is paychex the best at.

Paychex website showing their services

Paychex Features, Pricing, and Reviews:

The third best hr outsourcing service is gusto, hr tasks gusto offers:, what makes gusto one of the best hr outsourcing organizations:, what is gusto the best at.

Gusto website and the services they offer

Gusto Features, Pricing, and Reviews:

Insperity takes 4th place, hr services insperity offers:, what is insperity the best at.

Insperity website and the services they offer

Insperity Features, Pricing, and Reviews:

Zenefits rounds out the top 5 hr service businesses, hr services zenefits offers:, what is zenefits the best at.

Zenefit website and the services they offer

Zenefit Features, Pricing, and Reviews:

  • Essentials: $10/mo/employee
  • Growth: $18/mo/employee
  • Zen: $27/mo/employee

The rest of the list

  • G&A Partners - With a score of 88.4, G&A Partners offers all the services as a PEO or mix and match. Lack of reviews on common review sites harmed their rating. If you work in construction or other safety fields they might be best. They also carry the liability for HR decisions, which is great for risk management.
  • CoAdvantage PEO - With a score of 88.4, CoAdvantage is another PEO that appears to offer all the services, but some were hinted at more than specifically covered. They also didn't have any ratings, but a nice referral program.
  • TriNet - TriNet Scored an 85 due to an average of 2.7 stars on 97 ratings, poor disclosure of whether they offer services separately, and only offering some types of insurance. One of the things I liked about TriNet is they claim that when the SSI cap is reached, you pay less. They don't charge more when wages go up though.
  • Oasis Advantage - At a score of 84.7, Oasis Advantage has the 8th best outsourcing services. They are a subsidiary of Paychex so I would just go with Paychex. Once again, ratings were missing and you have to request a quote.-
  • Engage PEO - At a score of 84.7, Engage is another PEO without ratings on common sites. They were middle of the pack when it comes to their options as they primarily offer PEO services with 6 optional benefit plans.
  • Workday - Workday scored an 80.3 with demerits due to lack of insurance, lack of clarity on whether they consult, and numerous reviews saying that people will not work for companies that use Workday. They came in 9th cause their overall ratings are a 4.5, but you have to take care of your employees. Trust Pilot Capterra
  • BambooHR - Bamboo is primarily focused on the hiring process and payments. That's why it received a score of 73.5. It has great reviews though.
  • Bambee - Bambee is a consultant to make sure you follow legal procedures. At $99/mo it is a reasonable price and has great reviews, but you can get this included in other packages. Best if you just want someone to consult with you so you can expand your skills. Their total score was 73.2
  • CPEhr - I honestly don't even want to give you their link because they annoyed me. They have no reviews, they have broken links, and places where there isn't a link that there should be. They scored a 68.4
  • Accenture HR - I feel like Accenture HR scored way lower than it should (36.1), but that's because it is specialized in analytics. If you want better data to manage your HR, use them. You'll need your team or another service though.

Upwork Freelancers

Upwork website for clients and freelancers

HR tasks they will take:

What makes hr freelancers great:, what are hr freelancers the best at, features, pricing, and reviews:.

create a startup business plan

The 77 Best Businesses to Start with $10K (or Less)

Do you want to start your own business but don’t know where to begin? People often wait to start a business because they don’t have the initial investment for their business idea, but you should never wait to invest in your future. We’ll provide businesses to start with $10K or less.

We’ve prepared a list of 70 businesses you can start for under $10K to help you on your path to entrepreneurship. We’ll provide you with ideas, an estimate of the startup costs, and the profit and revenue you can expect to make.

We’ll even share links to new business resources and stories from startup businesses that have done exactly what we’re suggesting. By the end of this blog, you’ll have dozens of affordable startup ideas and know what steps to take to get going.

[su_note note_color="#dbeafc"]

Read it all or click on any of the links to jump to the section that most interests you.

Need help finding your own business ideas?

  • Best online business ideas 2024

Small and local businesses you can start with $10,000

Creative and crafty business ventures to start with $10k.

  • What business can I start with $10K that serves food ?
  • Closing [/su_note]

Keep reading for some of the best businesses to start with $10K.

We’ve created this list of businesses to start based on the ease of getting into each industry. They fall into three main categories:

  • Online businesses
  • No-education-needed businesses
  • Low-cost-education-needed businesses

If your business idea isn’t on the list, that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve it with less than $10,000. Just keep in mind that every great business idea will need:

  • A business license
  • A computer (If you don’t have one, check Amazon’s open-box deals .)
  • Social media

Best online business ideas 202 4

#1 dropshipping: the easiest business idea to start.

• Average Annual Revenue: $36K-$50K • Average Profit Margins: 5% • Startup Cost: $150-$500 • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 25% • Best For: Those who want flexibility and passive income, people with strong digital marketing and social media skills

Dropshipping is the easiest type of business under $10K to start! Just

  • Set up a Shopify account .
  • Connect Printful and social media accounts.
  • Create a few designs.
  • License the business.
  • Start marketing your products for less than $1,000 upfront.

#2 Print-on-demand services

• Average Annual Revenue: $1.6M • Average Profit Margins: 4.3% • Startup Cost: $500-$250K • Time to Revenue: 3+ months • Annual Market Growth Rate: -5.6% • Best For: Visual artists, graphic designers, marketing pros, people who want passive income potential

A print-on-demand online store is a great business idea if you want to sell products with a low initial investment. You don’t need to worry about buying or managing inventory—just create the designs and find customers.

POD selling also has the potential to be a very lucrative business. Heather Johnson started her print-on-demand store with about $30 as a side hustle, and today its revenue is over $15,000 in an average month.

Hear Heather’s advice on getting started in this interview:

#3 eCommerce reselling

• Average Annual Revenue: $60K-$120K • Average Profit Margins: 5-15% • Startup Cost: $100-$1K • Time to Revenue: 30-90 days • Annual Market Growth Rate: -9.3% • Best For: Thrifters, shopaholics, and antiquers with a sharp eye for value

You don’t need to come up with your own products to start an online store. Platforms like eBay make it easy to start a new business as a reseller.

eCommerce reselling is definitely a business you can start with $10,000 or less. All you really need is the initial inventory, and if you’re strapped for cash, you can even start selling things you already own.

That’s what Mike Watson did when he started Golden State Picker. Now, he has a very successful business selling on eBay and earns around $30,000 a month. Hear his story in this interview:

#4 Online business manager

• Average Annual Revenue: $363K+ • Average Profit Margins: 10.3% • Startup Cost: $1K-$100K • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 0.8% • Best For: Organized people with management and leadership experience

We included virtual business management on this list because it utilizes skills many people already have. You just need:

  • Management experience
  • An internet connection

If you want badges to prove your skills, check out Zippia.com’s list of certifications .

Help busy CEOs run their companies remotely and make a great living doing it!

Keep reading for more small business ideas.

#5 YouTube content creator

• Average Annual Revenue: $60K-$160K • Average Profit Margins: 8% • Startup Cost: $100-$2K • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 10.5% • Best For: People with a compelling on-camera presence, digital marketing, and social media skills

Create original YouTube content, get enough views, and become a YouTube Channel Partner. You can earn revenue from:

  • Paid ads - $0.10-$0.30 for each view of a paid ad during your videos
  • Super Chats and Super Stickers - 70% of revenue from both
  • Selling your own merchandise
  • Premium channel memberships
  • Partnering with companies using YouTube BrandConnect to earn money through sponsorships
  • Creating 60-second videos and getting your share of the $100 million YouTube Shorts fund

HubSpot shares the number of subscribers you need to get in the top 100 in different YouTube categories.

Find out how Reyes the Entrepreneur makes $210K a year:

#6 Start a podcast

• Average Annual Revenue: $4M+ • Average Profit Margins: 27.1% • Startup Cost: $0-$5K • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 6.4% • Best For: Bloggers and content creators, people with niche expertise in popular subjects

If you like the idea of a content channel but don’t want to be on camera, you could start a podcast instead.

Podcasts can be monetized much like a YouTube channel. Revenue streams include:

  • Selling ad space and episode sponsorships
  • Selling related merchandise or services
  • Selling online courses
  • Including affiliate marketing links in your podcast description
  • Offering a paid membership

You can find out how Entrepreneurs on Fire makes $150,000 a month in podcast-related revenue in this interview:

#7 Search engine optimization

• Average Annual Revenue: $415K+ • Average Profit Margins: 7.3% • Startup Cost: $500-$5K • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 4.6% • Best For: Writers, web designers, online advertising experts, systems- and data-driven entrepreneurs

You can start doing SEO with free tools to save money and build as you grow.

And there’s plenty of room for growth—top-rated SEO experts make up to $150 an hour .

Search engine optimization is focused on improving website results in search engines through:

  • Keyword research
  • Improving site speed
  • Content marketing
  • Google My Business

If small businesses don’t show up on the first page of a search engine, they need help because they aren’t getting much traffic. Once they get to the first page, their traffic skyrockets. Consider this breakdown:

  • Ads: 1.2-2.1% of traffic
  • 1st place organically: 39.6% of traffic
  • 2nd place organically: 18.4% of traffic
  • 3rd place organically: 10.1% of traffic
  • 5th place organically: 5.1% of traffic
  • 10th place organically: 2.1% of traffic

Master getting a page to #1, and you’ve helped a business capture 20x more traffic…and hopefully 20x more revenue.

#8 Digital marketing consultant

• Average Annual Revenue: $817K • Average Profit Margins: 6.9% • Startup Cost: $100-$10K • Time to Revenue: 1-6 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1.3% • Best For: Social media marketing and online marketing pros with strong communication skills

Digital marketing consultants help businesses get more attention on social media platforms and rank higher with search engines.

There are no formal education requirements, and lots of free education is available. Check out:

  • Grow with Google
  • Facebook Blueprint
  • Hubspot Academy

Check out our interview with Jason Yormark, founder and Chief Social Officer of Socialistics, below.

We still have more businesses to start with $10K. Keep reading!

#9 Social media management

• Average Annual Revenue: $817K • Average Profit Margins: 6.9% • Startup Cost: $100-$10K • Time to Revenue: 1-6 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1.3% • Best For: Experts in social media platforms, writers and creators who are strong collaborators

Many business owners either don’t like social media or don’t know how to get the most out of it.

With a social media management business, you’ll help other small business owners connect with potential clients through platforms like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram.

This often means creating marketing materials and content in collaboration with the owner of the account you’re managing.

If you can do that effectively, social media management can be a very successful business to start with $10K or less.

#10 Virtual assistant

• Average Annual Revenue: $35K-$50K • Average Profit Margins: 10.5% • Startup Cost: $100-$200 • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1.9% • Best For: Organized and system-driven entrepreneurs

Social media isn’t the only thing most business owners don’t have time for. There are tons of small tasks that go into running a business, and that’s where a virtual assistant comes into the picture.

A virtual assistant works remotely, usually handling administrative tasks like data entry or answering emails. Most set their own schedules, too, so it’s very flexible work.

This is one of the rare businesses you can start completely for free. All you need is a way to connect with potential clients, which you can do online through platforms including:

  • 24/7 Virtual Assistant
  • Freelancer.com

#11 Affiliate marketing business

• Average Annual Revenue: $60K-$160K • Average Profit Margins: 8% • Startup Cost: $100-$2K • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 10.5% • Best For: Advertising and marketing professionals, content creators

Affiliate marketing is a form of online advertising where you promote products and services from other businesses. If someone buys through your site, you get a commission.

This business model is location-independent and gives you complete flexibility when it comes to your schedule. It’s also a good business to make passive income once you have content and traffic on your site.

Getting that traffic is often the hard part when it comes to starting an affiliate marketing business. Read our complete guide to affiliate marketing or hear how David Thomas Tao did it with BarBend in this interview:

#12 Domain-flipping business

• Average Annual Revenue: $239K • Average Profit Margins: 5.30% • Startup Cost: $100-$1K • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1.40% • Best For: Web designers and developers, people with strong sales and marketing skills

This is the best business to start with $10K if you have expertise in coding and web design.

Flipping domains is like the online version of flipping houses. You buy a website or eCommerce store, make improvements to increase its value, then sell it for a profit.

Ron Stefanski has grown a $30,000-a-month business selling websites. Hear how he got started in this interview:

#13 Sell online courses

• Average Annual Revenue: $30K-$50K • Average Profit Margins: 13.10% • Startup Cost: $100-$1K • Time to Revenue: 1-6 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 8.5% • Best For: Educators and teachers, people with niche or in-demand skills and knowledge

Online education is a $218 billion industry , and it’s expected to grow at a CAGR of 9% through 2030. Online courses are an affordable way to start a successful business in this niche.

The initial investment to start an online course business is minimal from a financial standpoint. It can take a lot of time and effort, though, and that’s the main impediment most face getting started.

Find out how Jacques Hopkins overcame that challenge to grow Piano in 21 Days into a $480K-a-year business in this interview:

#14 Transcription business

• Average Annual Revenue: $25K • Average Profit Margins: 20.50% • Startup Cost: $500-$5K • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 4.4% • Best For: Fast typers who are excellent listeners and have strong time management skills

If you can type faster than most, you can use that skill to start a business with $10K or less as a transcriptionist.

In fact, it will probably cost much less. All you really need to get started is a computer, internet connection, and an account on a freelance platform like Fiverr , TranscribeMe , or GoTranscript .

#15 Translation business

• Average Annual Revenue: $75K-$200K • Average Profit Margins: 12.4% • Startup Cost: $100-$200 • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1.2% • Best For: People who speak multiple languages

From advertising to entertainment to technical documents, there are lots of things that people need to have translated, and multilingual entrepreneurs can turn that demand into a lucrative business idea.

According to Indeed , the most profitable languages for translation are:

If you speak one or more of the above languages as well as English, then you can likely make good money in translation.

If you’re still wondering what business to start, keep reading for more affordable ways to open your own business!

#16 Vending business

• Average Annual Revenue: $182K+ • Average Profit Margins: 4.3% • Startup Cost: $2K-$10K • Time to Revenue: 3+ months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 0.5% • Best For: People who like to drive, system-driven entrepreneurs with strong sales skills

The initial investment to start a vending business varies depending on how many machines you want. That said, you can easily get started with just a few thousand dollars.

Best of all, it’s one of the most flexible low-investment business ideas and you can make a great living working just a couple of days a week.

Adam Hill makes nearly $60K a month with his vending business and teaches others to follow in his footsteps in his Vending Bootcamp . You can also hear insights from Adam in this YouTube interview:

#17 Janitorial cleaning services

• Average Annual Revenue: $74K+ • Average Profit Margins: 6.7% • Startup Cost: $1K-$30K • Time to Revenue: 1-6 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1.2% • Best For: Detail-oriented entrepreneurs with strong customer service skills

Keeping an office space or workplace clean is a bigger concern than ever in the post-pandemic world. That means lots of opportunities to start a cleaning services business.

There are lots of ways to scale this business, too. Spruse Clean grew to more than $10M yearly revenue in just three years by expanding into their own product line. Hear how they did it in this YouTube video:

We’ve got more business ideas in the cleaning niche below!

#18 Airbnb cleaning service

• Average Annual Revenue: $61K+ • Average Profit Margins: 10.8% • Startup Cost: $300-$5K • Time to Revenue: 3+ months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 2.4% • Best For: System and detail-oriented business owners skilled in customer service

Airbnb hosting is a popular business venture in its own right—but that can take a big investment if you don’t already own property.

With Airbnb cleaning services, you help other local business owners serve their customers, and this niche offers a lot of opportunities for business growth.

Queen Bee Cleaning Services makes a lot of its revenue from Airbnb customers. Hear how founder Chris Mondragon built the business in this interview:

You can learn more in Chris’s 7-Figure Cleaning Business Blueprint , where he explains how to write a business plan, choose business insurance, find potential clients, and all the other steps required to start a successful cleaning business.

#19 Window blind cleaning business

• Average Annual Revenue: $64K • Average Profit Margins: 8.8% • Startup Cost: $200-$5K • Time to Revenue: 3+ months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 0.9% • Best For: Detail-oriented entrepreneurs with strong customer service skills

An often missed aspect of cleaning is people’s blinds. Using this business model can offer a nice spin on traditional housekeeping services.

Potential clients will be ones who value a higher level of service in the cleaning industry and are likely to pay more.

A blind cleaning service is also a great way to niche down and become known as the leading expert for a service in your area.

Keep reading even more businesses to start with $10K or less.

#20 Tutoring services

• Average Annual Revenue: $18K+ • Average Profit Margins: 13.10% • Startup Cost: $100-$1K • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 8.5% • Best For: Teachers and educators, people who are strong communicators and motivators

Start tutoring for under $1,000, assuming you have:

  • A vehicle (if you’ll be meeting clients in person)

Students consistently need help mastering subjects like math, science, history, and English. Whether you choose to do test prep or general tutoring, there is plenty of demand for local businesses offering to tutor.

You can even do it online using platforms like Upwork and TutorAround . Certifications from the Association for the Coaching and Tutoring Profession and National Tutoring Association can help you show proof of your tutoring skills.

#21 Lawn care or landscaping business

• Average Annual Revenue: $272K+ • Average Profit Margins: 8.7% • Startup Cost: $2K-$10K • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 8.1% • Best For: People who like hands-on work and working outside

The low barrier to entry is one thing that draws small business owners to the lawn care industry. You don’t need any special skills to start, and the costs are minimal.

Trevor Kokenge started his landscaping business out of his apartment with just $300 and grew it to more than $22K a month in revenue. Hear how in this interview:

#22 Start a backyard nursery

• Average Annual Revenue: $262K+ • Average Profit Margins: 5.4% • Startup Cost: $100-$3.5M • Time to Revenue: 6-18 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 2.8% • Best For: Gardeners, lovers of the outdoors, skilled planners and system-implementers

A nursery is a great business idea for people who have a green thumb. You can sell your plants and seeds directly to customers or to local stores like restaurants or flower shops.

While you will need some land to grow on, it takes less than you might think, especially if you grow things like herbs and flowers that don’t take up too much space.

#23 Real estate agents

• Average Annual Revenue: $298K+ • Average Profit Margins: 44.6% • Startup Cost: $500-$5K • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: -0.3% • Best For: Outgoing and friendly people who are skilled communicators and salespeople

If you are looking for businesses you can start with less than $10,000, then you may want to consider working as a real estate agent.

Real estate agents make a great living and they set their own schedules, so it’s a smart choice if wanting flexibility is one of your reasons for starting a business.

Being a real estate agent requires mostly certifications and licensing as startup costs. You can find your state’s requirements on the Association of Real Estate License Law Officials website.

Check out our interview with Paul Balzotti to hear his tips for new real estate agents:

Keep reading for more businesses to start with $10K (or less).

#24 Property management

• Average Annual Revenue: $372K+ • Average Profit Margins: 10.1% • Startup Cost: $100-$3.5M • Time to Revenue: 6-18 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1.3% • Best For: Organized entrepreneurs with strong time management, communication, and customer service skills

Another way to save money and start a real estate business is to manage properties that other people own.

As with cleaning, Airbnb properties are a big opportunity to start a new business as a property manager. NICASA makes $3M a year as an Airbnb business, and a lot of that revenue is from managing other people’s properties. Find out more in this interview:

#25 Start a moving company

• Average Annual Revenue: $1.2M+ • Average Profit Margins: 9.91% • Startup Cost: $1K-$100K • Time to Revenue: 6-18 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 3.7% • Best For: People who like physical work, outgoing and customer service-focused entrepreneurs

Moving is stressful and strenuous—and a lot of people would rather hire someone to do it for them than handle it themselves.

The main expense to start a moving company is the truck. If you don’t already have one, you can save money on startup costs by renting a truck at first then investing your profits into buying your own vehicle.

#26 Junk removal business

• Average Annual Revenue: $5.7M+ • Average Profit Margins: 2.9% • Startup Cost: $100-$3.5M • Time to Revenue: 6-18 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1.9% • Best For: People with high stamina who like physical work, construction and recycling pros

Speaking of hauling heavy things, junk removal is an in-demand business venture. You can make $15-$50 an hour doing it, plus what you can make selling junk to scrap yards.

If you have a truck, van, or another vehicle that can pull a trailer, help people get rid of their unwanted junk and make money doing it.

You’ll need to know:

  • Your local dumps’ policies and billing rates
  • Your cost per mile
  • What recycling yards will purchase
  • Whether you’ll charge by the pound or by the job

Kyle Landwehr is a junk removal business owner who made more than $2 million in three years. Hear his advice for starting in this interview:

#27 Tour guides

• Average Annual Revenue: $995K+ • Average Profit Margins: 6.6% • Startup Cost: $500-$5K • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 3.5% • Best For: Actors and performers, extroverted entrepreneurs with good presentation and communication skills

If your location gets tourism, you could start your own business as a tour guide. Share your knowledge and help people explore:

  • Favorite hiking locations
  • Local restaurants
  • Historical buildings and monuments
  • Haunted locations
  • Pub and nightclub crawls
  • The business ideas are unlimited to your creativity

Keep reading for more business ideas you can start for under $10K.

#28 Green business consultant

• Average Annual Revenue: $364K • Average Profit Margins: 6.4% • Startup Cost: $1K-$3.5M • Time to Revenue: 6-18 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 2.2% • Best For: Experts in sustainability and green business practices

If you’re passionate about sustainability, think about starting a green business consulting firm. Green business consultants need to have a firm understanding of:

  • Conservation methods
  • Technology available
  • Calculating return on investment
  • Quality, green-minded contractors for installations

Consider getting certifications from:

  • Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)
  • U.S. Green Building Council
  • Energy Star (only for licensed PEs and Architects)

Next, we’ll look at a business venture that helps other small business owners succeed.

#29 Leadership consultant

• Average Annual Revenue: $363K+ • Average Profit Margins: 10.3% • Startup Cost: $1K-$100K • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 0.8% • Best For: People with management and leadership experience, business experts

You don’t need to lead a giant company to profit from your skills in leadership. Instead, you can help other people run a more successful business as a leadership consultant.

Leadership expert Libby Gill turned her experience as Head of Communications for Sony into a consultant business. Hear her insights here:

#30 Life coaching

• Average Annual Revenue: $63K+ • Average Profit Margins: 10.5% • Startup Cost: $500-$5K • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1.5% • Best For: People with high empathy and emotional IQ who are great communicators, problem-solvers, and motivators

Business owners aren’t the only ones who sometimes need advice and guidance. Everyday people do, too, and you can provide that as a life coach.

While you don’t need a license to be a life coach, getting a certification can help build trust with potential clients, which can grow your business faster. You can get these credentials from places like:

  • The Life Coach School
  • Coach Training Alliance
  • The Transformation Academy

#31 Personal trainer

• Average Annual Revenue: $16K+ • Average Profit Margins : 10.9% • Startup Cost: $500-$5K • Time to Revenue: 1-6 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 0.6% • Best For: Health, fitness, and exercise experts who are great communicators and motivators

If you are fitness-minded, personal training might be a good business to start with $10K or less. Personal trainers help people achieve their health goals and improve their lives. You’ll need:

  • Business licenses if required in your location
  • AED and CPR certifications (Check with the Red Cross for where to get certified near you.)
  • National Association of Sports Medicine
  • American Council on Exercise

Pro Tip: Read about other certifications at FitnessTrainer.com

After working as a fireman and personal trainer, Jake Brog took his offerings even further and opened a gym for less than $10K. Watch him explain how he started Lab Athletics:

Keep reading for more business ideas under $10K.

#32 Local delivery services

• Average Annual Revenue: $131K • Average Profit Margins: 3.6% • Startup Cost: $100-$9.5K • Time to Revenue: 3+ months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 6.7% • Best For: Organized and system-driven entrepreneurs with strong marketing skills

If you’re looking for business ideas and have a car, starting a local delivery service can be a great way to earn some extra money.

You can sign up to work with companies like Uber , GrubHub, and DoorDash, or you can create your own.

If you want to start your own service, you’ll need to:

  • Create an app.
  • Recruit restaurants.
  • Recruit drivers.
  • Hire a customer support center to handle complaints.

Find out how Trellus same-day delivery service got started in this interview:

Business growth for food delivery is the highest in the food business. If you are looking for small businesses to start, this is low-hanging fruit.

Keep reading for more small businesses to start with less than $10K.

#33 Be a personal shopper

• Average Annual Revenue: $131K • Average Profit Margins: 3.6% • Startup Cost: $100-$9.5K • Time to Revenue: 3+ months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 6.7% • Best For: People who love shopping who are excellent listeners and great at customer service

Personal shoppers connect people with the products that they need—even if they don’t know exactly what those are before they start.

If you’re starting this kind of venture, your business plan should focus on how you’ll connect with clients, which is the most difficult part of starting a personal shopper business.

#34 Equipment rental service

• Average Annual Revenue: $444K+ • Average Profit Margins: 35-40% • Startup Cost: $100-$3.5M • Time to Revenue: 6-18 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: -0.8% • Best For: People who own rentable assets, collectors of cars, boats, or other equipment

Equipment rental services are common in a variety of fields, including:

  • Construction tool rentals
  • Home medical equipment rentals
  • Cars , boats, and other rentals

Open Door has a great article on how to improve profits on equipment and ForConstructionPros.com has a great formula to calculate the price of a rental .

Check out how Demitri started offering charter boat rentals:

Pro Tip: Make sure to carry business insurance to recover the monetary value if you have high equipment costs because accidents, theft, and injuries can occur.

Still haven’t decided which businesses to start with $10K? Read on for more to choose from!

#35 Event planning business

• Average Annual Revenue: $34K+ • Average Profit Margins: 12.2% • Startup Cost: $500-$5K • Time to Revenue: 3+ months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1% • Best For: Organized and outgoing entrepreneurs with strong communication and time management skills

If you love planning parties, you can turn that passion into a very lucrative business as an event planner.

Event planners can be generalists or focus on a specific niche. The most profitable niches for event planners include:

  • Luxury wedding planners
  • Destination wedding planners
  • Corporate event planners
  • Virtual event planning
  • Festival and concert planners

The truth is, though, whatever type of event you have the passion and experience to plan, you can earn money doing it by starting a new business in this industry.

#36 Mobile locksmith services

• Average Annual Revenue: $105K+ • Average Profit Margins: 10.29% • Startup Cost: $500-$250K • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 6.2% • Best For: Repair professionals, auto experts, people with strong mechanical and math skills

People lock themselves out of their cars all the time. If you offer emergency lock-out assistance, you can contract with insurance companies like AAA or attract clients independently.

#37 Telephone answering service

• Average Annual Revenue: $905K+ • Average Profit Margins: 20.50% • Startup Cost: $100-$3.5M • Time to Revenue: 6-18 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 0.9% • Best For: Friendly and outgoing people with strong customer service skills

There are a ton of companies that pay independent contractors or other businesses to handle phone and web support. To get started, apply for jobs on Indeed or freelancing sites like Upwork . If you like this idea:

  • Make sure you have a computer and headset.
  • Start pursuing commercial clients.
  • Hire other people.
  • Get office space (optional).

#38 Mobile Pet Grooming Business

• Average Annual Revenue: $72K+ • Average Profit Margins: 11.5% • Startup Cost: $1K-$100K • Time to Revenue: 6-18 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1.1% • Best For: Animal lovers and pet experts who are patient, empathetic, and great communicators

To start a mobile pet grooming business, you’ll need:

  • A van or RV
  • A grooming kit
  • A grooming hammock
  • Sink and water supply
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • A vacuum that won’t get clogged

For other business ideas involving pets, check out our blog about the number one Etsy seller in pet products.

#39 Pet sitting business

• Average Annual Revenue: $34K+ • Average Profit Margins: 16% • Startup Cost: $500-$5K • Time to Revenue: 3+ months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1.7% • Best For: Pet owners and animal lovers with strong time management and communication skills

Pet sitting is another great business idea for animal lovers to start with $10K or less. Like mobile grooming, you can start easily from your home and won’t need an office space or commercial storefront.

The easiest way to get started is to join an online community for pet sitters, like Rover or Pet Sitters International . Rover even lets you book pet sits and communicate with clients right through the app.

#40 Dog walking business

• Average Annual Revenue: $34K+ • Average Profit Margins: 16% • Startup Cost: $500-$5K • Time to Revenue: 3+ months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1.7% • Best For: Dog owners, lovers, and experts, fit entrepreneurs with high physical stamina who like working outdoors

Similar to other pet care sectors like pet grooming services or vet care, the demand for dog walkers has increased dramatically since 2020.

Nearly one in five Americans adopted a pet in 2020 and early 2021, so any business that helps people care for those new family members can be a great way for entrepreneurs to earn money. The typical cost for these services has increased with demand, and many dog walkers in urban areas charge $500-$600 a month or more per dog.

#41 Childcare services

• Average Annual Revenue: $143K+ • Average Profit Margins: 0.9% • Startup Cost: $0-$1K • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 51.7% • Best For: Parents, teachers, people who are patient, empathetic, and strong problem-solvers

For those who have experience caring for children, opening a nanny agency can be the most profitable business to start with $10K or less.

Just look at Twinkle Toes Nanny Agency, which has grown to $11.2 million a year in revenue since it was founded in 2011. You can hear how founder Kristy Bickmeyer built the business in this interview:

#42 Security company

• Average Annual Revenue: $4.3M+ • Average Profit Margins: 9.89% • Startup Cost: $100-$3.5M • Time to Revenue: 6-18 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 0.9% • Best For: Entrepreneurs with law enforcement experience or strong observation, systemization, and problem-solving skills

There are two types of security companies you can start:

  • Installation of alarms, security cameras, and key card access systems
  • Security guards for events, locations, and people

Note that both require special licensing as most jurisdictions want to make sure security company offerings are actually protecting people from criminals. Check out this guide to security guard requirements by state.

Whichever you choose, a security company is one of the best businesses to start with $10K. You’ll only need:

  • Licensing costs before your first sale
  • Up to $150 an hour for security and bodyguard services ($1.314M per client for 24/7 year-round)
  • Up to $1,600 per four-camera system

#43 Pressure washing business

• Average Annual Revenue: $64K • Average Profit Margins: 8.8% • Cost: $200-$5K • Time to Revenue: 3+ months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 0.9% • Best For: Detail-focused entrepreneurs who like physical work, outdoor work, and customer service

A pressure washing business is mobile by design because you go to customers’ homes for jobs. This keeps the initial investment low—all you need to get started are a power washer, a vehicle, and some initial cleaning chemicals.

Chase Lille invested around $3,000 to start Wizard Wash as a teenager and was making about $12,000 a month in revenue by the time he finished high school. Hear his advice in this interview:

Pro Tip: You can also get step-by-step guidance on how to start your own pressure washing business with UpFlip’s new 7-Figure Pressure Washing Blueprint course.

#44 Mobile car wash

• Average Annual Revenue: $73K+ • Average Profit Margins: 16.1% • Startup Cost: $500-$5K • Time to Revenue: 3+ months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1.0% • Best For: Car lovers, cleaning experts, people who like physical and outdoor work

If you like being outside and washing cars, a mobile detailing business might be right for you. You’ll need:

  • A water tank
  • A washing kit
  • A mobile 3-in-1 vacuum
  • A mobile waxing tool

Customers pay more for bigger cars and more services. You can choose to go for volume or big jobs.

  • Corporate offices
  • Car dealerships
  • Car rental companies

Higher paying jobs:

  • Market to high-end neighborhoods.
  • Invest in car wraps.
  • Use digital marketing.
  • Offer detailing services at up to $400 per car.

Offer weekly or monthly deals for either category to maximize income. Check out how Bigs Mobile started their car detailing business:

#45 Mobile car wrapping

• Average Annual Revenue: $241K+ • Average Profit Margins: 16.1% • Startup Cost: $1K-$100K • Time to Revenue: 1-6 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1.8% • Best For: Graphic designers, detail-oriented and system-driven entrepreneurs

Many business owners use car wraps as marketing materials to turn their vehicles into moving billboards. People with luxury cars, meanwhile, may get them wrapped to protect the paint and extend their life.

Having multiple potential customer groups is one thing that makes mobile car wrapping a good business idea. Find out how WrapCo makes $70K a month (after starting with just a hundred bucks) in this interview:

#46 Handyman business

• Average Annual Revenue: $204K+ • Average Profit Margins: 5.4% • Startup Cost: $500-$5K • Time to Revenue: 3+ months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 0.7% • Best For: Repair and construction pros, makers, fixers, and people who like working with their hands

Becoming a handyman is consistently among the best local businesses to start with $10K or less. All you need are basic tools and a way to get to your customers.

Unlike other forms of construction, you don’t need to be a licensed contractor to work as a handyman. That said, getting your General Contractor License expands the types of jobs you can take and can prompt faster business growth.

Caleb Ingraham makes about $1,000 a day with his handyman business. Find out how he built it here:

#47 Painting business

• Average Annual Revenue: $76K+ • Average Profit Margins: 7.2% • Startup Cost: $1K-$100K • Time to Revenue: 6-18 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: -2% • Best For: Artists and designers, people with contractor or construction experience

House painting is another excellent business idea for people who enjoy physical work. While having construction experience can help you build a client list, you definitely don’t need this background to get started.

This is also one of the most scalable businesses you can start with $10K. Doug Caris bought Arizona Painting Company in 2014 and has grown it to five locations with $2 million a year in revenue. Hear his advice in this interview:

#48 Research services

• Average Annual Revenue: $10M+ • Average Profit Margins: 26.88% • Startup Cost: $500-$5K • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 2.2% • Best For: Data-driven entrepreneurs with strong organization, time management, and communication skills

Business leaders often need research for information on:

  • Product features
  • Market share
  • Competitors
  • Consumer opinions

Before they spend thousands on new market research, they will often pay people or other companies to review existing available materials. If that doesn’t work, they’ll hire market research firms to get the information for them.

While the average research services company makes $10M+ annually, the average market researcher only makes $68K per year, which means you’d need at least 50 people on your team to bring in the revenue of an average research company.

That said, all you need to start offering these services is access to the internet and a reliable computer. You can grow from there.

#49 Cell phone and electronics repair

• Average Annual Revenue: $560K+ • Average Profit Margins: 5.7% • Startup Cost: $500-$5K • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1.4% • Best For: Technology and repair pros, detail-focused and system-driven entrepreneurs

The average U.S. household had 22 connected devices in 2022. If you establish yourself as the go-to person to fix them, that’s a lot of repeat business you can secure from your customer base.

You don’t need to be an engineer to offer repair services, either. Joe of Joe’s Electronics Repair learned how to fix things by tinkering with broken items. Now, he runs a seven-figure repair shop:

#50 Dent removal service

• Average Annual Revenue: $268K+ • Average Profit Margins: 6.1% • Startup Cost: $100-$3.5M • Time to Revenue: 6-18 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 2% • Best For: People who like working with their hands and talking to customers

Many dents can be removed with no more than a suction cup. All you have to do is:

  • Watch some YouTube videos
  • Print flyers
  • Put the flyers on cars with small dings

#51 Tax preparation service

• Average Annual Revenue: $1.57M • Average Profit Margins: 18% • Startup Cost: $500-$5K • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months (not including time training as a CPA) • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1.7% • Best For: Certified accountants and tax professionals, people who are good with math, numbers, and finances

Everyone needs to file taxes—and almost nobody likes doing it. That makes tax prep an excellent new business for folks who are mathematically inclined.

You don’t need a special license to file simple personal returns. However, you do need to be an Enrolled Agent or CPA to file business taxes or offer other, more complex services.

That exam, along with a quality accounting software program, are the main expenses of starting a tax preparation service.

#52 Job search services

• Average Annual Revenue: $2.5M+ • Average Profit Margins: 26.88% • Startup Cost: $500-$5K • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 3.6% • Best For: Recruiting and HR professionals, strong networkers and communicators

Something else just about everyone needs is employment, and most people dislike looking for a job even more than they dislike filing their taxes.

Some common business ideas related to job search services include:

  • Resume and cover letter writing
  • Interview preparation and practice
  • Career coaching
  • Personal recruiter
  • Recruiting or staffing agency

Note that these companies must have multiple employees to be able to reach the average annual revenue listed above.

#53 Professional organizer

• Average Annual Revenue: $168K+ • Average Profit Margins: 10.6% • Startup Cost: $1K-$100K • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1.2% • Best For: Neat freaks, people with strong empathy, communication, motivation, and organization skills

Being an organizer isn’t just about decluttering. These professionals also function as a kind of therapist, helping clients bring order to their thoughts and lives along with their spaces. If you have strengths in both areas, you can excel as a professional organizer.

#54 Personal stylist

• Average Annual Revenue: $114K+ • Average Profit Margins: 10.3% • Startup Cost: $500-$250K • Time to Revenue: 3+ months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 2% • Best For: Fashionable entrepreneurs with strong customer service skills

If you’re the type of person who always dresses for the latest trends, you can grow your own business helping others to do the same.

Social media marketing skills can be very helpful for building this kind of business. Build a reputation by offering fashion advice online to establish yourself as an expert and grow your client list.

#55 Makeup artist

• Average Annual Revenue: $51K+ • Average Profit Margins: 5% • Startup Cost: $1K-$100K • Time to Revenue: 3+ months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 0.9% • Best For: Beauticians and visual artists who are excellent listeners and problem-solvers

Professional makeup artists aren’t just for celebrities. They also help people get ready for photo shoots or milestones like prom or weddings.

One thing to keep in mind: You may need to obtain a license as an esthetician or cosmetologist depending on where you live and the type of makeup you plan to do.

#56 Hair cutting or styling

create a startup business plan

• Average Annual Revenue: $51K+ • Average Profit Margins: 5% • Startup Cost: $1K-$100K • Time to Revenue: 3+ months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 0.9% • Best For: Stylists and beauticians, detail-oriented people with strong communication and customer service skills

The great thing about cutting or styling hair is that it comes with built-in repeat business if you make your customers happy.

The biggest expense for most is the physical salon space. You can save money on startup costs by offering mobile services or renting a chair from existing businesses while you save up for your own space.

Learn how Bernard Franklin grew Busy B’s Barbershop to $130K a year in this interview:

#57 Massage therapy

• Average Annual Revenue: $78K+ • Average Profit Margins: 4.35% • Startup Cost: $1K-$100K • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 2.3% • Best For: Empathetic people with excellent communication skills and knowledge of physiology

You need a license in all 50 states to become a massage therapist.

Along with the $200-$300 for that education, you’ll need to budget around $2,000-$2,500 for a massage table and other equipment, but those are the only startup costs if you start out of your home or as a mobile business that meets clients where they are.

#58 Tailoring and clothing alterations

• Average Annual Revenue: $27K+ • Average Profit Margins: 8.3% • Startup Cost: $500-$250K • Time to Revenue: 3+ months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1.6% • Best For: Detail-focused entrepreneurs, fashion and clothing experts who excel at listening and communication

Clothes are expensive, especially formal and professional attire. Tailors help people make the most of that expense by adjusting or repairing clothes to achieve a perfect fit.

The main things you’ll need to get started are:

  • A sewing machine
  • Work tables
  • Measuring tools
  • Fabric, thread, and other accessories

All told, you can get everything you need for around $1,500-$5,000.

#59 Valet parking services

• Average Annual Revenue: $1M+ • Average Profit Margins: 9.91% • Startup Cost: $100-$3.5M • Time to Revenue: 6-18 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 7.2% • Best For: Excellent drivers with strong customer service skills

Valet services can be a very lucrative venture for people who live in urban areas or near event venues and tourist destinations where parking is at a premium.

Best of all, the startup costs are next to nothing. If you have a driver’s license, you can connect with local business owners to offer their customers valet service.

#60 Fashion designer

• Average Annual Revenue: $114K+ • Average Profit Margins: 10.3% • Startup Cost: $500-$250K • Time to Revenue: 3+ months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 2% • Best For: Tailors and sewing experts, fashionable and creative entrepreneurs

If you love fashion, you can start designing your own clothes and wearing them as free marketing. The sky’s the limit when it comes to earnings—the world’s richest fashion designer is worth over $10 billion!

You’ll need:

  • Sewing machine
  • Fabric – Find fabric at your local craft store or order from Amazon clearance rolls for savings .
  • Fabric scissors – Our recommended scissors come with additional accessories including a measuring tape.
  • Measuring tape

It helps to understand pattern-making. Many seamstresses offer skills classes to help people learn the basics or hone specific skills. Connect with a local seamstress if you need help gaining experience.

Afshan Abbas, the founder of Fuchsia Shoes, makes $60K a month designing sustainably made shoes. Check out our interview with her below.

Keep reading for more businesses to start with less than $10K.

#61 Freelance writer

• Average Annual Revenue: $712K • Average Profit Margins: 14.6% • Startup Cost: $100-$200 • Time to Revenue: 1 month to 3 years • Annual Market Growth Rate: -1.5% • Best For: Writers, editors, and other language experts

If you love writing, a copywriting service is one of the best online businesses to start. There’s plenty of work for a small business owner. Copywriting service is focused on:

  • Writing content for businesses
  • Reviewing content for grammatical errors and SEO for businesses
  • Translation services if you are bilingual (or a ninja at Google Translate)

Use SurferSEO to optimize your writing for the web.

#62 Freelance editing and proofreading

• Average Annual Revenue: $25K+ • Average Profit Margins: 9% • Startup Cost: $100-$1K • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1.9% • Best For: Writers and language experts with a strong eye for detail

Another way to make money from your language skills is to edit things that other people write. If you’re an expert in grammar rules and have a sharp eye for spotting small errors, then editing can be a good business option.

#63 Web design business

• Average Annual Revenue: $239K+ • Average Profit Margins: 5.3% • Startup Cost: $100-$1K • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1.4% • Best For: Programmers, coders, and designers with strong time and task management skills

A website is a necessity for small businesses today—but most business owners aren’t web design experts.

If you are, you can build a successful online business offering web design services. You’ll be in especially high demand if you have skills like SEO-focused design, eCommerce design, or other niche expertise that can help drive more traffic to websites.

#64 Woodworking and furniture making

• Average Annual Revenue: $6.4M+ • Average Profit Margins: 8.53% • Startup Cost: $100-$3.5M • Time to Revenue: 6-18 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1.9% • Best For: Artistic entrepreneurs who like working with their hands

The woodworking industry in the U.S. is expected to surpass $291 billion in 2024, so there’s definitely a lot of profit potential for local business owners in this niche.

Woodworking equipment costs less than you might expect, too. You can get everything you need to start a business for around $3,500-$5,000.

The UpFlip blog post on how to start a woodworking business has more info on how to get started. Or you can watch this interview with Daniel Westbrook to find out how he started a $30K-a-month woodworking business:

Note that you’d need around 33 employees to meet the average revenue value listed above.

#65 Candle maker

• Average Annual Revenue: $60K-$120K • Average Profit Margins: 5-15% • Startup Cost: $100-$10K • Time to Revenue: 30-90 days • Annual Market Growth Rate: -9.3% • Best For: Creative people with strong sales, marketing, and customer service skills

Candle-making is super easy to start; you just need:

  • 10 pounds of wax
  • Pouring pitcher
  • A pot to put the pitcher in to create a double boiler
  • Thermometer
  • Containers to hold the candles
  • Scented fragrances

Check out how the owner of Blk Sunflower made $300K in 18 months by making and selling candles:

#66 Jewelry maker

• Average Annual Revenue: $114K+ • Average Profit Margins: 10.3% • Startup Cost: $500-$250K • Time to Revenue: 3+ months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 2.0% • Best For: People who are dextrous, creative, and have strong sales skills

Six of the top 10 Etsy sellers in 2022 were jewelry makers.

That’s both good news and bad news: There’s definitely a market, but you’ll also be up against a lot of competition from existing businesses.

Finding a unique niche or target audience is one way to stand out. Some popular types of jewelry that are affordable to make include:

  • Morse code bracelets
  • Upcycled jewelry made from found objects
  • Stone pendants and necklaces
  • Beaded necklaces
  • Personalized charms or pendants

#67 Decorating services

• Average Annual Revenue: $168K+ • Average Profit Margins: 10.6% • Startup Cost: $1K-$100K • Time to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1.2% • Best For: Artists, designers, and other creative entrepreneurs

Interior designers, Christmas light hanging companies, and prop designers are all decorating services that you can make a great living offering. These types of jobs are great for creatives.

#68 Graphic design business

• Average Annual Revenue: $123K+ • Average Profit Margins: 13.5% • Startup Cost: $500-$5K • Time to Revenue: 3+ months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 2% • Best For: Tech-savvy visual artists

Graphic designers make images for websites, social media platforms, and marketing materials—and there’s a lot of demand for these services.

This is among the best businesses to start for creative people who want flexibility. You can build a graphic design business by:

  • Creating custom images for clients based on their specifications
  • Selling your graphics through a marketplace like Pixabay or Creative Market
  • Selling items with your designs in a print-on-demand store

Whichever way you go, the startup costs are low.

#69 Photography business

• Average Annual Revenue: $50K • Average Profit Margins: 7.3% • Startup Cost: $1K-$10K • Time to Revenue: 1-6 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 0.3% • Best For: Visual artists, creative people with strong interpersonal skills

Most of the initial investment to start a photography business is buying professional cameras and camera equipment.

If you’re a hobbyist photographer and already have quality gear, you can get started for much less.

There are tons of niches in the photography industry, from portraits and art prints to ad copy photos. Choosing the right one for your skill set is the best way to set yourself up for success.

That’s how Mile High Productions built a $35K-a-month business doing drone photography for local real estate agents. See how they got started in this interview:

#70 Teach music lessons

• Average Annual Revenue: $18K+ • Average Profit Margins: 13.10% • Startup Cost: $100-$1K • to Revenue: 1-3 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 8.5% • Best For: Singers and musicians who are good communicators and motivators

If you know how to sing or play an instrument, you can start a business sharing that knowledge.

Most music lesson instructors charge $25-$50 for a half-hour lesson, so you can make a very good living as a music teacher if you can keep a full student list.

What business can I start with $10K that serves food?

A brick-and-mortar restaurant might be rather involved and costly, but there are other food business models that can be started for under $10K in most places. Major cities will normally have more stringent requirements that might include:

  • A food handler card – Check for requirements in your area . Note that “Highly recommended” means not required.
  • Health district inspections
  • Additional insurance requirements

Let’s look at some attainable food businesses to start for under $10K.

#71 Start a food truck

• Average Annual Revenue: $41K+ • Average Profit Margins: 6.4% • Startup Cost: $1K-$100K • Time to Revenue: 3+ months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1.2% • est For: Cooks and food service pros with excellent customer service skills

A food truck is one of the most popular food business models because:

  • Food trucks are less expensive than buying a restaurant.
  • You don’t have to clean the dining room
  • You don’t have to hire servers or hosts/hostesses
  • You can go where your customers are

To keep it under $10K , you’ll need to start it with a used rig and limited menu, but it can be done.

Vet Chef started with more upfront but still has some great tips for you:

#72 Become the ice cream man

• Average Annual Revenue: $279K+ • Average Profit Margins: 3.7% • Startup Cost: $100-$3.5M • Time to Revenue: 6-18 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 0.7% • Best For: Customer service pros who like driving

Almost everyone recognizes the sound of the ice cream man coming around the corner. Kids run out to it in droves and parents know they are about to spend money when they hear the familiar tune.

These trucks differ from food trucks because:

  • The target market is kids,
  • There are more seasonal fluctuations.
  • You just need a freezer on wheels.

Keep reading for more food startup businesses to start with $10K.

#73 Meal prep company

• Average Annual Revenue: $21M+ • Average Profit Margins: 2.24% • Startup Cost: $500-$250K • Time to Revenue: 3+ months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 18.8% • Best For: System-driven chefs, cooks, and foodies

Hard-working families are often too busy to prepare their own home-cooked food. If you love cooking and want to make a great living, then start offering meal prep services.

  • Create a menu.
  • Market your meals.
  • Buy in bulk.
  • Offer pickup or delivery.

Check out Food Business Pros for information on how they make money running a food prep company .

You’ll need around 16 employees to make the average annual revenue listed above, as the revenue per employee across the industry is around $1.4 million.

Keep reading for another food idea that doesn’t cost more than $10K.

#74 Mobile food carts

• Average Annual Revenue: $41K+ • Average Profit Margins: 6.4% • Startup Cost: $1K-$100K • Time to Revenue: 3+ months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1.2% • Best For: Extroverted food pros with strong multitasking and sales skills

I’ve seen people in Las Vegas buy a rolling cooler, a bag of ice, and a 32-pack of water and then go sell it in parks, on the Strip, or on busy corners. They make their money back on the first 32-pack and then make $28 a case.

That’s the super cheap route, but you can go a more professional route by buying:

  • A hot or cold mobile cart like the one pictured below
  • A vehicle to transport the cart
  • The food to serve
  • Disposable serving utensils

Keep reading for more businesses to start with $10K!

#75 Catering

Three stainless steel food warmer for catering

• Average Annual Revenue: $124K+ • Average Profit Margins: 5.5% • Startup Cost: $1K-$100K • Time to Revenue: 6-18 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1.0% • Best For: Cooks and chefs who are organized with strong project and time management skills

The catering industry is expected to reach $378.39 billion in 2026 with a CAGR of 8.2%.

People hire caterers for weddings, business meetings, and other events. You can get everything you need on Amazon and (depending on your area’s food-service rules and regulations) cook the food at home.

Make sure to have a great presentation because people paying for premium services expect the presentation to be exquisite.

#76 Be a baker

• Average Annual Revenue: $1.52M • Average Profit Margins: 5.4% • Startup Cost: $100-$3M • Time to Revenue: 1-6 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: 1.1% • Best For: Food industry professionals who are creative, good with customers, and have strong math skills

Opening a brick-and-mortar bakery costs more than $10,000, but there are ways to get started with less.

Mignon Francois spent about $5 to start baking cupcakes. She used the profits from that first batch to make more, and grew a name doing cupcake catering until she saved up enough to open a storefront. Hear her advice in this interview:

#77 Make and sell artisanal foods

• Average Annual Revenue: $278K+ • Average Profit Margins: 16.33% • Startup Cost: $500-$250K • Time to Revenue: 6-18 months • Annual Market Growth Rate: -0.8% • Best For: Creative foodies who are good at planning and marketing

You don’t need to open a restaurant to sell food you make to customers. Another option is to make things like candy, pickles, sauces, or other homemade foods.

The startup costs for this are lower if you don’t open a storefront right away. Instead, you can start an online store or sell in person at farmers markets and other pop-up events.

We’ve provided you with a list of 77 businesses that cost less than $10K to start.

If you want to jump in where someone else left off, look for liquidated inventory sales and going-out-of-business offers with existing businesses for sale under $10K.

We’re always looking for business owners to profile in our blogs and YouTube videos . What are some businesses you’ve seen started for under $10K?

create a startup business plan

How to Start a $100K/Year Massage Business (Step-By-Step Guide)

1. Make a Plan

Man writing a business plan for massage business

How Do I Start a Massage Business?

Start-up costs.

  • Training and Education
  • Massage Room Décor
  • Deposit (if you're opening an office)
  • Equipment and Supplies (table, oils, stools, and sheets)
  • Accountant or Accounting Software (QuickBooks)
  • Marketing Materials

Ongoing costs

  • Lease (if renting an office)
  • Laundry and Cleaning
  • Website, Phone, Internet

2. Purchase Equipment

Man in a massage clinic

What Equipment and Supplies Do I Need?

Choose safety, protect your body.

  • Massage Table
  • Massage Chair
  • Linens and Towels (Have enough to change between each client)
  • Oils, lotions (You may get a discount from a supplier if you purchase in bulk)
  • Candles and Music
  • Laundry and Cleaning Equipment
  • Carrying Equipment

3. Licensing and Certification

Business license and certificate approval

License or Certification?

Defining license or certification, 4. training and education.

  • National Holistic Institute
  • National University of Health Sciences
  • Myotherapy College of Utah
  • Cortiva Institute Schools of Massage Therapy

Board Certification Training and Specialization

Man undergoing training for specialization

  • Sports Massage
  • Military Veteran Massage
  • Oncology Massage
  • Clinical Rehabilitative Massage

5. Location: Home or Office?

Massage room with two beds

How do I Start a Massage Business from Home?

You need a big room, don't forget the other tasks, save money and be free.

Saving money as funds for massage business

How do I Start a Massage Business at an Office?

Rent a room, purchase later, where do i rent a massage therapy space.

  • American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA)
  • Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP)

6. Business Registration

Man filling out application form for business registration

What Type of Business is a Massage Business?

Local registration, 7. insurance, personal health insurance, 8. write a business plan.

Business plan creation

  • Market Analysis
  • Marketing Plan

Personal Funds and Business Loans

Zero-interest credit card, 10. marketing.

Making of marketing plan massage business

  • Squarespace

Scheduling Applications

  • Hubspot Meetings Tool

Social Media

Use of social media for business

11. Customer Service

Create a stress-free environment., keep your hygiene in check., be personable, but don't be pushy, give clients self-care tips., 12. financial goals and massage business profits.

Man viewing finacing goals for massage business

Cancellation Policy

Can you make good money as a massage therapist, 13. take care of your body.

create a startup business plan

nice work https://binarychemist.com/

create a startup business plan

My Name is PRETTY NGOMANE. A south African female. Aspiring to do farming. And finding a home away from home for the differently abled persons in their daily needs.

Become a business owner in less than 90 days

Start your 10-day free trial of the UpFlip Academy and learn how to start your own business from scratch.

Get business advice straight to your   Inbox 

create a startup business plan

We use essential cookies to make Venngage work. By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.

Manage Cookies

Cookies and similar technologies collect certain information about how you’re using our website. Some of them are essential, and without them you wouldn’t be able to use Venngage. But others are optional, and you get to choose whether we use them or not.

Strictly Necessary Cookies

These cookies are always on, as they’re essential for making Venngage work, and making it safe. Without these cookies, services you’ve asked for can’t be provided.

Show cookie providers

  • Google Login

Functionality Cookies

These cookies help us provide enhanced functionality and personalisation, and remember your settings. They may be set by us or by third party providers.

Performance Cookies

These cookies help us analyze how many people are using Venngage, where they come from and how they're using it. If you opt out of these cookies, we can’t get feedback to make Venngage better for you and all our users.

  • Google Analytics

Targeting Cookies

These cookies are set by our advertising partners to track your activity and show you relevant Venngage ads on other sites as you browse the internet.

  • Google Tag Manager
  • Infographics
  • Daily Infographics
  • Popular Templates
  • Accessibility
  • Graphic Design
  • Graphs and Charts
  • Data Visualization
  • Human Resources
  • Beginner Guides

Blog Feature Updates Startup Business Plans 101: Your Path to Success

Startup Business Plans 101: Your Path to Success

Written by: Jay Nair Jul 24, 2023

create a startup business plan

It’s time — you’ve got a promising idea and you’re now prepared to invest the necessary effort to turn it into reality. Startup business plans are vital hack tools that will guide you through your entrepreneurial journey and a business venture with clarity and purpose.

Though vital, business planning doesn’t have to be a chore. Business plans for lean startups and solopreneurs can simply outline the business concept, sales proposition, target customers and sketch out a plan of action to bring the product or service to market. These plans will serve as strategic documents outlining your company’s vision, mission statements, business objectives, target market, financial forecasts and growth strategies.

To simplify the creation of a robust business plan as an entrepreneur, you can harness the power of a business plan maker . This invaluable tool streamlines the process and ensures a polished and well-organized presentation.  Startup business plan templates provide pre-designed frameworks that can be customized to suit your specific industry needs, saving valuable time and effort while preserving the essential structure of a comprehensive business plan.

Ready to begin? Let’s go!

create a startup business plan

Just so you know, some of our business plan templates are free to use and some require a small monthly fee. Sign-up is always free, as is access to Venngage’s online drag-and-drop editor.

Click to jump ahead:

  • Laying the foundation of your startup business plan
  • Business plan executive summary
  • Writing your business description
  • Marketing & sales strategies
  • Startup operational plans
  • Financial plans – forecasting and projections
  • Team and management
  • Appendix and supporting documents

FAQs on startup business plans

  • Use Venngage to create your startup business plan

Preparation and research: 6 steps to laying the foundation of your startup business plan

  • What problem does your product or service solve? 
  • Who are your target customers? 
  • What differentiates your offering from existing solutions in the market? 

This self-reflection will help you establish a clear direction for your startup.

  • Next, conduct market research to gather valuable insights about your target market , including demographics, preferences, and purchasing behavior . This data will enable you to tailor your product or service to meet the specific needs of your customers. Identify trends, industry growth projections, and any potential barriers or challenges you may encounter.
  • Competitive analysis is another critical aspect of preparation and research. Study your competitors to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and strategies. Analyze their pricing, marketing tactics, customer experience, and product/service features. This analysis will allow you to identify gaps in the market and position your startup to offer a unique value proposition .
  • Financial research is equally important during this phase. Calculate the costs associated with starting and operating your business , including overhead expenses, production costs, marketing expenses, and employee salaries. Assess potential revenue streams and estimate your expected sales. This financial analysis will help you determine the feasibility of your business idea and outline a realistic financial plan.
  • Additionally, gather information about legal and regulatory requirements that apply to your industry and location . Understand the necessary permits, licenses, and certifications you need to operate legally. Complying with these regulations from the outset will prevent potential setbacks or legal issues in the future.
  • Finally, organize your findings and insights into a coherent business plan. Create your business plan outline , list your business plan goals, strategies, target market, competitive analysis, marketing plan, financial projections and any other relevant information. This compilation will serve as a roadmap for your startup, guiding your decisions and actions moving forward.

You’ve just encountered a wealth of information and are well on your way to becoming a seasoned business owner! This can sometimes feel overwhelming. But don’t worry, take a moment to breathe deeply and remember how far you’ve come. You’ve got this!

To help you condense and organize your essential points, I have brilliant one-page samples of business plan layouts and templates that will capture everything in a concise format.

create a startup business plan

Knowing when to use a one-page business plan versus a more comprehensive plan depends on various factors. A one-page business plan is ideal for providing a quick overview, saving time, and internal planning. However, it may not suffice for detailed information, complex business models, or meeting external stakeholders’ expectations.

Ultimately, consider the purpose, audience, and complexity of your business when deciding whether to utilize a one-page business plan or opt for a more detailed approach.

Executive Summary: Your Startup’s Elevator Pitch

First impressions are crucial, and a concise yet comprehensive executive summary is your chance to grab potential investors’ attention.

To create a compelling elevator pitch, consider the following key elements:

Problem Statement : Clearly articulate the problem or pain point that your startup addresses. Emphasize the significance of the problem and the potential market size

Solution : Concisely describe your innovative solution or product that solves the identified problem. Highlight its unique features or benefits that differentiate it from existing alternatives.

Target Market : Define your ideal customer segment and outline the market potential. Demonstrate a deep understanding of your target audience’s needs, preferences, and behavior.

Competitive Advantage : Showcase the competitive edge that sets your startup apart from competitors. This could include intellectual property, strategic partnerships, cost advantages, or disruptive technology.

Business Model : Briefly explain how your startup generates revenue and sustains profitability. Outline your monetization strategy, pricing model, and any recurring revenue streams .

Traction and Milestones : Highlight any significant achievements or milestones reached by your startup. This could include customer acquisitions, partnerships, product development progress, or market validation.

Team : Showcase the expertise and qualifications of your founding team or business partners. Highlight key members and their relevant experiences demonstrating their ability to execute the business plan.

I can sense your eagerness to dive right in! To expedite your progress, I’m excited to present you with a collection of meticulously crafted executive summary templates. These templates have been thoughtfully designed and structured by Venngage designers, ensuring seamless integration into your thorough business plan. All you need to do is infuse them with your brilliant startup ideas, and you’ll be well on your way to success!

create a startup business plan

Now, remember that there’s still a ton of work to be done. Let’s take a moment to regroup and ensure we’re on the right track. Before diving into the process of writing your business plan , it’s imperative to gather a wealth of essential information. Conducting comprehensive research is key, and it should encompass the following aspects:

How to assess your target audience

To gain comprehensive insights into your potential user base, creating a user persona report is invaluable. This persona guide report will help you develop a detailed understanding of various user profiles, enabling you to tailor your products or services to meet their specific needs and preferences.

create a startup business plan

Understanding Your Market and Competition

Analyze your market and any trends relevant to your startup. Research your competitors, their strengths and weaknesses, and identify what differentiates your offering from the competition.

create a startup business plan

Developing a Unique Value Proposition

A business Unique Value Proposition (UVP) is a concise statement that communicates the unique advantage a product or service offers over competitors, addressing a specific problem or need. It highlights the distinctive value and benefits customers can expect, helping businesses attract and retain customers by differentiating themselves in the market.

Your unique value proposition (UVP) is the cornerstone of your startup, defining what sets you apart from your competitors. A strong UVP focuses on the specific benefits and solutions your startup offers to customers.

create a startup business plan

Company Description: Painting the Picture

Your company description allows you to showcase your startup’s unique features and provide more in-depth details about your business. This section should include:

The Purpose of the Company Description

Clarify the purpose of your business, your goals and how your startup is uniquely positioned to achieve them.

Essential Information to Include

Include details such as your company’s legal structure, location and a brief history of any founders or key personnel.

Showcase Your Company’s Unique Features

Emphasize the unique aspects of your startup, explaining how these features translate into a competitive advantage.

Allow me to provide you with a dash of inspiration to ignite the momentum for your startup business plan:

create a startup business plan

When it comes to showcasing your company’s unique features, keep in mind that it is essential to emphasize and highlight the distinctive aspects of your startup . Clearly articulate how these features set your company apart from competitors and translate into a tangible competitive advantage . 

Whether it’s through cutting-edge technology, innovative business models, exceptional customer service, or a combination of factors, conveying the value and impact of these unique features is crucial. By effectively communicating the benefits they bring to customers, investors, and partners, you can demonstrate the significance of your offerings and differentiate yourself in the market.

Product/Service Line: What You’re Bringing to the Table

This section highlights the finer details of your product or service offerings:

Detailing Your Product/Service Offerings

Provide a thorough description of your products/services, highlighting key features and their intended use.

create a startup business plan

Highlighting Features, Benefits, and Solutions

Demonstrate how your startup’s offerings solve specific problems or address customer needs through an analysis of product features and associated benefits.

create a startup business plan

Defining Your Pricing and Revenue Model

Outline your startup’s pricing strategy and how it aligns with the overall business model. Detail any plans for scaling or expanding your revenue sources in the future.

create a startup business plan

Presenting Your Market Research Findings

Share insights from your market research, including target customer demographics, market size, and growth potential.

create a startup business plan

Identifying Market Trends and Opportunities

Discuss current trends, emerging opportunities, and how your startup will capitalize on these developments.

create a startup business plan

Marketing and Sales Strategies: Spreading the Word

Developing a robust marketing and sales strategy plan aligns with your overall business strategy and ensures steady growth. Marketing planning will be an essential part of your journey once you’ve got your business plan tight-knit! Also, creating a marketing strategy can be the most fun part of your business plan!

Developing a Comprehensive Marketing Strategy & Plan

  • Outline Specific Marketing Goals : Clearly define your marketing objectives, whether it’s increasing brand awareness, driving website traffic, generating leads, or boosting sales . Set measurable targets to track progress.
  • Identify Target Audience : Conduct thorough market research to identify your ideal customer profiles. Understand their demographics, behaviors, preferences, and pain points. Tailor your marketing messages to resonate with their needs.
  • Select Effective Marketing Channels : Consider both digital and traditional channels that align with your target audience and marketing goals. This may include online advertising, social media marketing, content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), email campaigns, print media, events, or partnerships.
  • Craft Compelling Messages : Develop persuasive and consistent messaging that highlights the unique value proposition of your products or services. Clearly communicate how your offerings solve customer problems or improve their lives.

create a startup business plan

5 Tips for Effective Sales Techniques and Growth Strategies + free templates

  • Define Your Sales Strategy : Outline the approach and tactics your sales team will use to reach and convert customers. This may involve direct sales, channel partnerships, online sales, or a combination of strategies. Specify your sales process, including lead generation, qualification, nurturing, and closing.
  • Expand Your Customer Base : Identify opportunities to expand your customer reach. Consider targeting new customer segments, entering new geographic markets, or exploring untapped market niches. Develop strategies to attract and engage these potential customers.
  • Penetrate New Markets : Assess the feasibility of expanding into new markets or verticals. Market research will help you understand the dynamics, competition, and customer needs in these markets. Adapt your marketing and sales strategies accordingly to effectively penetrate and capture market share.
  • Innovate Products/Services : Continuously evaluate and enhance your product or service offerings to meet evolving customer demands. Identify areas for innovation or improvement and develop a roadmap for launching new features, versions, or complementary offerings.
  • Perform a SWOT analysis : By conducting a sales SWOT analysis , you will gather valuable insights to enhance your department’s performance. This analysis involves evaluating your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, enabling you to identify areas for improvement and capitalize on advantageous factors in the market.

Here’s a hack to get you organized – Get right into it with the help of these growth strategy templates and strategic planning templates :

create a startup business plan

Operational Plan: How Your Startup Will Run

Define an efficient and scalable operational plan, keeping in mind the following points:

Defining an Efficient and Scalable Plan

Outline the day-to-day operations, including processes, timelines, and necessary resources.

Legal Considerations for Your Startup Business

Identify any legal requirements or considerations, such as licenses, permits, or regulations that may apply to your startup.

Key Elements of Supply Chain Management and Logistics

Discuss supply chain and logistical aspects relevant to your business. Include details on how you plan to manage and scale these processes.

Here’s a kickstart on how you can structure your operating plans:

create a startup business plan

Financial Projections: Crunching the Numbers

A startup’s financial projections are vital in securing investor buy-in. This section should address:

The Importance of Financial Forecasting and Budgeting

Explain the significance of accurate financial forecasting, budgeting, and the assumptions made in your projections.

Identifying Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Highlight the KPIs used to gauge your business’s financial health and growth trajectory.

Outlining Funding Requirements

Detail the amount and type of funding your startup requires , including how the funds will be allocated and how this investment positions the company for growth.

create a startup business plan

Team and Management Structure: Building Your Dream Team

Your startup’s success depends on the people behind it. This section should cover:

Tips for Building the Right Team

Share your strategy for assembling a skilled team that supports your startup’s vision and growth trajectory.

Founders’ Background and Roles

Provide an overview of the founders’ backgrounds, their roles within the company, and how their skills contribute to the startup’s success.

Organizational Structure and Key Management Personnel

Outline your startup’s organizational structure, including any key management personnel who play a pivotal role in day-to-day operations.

Appendices and Supporting Documents: Backing Up Your Plan

Include any other relevant supporting documents, such as:

  • Research data, market analysis, or competitor analyses.
  • Financial statements, budgeting or forecasting data, and other financial documentation.
  • Legal documents, agreements or contracts, and any patent or trademark information.

Finally, remember to review and update your business plan regularly as the industry, market, and competitive landscape evolve!

1. Why is a business plan essential for a startup?

A startup business plan is crucial for a startup because it provides a framework for strategic decision-making, facilitates financial planning, helps assess risks, aligns teams, communicates your vision, and ensures effective resource allocation. 

2. What should a startup business plan include?

A startup business plan should include:

  • Vision and Direction : Set clear goals and objectives, and outline strategies to achieve them. With a well-defined plan, you will stay focused, make informed decisions, and ensure alignment with your vision.
  • Market Analysis : A business plan necessitates thorough market research to understand your target market, identify competition, and assess product/service demand. These insights enable you to tailor offerings, meet customer needs, and gain a competitive edge.
  • Financial Planning : By constructing a financial roadmap through projected statements such as income, cash flow, and balance sheets, a business plan unveils the expected revenues, expenses, and profitability. This comprehensive planning not only anticipates challenges and sets realistic goals but also serves as a magnet for attracting investors and securing funding.
  • Risk Assessment : Devise strategies for risk mitigation and contingency planning. By proactively doing this, you can significantly enhance the likelihood of success by anticipating and effectively addressing potential obstacles.
  • Communication and Team Alignment : From fostering effective communication with both internal and external stakeholders to aligning team members and showcasing your startup’s unique value proposition, a business plan plays a crucial role. It enables you to articulate target market insights, competitive advantages, and growth strategies to potential investors, partners, and employees.
  • Resource Allocation : A business plan helps you identify the resources required to launch and operate your startup successfully. It includes an assessment of your human resources, technology needs, infrastructure requirements, and other key resources. By understanding your resource needs, you can allocate them effectively, ensuring that you have the necessary assets to execute your business strategy.
  • Adaptability and Flexibility : Your business plan should be flexible enough to accommodate changes and adapt to new circumstances. Startups operate in dynamic environments, and a well-designed plan allows you to monitor progress, evaluate outcomes, and make adjustments as needed. This agility enables you to seize new opportunities and navigate challenges effectively.

3. What is the ideal length for a startup business plan?

The optimal length for a startup business plan typically depends on the specific requirements and intended audience, but a concise and focused plan of around 20 to 30 pages is often recommended.

4. How to write a good startup business plan?

To write a good and effective startup plan, include an executive summary, company description, market analysis, detailed products/services description and a clear marketing and sales strategy. Also incorporate a comprehensive financial plan, outline your organizational structure, and demonstrates your team’s expertise and capabilities. Your plan should be well-researched, concise, and compelling, with a focus on your company’s unique value proposition and market opportunity, making it attractive to investors and stakeholders.

Utilizing Venngage templates & other tools for success

A visually appealing and professional business plan needn’t be a daunting task. Leverage tools like Venngage Business Plan Maker for effective templates that cater to various industries and streamline the process. 

  • Leveraging Venngage for Visually Appealing and Professional Business Plans

Venngage offers a range of templates designed specifically for business plans, allowing you to craft a polished and visually engaging plan without any design experience. Simply choose a template, customize it to suit your startup’s branding, and populate it with your content.

  • Exploring Additional Resources and Tools for Entrepreneurs. In addition to Venngage, several other resources and tools can assist entrepreneurs in crafting the perfect business plan. Examples include:
  • Small Business Administration (SBA) – Offers guidance on writing business plans and provides templates and resources for each section.
  • SCORE – A nonprofit organization providing mentorship, workshops, and other resources for entrepreneurs.
  • Industry-specific resources – Research relevant professional organizations, industry publications, and blogs to stay up to date on industry trends and insights.

Embarking on the entrepreneurial path may present formidable challenges, yet it offers abundant rewards in various aspects. Embrace the art of continuous learning, delving not only into the essence of your business idea but also immersing yourself in the vast world that surrounds it. Cultivate a genuine passion for understanding every facet of your enterprise, for it is through this journey of exploration that you will uncover invaluable insights and experience the true fulfillment of entrepreneurship.

create a startup business plan

Discover popular designs

create a startup business plan

Infographic maker

create a startup business plan

Brochure maker

create a startup business plan

White paper online

create a startup business plan

Newsletter creator

create a startup business plan

Flyer maker

create a startup business plan

Timeline maker

create a startup business plan

Letterhead maker

create a startup business plan

Mind map maker

create a startup business plan

Ebook maker

  • The Definitive Guide to Writing a Business Plan

create a startup business plan

  • Startup Culture
  • Business Skills

Last Updated: July 25, 2023 By TRUiC Team

A cartoon man leans enthusiastically over a desk while writing rapidly

This free step-by-step guide to writing a business plan was built just for you, if you aren't really sure what planning a business is all about. To save time, stress and energy we'll walk you through everything you need to know without fluff or heavy brain work.

Instead, we're focusing on the basics. If you're looking to create a super-dense collegiate 40-page plan, then you should probably take a business planning course at the nearest college.

This guide just covers what your average startup needs to dramatically increase chances of follow-through and success. Enjoy!

Note: Business planning software  can help you write a professional business plan that will lead you to success.

Step 1) Create A Business Plan Shortcut

For the sake of argument, let’s say you’re the most gifted cat burglar on earth-- a real savvy savant of the steal. Put yourself in the mindset where strategy and planning are time-erasing pleasures, delicious treats that reward you with immense prosperity-- not complex tasks that can be skipped or shelved.

Too many entrepreneurs perceive putting a business plan together as some kind of chore. It's not. When the product or service is something you believe in, it’s as awesome as it is for those cat burglars in the movies, except you're plotting honest work.

Fact : It’s possible to create your initial business plan in less than an hour!

Let’s build a “lean plan” that’s simple to create and helps you identify core assets. You start with a pitch, a single page overview which can become your executive summary later on. It’s your business strategy all on one page that's easy to update as you evolve.

You may be thinking,

“ Wait a minute. If I’m not raising money from investors, why do I need a pitch? ”

Well, after years working with entrepreneurs we've found a pitch is really the ideal format to document your business idea , share it with others, and quickly adjust as you learn more about/analyze how you’re going to build your brand.

Furthermore, once you have your pitch done you can easily convert it into a presentation-ready business plan with massive clarity. To begin, follow the simple outline below or allow tools like LivePlan (what we used for Startup Savant) to walk you through the entire process with examples and video tutorials.

What To Include in Your Pitch

As you tackle your one-pager, mentally channel Twitter and try to keep each section as short/concise as possible-- the size of a solid tweet.

  • Mini-Pitch : Typically a refined sentence summarizing your USP (unique selling proposition).
  • Market Need : The problem your business solves for your customers.
  • Your Solution : How you’re solving the problem through your products and services.
  • Primary Competition : The products and services your customers choose today instead of yours.
  • Target Market : This is where you detail your ideal client and niche.
  • Sales & Marketing : How you plan on marketing.
  • Budget & Sales Goals : How much do you project/calculate you’ll sell and how much is it going to cost to make your product or deliver your service? Also, show other key expenses when your business is up and running.
  • Milestones : What you’ve achieved so far and your major goals for the next few months and years.
  • Team : Why you and your team are the right people to make your company successful.
  • Partners & Resources : List primary companies/organizations needed to go the distance.
  • Funding Needs : If you need to raise money, how much and where will this capital be going (channels)?

That might seem like a fair amount of work if you’ve never put together a real pitch before, but remember, that’s just one page of content. Another way to look at it is a one page resume for your business.

A Couple Writing Tips

First, you start with the putty. Don’t try to self-edit or curate, just barf everything out on paper as it flows from your brilliant mind. Format each section out and just let it go. That’s putting the basic shape together.

Now you need to let it dry, so walk away for a day (week) or two. After that, begin chipping away and condensing. Cut the fat and keep tightening the ideas until you’re down to one page. Be brutal! Stick to the facts. Numbers are easier, but when you’re tackling words remember the average person these days has a shorter attention span (if not compelled by your ideas) than a goldfish.

Taking Action on This Step

Create a pitch outline from the points mentioned above and refine down to one or two sentences. If you need help, check out LivePlan. It’s a solid tool that walks you through the entire process. Plus, they offer a 50% Discount .

Step 2) What To Include in Your Plan

Now that you have a running outline, it’s time to go deeper into the framework of your platform.

Perhaps you’re thinking the one-page pitch is all you’ll need? That would be like going on a road trip in unfamiliar territory with a map that only shows destinations-- no routes, no roads, no other icons whatsoever. Even if you never plan on showing this to anyone, the process of creating a solid plan optimizes everything about you and your business! Here’s a quick overview of what you need to include in your business plan:

  • Cover Page/Pitch
  • Executive Summary
  • Products & Services
  • Target Market
  • Marketing & Sales Plan
  • Milestones & Metrics
  • Company & Management Team
  • Financial Plan

If you need extra space for product images, detailed financial forecasts, or general additional info, use the appendix. There are three layers of complexity here. First, your pitch with a very brief summary. Then, your Executive Summary that adds details and context. Then into the finer points of the overall business plan.

Not too shabby, right?

Taking Action on The Step

Please revisit your pitch and find a good way to optimize it just a smidgen. The better your pitch, the better the overall plan.

As you fill in the structure, first focus on providing “mental barf” data you can go through and optimize later. Remember, if you need help, LivePlan will walk you through the entire process with video tutorials and examples.

Step 3) Create a Unique Selling Proposition

When copywriters are given a business idea to optimize, they often begin by defining the USP (unique selling proposition) and mini-pitch. A USP can be just a couple words or an incomplete sentence, while the mini-pitch is usually one or two concise sentences.

Just in case you’re fuzzy on the whole copywriter thing, these folks are paid big bucks to write sales and marketing copy which often includes core slogans.

As an example, here’s what the USP and Pitch for Startup Savant sound like:

USP : " Entrepreneurship Simplified "

Pitch : " Startup Savant is a free website that shows you how to start a business and own your future ." Now let’s get past the “How to Write Your USP 101” stuff and dive straight into three core truths.

USPs & Pitches Evolve

The first thing a copywriter will tell you if you’re struggling with this is to relax. They know sales and branding copy optimizes (matures) over time, especially in the first 2-5 years in business.

If possible, avoid thinking your USP is set in stone, never to be altered. It’s more like a sculpture that the market chips away at. Your pitch evolves as you and your platform do. What matters is whether your USP & Pitch are as refined as they can be based on where you are now.

  • USPs can be creative & full of personality, but they also need to make sense.
  • Is your pitch wordy and confusing? Hazy or unclear?
  • Sometimes you have the right words, they just need to be in an optimized order.

Always be ready to “kill your darlings” as copywriters would say. Meaning, get rid of any and all words,

“ That aren’t necessary for the idea or concept you’re conveying to make perfect sense within the context it’s delivered, and to whom it’s being written to. ”

You can begin with half a page, but systematically chisel down to a core concept like, Entrepreneurship Simplified.

Your Ideal Customers Will Do It For You

Copywriters care what you have to say as a business owner or marketing manager, but they know you’re not the ultimate authority in terms of advertising copy.

They’re writing for buyers. In any and all ways your business can optimize over the years, your customers, clients and users should steer the course as much as possible. Be on the lookout for their valuable signals and indications!

Hop at 20 Questions

Copywriters ask TONS of questions. They’re a bit like copy-detectives in how they search high and low for very precise data from their clients. Never fear giving your users, clients or customers a megaphone with which to bark their concerns.

We all love sharing our opinions, right? Yes we do. Let us. Prompt us. Ask us. Bribe us with incentives and discounts… then listen… carefully. Easily 9 out of 10 entrepreneurs are given the ultimate USPs on silver platters by their customers but fail to recognize when they see, read, or hear them.

  • If you’ve been stressing on your USP, relax. If it doesn’t feel perfect right now, or 100% distilled, let it happen naturally.
  • Your audience can and will steer the course if you choose to notice their cues. Ask three people you haven’t spoken to before how they feel about your product or service.
  • Are there any indications out there waiting to be plucked? Blog or social media comments and reviews are primary starting points. It only takes one solid indicator for the magic “pivots” to cause your business or brand to see huge boosts.

Step 4) Crafting the Executive Summary

In brief, what exactly is an executive summary? An executive summary (ES) is an overview of your business and your vision. It comes first in formal/informal business plans and is ideally 1-2 pages.

The ES introduces your business to your reader. If you don’t nail it, no one’s going to read any further. And if an ES sucks, despite it being professionally crafted, then the business model itself needs work or isn’t worth your time. Every ES should include a brief overview of the following:

  • The problem your business addresses.
  • Your solution.
  • Your target market.
  • Why the timing’s right for your brand.
  • Financial forecast highlights, along with initial/current customer acquisition costs (CAC) and lifetime customer value (LCV).

If you’re raising money or presenting to investors, you’ll also want to cover:

  • Your existing team and partners.
  • How much money you’re looking to raise and the type of exit strategies in place.

Ideally your ES should fit on one or two pages and be able to stand alone, apart from your business plan. A common strategy is to send your ES out to investors/family/friends and then the complete plan if more detail is requested.

Remember to try and position your writing for people who don’t know anything about your business before they start reading. Explain things simply so that anyone can understand your opportunity, whether they be an in-tune player, an 8th grader, or a grandma.

  • Over the next couple weeks, refresh your ES!
  • Who is the first person you’re going to send your ES to that has no real previous knowledge of what your business is? It helps having someone in mind when writing.
  • Find one amazing ES to read over and see what you can learn from it. Here and here are two great examples.

Well done, in the next step we’ll help you explain your product or service and how it makes an impact on customers.

Step 5) Understanding Customers

Once upon a time there was this lovely, vibrant and ambitious entrepreneur who decided to sell organic breast enlargement cream. It sold well for a while, but then her numbers plateaued, and eventually began to decline.

She knew her business needed a makeover after years in the trenches. So, she created an automated incentive program, a 25% discount coupon code offer sent with every order in exchange for an anonymous review with a photograph. Just a simple before/after image showing the front of their body from neckline to belly button (to confirm usage).

They started rolling in and here are the gems she unearthed :

  • A small portion of her customers were husbands buying a discreet gift for their wives/girlfriends, but most (85%) were transgender folks in transition.
  • For the vast majority of her cis-female customers, larger breasts had more to do with enhancing self-esteem/identity and filling out clothes than attracting mates.
  • Almost 100% really hammered down on the fact her cream was all-natural, organic and didn’t cause irritation or allergic reactions.

She went back and dusted off her original copy she put together years before.

From: “ A certified organic breast enlargement cream. ”
To something more along the lines of: “ Increase confidence and femininity through an organic non-allergenic breast enlargement cream. ”

When stuck in a rut, and we all get there as entrepreneurs, the quickest and most effective way out is to look at your predicament from different perspectives.

Begin with the fundamental question, “What problem does my product/service solve for customers?” then look deeper and from unique angles. Who are your buyers? They have the answer. And remember, actions speak louder than words.

Oftentimes we rationalize buying things for one reason, but in reality have a more potent ulterior motive. Sure, her customers want larger breasts, that’s what prompt initial sales. But the needs her product solves in their day-to-day lives are more interesting. It actually made her customers feel more confident, happy, and healthy.

Find one deeper way your product or service materializes in everyday life for your customers. Pay close attention to the simple verbiage you and others use to describe it, e.g. “Your earphones really get rid of all the noise on the bus.”

If possible, get hold of one fresh buyer perspective. Who and where are they? That woman in our example had spent years excluding nearly half her customer base in her advertorial copy. Do you use your own product or service? If so, find a way to record yourself explaining it in the most natural language possible. Use a smartphone or leave yourself a voicemail. Then, just listen.

But wait, what if you’re just starting out and don’t have much to draw on in terms of direct customer or user feedback? Glad you asked! In the next section we’re going to talk about competition, which is another valuable source of indicators.

Step 6) Leveraging Competition

What products and/or services are people choosing instead of yours?

Whether you’re new to the market or not, these so-called “competitors” are really the ideal source of optimization for your brand. And it’s not about being better per se. All things equal, it’s more about uniqueness.

Would you rather be a prettier, more flashy brand trying desperately to stand out, or develop intense brand-character that the right people notice? Once you’ve narrowed down your competitors, look at them from new angles to discover what makes you distinctive.

  • Can they help you better define your target market/sub-markets?
  • How effective are their social media marketing methods and website copy?
  • What do you know about their buyers’ needs?
  • What do they make “stand out” when shoulder to shoulder with your brand?

A common practice entrepreneurs use in pitch presentations to venture capitalists or investors is the Comparison Matrix.

Comparison Matrix

You’ve seen these a zillion times. In short, list your competitors across the top of the page and your features and benefits along the side, then check the boxes for which company offers each. Don’t forget you can be creative here. You may even already use one of these on your website, or within some other marketing media.

  • Could these features and benefits be communicated in different, more compelling ways?
  • What real need-based copy is being left out?
  • How can you simplify it? An easy way is to reduce the number of competitors, so shoot for less players with more interesting copy.

Got time to put something simple together? In reality what we’re looking for are the things about your competitors that help you stand out.

  • Think about your biggest competitor: what do they make obvious about your brand?
  • What are you doing with more personality from the perspective of ideal clients or customers?
  • Could you take your primary competitor’s copy and make it clearer, or more optimized?

All in all, understanding your competition is an important part of the planning process. This is where you find your true competitive advantage.

For a more in-depth look at how you stand up to the competition, check out LivePlan's Benchmark feature. You can see at-a-glance how you compare to companies just like yours. Tell LivePlan your industry and location, and it shows if/how you're doing better or worse than your competition.

Now let's talk about your unique marketing approach. This will help you stand out and connect with your customers on multiple levels.

Step 7) Create a Marketing Plan

Fred is a brand spanking new entrepreneur with a neat new fitness product he believes is going to make a big splash.

He knows exactly who his ideal customers are and his niche is carved out like a Renaissance marble sculpture. Fred’s also managed to get his hands on $100k in debt-free funding (don’t ask us how, this is hypothetical)…

  • His product costs exactly $32 to source, make and package.
  • To be competitive, and account for shipping/processing, he’s going live at $55.
  • Initial margin is about $13 per sale.

Admittedly, that would be pretty amazing, but that’s because we’re coming from a standpoint of experience. Fred’s just showing up to the 21st-Century party. He’s never built, owned, or managed a business before, let alone an ecommerce platform.

He’s never outsourced a graphic artist or content writer before; never had to choose which analytic dashboard to use; never designed a conversion model or tangled with paid advertising platforms. Let’s say Fred called and begged us to lunch. We accepted. And so there we are, the three amigos with Fred sitting on a huge meal ticket drooling for answers.

“ How Do I Market My Product? ”

Once the table conch gets passed to us, we’re going to hit him hard with massive bombshells:

  • Tight responsive funnels can be constructed in a couple months with the right designer, or design agency (website, landing pages, ecommerce setup, branding packages, etc.).
  • Initial market testing and adjustment can be bootstrapped.
  • There are a variety of intuitive and relatively simple software tools, apps, plugins, add-ons, and cloud-based solutions that range from free to expensive.
  • It takes a savvy mix of highly-focused content, social exposure and paid advertising.
  • It takes a team.

Question is, what advice would you give Fred? That’s what we’d like you to consider. And it needs to be marketing-based. The money’s there, the production system’s in place, it’s just a matter of reaching his fitness-based audience and selling.

Let’s imagine Fred’s offered you a lifetime, no questions asked, 5% share of his company from now till doomsday. All you have to do is provide valuable direction in these three areas:

  • Content : What kind of content should he invest in? Blogs, video, infographics, imagery, etc.
  • Social : How to handle social media if he a) doesn’t have the time, b) has no clue what works?
  • Paid Advertising : AdWords? Facebook? TV? Magazine ads? How does he get to buyers?

Just let your mind wander, and don’t worry, in the next section we’ll talk about setting milestones for your business.

Step 8) Set Milestones

If there’s one specific part of the entrepreneurial journey that we get really nerdy about, it’s the way people verbally describe their trials and successes. We’re listening intently for clues as to how they set milestones and metrics and then track them.

Let's spend some time pondering the way(s) you’re measuring your journey and how you approach KPIs (key performance indicators) in relation to both your marketing and your competition. Or, if you’re trying to figure out how viable a product idea is, how you’re calculating acceptable setbacks and struggle.

What have you achieved so far and what are your major goals for the next few months or years?

Sure, it’s cliché to talk about tracking milestones in an era of big data, but truth be told too many aspiring entrepreneurs either skip this part until much further down the road when it can’t be ignored anymore, or they only take it seriously in the beginning then fail to stick to the plan.

Avoid Drowning Out Customer Journey!

Of course there are folks who obsess on this part and try to manage a small army of analytic dashboards and amazing software solutions like FreshBooks or Xero.

Once it becomes too much they end up transforming their perspective of the customer journey from something organic into a mesh of math and graphs. Most of their day is spent pouring over dense numbers or marketing data and trying to figure out how to alter this metric or that.

  • How many of your milestones are focused entirely on your customers instead of you and your business?
  • Instead of views, likes, and shares, what about the amount of service calls you’re getting? How many people are actually reaching out with questions and concerns?
  • How well do your metrics allow you to understand each part of their trek from initially discovering your business to making a purchase?

Find ways to do more with less data. It’s always within reach these days, especially when you’re tuned in to your customers!

  • Find one way to streamline how you’re dealing with milestones/metrics, or how you intend to.
  • Also, look for one single way to be more holistic in your approach to setting goals.
  • Find a part of your customer journey/behavior and decide if current metrics help or hinder it.

Need help in this area? LivePlan has a really impressive dashboard  to help you set goals and stay accountable over the lifetime of your business. This dramatically increases your chances of success.

Step 9) Refine Aquisition Costs

Without question, failure to clearly know the cost of acquiring customers is a mighty new business demolisher. It’s crushed more entrepreneurial dreams than every economic collapse combined since the creation of fiat currency. To come to grips, or optimize your Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC), begin by figuring out exactly how you’re reaching customers.

Or, if you’re building an initial business plan, how much will it cost to reach buyers on the platforms where they spend their time? Your financials should easily allow you to calculate CAC.

Now, in the simplest terms here’s how:

  • Take (estimate) the entire cost of sales and marketing over whatever period of time you’re dealing with, for example when forecasting sales and financials. Make sure to include salaries and any other headcount-related costs.
  • Divide that number by the amount of buying customers/clients/users that were acquired within this time.

If you happen to run a purely web-based business, headcount likely doesn’t need to grow as you scale customer acquisition, but it’s a useful metric to include nonetheless.

The second part of this is your Lifetime Customer Value, or LCV, because in most cases 80% of your revenue will come from 20% of overall customers and happen AFTER the initial sale. Never shortchange the follow-through!

If your CAC is too high, it must be able to come down through optimization. If LCV is horrid, then in the long run it’s an unsustainable business model. Or in other words, once CAC exceeds LCV, something needs to change or you’ll have to close shop.

  • Begin looking at one stream of cost per lead. So for example, maybe a Google AdWords or Facebook advertising campaign.
  • What’s one single way you could get more in touch with a hot-spot within your customers’ buyer experience?
  • Let your mind stew a little on the level of ‘touch’ required to increase LCV. How can you up-sell or generate more revenue from each customer long term?

After you make these calculations three or four times, it starts becoming second nature. LivePlan's forecasting  handles this pretty well. It walks you through creating expenses that are a certain percentage of sales.

Step 10) Forecast Sales

Smart entrepreneurs start forecasting sales early on.

And while ‘the numbers’ part of business planning can be intimidating, this exercise is definitely a small mountain worth karate chopping down.

Keep in mind that if you get stuck at any point, LivePlan's Forecasting and Budgeting  feature is extremely helpful. Whether you're starting a bakery, a subscription software business, or a manufacturing company, LivePlan walks you through the entire forecasting process within a few clicks.

How Detailed Does it Need to Be?

Don’t be too generic and just forecast sales for your entire business. But on the other hand, don’t go nuts and create a forecast for everything you sell if you’ve got a large assortment.

For example, if you’re starting a restaurant you don’t want to create forecasts for each item on the menu.

Instead, focus on broader categories like lunch, dinner, and drinks. Or if you’re starting a clothing brand, forecast key categories like outerwear, casual wear, and so on.

Top-Down or Bottom-up?

In our humble opinion, forecasting “from the top down” can be costly. What that means is figuring out the total size of the market you’re in and trying to capture a small percentage.

For example, in 2015, more than $1.4 billion smartphones were sold worldwide. It’s pretty tempting for a startup to say they’re going to get 1% of that total market. After all, 1% is such a tiny little sliver it’s got to be believable, right?

The problem is this kind of guessing isn’t based on reality. Sure, it looks like it might be credible on the surface, but you have to dig deeper.

  • What’s driving those sales?
  • How are people finding your new smartphone company?
  • Of the people that find out, how many will buy?

Instead of “from the top down,” do a “bottom-up” forecast. Just like the name suggests, bottom-up starts at the bottom and works its way up to a forecast. Start by thinking about how many potential customers you might be able to make contact with.

This could be through advertising, sales calls, or other marketing methods. Of the people you can reach, how many do you think you’ll be able to bring in the door or get onto your website?

And finally, of the people that come in the door, get on the phone, or visit your site, how many will buy?

Here’s an example:

  • 10,000 people see my company’s ad online,
  • 1,000 people click from the ad to my website,
  • 100 people end up making a purchase.

Obviously, these are all nice round numbers, but it should give you an idea of how bottom-up forecasting works. The last step of the bottom-up forecasting method is to think about the average amount that each of those 100 people in our example ends up spending (remember LCV).

On average, do they spend $20? $100? It’s fine to guess here, and the best way to refine your guess is to go out and talk to potential customers. You’ll be surprised how accurate a number you can get with a few simple interviews.

How Far to Forecast

Try forecasting monthly for a year into the future and then just annually for another three to five years.

The further your forecast into the future, the less you’re going to know and the less benefit it’s going to have for your company. After all, the world’s going to change, your business is going to change, and you’ll be updating your forecast to reflect them.

And don’t forget, all forecasts are wrong—that’s fine. Your forecast is just your best guess at what’s going to happen. As you learn more about your business and your customers, you’ll adjust. It’s not set in stone.

  • First, remind yourself that ALL forecasts are wrong. Forecasting is more about learning and evolving.
  • Without adding too much to your plate, take a look at your monthly sales chart and see what kinds of optimizations forecasting might bring to light. If you aren’t already charting sales, start today or begin planning how.
  • Try two easy bottom-up projections with nice round numbers to get the feel for it.

Just remember that sales forecasting doesn’t have to be hard. Anyone can do it and you, as an entrepreneur, are the most qualified to do it for your business. You know your customers and you know your market, so you can forecast your sales.

But if you decide you'd appreciate help, we highly recommend forecasting your sales with LivePlan. LivePlan  automatically generates all the charts and graphs you need and automatically includes them in your plan.

Wrapping Up: Formatting Your Plan

The format of your business plan is critical. It goes a long way toward refining and achieving your goals: raising money, setting the strategy for your team and growing your platform. That being the case, let's breeze through seven tips that can help you create, refine, and optimize your brilliant business plan.

1. Always Start with Your Executive Summary

An ES should be written for ideal readers, customers, potential investors or team members, or even just to help you ‘goal-map’ your way to where you need to be. Regardless, nailing the Executive Summary is critical in terms of understanding the potential behind your business idea.

2. End with Supporting Documents

The appendix is composed of key numbers and other details that support your plan. At a minimum, your appendix should include financial forecasts and budgets. Typically, it’s wise to include a Profit & Loss statement, Cash Flow forecast, and a Balance Sheet. With practice and a smidgen of savvy software like LivePlan these pages can take a couple hours or so.

You might also use your appendix to include product diagrams or detailed research findings, depending on your business, your industry, and how deep your business plan needs to go given the reader/purpose.

Quick Recap of the Lineup Pitch Executive Summary Products & Services Target Market Marketing & Sales Plan Milestones & Metrics Company & Management Team Financial Plan & Appendix

3. Keep it Short

Let’s face it: no one has time to read a 40-page business plan. If you’ve nailed your ES, you’ll want to follow up with 8 to 12 additional pages at most in support. Instead of trying to cram everything in using small fonts and tiny margins, focus on trimming down your writing (‘kill your darlings’). Use direct, simple language that gets to the point.

4. Get Visual

As the old adage goes, “ A picture is worth a thousand words. ” This is especially true when you’re formatting a business plan. Use charts and graphs to explain forecasts. Add pictures of your product(s). Again, there are plenty of software solutions that make it easy to do more showing and less telling. That said…

5. Don’t Obsess on Looks

It’s your ideas that matter. A beautiful plan that talks about an ill-conceived business with incomplete financial forecasts is never going to beat a plan that’s formatted poorly but discusses a great, clearly explained vision. Spending days making a beautiful plan isn’t going to make your business ideas better. Instead, focus on polishing the words. Trim extra content you don’t need, and make sure ideas are well-presented.

6. Keep Formatting Simple

  • For general formatting use single spacing with an extra space between paragraphs.
  • If you’re printing your plan, use a nice serif font like Garamond or Baskerville.
  • If your plan will mostly be read on a computer screen, go with a sans serif font like Verdana or Arial.

Why choose different fonts for on-screen versus off-screen? Well, research shows readers have higher comprehension when they read a document with a serif font on paper, and higher comprehension reading with a sans serif font on a screen.

Don’t stress too much about this, though. Choose any one of the four fonts mentioned above and move forward.

  • For font size, 10 to 12 point is usually ideal and readable for most people. If you need to reduce the font size to make your plan shorter, then you should be cutting content, not adjusting the font size.
  • The same rule goes for margins: use typical one-inch margins to make the plan readable.

Cover pages are always a good idea, too. Use the cover page to show off your logo, tagline, and pitch.

Finally, make sure your plan document flows well and doesn’t have any “widows” or “orphans” when it prints out. A “widow” is when the last line of a paragraph appears alone at the top of a page, and an “orphan” is a single word that gets left behind at the bottom of a paragraph.

7. Get a Second Pair of Eyes

The last piece of advice is to get a second pair of eyes. When you’re the only one working on your plan, you can become blind to common errors. Recruit a friend or family member, or even hire a copy-editing professional to give it that last bit of polish. There’s nothing worse than a plan with grammatical or spelling errors. A second pair of eyes will go a long way toward catching the majority of those potential problems or holes.

  • Who’s your second, third, and possibly fourth pair of eyes going to be?
  • What’s one part of your business plan you could optimize today?
  • What’s one piece of visual content you could add to your appendix?

Exclusive Bonus

If you'd like to try LivePlan yourself, here's an exclusive 50% off LivePlan promo code  offered to our readers. You'll have 60 days of risk free planning with their 100% money back guarantee. Enjoy!

Featured Articles

https://startupsavant.comSmiling woman next to a graphic that says "Top 7 Formation Services".

The Top 7 LLC Formation and Incorporation Services

https://startupsavant.comWoman sitting at her desk looking up how to form an llc on her laptop.

How to Form an LLC

https://startupsavant.comGroup of businesspeople engaged in discussion.

What is an LLC?

Everything that you need to know to start your own business. From business ideas to researching the competition.

Practical and real-world advice on how to run your business — from managing employees to keeping the books

Our best expert advice on how to grow your business — from attracting new customers to keeping existing customers happy and having the capital to do it.

Entrepreneurs and industry leaders share their best advice on how to take your company to the next level.

  • Business Ideas
  • Human Resources
  • Business Financing
  • Growth Studio
  • Ask the Board

Looking for your local chamber?

Interested in partnering with us?

Start » startup, how to write a startup business plan.

As a startup, you'll need to know how to write a business plan in order to attract investors. Here are some templates and examples to help you get started.

 Woman sitting at kitchen table writing with pen and paper.

If you're starting a new business or executing a new plan within your company, you’ll want to have a business plan. It’s a formal document that outlines your company, your project, funding options and your means of execution. There are many resources available to help you write your business plan, including countless templates you can follow depending on your goals. Below we’ve outlined some examples, including a sample plan.

[Read: How to Write a Business Plan During a Pandemic ]

Business plan template examples

While business plans can be general, it’s helpful to gear yours toward your industry. Here are five business plan templates for specific industries or situations:

  • For first-time entrepreneurs: The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) .
  • For getting your ideas down: $100 Startup .
  • For law firms: Cilo .
  • For established businesses: SCORE .
  • For additional industries: LawDepot .

Sample business plan

A one-page business plan briefly states your opportunity and timeline. It’s often used as an introduction to your longer, more robust plan. Here is a brief overview of a business plan and the nine elements that should be included.

1. The business opportunity

At the top of your plan, state the endeavor you're looking to pursue. Are you a new startup or an existing company looking to grow? Describe your challenges and how you plan to work through them. This section should be a one- or two-sentence elevator pitch of your business opportunity.

[Read: How to Refine Your Business Plan for Every Stage of Your Business ]

2. Your company description

When writing your company description, assume the reader knows nothing about your company. Briefly define who you are, identifying your values and why your company is necessary right now.

Outline your timeline for launching your business or project. Timelines are always subject to change, so make sure you account for alternative scenarios and setbacks.

3. Your talent description

In this section, you’ll want to introduce your team and demonstrate why they are the right fit for your business. Talk about their relevant skills, experience and background, getting as specific as possible. Providing their track record will reassure potential investors that your business is backed by reliable professionals.

4. The industry analysis

While writing your plan, it’s important to recognize your industry's outlook and your potential within it. This will also help you identify your competitors and analyze their offerings in comparison to yours, so you can focus on how you might stand out among them. This analysis is a great way to show investors that you’ve done your research and understand how you fit into your market.

[Read: Pivoting During the Pandemic? 16 Tools That Will Help Your Business Adapt ]

5. Your target audience

In this section, you will identify your target audience, defining their demographic, location and other specific traits. Additionally, explain how your audience will benefit from your company or project, or how you will solve common problems they share.

6. The timeline

Outline your timeline for launching your business or project. Timelines are always subject to change, so make sure you account for alternative scenarios and setbacks. For your one-page business plan, talk about your general timeline, its phases and why it’s a realistic goal.

7. Your marketing plan

How will you get the word out about your new business or project? Identify the avenues you and your company will choose to explore and how you plan to meet your target audience there. For example, consider your social media efforts, digital marketing and other methods that you seek to execute.

8. The financial summary

Clearly define your cost structure and revenue streams, describing your sales methods and post-launch goals, as well as how you will achieve them. Be sure to include both your long- and short-term financial goals and benchmarks.

[Read: Smart Strategies for Presenting Your Business Plan ]

9. Your funding requirements

One of the primary reasons you write a business plan is to help obtain funding. In this section, talk about the amount of funding you'll need from investors and where that funding will go. You should also be clear about how you plan to pay back your investors through your financial plan.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Follow us on Instagram for more expert tips & business owners stories.

Applications are open for the CO—100! Now is your chance to join an exclusive group of outstanding small businesses. Share your story with us — apply today .

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here .

Apply for the CO—100!

The CO—100 is an exclusive list of the 100 best and brightest small and mid-sized businesses in America. Enter today to share your story and get recognized.

Subscribe to our newsletter, Midnight Oil

Expert business advice, news, and trends, delivered weekly

By signing up you agree to the CO— Privacy Policy. You can opt out anytime.

For more startup tips

A small business guide to setting up an e-commerce business, 5 time-consuming entrepreneurial tasks you can outsource, how to change your ein, or how to fix an incorrect ein.

By continuing on our website, you agree to our use of cookies for statistical and personalisation purposes. Know More

Welcome to CO—

Designed for business owners, CO— is a site that connects like minds and delivers actionable insights for next-level growth.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce 1615 H Street, NW Washington, DC 20062

Social links

Looking for local chamber, stay in touch.

  • Professional Services
  • Creative & Design
  • See all teams
  • Project Management
  • Workflow Management
  • Task Management
  • Resource Management
  • See all use cases

Apps & Integrations

  • Microsoft Teams
  • See all integrations

Explore Wrike

  • Book a Demo
  • Take a Product Tour
  • Start With Templates
  • Customer Stories
  • ROI Calculator
  • Find a Reseller
  • Mobile & Desktop Apps
  • Cross-Tagging
  • Kanban Boards
  • Project Resource Planning
  • Gantt Charts
  • Custom Item Types
  • Dynamic Request Forms
  • Integrations
  • See all features

Learn and connect

  • Resource Hub
  • Educational Guides

Become Wrike Pro

  • Submit A Ticket
  • Help Center
  • Premium Support
  • Community Topics
  • Training Courses
  • Facilitated Services

How to Write a Startup Business Plan

May 28, 2022 - 10 min read

Yuvika Iyer

A startup business plan is an outline of your ideas and strategies for what you’ll need to do to start, manage, and even complete your startup’s mission. Creating one might sound simple enough, but because it’s a startup’s roadmap for success, it can be a complex document to create. 

Writing a business plan can make a world of difference for entrepreneurs who desire external funding. It involves determining your target customers, understanding what makes them tick, and figuring out how to reach them through marketing campaigns. 

In this blog post, we’ve explained why you should have a startup business plan, different types of startup business plans, and we’ve included 12 of the most effective tips for writing a startup business plan. If you’re ready to start with now, we have a product launch template to get you started quickly. 

What is a startup business plan?

A startup business plan is a written document that outlines your ideas and strategies for launching, managing, and eventually exiting your new venture. 

A well-constructed business plan can be crucial to the success of any entrepreneurial endeavor . As you prepare your proposal, keep in mind that it will evolve as you learn more about your market.

To start, create an outline of the most important items you'd like feedback on before writing anything down officially.

Then ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I want?
  • Why does my company exist?
  • How will I make money?
  • What are my long-term goals?

A detailed business plan helps you set milestones for measuring success. You can share the plan with investors who may want some reassurance on the viability of their investment in your company.

The best way to create a successful startup business plan is by including everything in an organized and easy-to-read document — marketing strategies, financial projections, team bios, timelines, and more.

What is a lean startup business plan?

A lean startup business plan is a method for developing products that relies on iterative experimentation to reduce uncertainty. 

It has been used by companies such as Google , Amazon, and Facebook in the early stages of their development, and involves testing your idea with real customers early in development.

Lean startups are less likely to fail because they have tested their product or service with live feedback from consumers. Doing this allows them to make changes quickly without wasting resources on something no one wants.

The goal is not to build an extensive business plan but rather a "lean" one that can be changed based on customer feedback and then re-evaluated in regular intervals until it reaches market potential — or fails.

A lean startup business plan is a strategy that focuses on getting a product in front of customers as quickly and cheaply as possible. Use the lean startup business plan to validate your ideas before wasting time and resources.

Why do you need a small startup business plan?

A small startup business plan is one of the most important steps in building a company. Apart from helping you to focus on company goals, it aids in obtaining feedback from potential partners and keeps the team on the same page.

The best thing about starting small? You can change course at any time! If you need help developing or tweaking your small startup business plan, use this guide for entrepreneurs to get started.

You've built a product and you're ready to take the next step, but what's your plan? First, you need a strategy in place. Do you know how much money it will cost, or where exactly that funding should come from? What about marketing strategies for getting customers in the door? 

Mobile image promo promo

You’ll also need to find ways to retain them afterwards so they keep coming back again and again (and spending more).

product launch startup template

Obtain external funding

If you want to get funding from lenders or investors, you need a startup business plan. Lenders want to make sure they're investing in a company that will last and grow.

A well-organized idea shows passion for its purpose and outlines clear goals for helping customers. At the same time, having an exit strategy is also important.

Making a plan for when things don’t pan out as desired lets investors understand how much value there can be while giving customers (and yourself) peace of mind.

Understand your target market

One key piece of your business plan is knowing how to conduct a market analysis. To do this, consider the industry, target market, and competitors. 

Are there any market trends or competitor factors that can affect your business? Review them closely and get ready to make required changes to your business plan.

Prioritize high ROI strategies

In business, ROI is important. Any business that doesn’t generate as much cash as it burns is likely to fail.

With a startup business plan in place, the strategies with the highest ROI become crystal clear. You'll know exactly what to tackle first and how to prioritize the rest of your tasks.

Accelerate financial health

Business plans are not crystal balls, but they can help forecast your financial health. Planning for expenses is vital to keep operations steady and identify problems as soon as possible. 

Cash flow projections can help you see if goals are achievable or highlight upcoming issues that need correction before it's too late.

How to write a small startup business plan

Use this guide for entrepreneurs to develop or tweak a startup business plan. By following this easy six-step process, you'll soon have a clear path to startup success.

1. Clarify the startup vision, mission, and values

The first step to writing a startup business plan is understanding the startup itself.

Once you know what your startup does, ask yourself why. What is the startup's mission? What problem will it help customers solve? The startup's mission statement helps define its reason for existing.

It’s usually expressed in a simple sentence, but can also be written as a short paragraph.

Try to answer these questions: What does your startup do? How will it make money? How quickly do you hope it will grow? Are there any significant milestones or deadlines that need to be met?

2. Outline the executive summary

Now that you have an idea for your startup, its mission, and a vision in mind, it's time to write your startup business plan executive summary.

Keep it simple and precise. Begin by writing a one-sentence startup business plan introduction that showcases the core customer need/pain point and how you propose to solve it.

3. Develop startup goals and milestones

Next, write down the milestones and goals for your startup business plan. This is a crucial step that many entrepreneurs forget when they're starting out.

Do you want to focus on getting new customers? Or attaining a specific revenue number?  Without clear short-term goals, it can be hard to know how to prioritize startup tasks.

4. Write a company description

Answer the two fundamental questions — who are you and what will you do? Then, give an introduction to why you're in business.

Provide a summary of introspective goals, clarifying intangible aspects such as values or cultural philosophies. Make sure to mention:

  • Proposed business structure (limited partnership, sole proprietorship, incorporated company, or a general partnership)
  • Business model
  • Business vision and mission statement
  • Background information of your team members

create a startup business plan

5. Conduct market analysis

Choosing the right market is crucial to your organization’s success. There are different kinds of products and services that a business can offer and each has particular requirements for a successful market fit.

If you choose one that doesn't have a large enough customer base or is not profitable enough, your company may end up struggling for every sale.

Ensure that there is a clear market niche — an ideal audience of customers with a need or a pain point that your business can help solve.

6. Develop startup partnerships and resources

When you're launching a small startup, one of the most important things that your business needs is capital. There are several ways to get going on this front.

When thinking about sources of funding for startups , consider startup grants, startup loans, startup investors, and startup accelerators.

7. Write a startup marketing plan and startup budget

Your startup business plan is almost complete! All that's left is to create a startup marketing plan and budget. Your startup marketing plan will help you define your company’s target audience and brand image.

The startup budget is an integral part of any startup that helps you take the guesswork out of writing expenses.

Examples of startup business plans

Business plans differ based on the nature of the business, target market, competitive advantage, delivery of product/service, scope, and size.

Though the core business plan template remains the same, the content and flow change. Here is an example of an accounting firm's business plan:

Vision statement

At our company, ABC Accounting Services LLC, we work hard to provide the best service and build a strong team. Our vision is for this brand to be recognized as #1 throughout NYC by both smaller businesses and larger corporations.

Our values are reflected in all that we do: integrity (ethical behavior), service (giving top priority to clients' needs), excellence ("doing it right"), teamwork (working together).

Executive summary

ABC Accounting Services LLC is the premier accounting firm in New York City and will handle various financial services. We specialize in audits, bookkeeping, tax preparation/compliance work, and budgeting assistance with high-quality consulting.

Business structure

ABC Accounting Services LLC will be structured as an LLC — a Limited Liability Company in the state of New York. It will provide accounting, bookkeeping, taxation, auditing, and compliance-related services to small, medium, and large enterprises situated in New York City.

Marketing strategy and competitive advantages

Despite the fact that there are many established accounting services firms in our industry, we have a great chance of becoming successful because of the high demand for financial consulting. 

Often, small businesses don't need full-time employees but would rather hire an accounting service provider like us to handle their bookkeeping and tax returns on time every year.

It is best to find a unique niche or carve out your own market in the financial consulting services industry. If you're able to create an identifiable brand identity for your accounting business, then you will likely see less competition from other firms.

Startup milestones

ABC Accounting Services LLC will focus on delivering an exceptional client experience to grow the business and expand market share.

Startup business plan template

Here's a template you can follow when creating your startup business plan:

create a startup business plan

Top tips for writing a startup business plan

The following tips will help you create a compelling startup business plan without getting overwhelmed.

Know your audience

To write an effective business plan, tailor your language and level of detail to match the audience reading it. 

Have a simple and clear goal

If you have a goal of securing funding for your business, it will be an uphill task with lots of work and research.

Simplifying and breaking down bigger goals into smaller, actionable tasks will assist you in getting through them faster.

Spend time researching

Avoid assuming anything about your target audience, product/service, or the market need.

Spending adequate time and effort on research from primary and secondary sources will help you develop an accurate business plan.

Build a startup toolkit

The process of creation becomes easier if you have the right startup tools and software by your side. Pick the right ones that will help you in your journey.

Keep it precise

Short and easy-to-read business plans are best kept within 20 pages. If you have additional documents, consider adding them as appendices or provide a link if available online.

Ensure tonal consistency

Keep the tone consistent by having just one author write your startup business plan. Otherwise, be sure to edit it thoroughly before you finalize it.

Add reference points

All information regarding the market, your competitors, and your customers should reference authoritative data points.

Be ready to pivot

A business plan should be fluid and flexible. Think of it as an evolving document that will continue to change over time.

How to create a business plan with Wrike

A good business plan is a powerful tool and can be a key predictor of future progress, but simply filling in a startup business plan won’t help you achieve success. You need to create action steps with accountability that will help you reach your goals. 

Wrike’s project management software can help your organization deliver successful projects and maximize individual and team productivity, and our product launch template can help you turn your startup business plan goals into actionable steps. 

Start a free trial of Wrike today to see how it can help to simplify work, showcase progress to stakeholders, and achieve startup success.

Yuvika Iyer

Yuvika Iyer

Yuvika is a freelance writer who specializes in recruitment and resume writing.

Related articles

How to Write a Business Case (With Example & Template)

How to Write a Business Case (With Example & Template)

A business plan is a straightforward document. In it, you’ll include market research, your overall goals for the business, and your strategies for achieving those goals.  But what is a business case and why do you need one if a business plan outlines everything else? A business case takes a closer look at a specific problem and how you can solve it. Think of a business case as the reason you create a project you’re going to manage in the first place.  The article provides a step-by-step guide on how to write a successful business case, including a checklist for identifying problems, researching solutions, and presenting to stakeholders. As a bonus, we’ll show you how to use Wrike to manage your product business cases with a requirements management template or implement them with a project scheduling template. What is a business case? A business case is a project you’ll assemble for identifying, addressing, and solving a specific business problem.  The key to a business case is the change it creates in your business. Developing a business case starts with identifying a problem that needs a permanent solution. Without that lasting change, a business case is only an observation about what’s going wrong. A complete business case addresses how a company can alter its strategy to fix that problem. Front-to-back, a business case is a complete story. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It typically looks like this: Beginning: Someone identifies a problem within the business and presents the business case to the key decision-makers. Middle: With the project go-ahead, the company launches an internal team to address the business case and deliver results. End: The team delivers a presentation on the changes made and their long-term effects. In short, a business case is the story of a problem that needs solving.   Examples of business cases The problem for many companies is that they can turn a blind eye to challenges that are right in front of their faces. This is even the case when the company has a compelling product to sell. Consider the example of Febreze. In the mid-1990s, a researcher at Procter & Gamble was working with hydroxypropyl beta-cyclodextrin. His wife noticed that his clothes no longer smelled like cigarettes, which was a frequent complaint. P&G had something of a miracle product on its hands. However, their approach was wrong. They initially marketed Febreze as a way to eliminate embarrassing smells. Predictably, the product flopped.  But P&G stuck at it. They had a potential business case on their hands: a highly marketable product proved difficult to market. What was going wrong? Working on the business case from beginning to end provided the answer. After some focus group testing, P&G found out that few consumers recognized the nasty odors they were used to. Instead, they learned to use a different business case for Febreze: it was a cleaning product now, a way to make the house smell nice when the floors are vacuumed and the counters are wiped clean. They gave it its own pleasant smell and fashioned it into a cleaning product. And because it worked so well, so did the campaign.  That’s an example of a business case overall. But let’s get specific: developing a business case is easier when you have a template to look at. Let’s build an example using a made-up company, ABC Widgets, and a hypothetical business case. Let’s call our business case example “Operation Super Widgets”: Business Case: ABC Widgets Section 1: Summary Briefly describe the problem and the opportunities.  ABC Widgets’ latest widget, the Super Widget, is suffering from supply issues, requiring higher shipping costs to procure the necessary resources, and eating into profits. We need to switch to a new supplier to restore the viability of the Super Widget. Section 2: Project Scope This section should include the following: Financial appraisal of the situation. Super Widgets are now 20% more expensive to produce than in the year prior, resulting in -1% profits with each Super Widget sold. Business objectives. To get revenues back up, we need to restore profit margins on Cost Per Unit Sold for every Super Widget back to 2020 levels. Benefits/limitations. Restoring Cost Per Unit Sold will restore 5% of sagging revenues. However, we are limited to three choices for new Super Widget suppliers. Scope and impact. We will need to involve supply chain managers and Super Widget project management teams, which may temporarily reduce the number of widgets we’re able to produce, potentially resulting in $25,000 in lost revenue. Plan. Project Management Teams A and B will take the next two weeks to get quotes from suppliers and select one while integrating an immediate plan to bring in new Super Widget parts for manufacturing within four weeks. Organization. Team Member Sarah will take the lead on Operation Super Widget Profit. Both teams will report to Sarah. This is a bare-bones example of what a business case might look like, but it does hit on the key points: what’s the problem, how can you fix it, what’s the plan to fix it, and what will happen if you succeed? How do you write and develop a business case? When writing your own business case, the above example is a good guide to follow as you get started with the basics.  But, once you’re more familiar with the nuts and bolts, it’s also worth being prepared for some potential roadblocks you could face along the way.  Challenges of writing a good business case Why don’t more companies create a business case? It might come down to a lack of good communication. Many people don’t even know how to write a business case, let alone present one. “The idea may be great, but if it’s not communicated well, it won’t get any traction,” said Nancy Duarte, communication and author who wrote The HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations. The key challenge, notes Duarte, is taking abstract business concepts (like lagging numbers) and turning them into an immediately recognizable problem. After all, if a company already had perfect awareness that it was making a mistake, it likely would find a way to stop the error in its tracks.  A business case is challenging because it usually means you’ll have to persuade someone that change is needed. And change can be difficult. In a thriving business, it’s especially problematic because it’s easy to point to the bottom line and say that whatever the company is doing is already working. How do you present a business case? The tips and examples above give you some nice remedies for creating a business case without the typical problems. But you’ll still want to present a business case with the straightforward proposals and numbers you’d associate with any new project.  Essentially, it all comes down to how well your business case can persuade the decision-makers. That’s why you shouldn’t just build a case off of raw numbers. The bottom line might be a compelling argument, but it’s not always what “clicks.”  If you’re presenting a business case, you’re a salesperson. And not every sale is a matter of precise logic. It’s also about emotion—the story of why something’s gone wrong and what needs doing if you’re going to overcome it.  The art of a good business case is the art of persuasion. Keep these specific points in mind as you craft one of your own: Point to an example of a bad business case and liken it to the present case. No one likes the idea of watching themselves walk into a mistake. Presenting an example of a business that made the same mistake your company is making and then translating it into the present moment is a compelling way to craft a business case that makes ears perk up. Build a narrative. Nancy Duarte pointed out that in one business case, a client convinced a CEO to follow through with a project by using simple illustrations. It’s not that the idea of adding illustrations to the business case was so great. It’s that the illustrations were able to tell a compelling story about why the case needed to go through. Distill the idea into an elevator pitch. Try this exercise: get your business case down to one sentence. If you can’t explain it any more simply than that, your business case might not be as memorable as it needs to be to sway decision-makers. Use analogies to drive the point home. Let’s say you discovered a problem in a growing business. Overall, revenues are good — but you’ve noticed an associated cost that has the potential to explode in the future and tank the business. But it’s not compelling to use dollars and cents when the business is doing so well. Instead, consider introducing the business case with a simple analogy: “Without repair, every leaky boat eventually sinks.” You now have their attention. Use the numbers to drive the point home, but not to make the point. If you’re presenting a business case to decision-makers, remember that it’s not only the logic of your argument that will convince people — it’s how persuasive you can be. Business case checklist Before you can check “learn how to write a business case” off your list, you have to know the essentials. Make sure you include the following elements in your business case checklist (and, of course, your business case itself): Reasons. This should be the most compelling part of your business case. You can tell a story here. And the most compelling stories start with a loss or a complication of some sort. What is the threat to the business that needs remedy? What are the reasons for moving forward? Potential courses of action. It’s not a complete story until we know the next chapter. A business case isn’t just about the problem — it’s about rectifying a problem through the solution. Recommend a few specific courses of action to help spur discussion about what to do next. Risks and benefits. Not every solution is going to be perfectly clean. There are going to be solutions with downsides. There are going to be costs along with the benefits. Make sure to include each of these to give a clear and complete picture. This is the time to manage expectations — but also the time to inspire action. Cost. What’s it going to cost to complete the project? The people making the decisions need to know the bottom line figure to assess which business cases to prioritize. Timeline. A good project isn’t only measured in dollars but in days, weeks, and months. What is the expected timeline for the business case? How quickly can the problem meet its solution?  With every business case, specificity is key. A vague timeline won’t help — a timeline with specific weekly milestones looks more achievable. To make your business case more compelling, always look for the specific details that tie your story together. Business case template A business case template is a document that outlines the key elements of a business case in a structured format. By using a standardized template, companies can ensure that all relevant information is captured and shared in a clear and consistent manner. Depending on the size of your business and the scope of your project, your business case template can be as detailed or as simple as you like. For a smaller project, you can use a one-pager to get started, detailing the main points of your project, which include: Executive summary: An overview of your project, its goals, and the benefits of completing it for your business Team and stakeholders: A list of the relevant people involved in your project, and their contact information SWOT analysis: An analysis of how your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats weigh up against your competitors Risk analysis: An overview of the kind of risks that are involved with your project and how you may avoid them Budget and financial plan: Details of your budget and where you may secure financing for your project Project plan: A schedule of how you plan to implement your project and what tasks are involved Let's see what that might look like. Executive summary   Team and stakeholders   SWOT analysis   Risk analysis   Budget   Project plan   How to write a business case with Wrike Wrike’s project management software can step in and turn a business case from the seedling of an idea to a full-fledged initiative.  The requirements management pre-built template can help you document and track project requirements in a structured manner. The template includes sections for capturing stakeholder requirements and business cases, as well as any constraints that may affect the project’s success. By using this template, you can ensure that all necessary requirements are identified and that potential issues are addressed early in the project planning process. If you want to move from the business case description to the actual implementation faster, consider using the project scheduling template. This template can help you create a detailed project timeline with milestones, identify task dependencies, and assign resources. By utilizing this template, you can ensure that the project is realistically achievable and meets all business needs, giving stakeholders confidence in the project’s success.

Operational Planning: How to Make an Operational Plan

Operational Planning: How to Make an Operational Plan

Learn how to create an operational plan that will help your business succeed. Check out our guide to everything you need to know about operational planning.

What Is a PMIS and How Does it Work?

What Is a PMIS and How Does it Work?

Discover how a PMIS can help your team deliver high-quality projects faster in this in-depth guide. Learn what is PMIS and how you can set one up.

Get weekly updates in your inbox!

Get weekly updates in your inbox!

You are now subscribed to wrike news and updates.

Let us know what marketing emails you are interested in by updating your email preferences here .

Sorry, this content is unavailable due to your privacy settings. To view this content, click the “Cookie Preferences” button and accept Advertising Cookies there.

  • PRO Courses Guides New Tech Help Pro Expert Videos About wikiHow Pro Upgrade Sign In
  • EDIT Edit this Article
  • EXPLORE Tech Help Pro About Us Random Article Quizzes Request a New Article Community Dashboard This Or That Game Popular Categories Arts and Entertainment Artwork Books Movies Computers and Electronics Computers Phone Skills Technology Hacks Health Men's Health Mental Health Women's Health Relationships Dating Love Relationship Issues Hobbies and Crafts Crafts Drawing Games Education & Communication Communication Skills Personal Development Studying Personal Care and Style Fashion Hair Care Personal Hygiene Youth Personal Care School Stuff Dating All Categories Arts and Entertainment Finance and Business Home and Garden Relationship Quizzes Cars & Other Vehicles Food and Entertaining Personal Care and Style Sports and Fitness Computers and Electronics Health Pets and Animals Travel Education & Communication Hobbies and Crafts Philosophy and Religion Work World Family Life Holidays and Traditions Relationships Youth
  • Browse Articles
  • Learn Something New
  • Quizzes Hot
  • This Or That Game
  • Train Your Brain
  • Explore More
  • Support wikiHow
  • About wikiHow
  • Log in / Sign up
  • Finance and Business
  • Business Skills
  • Business Writing

How to Write a Business Plan for a Startup

Last Updated: December 22, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Jack Herrick . Jack Herrick is an American entrepreneur and wiki enthusiast. His entrepreneurial projects include wikiHow, eHow, Luminescent Technologies, and BigTray. In January 2005, Herrick started wikiHow with the goal of creating "the how-to guide for everything." He has a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Dartmouth College. There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 116,867 times.

As a startup, you will need a business plan. For example, you will need to show your plan to a bank if you are seeking a loan. You also need to show the plan to any investor. Business plans are helpful because they force you to step back and analyze your business critically. You should consider your target market, the products or services you will offer, and your projected finances. Writing a business plan isn’t difficult, though it will require considerable research and planning.

Explaining Your Marketing Plan

Step 1 Describe your mission and objectives.

  • Your mission. What is your driving goal every day? Don’t simply write, “Make money.” Identify how you will make money. For example, you can write: “Our mission is to offer residents of the Lakeview neighborhood the best day spa experience in the Near North Side of Chicago. We are committed to providing value and quality in a fun atmosphere that is never predictable.”
  • Your goals. For example, a day spay might have the following goal: “To attract a minimum of 35 customers each day in the first year of operations.” Make your goals as concrete as possible.
  • Description of the industry. Explain whether the industry is growing or poised for growth in the short and long term.
  • The factors that will drive your success. How will you set yourself apart? For example, “You All Day will separate itself from the pack based on the owner’s deep experience running a day spa in Seattle for ten years. This experience includes familiarity with successful marketing techniques and trends analysis.”
  • Your legal form. Are you a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), or corporation? Also explain why you selected this form.

Jack Herrick

Jack Herrick

Don’t skimp on how much energy and time you put into your mission. When asked about creating wikiHow’s mission, Jack Herrick, founder of wikiHow, responded: “We had the whole management team — alongside members of the wikiHow community — reviewing it, discussing it, and going back and forth on the wording. Those two sentences were many hours of work.”

Step 2 Discuss your industry.

  • You can search for industry information in other places. For example, talk to people in your industry at trade shows. Also search online. Many industries have trade associations, which have websites with information.
  • For example, when analyzing the day spa industry, you might want to talk about how it is growing because more upper-income men in urban areas are visiting. (If that’s true).
  • By analyzing the industry, you gain insight as to your likely target market and how you can reach them.

Step 3 Identify your target market.

  • Age. What is the average age of your likely customer? If you don’t know, then visit similar businesses and note the ages of the clientele.
  • Gender. Will men or women—or both—primarily use your products or services?
  • Location. Generally, your market will be located near your business. However, if you have a web-based business, your target audience could have no geographic boundaries.
  • Income level.
  • Occupation. For example, a day spa might target stressed-out white collar professionals.
  • Education level. There is often a link between education, income, and occupation—though not always. For example, a discount bookstore might target an educated audience that nevertheless has a lower income.

Step 4 Scope out your competition.

  • To find competitors, look in the phone book and do a general Google search. Make sure to read their website and stop into the business.
  • If you’re opening a restaurant, you’ll want to see a sample menu, as well as the hours of operation.
  • Also identify indirect competitors. For example, a day spa is competing with more than other spas. You also compete with any business that offers relaxation, such as massage parlors or meditation centers.
  • Name of your competitor.
  • What you offer that they don’t. Think about products and services, but also location, ease of ordering, etc. What will make the consumer experience different at your business?
  • What they offer that you don’t. Identify why you don’t offer their products or services. For example, they may be serving multiple niches while you are focused on only one. Alternately, they may have a favorable location.

Step 6 Describe your products and services.

  • Whether you will sell pizza by the slice, as whole pies, or both
  • How big your pizzas will be
  • What toppings your customers can offer
  • If you will have take-out and delivery options
  • What other food items will be sold

Step 7 Devise your marketing...

  • What type of advertising or promotion will you use? How often will you use paid promotion?
  • What other promotion other than paid advertising will you use? For example, you might use social media, professional networks, etc.
  • Will you create a logo and use it on cards, letterhead, websites, etc.?
  • How large will your promotional budget be?

Discussing Your Business Organization

Step 1 Explain your daily operations.

  • State how much you expect to pay each employee in your first three years of business.
  • Also name your professional support, such as your business lawyer, accountant, and insurance agent. Professionals are independent contractors you use but don’t employ. Calculate how much you expect to spend on each professional.

Step 2 Identify management.

  • You might write: “Lisa Jones is the sole proprietor of You All Day and will run day-to-day operations. As a certified massage therapist, she ran the Relax! chain of day spas in the Greater Seattle area for ten years. A former accountant, Lisa has an MS in accounting from the University of New Hampshire and worked as a CPA briefly before going into the spa business.”
  • If you are asking for a loan, then include resumes for each owner. You can put them in the appendix at the end of the document.

Step 3 Provide personal financial statements.

  • You should create professional-looking financial statements using a spreadsheet.
  • You’ll have to gather quite a bit of information to make the financial statement. For example, you will need information on your assets, investments, and personal debts.
  • You might also want to get a free copy of your credit report and review it as you draft your business plan.

Analyzing Business Finances

Step 1 Explain your start-up costs.

  • Common startup costs include insurance, licenses, equipment, advertising, and employee expenses. [9] X Trustworthy Source U.S. Small Business Administration U.S. government agency focused on supporting small businesses Go to source
  • Also identify the source of the startup capital. For example, if your startup has three initial owners, state how much each is contributing to the business and their ownership percentage.
  • If you need financing, state how much. Include the terms of any proposed loan.

Step 2 Forecast profits for the first year.

  • You’ll need to make some assumptions in order to come up with a forecast of sales. You should explain these assumptions in your business plan.
  • For example, you can write, “We assume continued interest in day spas in the Chicago area.”
  • Another assumption is the overall health of the economy. “Although the Chicagoland economy has grown more slowly than other regions of the country, we assume that the Chicago economy will grow on par with other large metropolitan areas in the coming decade.”
  • You can also include a four-year projection, though this is optional.

Step 3 Identify expected cash...

  • Also talk about how you will build up your cash reserves. For example: “In addition to normal cash flow, we will focus on obtaining sufficient cash reserves for emergencies. These reserves include a line of credit with a bank, which we can use when business is slow. We will also invest excess cash in certificates of deposits at our bank.”

Step 4 Provide a break-even analysis.

  • Fixed costs: these don’t vary depending on your sales volume. For example, your rent, employee salaries, and insurance are fixed costs.
  • Variable costs: these fluctuate depending on your sales and include shipping, inventory, and manufacturing costs.

Finishing Your Business Plan

Step 1 Format your document.

  • Add a cover page to your document. You can title it “[Company Name]’s Business Plan” or “Business Plan for [Your Name].” If you have a logo, include that too.

Step 2 Draft your executive summary.

  • For example, you can write, “You All Day is a start-up dedicated to providing men and women in Chicago a high-quality day spa experience at an affordable price. We specialize in pedicures, manicures, massage, and herbal aromatherapy. The Near North Side of Chicago has grown substantially over the past 20 years, with young, educated millennials settling in to start families. This area is currently under served, and we hope You All Day can meet the demand of the local market.”

Step 3 Assemble the pieces.

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Industry Analysis
  • Market and Competition
  • Products and Services
  • Marketing and Sales Plan
  • Operations and Management
  • Financial Forecasts
  • Exhibits/Appendix

Step 4 Add attachments in the appendix.

  • Review for typos and other errors. An accountant should check your numbers to make sure they are accurate.
  • Analyze the overall presentation. Is the information crammed in so that the document is tiring to read? If so, spread out the information so that there is a lot of white space on each page.
  • You can also show the plan to a business adviser. If you live in the U.S., you can show it to someone at your nearest Small Business Development Center, which provides help drafting business plans. You can find your nearest SBDC by visiting this website: https://www.sba.gov/tools/local-assistance/sbdc .

Step 6 Print and bind the plan.

  • You might want to include tabbed partitions between each section of your business plan. This will make it easier for someone to flip through it and find what they are looking for.

Expert Q&A

  • Don’t be afraid to change your business plans as you research and draft the document. That’s one of the reasons for writing the plan in the first place. For example, you might have intended to target women as consumers only to realize that there are growth opportunities with men. You can adjust your plans accordingly. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0

create a startup business plan

You Might Also Like

Write a Management Plan

  • ↑ https://business.vic.gov.au/business-information/marketing-and-sales/increasing-sales-through-marketing/do-market-research
  • ↑ https://openstax.org/books/entrepreneurship/pages/7-5-reality-check-contests-and-competitions
  • ↑ https://www.sba.gov/business-guide/plan-your-business/market-research-competitive-analysis
  • ↑ https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/business-plan-product-description
  • ↑ https://business.gov.au/planning/business-plans/develop-your-marketing-plan
  • ↑ https://openstax.org/books/entrepreneurship/pages/11-4-the-business-plan
  • ↑ https://www.sba.gov/business-guide/plan-your-business/calculate-your-startup-costs
  • ↑ https://www.alberta.ca/preparing-financial-projections-and-monitoring-results.aspx
  • ↑ https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/services/entrepreneurial-private-business/small-business-solutions/blogs/preparing-a-cash-flow-forecast-simple-steps-for-vital-insight.html
  • ↑ https://www.sba.gov/business-guide/plan-your-business/write-your-business-plan
  • ↑ https://smallbusinessbc.ca/article/5-reasons-business-plan-review/

About This Article

Jack Herrick

To write a business plan for a startup, break your plan up into several sections, including an executive summary, a description of your company, an industry analysis, market and competition information, your products and services, your marketing and sales plan, operations and management information, your financial forecasts, and finally, an appendix. To format your business plan, use a professional font, like Times New Roman, and include a cover page with your company's name and logo on it. To learn how to write each section of your business plan, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

  • Send fan mail to authors

Reader Success Stories

Rifaz Nilam

Rifaz Nilam

Jan 22, 2021

Did this article help you?

Rifaz Nilam

Apr 14, 2022

Kathryn Pless

Kathryn Pless

Apr 11, 2016

Patricia Coronel

Patricia Coronel

Aug 19, 2017

Nena Ramirez

Nena Ramirez

Oct 10, 2016

Do I Have a Dirty Mind Quiz

Featured Articles

Flirt

Trending Articles

Why Is My Facebook Feed All Ads and Suggested Posts?

Watch Articles

Put a Bracelet on by Yourself

  • Terms of Use
  • Privacy Policy
  • Do Not Sell or Share My Info
  • Not Selling Info

wikiHow Tech Help Pro:

Level up your tech skills and stay ahead of the curve

  • Start free trial

Start selling with Shopify today

Start your free trial with Shopify today—then use these resources to guide you through every step of the process.

create a startup business plan

Free Business Plan Template for Small Businesses (2024)

Use this free business plan template to write your business plan quickly and efficiently.

A stack of books against a gradient background

A good business plan is essential to successfully starting your business —  and the easiest way to simplify the work of writing a business plan is to start with a business plan template.

You’re already investing time and energy in refining your business model and planning your launch—there’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to writing a business plan. Instead, to help build a complete and effective plan, lean on time-tested structures created by other  entrepreneurs and startups. 

Ahead, learn what it takes to create a solid business plan and download Shopify's free business plan template to get started on your dream today. 

What this free business plan template includes

  • Executive summary
  • Company overview
  • Products or services offered
  • Market analysis
  • Marketing plan
  • Logistics and operations plan
  • Financial plan

This business plan outline is designed to ensure you’re thinking through all of the important facets of starting a new business. It’s intended to help new business owners and entrepreneurs consider the full scope of running a business and identify functional areas they may not have considered or where they may need to level up their skills as they grow.

That said, it may not include the specific details or structure preferred by a potential investor or lender. If your goal with a business plan is to secure funding , check with your target organizations—typically banks or investors—to see if they have business plan templates you can follow to maximize your chances of success.

Our free business plan template includes seven key elements typically found in the traditional business plan format:

1. Executive summary

This is a one-page summary of your whole plan, typically written after the rest of the plan is completed. The description section of your executive summary will also cover your management team, business objectives and strategy, and other background information about the brand. 

2. Company overview

This section of your business plan will answer two fundamental questions: “Who are you?” and “What do you plan to do?” Answering these questions clarifies why your company exists, what sets it apart from others, and why it’s a good investment opportunity. This section will detail the reasons for your business’s existence, its goals, and its guiding principles.

3. Products or services offered

What you sell and the most important features of your products or services. It also includes any plans for intellectual property, like patent filings or copyright. If you do market research for new product lines, it will show up in this section of your business plan.

4. Market analysis

This section includes everything from estimated market size to your target markets and competitive advantage. It’ll include a competitive analysis of your industry to address competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. Market research is an important part of ensuring you have a viable idea.

5. Marketing plan

How you intend to get the word out about your business, and what strategic decisions you’ve made about things like your pricing strategy. It also covers potential customers’ demographics, your sales plan, and your metrics and milestones for success.

6. Logistics and operations plan

Everything that needs to happen to turn your raw materials into products and get them into the hands of your customers.

7. Financial plan

It’s important to include a look at your financial projections, including both revenue and expense projections. This section includes templates for three key financial statements: an income statement, a balance sheet, and a cash-flow statement . You can also include whether or not you need a business loan and how much you’ll need.

Business plan examples

What do financial projections look like on paper? How do you write an executive summary? What should your company description include?  Business plan examples  can help answer some of these questions and transform your business idea into an actionable plan.

Professional business plan example

Inside our template, we’ve filled out a sample business plan featuring a fictional ecommerce business . 

The sample is set up to help you get a sense of each section and understand how they apply to the planning and evaluation stages of a business plan. If you’re looking for funding, this example won’t be a complete or formal look at business plans, but it will give you a great place to start and notes about where to expand.

Example text in a business plan company overview section

Lean business plan example

A lean business plan format is a shortened version of your more detailed business plan. It’s helpful when modifying your plan for a specific audience, like investors or new hires. 

Also known as a one-page business plan, it includes only the most important, need-to-know information, such as:

  • Company description
  • Key members of your team
  • Customer segments

💡 Tip: For a step-by-step guide to creating a lean business plan (including a sample business plan), read our guide on how to create a lean business plan .

Example text in a business plan's marketing plan section

Benefits of writing a solid business plan

It’s tempting to dive right into execution when you’re excited about a new business or side project, but taking the time to write a thorough business plan and get your thoughts on paper allows you to do a number of beneficial things:

  • Test the viability of your business idea. Whether you’ve got one business idea or many, business plans can make an idea more tangible, helping you see if it’s truly viable and ensure you’ve found a target market. 
  • Plan for your next phase. Whether your goal is to start a new business or scale an existing business to the next level, a business plan can help you understand what needs to happen and identify gaps to address.
  • Clarify marketing strategy, goals, and tactics. Writing a business plan can show you the actionable next steps to take on a big, abstract idea. It can also help you narrow your strategy and identify clear-cut tactics that will support it.
  • Scope the necessary work. Without a concrete plan, cost overruns and delays are all but certain. A business plan can help you see the full scope of work to be done and adjust your investment of time and money accordingly.
  • Hire and build partnerships. When you need buy-in from potential employees and business partners, especially in the early stages of your business, a clearly written business plan is one of the best tools at your disposal. A business plan provides a refined look at your goals for the business, letting partners judge for themselves whether or not they agree with your vision.
  • Secure funds. Seeking financing for your business—whether from venture capital, financial institutions, or Shopify Capital —is one of the most common reasons to create a business plan.

Why you should you use a template for a business plan

A business plan can be as informal or formal as your situation calls for, but even if you’re a fan of the back-of-the-napkin approach to planning, there are some key benefits to starting your plan from an existing outline or simple business plan template.

No blank-page paralysis

A blank page can be intimidating to even the most seasoned writers. Using an established business planning process and template can help you get past the inertia of starting your business plan, and it allows you to skip the work of building an outline from scratch. You can always adjust a template to suit your needs.

Guidance on what to include in each section

If you’ve never sat through a business class, you might never have created a SWOT analysis or financial projections. Templates that offer guidance—in plain language—about how to fill in each section can help you navigate sometimes-daunting business jargon and create a complete and effective plan.

Knowing you’ve considered every section

In some cases, you may not need to complete every section of a startup business plan template, but its initial structure shows you you’re choosing to omit a section as opposed to forgetting to include it in the first place.

Tips for creating a successful business plan

There are some high-level strategic guidelines beyond the advice included in this free business plan template that can help you write an effective, complete plan while minimizing busywork.

Understand the audience for your plan

If you’re writing a business plan for yourself in order to get clarity on your ideas and your industry as a whole, you may not need to include the same level of detail or polish you would with a business plan you want to send to potential investors. Knowing who will read your plan will help you decide how much time to spend on it.

Know your goals

Understanding the goals of your plan can help you set the right scope. If your goal is to use the plan as a roadmap for growth, you may invest more time in it than if your goal is to understand the competitive landscape of a new industry.

Take it step by step

Writing a 10- to 15-page document can feel daunting, so try to tackle one section at a time. Select a couple of sections you feel most confident writing and start there—you can start on the next few sections once those are complete. Jot down bullet-point notes in each section before you start writing to organize your thoughts and streamline the writing process.

Maximize your business planning efforts

Planning is key to the financial success of any type of business , whether you’re a startup, non-profit, or corporation.

To make sure your efforts are focused on the highest-value parts of your own business planning, like clarifying your goals, setting a strategy, and understanding the target market and competitive landscape, lean on a business plan outline to handle the structure and format for you. Even if you eventually omit sections, you’ll save yourself time and energy by starting with a framework already in place.

  • How to Start an Online Boutique- A Complete Playbook
  • How To Source Products To Sell Online
  • The Ultimate Guide To Dropshipping (2024)
  • How to Start a Dropshipping Business- A Complete Playbook for 2024
  • 6 Creative Ways to Start a Business With No Money in 2024
  • What is Shopify and How Does it Work?
  • What Is Affiliate Marketing and How to Get Started
  • How to Price Your Products in 3 Simple Steps
  • 10 Common Small Business Mistakes to Avoid
  • How to Turn a Hobby into a Business in 8 Steps

Business plan template FAQ

What is the purpose of a business plan.

The purpose of your business plan is to describe a new business opportunity or an existing one. It clarifies the business strategy, marketing plan, financial forecasts, potential providers, and more information about the company.

How do I write a simple business plan?

  • Choose a business plan format, such as a traditional or a one-page business plan. 
  • Find a business plan template.
  • Read through a business plan sample.
  • Fill in the sections of your business plan.

What is the best business plan template?

If you need help writing a business plan, Shopify’s template is one of the most beginner-friendly options you’ll find. It’s comprehensive, well-written, and helps you fill out every section.

What are the 5 essential parts of a business plan?

The five essential parts of a traditional business plan include:

  • Executive summary: This is a brief overview of the business plan, summarizing the key points and highlighting the main points of the plan.
  • Business description: This section outlines the business concept and how it will be executed.
  • Market analysis: This section provides an in-depth look at the target market and how the business will compete in the marketplace.
  • Financial plan: This section details the financial projections for the business, including sales forecasts, capital requirements, and a break-even analysis.
  • Management and organization: This section describes the management team and the organizational structure of the business.

Are there any free business plan templates?

There are several free templates for business plans for small business owners available online, including Shopify’s own version. Download a copy for your business.

Keep up with the latest from Shopify

Get free ecommerce tips, inspiration, and resources delivered directly to your inbox.

By entering your email, you agree to receive marketing emails from Shopify.

popular posts

start-free-trial

The point of sale for every sale.

Graphic of a mobile phone with heart shapes bubbles floating around it

Subscribe to our blog and get free ecommerce tips, inspiration, and resources delivered directly to your inbox.

Unsubscribe anytime. By entering your email, you agree to receive marketing emails from Shopify.

Latest from Shopify

Jun 11, 2024

Learn on the go. Try Shopify for free, and explore all the tools you need to start, run, and grow your business.

Try Shopify for free, no credit card required.

Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Simple Business Plan

By Joe Weller | October 11, 2021

  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on LinkedIn

Link copied

A business plan is the cornerstone of any successful company, regardless of size or industry. This step-by-step guide provides information on writing a business plan for organizations at any stage, complete with free templates and expert advice. 

Included on this page, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan and a chart to identify which type of business plan you should write . Plus, find information on how a business plan can help grow a business and expert tips on writing one .

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a document that communicates a company’s goals and ambitions, along with the timeline, finances, and methods needed to achieve them. Additionally, it may include a mission statement and details about the specific products or services offered.

A business plan can highlight varying time periods, depending on the stage of your company and its goals. That said, a typical business plan will include the following benchmarks:

  • Product goals and deadlines for each month
  • Monthly financials for the first two years
  • Profit and loss statements for the first three to five years
  • Balance sheet projections for the first three to five years

Startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses all create business plans to use as a guide as their new company progresses. Larger organizations may also create (and update) a business plan to keep high-level goals, financials, and timelines in check.

While you certainly need to have a formalized outline of your business’s goals and finances, creating a business plan can also help you determine a company’s viability, its profitability (including when it will first turn a profit), and how much money you will need from investors. In turn, a business plan has functional value as well: Not only does outlining goals help keep you accountable on a timeline, it can also attract investors in and of itself and, therefore, act as an effective strategy for growth.

For more information, visit our comprehensive guide to writing a strategic plan or download free strategic plan templates . This page focuses on for-profit business plans, but you can read our article with nonprofit business plan templates .

Business Plan Steps

The specific information in your business plan will vary, depending on the needs and goals of your venture, but a typical plan includes the following ordered elements:

  • Executive summary
  • Description of business
  • Market analysis
  • Competitive analysis
  • Description of organizational management
  • Description of product or services
  • Marketing plan
  • Sales strategy
  • Funding details (or request for funding)
  • Financial projections

If your plan is particularly long or complicated, consider adding a table of contents or an appendix for reference. For an in-depth description of each step listed above, read “ How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step ” below.

Broadly speaking, your audience includes anyone with a vested interest in your organization. They can include potential and existing investors, as well as customers, internal team members, suppliers, and vendors.

Do I Need a Simple or Detailed Plan?

Your business’s stage and intended audience dictates the level of detail your plan needs. Corporations require a thorough business plan — up to 100 pages. Small businesses or startups should have a concise plan focusing on financials and strategy.

How to Choose the Right Plan for Your Business

In order to identify which type of business plan you need to create, ask: “What do we want the plan to do?” Identify function first, and form will follow.

Use the chart below as a guide for what type of business plan to create:

Function Audience Type of Business Plan
Serve as a loose guide of objectives and timeline Internal Lean
Serve as a detailed, brass-tacks blueprint of business goals and timeline Internal Traditional
Serve as a strategic document with a narrative focus on organization-wide goals, priorities, and vision Internal Strategic
Earn a company loan or grant External Traditional (with focus on financial documents)
Attract investors or partners External Traditional/strategic (with focus on financials, as well as support departments, such as marketing, sales, product, etc.)
To test a business or startup idea Internal Lean

Is the Order of Your Business Plan Important?

There is no set order for a business plan, with the exception of the executive summary, which should always come first. Beyond that, simply ensure that you organize the plan in a way that makes sense and flows naturally.

The Difference Between Traditional and Lean Business Plans

A traditional business plan follows the standard structure — because these plans encourage detail, they tend to require more work upfront and can run dozens of pages. A Lean business plan is less common and focuses on summarizing critical points for each section. These plans take much less work and typically run one page in length.

In general, you should use a traditional model for a legacy company, a large company, or any business that does not adhere to Lean (or another Agile method ). Use Lean if you expect the company to pivot quickly or if you already employ a Lean strategy with other business operations. Additionally, a Lean business plan can suffice if the document is for internal use only. Stick to a traditional version for investors, as they may be more sensitive to sudden changes or a high degree of built-in flexibility in the plan.

How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step

Writing a strong business plan requires research and attention to detail for each section. Below, you’ll find a 10-step guide to researching and defining each element in the plan.

Step 1: Executive Summary

The executive summary will always be the first section of your business plan. The goal is to answer the following questions:

  • What is the vision and mission of the company?
  • What are the company’s short- and long-term goals?

See our  roundup of executive summary examples and templates for samples. Read our executive summary guide to learn more about writing one.

Step 2: Description of Business

The goal of this section is to define the realm, scope, and intent of your venture. To do so, answer the following questions as clearly and concisely as possible:

  • What business are we in?
  • What does our business do?

Step 3: Market Analysis

In this section, provide evidence that you have surveyed and understand the current marketplace, and that your product or service satisfies a niche in the market. To do so, answer these questions:

  • Who is our customer? 
  • What does that customer value?

Step 4: Competitive Analysis

In many cases, a business plan proposes not a brand-new (or even market-disrupting) venture, but a more competitive version — whether via features, pricing, integrations, etc. — than what is currently available. In this section, answer the following questions to show that your product or service stands to outpace competitors:

  • Who is the competition? 
  • What do they do best? 
  • What is our unique value proposition?

Step 5: Description of Organizational Management

In this section, write an overview of the team members and other key personnel who are integral to success. List roles and responsibilities, and if possible, note the hierarchy or team structure.

Step 6: Description of Products or Services

In this section, clearly define your product or service, as well as all the effort and resources that go into producing it. The strength of your product largely defines the success of your business, so it’s imperative that you take time to test and refine the product before launching into marketing, sales, or funding details.

Questions to answer in this section are as follows:

  • What is the product or service?
  • How do we produce it, and what resources are necessary for production?

Step 7: Marketing Plan

In this section, define the marketing strategy for your product or service. This doesn’t need to be as fleshed out as a full marketing plan , but it should answer basic questions, such as the following:

  • Who is the target market (if different from existing customer base)?
  • What channels will you use to reach your target market?
  • What resources does your marketing strategy require, and do you have access to them?
  • If possible, do you have a rough estimate of timeline and budget?
  • How will you measure success?

Step 8: Sales Plan

Write an overview of the sales strategy, including the priorities of each cycle, steps to achieve these goals, and metrics for success. For the purposes of a business plan, this section does not need to be a comprehensive, in-depth sales plan , but can simply outline the high-level objectives and strategies of your sales efforts. 

Start by answering the following questions:

  • What is the sales strategy?
  • What are the tools and tactics you will use to achieve your goals?
  • What are the potential obstacles, and how will you overcome them?
  • What is the timeline for sales and turning a profit?
  • What are the metrics of success?

Step 9: Funding Details (or Request for Funding)

This section is one of the most critical parts of your business plan, particularly if you are sharing it with investors. You do not need to provide a full financial plan, but you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • How much capital do you currently have? How much capital do you need?
  • How will you grow the team (onboarding, team structure, training and development)?
  • What are your physical needs and constraints (space, equipment, etc.)?

Step 10: Financial Projections

Apart from the fundraising analysis, investors like to see thought-out financial projections for the future. As discussed earlier, depending on the scope and stage of your business, this could be anywhere from one to five years. 

While these projections won’t be exact — and will need to be somewhat flexible — you should be able to gauge the following:

  • How and when will the company first generate a profit?
  • How will the company maintain profit thereafter?

Business Plan Template

Business Plan Template

Download Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel | Smartsheet

This basic business plan template has space for all the traditional elements: an executive summary, product or service details, target audience, marketing and sales strategies, etc. In the finances sections, input your baseline numbers, and the template will automatically calculate projections for sales forecasting, financial statements, and more.

For templates tailored to more specific needs, visit this business plan template roundup or download a fill-in-the-blank business plan template to make things easy. 

If you are looking for a particular template by file type, visit our pages dedicated exclusively to Microsoft Excel , Microsoft Word , and Adobe PDF business plan templates.

How to Write a Simple Business Plan

A simple business plan is a streamlined, lightweight version of the large, traditional model. As opposed to a one-page business plan , which communicates high-level information for quick overviews (such as a stakeholder presentation), a simple business plan can exceed one page.

Below are the steps for creating a generic simple business plan, which are reflected in the template below .

  • Write the Executive Summary This section is the same as in the traditional business plan — simply offer an overview of what’s in the business plan, the prospect or core offering, and the short- and long-term goals of the company. 
  • Add a Company Overview Document the larger company mission and vision. 
  • Provide the Problem and Solution In straightforward terms, define the problem you are attempting to solve with your product or service and how your company will attempt to do it. Think of this section as the gap in the market you are attempting to close.
  • Identify the Target Market Who is your company (and its products or services) attempting to reach? If possible, briefly define your buyer personas .
  • Write About the Competition In this section, demonstrate your knowledge of the market by listing the current competitors and outlining your competitive advantage.
  • Describe Your Product or Service Offerings Get down to brass tacks and define your product or service. What exactly are you selling?
  • Outline Your Marketing Tactics Without getting into too much detail, describe your planned marketing initiatives.
  • Add a Timeline and the Metrics You Will Use to Measure Success Offer a rough timeline, including milestones and key performance indicators (KPIs) that you will use to measure your progress.
  • Include Your Financial Forecasts Write an overview of your financial plan that demonstrates you have done your research and adequate modeling. You can also list key assumptions that go into this forecasting. 
  • Identify Your Financing Needs This section is where you will make your funding request. Based on everything in the business plan, list your proposed sources of funding, as well as how you will use it.

Simple Business Plan Template

Simple Business Plan Template

Download Simple Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel |  Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF  | Smartsheet

Use this simple business plan template to outline each aspect of your organization, including information about financing and opportunities to seek out further funding. This template is completely customizable to fit the needs of any business, whether it’s a startup or large company.

Read our article offering free simple business plan templates or free 30-60-90-day business plan templates to find more tailored options. You can also explore our collection of one page business templates . 

How to Write a Business Plan for a Lean Startup

A Lean startup business plan is a more Agile approach to a traditional version. The plan focuses more on activities, processes, and relationships (and maintains flexibility in all aspects), rather than on concrete deliverables and timelines.

While there is some overlap between a traditional and a Lean business plan, you can write a Lean plan by following the steps below:

  • Add Your Value Proposition Take a streamlined approach to describing your product or service. What is the unique value your startup aims to deliver to customers? Make sure the team is aligned on the core offering and that you can state it in clear, simple language.
  • List Your Key Partners List any other businesses you will work with to realize your vision, including external vendors, suppliers, and partners. This section demonstrates that you have thoughtfully considered the resources you can provide internally, identified areas for external assistance, and conducted research to find alternatives.
  • Note the Key Activities Describe the key activities of your business, including sourcing, production, marketing, distribution channels, and customer relationships.
  • Include Your Key Resources List the critical resources — including personnel, equipment, space, and intellectual property — that will enable you to deliver your unique value.
  • Identify Your Customer Relationships and Channels In this section, document how you will reach and build relationships with customers. Provide a high-level map of the customer experience from start to finish, including the spaces in which you will interact with the customer (online, retail, etc.). 
  • Detail Your Marketing Channels Describe the marketing methods and communication platforms you will use to identify and nurture your relationships with customers. These could be email, advertising, social media, etc.
  • Explain the Cost Structure This section is especially necessary in the early stages of a business. Will you prioritize maximizing value or keeping costs low? List the foundational startup costs and how you will move toward profit over time.
  • Share Your Revenue Streams Over time, how will the company make money? Include both the direct product or service purchase, as well as secondary sources of revenue, such as subscriptions, selling advertising space, fundraising, etc.

Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Lean Business Plan Templates for Startups

Download Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF

Startup leaders can use this Lean business plan template to relay the most critical information from a traditional plan. You’ll find all the sections listed above, including spaces for industry and product overviews, cost structure and sources of revenue, and key metrics, and a timeline. The template is completely customizable, so you can edit it to suit the objectives of your Lean startups.

See our wide variety of  startup business plan templates for more options.

How to Write a Business Plan for a Loan

A business plan for a loan, often called a loan proposal , includes many of the same aspects of a traditional business plan, as well as additional financial documents, such as a credit history, a loan request, and a loan repayment plan.

In addition, you may be asked to include personal and business financial statements, a form of collateral, and equity investment information.

Download free financial templates to support your business plan.

Tips for Writing a Business Plan

Outside of including all the key details in your business plan, you have several options to elevate the document for the highest chance of winning funding and other resources. Follow these tips from experts:.

  • Keep It Simple: Avner Brodsky , the Co-Founder and CEO of Lezgo Limited, an online marketing company, uses the acronym KISS (keep it short and simple) as a variation on this idea. “The business plan is not a college thesis,” he says. “Just focus on providing the essential information.”
  • Do Adequate Research: Michael Dean, the Co-Founder of Pool Research , encourages business leaders to “invest time in research, both internal and external (market, finance, legal etc.). Avoid being overly ambitious or presumptive. Instead, keep everything objective, balanced, and accurate.” Your plan needs to stand on its own, and you must have the data to back up any claims or forecasting you make. As Brodsky explains, “Your business needs to be grounded on the realities of the market in your chosen location. Get the most recent data from authoritative sources so that the figures are vetted by experts and are reliable.”
  • Set Clear Goals: Make sure your plan includes clear, time-based goals. “Short-term goals are key to momentum growth and are especially important to identify for new businesses,” advises Dean.
  • Know (and Address) Your Weaknesses: “This awareness sets you up to overcome your weak points much quicker than waiting for them to arise,” shares Dean. Brodsky recommends performing a full SWOT analysis to identify your weaknesses, too. “Your business will fare better with self-knowledge, which will help you better define the mission of your business, as well as the strategies you will choose to achieve your objectives,” he adds.
  • Seek Peer or Mentor Review: “Ask for feedback on your drafts and for areas to improve,” advises Brodsky. “When your mind is filled with dreams for your business, sometimes it is an outsider who can tell you what you’re missing and will save your business from being a product of whimsy.”

Outside of these more practical tips, the language you use is also important and may make or break your business plan.

Shaun Heng, VP of Operations at Coin Market Cap , gives the following advice on the writing, “Your business plan is your sales pitch to an investor. And as with any sales pitch, you need to strike the right tone and hit a few emotional chords. This is a little tricky in a business plan, because you also need to be formal and matter-of-fact. But you can still impress by weaving in descriptive language and saying things in a more elegant way.

“A great way to do this is by expanding your vocabulary, avoiding word repetition, and using business language. Instead of saying that something ‘will bring in as many customers as possible,’ try saying ‘will garner the largest possible market segment.’ Elevate your writing with precise descriptive words and you'll impress even the busiest investor.”

Additionally, Dean recommends that you “stay consistent and concise by keeping your tone and style steady throughout, and your language clear and precise. Include only what is 100 percent necessary.”

Resources for Writing a Business Plan

While a template provides a great outline of what to include in a business plan, a live document or more robust program can provide additional functionality, visibility, and real-time updates. The U.S. Small Business Association also curates resources for writing a business plan.

Additionally, you can use business plan software to house data, attach documentation, and share information with stakeholders. Popular options include LivePlan, Enloop, BizPlanner, PlanGuru, and iPlanner.

How a Business Plan Helps to Grow Your Business

A business plan — both the exercise of creating one and the document — can grow your business by helping you to refine your product, target audience, sales plan, identify opportunities, secure funding, and build new partnerships. 

Outside of these immediate returns, writing a business plan is a useful exercise in that it forces you to research the market, which prompts you to forge your unique value proposition and identify ways to beat the competition. Doing so will also help you build (and keep you accountable to) attainable financial and product milestones. And down the line, it will serve as a welcome guide as hurdles inevitably arise.

Streamline Your Business Planning Activities with Real-Time Work Management in Smartsheet

Empower your people to go above and beyond with a flexible platform designed to match the needs of your team — and adapt as those needs change. 

The Smartsheet platform makes it easy to plan, capture, manage, and report on work from anywhere, helping your team be more effective and get more done. Report on key metrics and get real-time visibility into work as it happens with roll-up reports, dashboards, and automated workflows built to keep your team connected and informed. 

When teams have clarity into the work getting done, there’s no telling how much more they can accomplish in the same amount of time.  Try Smartsheet for free, today.

Discover why over 90% of Fortune 100 companies trust Smartsheet to get work done.

create a startup business plan

How to Write a Business Plan for Your Startup

Anyone can have a great idea. But turning an idea into a viable business is a different ballgame.

You may think you’re ready to launch a startup company . That’s great news, and you should be excited about it.

Before you start seeking legal advice, renting office space, or forming an LLC, you need to put your thoughts on paper. This will help you stay organized and focused.

You’ll also be able to share this plan with others to help you get valuable feedback. We don’t recommend starting a company without consulting people first.

A typical business plan consists of the following elements:

  • An executive summary
  • A company description
  • Market research
  • Descriptions of products and/or services
  • The management and operational structure
  • Marketing and sales strategy

Thoroughly writing out your plan accomplishes several things.

Save your business plan progress in one place across all the document apps you use.

First, it gives you a much better understanding of your business. You may think  you know what you’re talking about, but putting it on paper will truly make you an expert.

Writing a formal plan increases your chances of success  by 16%.

Having a business plan also gives you a better chance of raising capital for your startup  company. No banks or investors will give you a dollar if you don’t have a solid business plan.

Plus, companies with business plans also see higher growth rates  than those without a plan.

image1 5

If you have an idea for a startup company but not sure how to get started with a business plan, we can help you out. We will show you how to write different elements of your business plan and provide some helpful tips along the way.

8 Steps to Write a Business Plan

Here’s what you need to know to get started.

  • Make sure your company has a clear objective
  • Identify your target market
  • Analyze your competition 
  • Budget accordingly
  • Identify your goals and financial projections
  • Clearly define the power structure
  • Discuss your marketing plan
  • Keep it short and professional

Step 1 – Make sure your company has a clear objective

When writing a company description, make sure it’s not ambiguous.

“We’re going to sell stuff”

isn’t going to cut it.

Instead, identify who you are and when you plan on going into business. State what kinds of products or services you’ll be offering and in what industry.

Where will this business operate? Be clear whether you’ll have a physical store, operate online, or both. Is your company local, regional, national, or international?

Your company description can also incorporate your mission statement.

This is an opportunity for you to gain a better understanding of your startup. The company summary forces you to set clear objectives. The type of company you have and how you will operate should be obvious to anyone who reads it.

Include the reasons for going into business. For example, let’s say you’re opening a restaurant. A reason for opening could be that you identified that no other restaurants in the area serve the cuisine you specialize in.

You can briefly discuss the vision and future of your startup company, but you don’t need to go into too much detail. You’ll cover that in greater depth as you write the rest of your business plan.

Keep in mind, this description is a summary, so there’s no reason for you to write a ton. This section should be pretty concise and no more than three or four paragraphs.

Step 2 – Identify your target market

Your business isn’t for everyone. Although you may think everyone will love your idea, that’s not a viable business strategy.

One of the first steps to launching a successful business is clearly identifying the target market of your startup .

But to find out whom you’ll target, you need to conduct market research .

Target market infographic

This is arguably the most important part of launching a startup company. If there’s no market for your business, the company will fail. It’s as simple as that.

All too often we see entrepreneurs rush into a decision because they fall in love with an idea. Due to this tunnel vision, they don’t take the necessary steps to conduct the proper research.

Sadly, those businesses don’t last.

But if you take the time to write a business plan, you may discover there’s not a viable market for your startup before it’s too late. It’s much better to learn this information in these preliminary stages than after you’ve dumped a ton of money into your venture.

To figure out your target market, start with broad assumptions and slowly narrow it down. Typically, the best way to segment your audience is using these four categories:

  • demographic
  • psychographic

Start with things like:

  • income level

As we said earlier, start broadly. For example, you may start by saying your target market lives in North America, and then narrow it down to the United States.

But as you continue going through your market research, you can get even more specific. You can target customers living in New England, for example.

By the time you’re finished, the target market could look something like this:

  • ages 26 to 40
  • living in the Boston area
  • with an annual income of $55,000-$70,000
  • who are into recycling

This profile encompasses all four demographic segments we mentioned earlier. Plus, it’s very specific.

Your business plan should talk about the research you conducted to identify this market. Talk about the data you collected from surveys and interviews .

You’ll use this target market in other sections of the business plan as well when you discuss future projections and your marketing strategy. We’ll cover both of those topics shortly.

Step 3 – Analyze your competition

In addition to researching your target market, you need to conduct a competitive analysis as well. You’ll use this information to create your brand differentiation strategy .

Brand Essence infographic

When you’re writing a business plan, your startup doesn’t exist yet. Nobody knows about you. Don’t expect to be successful if you’re planning to launch a competitor’s carbon copy.

Customers won’t have a reason to switch to your brand if it’s the same as the company they already know and trust.

How will you separate yourself from the crowd?

Your differentiation strategy could involve your price and quality. If your prices are significantly lower, that can be your niche in the industry. If you have superior quality, there is a market for that as well.

Competitive analysis should be conducted simultaneously with identifying your target audience. Both of these fall under the market research category of your business plan.

Once you figure out who your competitors are, it will be easier to determine how your company will be different from them. But this information will be based on your target market.

For example, let’s say you’re in the clothing industry. Your competitors will depend on your target market. If you’re planning to sell jeans for $50, you won’t be competing with designer brands selling jeans for $750.

Or you can base your price differentiation on what you learned about your target market. From there, you’ll be able to identify your competitors.

As you can see, the two go hand in hand.

Step 4 – Budget accordingly

You need to have all your numbers in order when you’re writing a business plan, especially if you’re planning on securing investment funding.

Figure out exactly how much money  you need to start the business and stay operational; otherwise, you’ll run out of money.

The top 20 reasons startups fail infographic

Running out of cash is one of the most common reasons why startup companies fail. Taking the time to sort your budget out before you launch will minimize that risk.

Consider everything. Start with the basics like:

  • equipment costs
  • property (buying or leasing)

Here’s an example  of what this will look like in your business plan:

Startup budget example

These numbers need to be accurate. When in doubt, estimate higher. Things don’t always go according to plan.

In the example above, although the total startup expenses are less than $28k, it may not be a bad idea to raise $40k or even $50k. That way, you’d have some extra cash in the bank in case something comes up.

You don’t want poor budgeting to be the reason for your startup’s failure.

Step 5 – Identify your goals and financial projections

Let’s continue talking about your financials. Obviously, you won’t have any income statements, balance sheets, cash flow reports, or other accounting documents if you’re not fully operational.

However, you can still make projections. You can base these projections on the total population of the target market in your area and what percentage of that market you think you can penetrate.

If you have an expansion strategy in mind, this would also be outlined in your financial projections.

These projections should cover the first three to five years of your startup. Make sure they are reasonable. Don’t just say you’ll make $10 million in your first year. In fact, your company may not be even profitable for the first couple of years.

As long as you’re being honest with yourself and potential investors, your financial plan will cover your break-even analysis.

Break-even analysis infographic

While it’s reasonable to expect your sales revenue to increase each year, you still need to take all factors into consideration.

For example, if you’re planning to expand to a new location in year four, your financial projections need to be adjusted accordingly.

You may not be profitable until your third year of operation, but if you’re opening a new facility in year four, that year may have a net loss as well. Again, this is completely fine as long as you’re planning and budgeting accordingly.

Another example of a goal could be launching an ecommerce store in addition to your brick-and-mortar locations. Just don’t try to bite off more than you can chew. Keep everything within reason.

Step 6 – Clearly define the power structure

Your business plan should also cover the organizational structure of your startup. If it’s a small company with just you and maybe one or two business partners, this should be easy.

But depending on how you’re planning to scale the company, it’s best to get this sorted out sooner rather than later. Here’s an example of what your organizational chart  may look like:

Organizational chart example

It’s really important to have this hierarchy in place before you get started. That way, there’s no debate over who reports to which position. It’s clear who is in charge of specific people and departments.

Don’t get too complex with this.

If you put too many layers of managers, directors, and supervisors between the top of the chart and the bottom of the chart, things can get confusing.

You don’t want any instructions or assignments to get lost in translation between levels. You also don’t want anyone to be confused about who is in charge.

This is an opportunity for you to outline how your company will operate in terms of board members and investors. Who has the final say in decisions?

While we understand you may need to give up some equity in your startup to get off the ground, we recommend keeping the power in your hands.

Step 7 – Discuss your marketing plan

Your marketing plan relies on everything else we’ve talked about so far.

How will you acquire customers based on the market research of your target audience and competitive analysis?

This strategy needs to be aligned with your budget and financial projections as well.

We could sit here and talk about different marketing strategies all day. But there’s no right or wrong way to approach this for your startup company.

Our recommendation would be to stay as cost-effective as possible. Be versatile and well-balanced too.

Acquiring customers is expensive. You don’t want to dump your entire marketing budget into one strategy. If it doesn’t work, you’ve got nothing to fall back on.

Take these categories into consideration when you’re coming up with a marketing plan:

Marketing plan infographic

Before you try anything too crazy, get the basics sorted out first:

  • launch a website
  • stay active on social media platforms
  • start building an email subscriber list
  • focus on customer retention
  • come up with customer loyalty programs.

Don’t ease into this one step at a time. Come out fast. Even before your company officially launches, you can start building your website and social media profiles.

The last thing you want is for consumers to find out about your brand but then be unable to find your website or contact information. Or worse, get directed to a website that’s broken or unfinished.

Step 8 – Keep it short and professional

We’ve talked about many different components of your business plan. It may sound overwhelming, but don’t be alarmed.

This shouldn’t be a 100-page dissertation.

You definitely want it to be detailed and thorough, but don’t go overboard. There’s no exact number of pages it should be, but have at least one page per section.

It should also be written cleanly and professionally. Don’t use slang terminology.

Proofread it for grammatical and spelling errors.

Remember, you may need to use this to raise capital. People may be hesitant to give you money if you overlook the small stuff like proper grammar.

Launching a startup company is exciting. It’s easy to get so caught up in the moment that you rush into things.

If you want to set yourself up for success, you need to take a step back and plan things out.

Going through the process of writing a formal business plan will increase your chances of securing an investment and also improve your potential growth rate.

The market research you’ll need to conduct in order to write this plan will also help you determine whether this is a viable business venture to proceed with.

If you’ve never written a business plan, use this post as a guide for what you should include. Follow our tips for best practices.

Writing a business plan may seem like a tedious task right now, but we promise it will keep you organized and save you lots of headaches down the road.

Our Recommendations

  • Best Small Business Loans for 2024
  • Businessloans.com Review
  • Biz2Credit Review
  • SBG Funding Review
  • Rapid Finance Review
  • 26 Great Business Ideas for Entrepreneurs
  • Startup Costs: How Much Cash Will You Need?
  • How to Get a Bank Loan for Your Small Business
  • Articles of Incorporation: What New Business Owners Should Know
  • How to Choose the Best Legal Structure for Your Business

Small Business Resources

  • Business Ideas
  • Business Plans
  • Startup Basics
  • Startup Funding
  • Franchising
  • Success Stories
  • Entrepreneurs
  • The Best Credit Card Processors of 2024
  • Clover Credit Card Processing Review
  • Merchant One Review
  • Stax Review
  • How to Conduct a Market Analysis for Your Business
  • Local Marketing Strategies for Success
  • Tips for Hiring a Marketing Company
  • Benefits of CRM Systems
  • 10 Employee Recruitment Strategies for Success
  • Sales & Marketing
  • Social Media
  • Best Business Phone Systems of 2024
  • The Best PEOs of 2024
  • RingCentral Review
  • Nextiva Review
  • Ooma Review
  • Guide to Developing a Training Program for New Employees
  • How Does 401(k) Matching Work for Employers?
  • Why You Need to Create a Fantastic Workplace Culture
  • 16 Cool Job Perks That Keep Employees Happy
  • 7 Project Management Styles
  • Women in Business
  • Personal Growth
  • Best Accounting Software and Invoice Generators of 2024
  • Best Payroll Services for 2024
  • Best POS Systems for 2024
  • Best CRM Software of 2024
  • Best Call Centers and Answering Services for Busineses for 2024
  • Salesforce vs. HubSpot: Which CRM Is Right for Your Business?
  • Rippling vs Gusto: An In-Depth Comparison
  • RingCentral vs. Ooma Comparison
  • Choosing a Business Phone System: A Buyer’s Guide
  • Equipment Leasing: A Guide for Business Owners
  • HR Solutions
  • Financial Solutions
  • Marketing Solutions
  • Security Solutions
  • Retail Solutions
  • SMB Solutions

How to Start a Business: A Step-by-Step Guide

Starting a new small business? Find out where to begin and how to achieve success.

author image

Table of Contents

  • You should prepare thoroughly before starting a business, but realize that things will almost certainly go awry. To run a successful business, you must adapt to changing situations.
  • Learning how to start your own business involves conducting in-depth market research on your field and the demographics of your potential clientele is an important part of crafting a business plan.
  • In addition to selling your product or service, you need to build up your brand and get a following of people who are interested in what your business offers.
  • This article is for anyone who wants to learn how to start a business.

Starting a business can be hard work, but if you break down the process of launching your new company into individual steps you can make it easier. Rather than spinning your wheels and guessing where to start, you can follow the tried and true methods of entrepreneurs who’ve done it successfully. If you want to learn how to start your own business, follow this 10-step checklist to transform your business from a lightbulb above your head into a real entity.

  • 11 Things To Do Before Starting A Business
  • Tax and Business Forms You'll Need To Start A Business
  • 20 Mistakes To Avoid When Starting A Business

How to start a business

1. refine your idea..

refine your business idea

If you’re thinking about starting a business, you likely already have an idea of what you want to sell online , or at least the market you want to enter. Do a quick search for existing companies in your chosen industry. Learn what current brand leaders are doing and figure out how you can do it better. If you think your business can deliver something other companies don’t (or deliver the same thing, only faster and cheaper), you’ve got a solid idea and are ready to create a business plan. 

Define your “why?”

“In the words of Simon Sinek, ‘always start with why,’” Glenn Gutek, CEO of Awake Consulting and Coaching, told Business News Daily. “It is good to know why you are launching your business. In this process, it may be wise to differentiate between [whether] the business serves a personal why or a marketplace why. When your why is focused on meeting a need in the marketplace, the scope of your business will always be larger than a business that is designed to serve a personal need.” 

window.bdcQtWidget.init();

Consider franchising.

Another option is to open a franchise of an established company. The concept, brand following and business model are already in place; you only need a good location and the means to fund your operation.

Brainstorm your business name.

Regardless of which option you choose, it’s vital to understand the reasoning behind your idea. Stephanie Desaulniers, owner of Business by Dezign and former director of operations and women’s business programs at Covation Center, cautions entrepreneurs against writing a business plan or brainstorming a business name before nailing down the idea’s value.

Editor’s note: Looking for a small business loan? Fill out the questionnaire below to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

Clarify your target customers.

Desaulniers said too often, people jump into launching their business without spending time to think about who their customers will be and why those customers would want to buy from them or hire them.

“You need to clarify why you want to work with these customers — do you have a passion for making people’s lives easier?” Desaulniers said. “Or enjoy creating art to bring color to their world? Identifying these answers helps clarify your mission. Third, you want to define how you will provide this value to your customers and how to communicate that value in a way that they are willing to pay.” 

During the ideation phase, you need to iron out the major details. If the idea isn’t something you’re passionate about or if there’s no market for your creation, it might be time to brainstorm other ideas.

Tip: To refine your business idea, identify your “why,” your target customers and your business name.

2. Write a business plan.

graphic of two people standing in front of a graph

Once you have your idea in place, you need to ask yourself a few important questions: What is the purpose of your business? Who are you selling to? What are your end goals? How will you finance your startup costs? These questions can be answered in a well-written business plan . 

Fledgling business owners can make a lot of mistakes by rushing into things without pondering these aspects of the business. You need to find your target customer base. Who is going to buy your product or service? What would be the point if you can’t find evidence of a demand for your idea? 

Conduct market research.

Conducting thorough market research on your field and the demographics of your potential clientele is an important part of crafting a business plan. This involves conducting surveys, holding focus groups, and researching SEO and public data. 

Market research helps you understand your target customer — their needs, preferences and behavior — as well as your industry and competitors. Many small business professionals recommend gathering demographic information and conducting a competitive analysis to better understand opportunities and limitations within your market. 

The best small businesses have differentiated products or services from the competition. This significantly impacts your competitive landscape and allows you to convey unique value to potential customers.

Consider an exit strategy.

It’s also a good idea to consider an exit strategy as you compile your business plan. Generating some idea of how you’ll eventually exit the business forces you to look to the future. 

“Too often, new entrepreneurs are so excited about their business and so sure everyone everywhere will be a customer that they give very little, if any, time to show the plan on leaving the business,” said Josh Tolley, CEO of both Shyft Capital and Kavana. 

“When you board an airplane, what is the first thing they show you? How to get off of it. When you go to a movie, what do they point out before the feature begins to play? Where the exits are. During your first week of kindergarten, they line up all the kids and teach them fire drills to exit the building. Too many times I have witnessed business leaders that don’t have three or four predetermined exit routes. This has led to lower company value and even destroyed family relationships.” 

A business plan helps you figure out where your company is going, how it will overcome any potential difficulties, and what you need to sustain it. When you’re ready to put pen to paper, use a free template to help.

3. Assess your finances.

graphic of a businessperson standing in front of graphs

Starting any business has a price, so you need to determine how you will cover those costs. Do you have the means to fund your startup, or will you need to borrow money? If you’re planning to leave your current job to focus on your business, do you have savings to support yourself until you make a profit? Find out how much your startup costs will be. 

Many startups fail because they run out of money before turning a profit. It’s never a bad idea to overestimate the amount of startup capital you need, as it can take time before the business begins to bring in sustainable revenue. 

Perform a break-even analysis.

One way you can determine how much money you need is to perform a break-even analysis. This essential element of financial planning helps business owners determine when their company, product or service will be profitable. 

The formula is simple:

build your team

  • Fixed Costs ÷ (Average Price Per Unit – Variable Costs) = Break-Even Point

Every entrepreneur should use this formula as a tool because it tells you the minimum performance your business must achieve to avoid losing money. Furthermore, it helps you understand exactly where your profits come from, so you can set production goals accordingly. 

Here are the three most common reasons to conduct a break-even analysis: 

Ask yourself: How much revenue do I need to generate to cover all my expenses? Which products or services turn a profit, and which ones are sold at a loss?

Ask yourself: What are the fixed rates, what are the variable costs, and what is the total cost? What is the cost of any physical goods? What is the cost of labor?

Ask yourself: How can I reduce my overall fixed costs? How can I reduce the variable costs per unit? How can I improve sales? 

Watch your expenses.

Don’t overspend when starting a business. Understand the types of purchases that make sense for your business and avoid overspending on fancy new equipment that won’t help you reach your business goals. Monitor your business expenses to ensure you are staying on track.

“A lot of startups tend to spend money on unnecessary things,” said Jean Paldan, founder and CEO of Rare Form New Media. “We worked with a startup with two employees but spent a huge amount on office space that would fit 20 people. They also leased a professional high-end printer that was more suited for a team of 100; it had key cards to track who was printing what and when. Spend as little as possible when you start, and only on the things essential for the business to grow and succeed. Luxuries can come when you’re established.”  

Consider your funding options.

Startup capital for your business can come from various means. The best way to acquire funding for your business depends on several factors, including creditworthiness, the amount needed and available options.

  • Business loans. If you need financial assistance, a commercial loan through a bank is a good starting point, although these are often difficult to secure. If you cannot take out a bank loan, apply for a small business loan through the S. Small Business Administration (SBA) or an alternative lender. [Read related article: Best Business Loans ]
  • Business grants. Business grants are similar to loans, but do not need to be paid back. Business grants are typically very competitive and come with stipulations that the business must meet to be considered. When securing a small business grant , look for ones specific to your situation. Options include minority-owned business grants, grants for women-owned businesses and government grants .
  • Startups that require significant funding up front may want to bring on an angel investor . Investors can provide several million dollars or more to a fledgling company in exchange for a hands-on role in running your business.
  • Alternatively, you can launch an equity crowdfunding campaign to raise smaller amounts of money from multiple backers. Crowdfunding has helped numerous companies in recent years, and dozens of reliable crowdfunding platforms are designed for different types of businesses. 

You can learn more about each of these capital sources and more in our guide to startup finance options . 

Choose the right business bank.

When you’re choosing a business bank , size matters. Marcus Anwar, co-founder of OhMy Canada, recommends smaller community banks because they are in tune with the local market conditions and will work with you based on your overall business profile and character. 

“They’re unlike big banks that look at your credit score and will be more selective to loan money to small businesses,” Anwar said. “Not only that, but small banks want to build a personal relationship with you and ultimately help you if you run into problems and miss a payment. Another good thing about smaller banks is that decisions are made at the branch level, which can be much quicker than big banks, where decisions are made at a higher level.” 

Anwar believes that you should ask yourself these questions when choosing a bank for your business: 

  • What is important to me?
  • Do I want to build a close relationship with a bank that’s willing to help me in any way possible?
  • Do I want to be just another bank account, like big banks will view me as? 

choose your vendors

Ultimately, the right bank for your business comes down to your needs. Writing down your banking needs can help narrow your focus to what you should be looking for. Schedule meetings with various banks and ask questions about how they work with small businesses to find the best bank for your business. [Read related article: Business Bank Account Checklist: Documents You’ll Need ]

4. Determine your legal business structure.

graphic of a businessperson sitting at a laptop near signs

Before registering your company, you need to decide what kind of entity it is. Your business structure legally affects everything from how you file your taxes to your personal liability if something goes wrong. 

  • Sole proprietorship: You can register for a sole proprietorship if you own the business independently and plan to be responsible for all debts and obligations. Be warned that this route can directly affect your personal credit.
  • Partnership: Alternatively, as its name implies, a business partnership means that two or more people are held personally liable as business owners. You don’t have to go it alone if you can find a business partner with complementary skills to your own. It’s usually a good idea to add someone into the mix to help your business flourish.
  • Corporation: If you want to separate your personal liability from your company’s liability, consider the pros and cons of corporations (e.g., an S corporation or C corporation ). Although each type of corporation is subject to different guidelines, this legal structure generally makes a business a separate entity from its owners. Therefore, corporations can own property, assume liability, pay taxes, enter contracts, sue and be sued like any other individual. “Corporations, especially C corporations, are especially suitable for new businesses that plan on ‘going public’ or seeking funding from venture capitalists in the near future,” said Deryck Jordan, managing attorney at Jordan Counsel.
  • Limited liability company: One of the most common structures for small businesses is the limited liability company (LLC). This hybrid structure has the legal protections of a corporation while allowing for the tax benefits of a partnership. 

Ultimately, it is up to you to determine which type of entity is best for your current needs and future business goals. It’s important to learn about the various legal business structures available. If you’re struggling to make up your mind, discussing the decision with a business or legal advisor is a great idea.

Did you know? You need to choose a legal structure for your business, such as a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation or LLC .

5. Register with the government and IRS.

graphic of a person sitting at a laptop in front of an eagle crest

You will need to acquire business licenses before you can legally operate your business. For example, you must register your business with federal, state and local governments. There are several documents you must prepare before registering.

Articles of incorporation and operating agreements

To become an officially recognized business entity, you must register with the government. Corporations need an articles of incorporation document, which includes your business name, business purpose, corporate structure, stock details and other information about your company. Similarly, some LLCs will need to create an operating agreement.

Doing business as (DBA)

If you don’t have articles of incorporation or an operating agreement, you will need to register your business name, which can be your legal name, a fictitious DBA name (if you are the sole proprietor), or the name you’ve come up with for your company. You may also want to take steps to trademark your business name for extra legal protection. 

Most states require you to get a DBA. You may need to apply for a DBA certificate if you’re in a general partnership or a sole proprietorship operating under a fictitious name. Contact or visit your local county clerk’s office to ask about specific requirements and fees. Generally, there is a registration fee involved. 

Employer identification number (EIN)

After you register your business, you may need to get an employer identification number from the IRS. While this is not required for sole proprietorships with no employees, you may want to apply for one anyway to keep your personal and business taxes separate, or to save yourself the trouble if you decide to hire someone later on. The IRS has provided a checklist to determine whether you will require an EIN to run your business. If you do need an EIN, you can register online for free. 

Income tax forms

You must file certain forms to fulfill your federal and state income tax obligations . Your business structure determines the forms you need. You will need to check your state’s website for information on state-specific and local tax obligations. Once you set this all up, the best online tax software can help you file and pay your taxes quarterly and annually.

“You might be tempted to wing it with a PayPal account and social media platform, but if you start with a proper foundation, your business will have fewer hiccups to worry about in the long run,” said Natalie Pierre-Louis, licensed attorney and owner of NPL Consulting. 

Federal, state, and local licenses and permits

Some businesses may also require federal, state or local licenses and permits to operate. Your local city hall is the best place to obtain a business license. You can then use the SBA’s database to search for state and business type licensing requirements. 

Businesses and independent contractors in certain trades are required to carry professional licenses. A commercial driver’s license (CDL) is one example of a professional business license. Individuals with a CDL can operate certain types of vehicles, such as buses, tank trucks and tractor-trailers. A CDL is divided into three classes: Class A, Class B and Class C. 

You should also check with your city and state to find out if you need a seller’s permit that authorizes your business to collect sales tax from your customers. A seller’s permit goes by numerous names, including resale permit, resell permit, permit license, reseller permit, resale ID, state tax ID number, reseller number, reseller license permit or certificate of authority. 

It’s important to note that these requirements and names vary from state to state. You can register for a seller’s permit through the state government website of the state(s) you’re doing business in. 

Jordan says that not all businesses need to collect sales tax (or obtain a seller’s permit).

“For example, New York sales tax generally is not required for the sale of most services (such as professional services, education, and capital improvements to real estate), medicine or food for home consumption,” Jordan said. “So, for example, if your business only sells medicine, you do not need a New York seller’s permit. But New York sales tax must be collected in conjunction with the sale of new tangible personal goods, utilities, telephone service, hotel stays, and food and beverages (in restaurants).”

6. Purchase an insurance policy.

graphic of a businessperson in a suit in front of a large insurance form

It might slip your mind as something you intend to get around to eventually, but purchasing the right insurance for your business is an important step to take before you officially launch. Dealing with incidents such as property damage, theft or even a customer lawsuit can be costly, and you need to be sure that you’re properly protected. 

Although you should consider several types of business insurance , there are a few basic insurance plans that most small businesses can benefit from. For example, if your business will have employees, you will at least need to purchase workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance.

You may also need other types of coverage, depending on your location and industry, but most small businesses are advised to purchase general liability (GL) insurance, or a business owner’s policy. GL covers property damage, bodily injury, and personal injury to yourself or a third party.

If your business provides a service, you may also want professional liability insurance. It covers you if you do something wrong or neglect to do something you should have done while operating your business.

7. Build your team.

graphic of a group of businesspeople gathered around a table

Unless you’re planning to be your only employee, you’ll need to recruit and hire a great team to get your company off the ground. Joe Zawadzki, general partner at AperiamVentures, said entrepreneurs need to give the “people” element of their businesses the same attention they give their products. 

“People build your product,” Zawadzki said. “ Identifying your founding team , understanding what gaps exist, and [determining] how and when you will address them should be top priority. Figuring out how the team will work together … is equally important. Defining roles and responsibilities, division of labor, how to give feedback, or how to work together when not everyone is in the same room will save you a lot of headaches down the line.”

8. Choose your vendors.

graphic of a businessman in front of business profile cards

Running a business can be overwhelming, and you and your team probably aren’t going to be able to do it all on your own. That’s where third-party vendors come in. Companies in every industry, whether that’s HR or business phone systems , exist to partner with you and help you run your business better. For example, with a business phone system, you can design an IVR system to automatically route your callers to the right representatives.

When you’re searching for B2B partners, choose carefully. These companies will have access to your most vital and potentially sensitive business data, so finding someone you can trust is critical. In our guide to choosing business partners , our expert sources recommended asking potential vendors about their experience in your industry, their track record with existing clients, and what kind of growth they’ve helped other clients achieve. 

Not every business will need the same type of vendors, but there are common products and services that almost every business will need. Consider the following functions that are a necessity for any type of business.

  • Enabling multiple customer payment types: Offering multiple payment options will ensure you can make a sale in whatever format is easiest for the target customer. Compare options to find the best credit card processing provider to ensure you’re getting the best rate for your business. That’s because small business credit card processing is often a direct route to more revenue and a larger customer base.
  • Taking customer payments: Set up a point-of-sale (POS) system so that you have a state-of-the-art interface for making sales. The best POS systems couple this payment technology — which largely overlaps with credit card processing — with inventory management and customer management features. As such, POS systems are especially important if you plan to sell products instead of offering services.
  • Managing finances: Many business owners manage their own accounting functions when starting their business, but as your business grows, you can save time by hiring an accountant , or by choosing the right accounting software provider .

9. Brand yourself and advertise.

businessperson at a computer in front of a large lightbulb icon

Before you start selling your product or service, you need to build up your brand and get a following of people who are ready to jump when you open your literal or figurative doors for business.

  • Company website: Take your reputation online and build a company website . Many customers turn to the internet to learn about a business, and a website is a digital proof that your small business exists. It is also a great way to interact with current and potential customers.
  • Social media: Use social media to spread the word about your new business, perhaps as a promotional tool to offer coupons and discounts to followers once you launch. The best social media platforms to use will depend on your target audience.
  • CRM: The best CRM platforms allow you to store customer data to improve how you market to them. A well-thought-out email marketing campaign can do wonders for reaching customers and communicating with your audience. To be successful, you will want to strategically build your email marketing contact list .
  • Logo: Create a logo to help people easily identify your brand, and use it across all of your platforms.

Keep your digital assets up to date with relevant, interesting content about your business and industry. According to Ruthann Bowen, chief marketing officer at EastCamp Creative, too many startups have the wrong mindset about their websites. 

“The issue is they see their website as a cost, not an investment,” Bowen said. “In today’s digital age, that’s a huge mistake. The small business owners who understand how critical it is to have a great online presence will have a leg up on starting out strong.” 

Creating a marketing plan that goes beyond your launch is essential to building a clientele because it should continually get the word out about your business. This process is just as important as providing a quality product or service, especially in the beginning. 

Ask customers to opt into your marketing communications.

As you build your brand, ask your customers and potential customers for permission to communicate with them. The easiest way to do this is by using opt-in forms of consent. These forms allow you to contact them with further information about your business, according to Dan Edmonson, founder and CEO of Dronegenuity. 

“These types of forms usually pertain to email communication and are often used in e-commerce to request permission to send newsletters, marketing material, product sales, etc. to customers,” Edmonson said. “Folks get so many throwaway emails and other messages these days that, by getting them to opt in to your services transparently, you begin to build trust with your customers.” 

Opt-in forms are a great starting point for building trust and respect with potential customers. Even more importantly, these forms are required by law. The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 sets requirements for commercial email by the Federal Trade Commission. This law doesn’t just apply to bulk email; it covers all commercial messages, which the law defines as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.” Each email violating this law is subject to fines of more than $40,000.

Tip: Create a strategic marketing campaign that combines various marketing channels, like a company website, social media, email newsletters and opt-in forms.

10. Grow your business.

graphic of a businessperson in a suit flying hear up arrows and graphs

Your launch and first sales are only the beginning of your task as an entrepreneur. To make a profit and stay afloat, you always need to be growing your business. That takes time and effort, but you’ll get out of your business what you put into it. 

Collaborating with more established brands in your industry is a great way to achieve growth. Reach out to other companies and ask for some promotion in exchange for a free product sample or service. Partner with a charity organization, and volunteer some of your time or products to get your name out there. 

While these tips will help launch your business and get you set to grow, there’s never a perfect plan. You want to ensure you prepare thoroughly for starting a business, but things will almost certainly go awry. To run a successful business, you must adapt to changing situations. 

FAQs about starting a business

What are the four basics for starting a business.

The four basics for starting a business are your business name, business structure, business registration certificate and all your other licenses. You must take the proper legal and regulatory steps in each of these four areas before you launch your business. Obtaining external funding and putting together a business plan are also smart moves, but they aren’t legal prerequisites.

How can I start my own business with no money?

You can launch a successful business without any startup funds. Work on a business idea that builds on your skill set to offer something new and innovative to the market. While developing a new business, keep working in your current position to reduce the financial risk.

Once you’ve developed your business idea and are ready to start on a business plan, you’ll need to get creative with funding. You can raise money through investments by pitching your idea to financial backers. You could also gather funding through crowdsourcing platforms like Kickstarter, or set aside a certain amount of money from your weekly earnings to put toward a new business. Finally, you can seek loan options from banks and other financial institutions to get your company up and running.

What is the easiest business to start?

The easiest business to start is one that requires little to no financial investment upfront, and no extensive training to learn the business. A dropshipping company, for example, is one of the easiest types of new business to launch. Dropshipping requires no inventory management, which saves you the hassle of buying, storing and tracking stock. 

Instead, another company fulfills your customer orders at your behest. This company manages the inventory, packages goods, and ships out your business orders. To start, create an online store by selecting curated products from the catalog available through partners.

Which types of businesses can I start from home?

In today’s world of remote work, you may be thinking of an online business idea . Any online-only business that doesn’t require inventory should be easy to start from home. Ideas that fall within this category include but aren’t limited to copywriting businesses, online tutoring operations and dropshipping businesses. Anything you’re good at or passionate about that you can do from home, and for which demand exists, can make for a great home business. 

When is the best time to start a business?

Each person’s ideal timeline for starting a new business will be different. Start a business only when you have enough time to devote your attention to the launch. If you have a seasonal product or service, then you should start your business one quarter before your predicted busy time of the year. Spring and fall are popular times of year to launch for nonseasonal companies. Winter is the least popular launch season because many new owners prefer to have their LLC or corporation approved for a new fiscal year.

Max Freedman and Skye Schooley also contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

thumbnail

Building Better Businesses

Insights on business strategy and culture, right to your inbox. Part of the business.com network.

How To Create A Winning Business Plan For Your Startup

Photo of author

When it comes to starting a business, having a solid business plan is absolutely crucial.  Consider this as a conversation between you and your business’s future. You’d need to start by clearly defining what your startup offers – this is your product or service. It needs to answer the question, “What problem are you solving for your customers?”

Next, delve into market analysis. Understand who your competitors are and pinpoint your target customers. Once you have that, consider your business strategy and the sales and marketing plans you’ll employ to achieve your goals.

It’s crucial not to forget the operational aspect – how will your business function daily? And lastly, the financial projections. They can be a little tricky, but they’re the crux of the plan, demonstrating the financial viability of your startup.

We have got a helpful guide that’ll dive deep into all the essential elements you need to craft a top-notch business plan, tailored specifically for your unique startup. A solid business plan will help you make smarter decisions, catch the eye of potential investors, and give yourself an edge over your competitors in the market.

Why Business Plan Is Important For A Startup

importance of business plan

Just as you wouldn’t venture into unknown territory without a compass, initiating a startup without a business plan can lead to wandering aimlessly, wasting precious resources, or even getting lost in the market’s vast wilderness. Here are some reasons why a business plan is crucial for a startup.

Your Guide To Decision-Making

Entrepreneurship involves constant decision-making and crisis management. The luxury of pondering the possible ramifications of every choice isn’t always an option for a fledgling business. This is where a well-thought-out business plan proves its worth. Setting out your strategies, goals, and expected outcomes in advance, can guide you in making smart decisions, reducing the likelihood of costly mistakes. It’s like your startup’s crystal ball, helping you predict and navigate future challenges.

Smoothing Out The Road Ahead

Compiling a business plan requires you to dig deep, ask tough questions, and seek out insightful, well-researched answers. It’s about creating a realistic vision of your startup’s future, and it’s the process that matters. Even if you never look at the document again, the act of writing it down helps to refine your vision and identify potential gaps in your plan.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls

There’s a sobering statistic that approximately half of all small businesses don’t reach their fifth birthday. Many of these failures result from issues that a well-structured business plan can help to avoid.

According to data from  CB Insights , common reasons businesses fail include a lack of market need, cash flow problems, inadequate team structure, intense competition, and pricing errors. An effective business plan can help you avoid these pitfalls by foreseeing issues like cash flow forecasts, market analysis, and pricing strategy before they become problems. 

Proving Business Viability

Passion is an excellent motivator when launching a startup. However, passion alone does not guarantee success. Your plan is crucial in demonstrating your startup’s potential by outlining exactly how your vision translates into a profitable business.

For instance, the market research section of your plan can provide deep insights into your customers, competitors, and industry. This information can be pivotal in shaping strategies for marketing, product development, and scaling your business.

A Roadmap For Growth

Business plans play a crucial role in setting objectives and creating benchmarks. Without a business plan, goals can become arbitrary, losing their relevance over time. A well-documented plan keeps you accountable, aligns your team with your vision, and provides insights into the effectiveness of your strategies.

Facilitating Communication And Collaboration

A business plan isn’t just a guide for you, but also for your team. Whether you have a staff of two or two hundred, everyone needs to understand your business’s goals and how you plan to reach them. Your business plan can serve as a communication tool, spelling out the next steps when you’re unavailable for direct guidance. It aligns everyone with your vision, fostering a sense of shared purpose and commitment to the objectives outlined.

Navigating The Business Landscape

Running a successful business is about more than just managing what’s happening within your company’s four walls. It’s also about understanding the larger market environment. Crafting a business plan encourages you to study your competition, identify trends and preferences among consumers, anticipate potential disruptions, and garner insights that might not be apparent at first glance. Armed with this information, you’re better equipped to anticipate and respond to changes in your industry.

Leveraging External Support

Startups often depend on a range of external service providers for expertise in areas like accounting, marketing, and legal matters. Your business plan can serve as a reference point for these professionals, helping them understand your business better and align their services with your needs. By sharing relevant sections of your business plan, you can ensure everyone is on the same page, enhancing the effectiveness of their support.

Securing Investment

Here’s a fact to consider: you are 2.5 times more likely to secure funding if you have a business plan. Investors, banks , and potential partners want to know that their investment is in capable hands and that your business has a promising future. A well-crafted business plan is your opportunity to demonstrate this, making it a must-have document if you’re seeking external financing.

Mitigating Risks

All entrepreneurial ventures involve some level of risk, but a well-designed business plan can significantly mitigate these dangers. By considering revenue and expense projections, operational plans, and the competitive landscape, you’ll be equipped with a risk management tool that can guide your decision-making and limit the chances of unpleasant surprises.

Some Facts About A Successful Business Plan

  • According to the  Small Business Administration , a successful business plan typically includes an executive summary , market analysis, competitive analysis, description of products and services offered, management overview, financial projections, and funding requirements.
  • A  Harvard Business School survey  found that entrepreneurs who have written a business plan are 16% more likely to achieve success than those who have not.
  • One  study  found that companies with a business plan grow 30% stronger than those without a plan.

Business Plan Formats

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, there are common formats that cater to different needs and objectives. Understanding these formats will help you choose the most suitable one for your venture and tailor it to your specific needs.

Traditional Business Plan

The traditional business plan is the most comprehensive and widely used format. It typically spans multiple pages and contains detailed information about your company’s strategy, objectives, and financial projections. Venture capitalist firms and lenders often require these plans when seeking investment or loans. Key sections in a traditional business plan include:

  • Executive Summary: A brief overview of your company, including its mission, goals, and key selling proposition.
  • Company Description: Details about your company, history, and unique selling proposition (USP).
  • Market Analysis: An examination of the industry, market, and competition.
  • Marketing and Sales Strategies: Plans for promoting your products or services and generating sales.
  • Organization and Management: An outline of your company’s organizational structure and management team.
  • Product Line or Services: A description of your products or services and their benefits.
  • Financial Projections: A forecast of your company’s financial performance, including income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements.

Download the Traditional Plan template from  here .

Lean Business Plan

A lean business plan is a condensed version of a traditional plan, focusing on the most critical information. This format is ideal for businesses that need a quick, accessible reference or for those looking to modify existing plans to target a specific market. A lean business plan will cover the same sections as a traditional plan but in a more concise manner.

Nonprofit Business Plan

A nonprofit business plan is tailored for organizations that operate for public or social benefit. This format incorporates all elements of a traditional business plan, with an additional section highlighting the organization’s intended impact.

This section may describe the social or environmental issues the organization aims to address and how its operations contribute to solving these problems. Donors and grant-makers often request nonprofit business plans to assess the organization’s mission, strategies, and potential impact.

Comparative Analysis Of The Common Business Plan Models

 
PurposeDetailed guide for startup/operations, primarily for external stakeholders (e.g. investors)Quick plan for startup/operations, primarily for internal use.Framework for operational, funding, and impact strategies.
LengthUsually extensive (30-50 pages)Short and concise (1-2 pages)Varies, typically detailed but less formal than a traditional business plan.
FocusComprehensive details of business including market analysis, competitive analysis, marketing/sales strategies, financial forecasts, etc.Key aspects of the business model including value proposition, customer segments, channels, customer relationships, revenue streams, key resources, key activities, key partners, and cost structure.Mission and vision of the organization, operational structure, program descriptions, marketing/public relations, fundraising strategies, financial projections, etc.
Financial ProjectionDetailed with profit and loss, balance sheet, and cash flow projections, usually for 3-5 years.High-level overview of revenue, costs, and key metrics.Focuses on budgeting and fundraising goals, may include cash flow, and profit and loss (though the “profit” is reinvested in the mission)
Frequency of UpdatesUsually updated annually or when significant changes in business happen.Key aspects of the business model include value proposition, customer segments, channels, customer relationships, revenue streams, key resources, key activities, key partners, and cost structure.Usually updated annually or with changes to programs or funding.
AudienceInvestors, banks, and other external stakeholders.Founders, internal teamsBoard members, donors, grantors
EmphasisFinancial profitability, growth and exit strategy.Lean operations, flexibility, speed to market.Social impact, sustainability, and mission fulfillment.

 How To Write A Business Plan:

business plan stat

Stats Source:  1 , 2

The business plan acts as the blueprint of your venture, outlining its mission, operational strategy, market analysis, financial needs, and more. It gives stakeholders a holistic view of your company, underpinning decisions and attracting potential investors. Let’s explore the key components of a business plan that will serve as the compass guiding your startup toward success.

1. Write An Executive Summary

The executive summary is at the forefront of your business plan, which introduces your plan to the world. It encapsulates everything your plan will detail but at a much higher level. As a pro tip, this summary is often more effective when written last, ensuring you fully grasp your plan.

In the executive summary, you’ll present your organization’s mission statement and the offerings you intend to bring to the market. If your venture is a new startup, including the reasons that inspired you to initiate this journey might be beneficial.

Here is how you can write an executive summary for your business plan.

  • Your executive summary begins with the “Mission” – a clear and concise statement of your company’s purpose. Your mission is not merely what you do; it’s why you do it and how you want to impact your customers and the world.
  • Next is the “Company History and Management” section. Provide a snapshot of your company’s location, the period of operation, and the people at the helm. A brief overview of their experience will also be valuable.
  • A significant part of your executive summary will be the “Products or Services” your company offers. What problems does your product or service solve? How does it add value to the customer’s life? Providing succinct answers to these questions can pique the reader’s interest.
  • In the “Market” section, you summarize the potential of your product or service or Total Addressable Market (TAM). Highlight key insights into the size and nature of your target market, indicating the business growth potential.
  • The “Competitive Advantages” segment allows you to shine a light on what sets you apart from the competition. Make sure to highlight the unique strengths that will make customers choose your company.
  • Finally, you must present your “Financial Projections” and “Startup Financing Requirements.” Provide an estimate of sales for the first few years and a clear outline of what it’ll cost to launch and run your company.

2. Add A Business Description

The business description paints a vivid picture of your venture, its goals, the industry it serves, and your target customers. This section allows you to share the passion behind your venture while detailing your industry, including prevalent trends and formidable competitors. Highlight your team’s industry experience and what sets your venture apart from competitors.

3. Market Research And Strategies

The purpose of the market analysis and strategy component of a business plan is to research and identify a company’s primary target audience and where to find this audience. Factors to cover in this section include:

  • The geographic locations of your target markets
  • The primary pain points experienced by your target customers
  • The most prominent needs of your target market and how your products or services can meet these needs
  • The demographics of your target audience
  • Where your target market spends most of their time, such as particular social media platforms and physical locations
  • This section aims to clearly define your target audience so that you can make strategic estimations about how your product or service might perform with this audience.

4. Marketing And Sales Plan

This part of your business plan covers the specifics of how you plan to market and sell your products and services. This section includes:

  • Your anticipated marketing and promotion strategies
  • Pricing plans for your company’s products and services
  • Your strategies for making sales
  • Reasons for your target audience to purchase from your company versus your competition
  • Your organization’s unique selling proposal

5. Management And Organization Description

This section of your business plan explores the details of your business’s management and organization strategy. Introduce your company leaders and their qualifications and responsibilities within your business. You can also include human resources requirements and your company’s legal structure.

6. Products And Services Description

Use this section to further expand on the details of the products and services your company offers that you covered in the executive summary. Include all relevant information about your products and services. This includes how you plan to manufacture or develop them, how long they can last, what needs they may meet, and how much you project it might cost to create them.

7. Competitive Analysis

Add a detailed competitive analysis that clearly outlines a comparison of your organization to your competitors. Outline your competitors’ weaknesses and strengths and how you expect your company might compare to these. Include any advantages or distinctions your competition has in the marketplace. In addition, explore what makes your business different from other companies in the industry and any potential challenges you may face when entering the marketplace, if applicable.

8. Operating Plan

This part of your business plan describes how you plan to operate your company. Include information regarding how and where your company plans to operate, such as shipping logistics or patents for intellectual property. The operating plan also details personnel-related operations, like how many employees you hope to hire in various departments.

9. Financial Projection And Needs

The financial section of your business plan explains how you anticipate bringing in revenue. If you need funding for your business, this section also describes the sources and amounts for that funding. Include your financial statements, an analysis of these statements, and a cash flow projection.

10. Exhibits And Appendices

The last section of your business plan provides any extra information to support further the details outlined in your plan. You can also include exhibits and appendices to support the viability of your business plan and give investors a clear understanding of the research that backs your plan. Common information to put in this section includes:

  • Resumes of company management and other stakeholders
  • Marketing research
  • Proposed or current marketing materials
  • Relevant legal documentation
  • Image Of your product (or demo)

Tips To Create A Small Business Plan

business plan tips

Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is paramount when crafting your small business plan. It’s not just about offering a product or service, but understanding who will buy it and why. Start by defining your target market – age, gender, geographic location, income level, occupation, and lifestyle preferences are just a few factors to consider. Once you’ve identified your potential customers, dive deeper. What are their pain points? How can your product or service address these issues? Having this knowledge not only helps you tailor your offerings but also guides your marketing and sales strategies.

Have A Clear Goal

Your business plan must have a clear goal – a specific aim that you intend to achieve. This could be anything from reaching a certain revenue target, expanding to new locations, or securing a specific market share within a given period. Setting clear, measurable goals serves as a roadmap, guiding your actions and decisions. Remember, these goals should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Each goal should directly support your overall business objectives and provide a clear path to success.

Invest Time In Research

A successful business plan is built on solid research. Market trends, competitive landscape, and regulatory environment – these are all factors that could affect your business and, thus, must be considered in your business plan. Research can inform product development, pricing, and promotional strategies, as well as identify potential opportunities and threats. Conduct both primary (surveys, interviews) and secondary research (reports, articles) to gather comprehensive information. It’s an investment of time that pays off in the long run by guiding informed decision-making.

Keep It Short And To The Point

While your business plan should be comprehensive, resist the temptation to include every minor detail. Remember, the plan is a tool to communicate your business idea and strategy to stakeholders, including potential investors, partners, or employees. Therefore, it should be concise, focusing on key aspects such as your product or service, market analysis, business model, marketing and sales strategy, and financial projections. Avoid jargon and keep your language simple and straightforward. It makes the plan easier to read and understand, increasing its effectiveness.

Keep The Tone, Style, And Voice Consistent

Consistency is key in the tone, style, and voice of your business plan. It not only enhances readability but also reflects your brand identity. If your business is a modern tech startup, a casual, conversational tone might work well. For a law firm, a more formal tone would be appropriate. Choose a tone and style that aligns with your brand, and maintain it throughout the plan. This consistency helps build a strong brand image and makes a positive impression on readers.

Use A Business Plan Software

In the digital age, business plan software can simplify the planning process. These tools come with features like templates, step-by-step guides, and financial forecasting tools, making it easier to create a professional, comprehensive plan. Using such software can save time, increase accuracy, and ensure that your plan covers all essential aspects. Some popular options include LivePlan, Bizplan, and Upmetrics. Before choosing a tool, consider your needs, budget, and the software’s ease of use.

Mistakes To Avoid When Writing A Business Plan

1. not choosing a feasible business idea.

When it comes to selecting a business idea, there’s a fine line between ambitious and unrealistic. Too often, entrepreneurs get so enthralled by their passion project that they lose sight of its practicality in the market. They overlook crucial factors like the demand, the target audience, or the industry’s economic climate. In the business world, a great idea isn’t enough; it also has to be feasible. Validate your idea with market research, seek professional advice, and listen to potential customer feedback before making a commitment.

2. No Clear Exit Strategy

Although it might seem counterintuitive to plan your business’s end before it has even begun, a clear exit strategy is paramount. It guides your decisions, indicates your long-term goals, and reassures investors about the safety of their investments. Whether it’s selling the business, distributing dividends, or opting for an IPO, consider your exit strategy from the get-go.

3. Lack Of A Balanced Team

A start-up’s success isn’t a one-person show; it involves a balanced team with diverse skills and experiences. Without a robust team, you may be overwhelmed, attempting to manage all aspects of the business singlehandedly. When composing your team, look for complementary skill sets. A mix of leadership, financial acumen, marketing prowess, and technical skills ensures a well-rounded, capable team.

4. No Comprehensive Financial Projections

Many startups fall into the trap of undervaluing comprehensive financial projections. The figures you present in your business plan should be accurate and realistic and include projections for revenue, expenses, and cash flow. This detail is not only vital for you to understand the financial requirements and sustainability of your venture, but it is also crucial for securing funding from investors. Your business plan should include:

  • Balance Sheet: A snapshot of your company’s financial position, including assets, liabilities, and equity.
  • Cash Flow Statement: An overview of cash inflows and outflows, highlighting your ability to generate and manage cash.
  • Profit and Loss (P&L) Statement: A summary of your company’s revenues, expenses, and net income over a specified period.

5. Spelling And Grammar Mistakes

Nothing undermines the credibility of a business plan like spelling and grammar mistakes. They give an impression of carelessness and lack of attention to detail. In the business world, these are attributes that no entrepreneur should embody. Always proofread your plan, use professional editing tools, or seek the help of an editor to ensure impeccable presentation.

6. Not Conducting A Proper Competitive Analysis

Understanding your competition is pivotal in carving your unique place in the market. An improper or superficial competitive analysis can lead to an ill-informed strategy and poor decision-making. Use methods like SWOT analysis to understand your competitors’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and use this information to differentiate your offering.

7. A Proper Marketing And Sales Strategy

Without a well-defined marketing and sales strategy, even the most innovative product can get lost in the shuffle. Outline your strategy, detailing the mediums and  channels  you plan to use to reach your target audience. Be sure to include the  estimated costs  of these strategies to ensure alignment with your financial projections.

8. No Incorporating Scalable Business Model

A scalable business model is key to long-term success. It ensures that your business can adapt to increased demand without significantly increasing operational costs. If you neglect this aspect, you may struggle to grow or, worse, become overwhelmed by success.

9. Not Setting Realistic And Measurable Goals

Setting lofty, abstract goals may seem visionary, but in practice, they leave a business adrift. Your business plan should define realistic, measurable, and time-bound objectives. The idea here is to give your team a

10. No Presence Of A Risk Management Plan

All businesses face risks, whether they are financial, operational, strategic, or related to reputation. Ignoring these potential hazards won’t make them go away. On the contrary, it leaves you unprepared (i.e. SVB bank collapse). Incorporate a risk management plan into your business strategy, outlining potential challenges and your proactive steps to mitigate them.

11. Not Updating And Refining Your Business Plan

Remember, a business plan isn’t a static document you write once and forget. As your business evolves, so should your plan. Market dynamics change, customer preferences shift, and new competitors emerge. Regularly updating and refining your business plan ensures that it remains a useful tool for decision-making and a clear roadmap for your business’s future. An outdated plan will not reflect your current business status and may lead to misguided decisions.

Avoiding these common mistakes can set you on a successful path, enabling your startup to grow, thrive, and eventually, command a formidable presence in the market. It’s not an easy task, but with these guidelines in mind, you’re better equipped to navigate the challenges ahead.

1. Why Is A Traditional Business Plan Important For A New Business?

You know that feeling when you embark on a road trip without a map? It’s a blend of excitement and anxiety, right? Well, launching a new business without a traditional business plan is pretty much the same. It’s like sailing a ship with no compass or map.

The business plan serves as your guiding star, illuminating your path forward. It outlines your mission, vision, goals, and how you plan to achieve them. It’s your secret recipe for success, the blueprint for your entrepreneurial journey.

2. What Are The Key Elements Of A Traditional Business Plan?

Think of a business plan as a puzzle, made up of several key pieces that come together to create a complete picture. These pieces include the  executive summary  (think of it as your business’s elevator pitch), company description, market analysis (your business battlefield), organization and management structure (the captains of your ship), service or product line (the bread and butter of your venture), marketing and sales strategy (your business megaphone), and financial projections (the treasure you’re after). When these pieces fall into place, you get a clear image of your business’s future.

3. How Can I Make My Business Plan Stand Out?

You know the feeling when you’re trying to bake a cake for the first time? You can follow the recipe to the letter, but it might not turn out as you hoped. The same goes for a business plan. Using a  business plan template  can be helpful, but adding your unique flavor makes all the difference. Personalize it, and infuse it with your passion and vision. Use engaging anecdotes to highlight your experiences and lessons learned. It’s like telling a captivating story about your business, leaving everyone eager for the next chapter.

4. How Often Should I Update My Business Plan?

A business plan isn’t a “set it and forget it” type of deal. It’s a living document that evolves with your business. Like a gardener tending to his plants, you must regularly nurture and adjust your plan.  

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, crafting a comprehensive and effective business plan is crucial for any venture’s success. By outlining your vision, objectives, target market, competitive analysis, organizational structure, and financial projections, you can attract investors and provide a roadmap for growth.

Remember to keep the plan concise, realistic, and adaptable, as it will evolve with your business. Continually reviewing and updating your plan will serve as a dynamic tool, guiding your business toward its ultimate goals and long-term success.

Was this helpful?

Photo of author

About the author: Oran Yehiel

Oran Yehiel is the founder of Startup Geek, with an MBA specializing in financial management and a background in Deloitte. As a Certified Public Accountant and Digital Marketing Professional, he writes about venture capital, marketing, entrepreneurship, and more, bringing a wealth of experience to businesses seeking growth and success.

JavaScript is disabled in your browser. To view the website properly, please enable JavaScript in your browser settings and refresh the page.

Apply for and manage a grant or program for your business.

Manage your interactions with the R&D Tax Incentive program.

  • Business plans

Develop your business plan

On this page

Why you need a business plan

Use our business plan tool, download a detailed business plan template, tips to help you write your business plan.

Whether you've just started out or have been running your business for years, business planning can be the key to your success. Having a business plan:

  • helps you to prioritise – it gives your business direction, defines your objectives, maps out how you'll achieve your goals and helps you to manage possible bumps in the road
  • gives you control over your business – the planning process helps you learn about the different things that could affect your success. If you're already in business, it helps you to step back and look at what's working and what you can improve on
  • helps you seek finance – if you're seeking finance for your business, you'll need to show banks and investors why they should invest in your business.

It will help you to develop a shorter business plan to:

  • evaluate a new business idea
  • set some goals for the year ahead
  • keep your business on track.

Use this template if you are seeking finance for your business or want to include more detail in your business plan.

Business plan template

1. Determine what your plan is for

Does your business plan have more than one purpose? Will you use it internally, or will you share it externally, for example with potential investors or banks?

Deciding what the purpose is, can help you develop your plan for the right audience. If the plan has been developed for third parties, you will need to determine what they’ll be most interested in.

2. Prepare your finances

Use our detailed business plan template if you are seeking finance.

Lenders and investors will want to know if your finances are in order and your business is in a strong financial position. They'll want to know how much money you currently have, how much money you need and how much you expect to make in the near future. While a bit of extra funding will help you ensure you’re covered for unexpected costs, be realistic and avoid asking for more than you need.

If you're starting out and don't have financial information yet, our template provides resources to help you get your finances ready.

3. Write your summary last

Summarise the main points of your business plan using as few words as possible. You want to get to the point but not overlook important facts. This is your opportunity to sell yourself, but don't overdo it. The summary should include details about your business, market, goals and what makes you different from other businesses.

4. Get help

Don't leave your business plan to the last minute. It takes time, research and careful preparation to develop an effective business plan.

If you aren't confident in completing the plan yourself, consider getting a professional to look over it and provide advice.

There are a number of government services available to help you plan, start or grow your business. These services can provide general advice, workshops, seminars and networking events, and can even match you with a mentor or business coach.

Get expert help from a business adviser in your area .

5. Review your plan regularly

As your business changes, your plan will need to change to ensure your business is still heading in the right direction. Having your plan up-to-date can keep you focused on where you are heading.

It's a good idea to keep a record of each version of your business plan.

6. Protect your plan

Having an understanding with third parties when distributing a plan could be enough protection for some businesses. But if you have innovative business practices, products or services, you may want people to sign a confidentiality agreement to protect your innovations.

It may also be a good idea to include some words in your plan asking the reader not to disclose the details of your plan.

Start writing and developing your marketing strategy.

Find out what you need to register for when starting a business., was this page helpful, thanks for sharing your feedback with us..

Our live chat service is open from 8am - 8pm, Monday to Friday, across Australia (excluding national public holidays ).

Learn about the other ways you can contact us .

All our experts are busy now. Please try again later or contact us another way

We're open from 8am - 8pm, Monday to Friday, across Australia (excluding national public holidays ).

We use cookies to give you a better experience on our website. Learn more about how we use cookies and how you can select your preferences.

How Much Does it Cost to Start a Business?

Author: Tim Berry

8 min. read

Updated April 25, 2024

What will it cost to start your business? This is a key question for anyone thinking about starting out on their own. You’ll want to spend some time figuring this out so you know how much money you need to raise and whether you can afford to get your business off the ground.

Most importantly, you’ll want to figure out how much cash you’re going to need in the bank to keep your business afloat as you grow your sales during the early days of your business. 

Typical startup costs can vary depending on whether you’re operating a  brick-and-mortar store, online store, or service operation . However, a common theme is that launching a successful business requires preparation.

And while you may not know exactly what those expenses will be, you can and should begin researching and estimating what it will cost to start your business.

  • How to determine your startup costs

Like when developing your  business plan , or  forecasting  your initial sales, it’s a mixture of  market research ,  testing , and informed guessing. Looking at your competitors is a good starting point. Once you feel your initial estimates are in the ballpark, you can start to get more specific by making these three simple lists.

1. Startup expenses

These are expenses that happen before you launch and start bringing in any revenue. Here are some examples:

  • Permits and Licenses: Every business needs a license to operate, just like a driver needs one to drive. Costs vary depending on industry and location.
  • Legal Fees: Getting your business structure set up (sole proprietorship, LLC, etc.) might involve consulting a lawyer and at least will involve the basic business formation fees.
  • Insurance: Accidents happen, and insurance protects your business from unforeseen bumps.
  • Marketing and Branding: The ways to spread the word about your product or service. They could involve creating a website, creating business cards, or promoting social media.
  • Office Supplies : Pens, paperclips, that all-important stapler – the essentials to keep your business humming.
  • Rent/Lease: If you need to rent space for your business before you start selling, include those expenses in your list as well.

2. Startup assets

Next, calculate the total you need to spend on assets to get your business off the ground. Assets are larger purchases that have long-term value. They’re typically significant items that you could resell later if you needed or wanted to.

Here are a few examples:

  • Equipment:  Think ovens for a bakery, cameras for a photography business, or computers for a tech startup.
  • Inventory:  If you’re selling products, you’ll need to stock up before opening your doors (or your online store).
  • Furniture and Decorations:  Desks, chairs, that comfy couch in the waiting room – creating a functional and inviting workspace might involve some upfront investment.
  • Vehicles: If your business requires a vehicle to deliver your product or service, be sure to account for that purchase here.

Brought to you by

LivePlan Logo

Create a professional business plan

Using ai and step-by-step instructions.

Secure funding

Validate ideas

Build a strategy

Why separate assets and expenses?

There’s a reason that you should separate costs into assets and expenses. Expenses are deductible against income, so they reduce taxable income. Assets, on the other hand, are not deductible against income.

By initially separating the two, you potentially save yourself money on taxes. Additionally, by accurately accounting for expenses, you can avoid overstating your assets on the balance sheet. While typically having more assets is a better look, having assets that are useless or unfounded only bloats your books and potentially makes them inaccurate. 

Listing these out separately is good practice when  starting a business  and leads into the final piece to consider when determining startup costs. 

3. Operating Expenses

Finally, figure out what it’s going to cost to keep your doors open until sales can cover expenses. Create a list that estimates monthly expenses, such as:

  • Payroll (including your own salary)
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Loan payments
  • Insurance premiums
  • Office supplies
  • Professional services
  • Travel costs
  • Shipping and distribution

Then, based on your revenue forecasts , calculate how many months it will take before your sales can cover all those monthly expenses. Multiply that number of months by your monthly operating expenses to determine how much you’re going to need to cover operating expenses as your business starts.

This number is often called “ cash runway ” and is a critical number – you need enough cash to fund those early red ink months. This number is how much cash you need to have in your checking account when you open your doors for business.

Calculating how much startup cash you need

To figure out how much money you need to start your business, add the asset purchases, startup expenses, and operating expenses over your cash runway period. This is your total startup costs, and it’s better to overestimate than underestimate these costs.

It often makes sense to invest the time to build a slightly more detailed starting costs calculation. Assuming you start making some sales and those sales grow over time, your revenue will be able to help pay for some of your operating expenses. Ideally, your sales contribute more and more over time until you become profitable.

To do a more detailed calculation, you’ll want to invest the time in a detailed financial forecast where you can experiment with different scenarios. If you do this, you’ll be able to see how much it will cost to start your business with different revenue growth rates. You’ll also be able to experiment with different funding scenarios and what your business would look like with different types of loans.

  • Funding Starting Costs

You can cover starting costs on your own, or through a combination of loans and investments.

Many entrepreneurs decide they want to raise more cash than they need so they’ll have money left over for contingencies. While that makes good sense when you can do it, it is difficult to explain that to investors. Outside investors don’t want to give you more money than you need, because it’s their money.

You may see experts who recommend having anywhere from six months to a year’s worth of expenses covered, with your starting cash. That’s nice in concept and would be great for peace of mind, but it’s rarely practical. And it interferes with your estimates and dilutes their value.

Of course, startup financing isn’t technically part of the starting costs estimate. But in the real world, to get started, you need to estimate the starting costs and determine what startup financing will be necessary to cover them. The type of financing you pursue may alter your startup or ongoing costs in a given period, so it’s important to consider this upfront.

Here are common financing options to consider:

  • Investment : What you or someone else puts into the company. It ends up as paid-in capital in the  balance sheet . This is the classic concept of business investment, taking ownership in a company, risking money in the hope of gaining money later.
  • Accounts payable : Debts that are outstanding or need to be paid after a certain time according to your balance sheet. Generally, this means credit-card debt. This number becomes the starting balance of your balance sheet.
  • Current borrowing : Standard debt, borrowing from banks,  Small Business Administration , or other current borrowing.
  • Other current liabilities : Additional liabilities that don’t have interest charges. This is where you put loans from founders, family members, or friends. We aren’t recommending interest-free loans for financing, by the way, but when they happen, this is where they go.
  • Long-term liabilities : Long-term debt or long-term loans.
  • Other considerations for estimating startup costs

Pre-launch versus normal operations

With our definition of starting costs, the launch date is the defining point. Rent and payroll expenses before launch are considered startup expenses. The same expenses after launch are considered operating or ongoing expenses.

Many companies also incur some payroll expenses before launch because they need to hire people to train before launch, develop their website, stock shelves, and so forth.

Further Reading: How to calculate the hourly cost of an employee

The same defining point affects assets as well. For example, amounts in inventory purchased before launch and available at launch are included in starting assets. Inventory purchased after launch will affect  cash flow , and the balance sheet; but isn’t considered part of the starting costs.

So, be sure to accurately define the cutoff for startup costs and operating expenses. Again, by outlining everything within specific categories, this transition should be simple and easy to keep track of.

Your launch month will likely be the start of your business’s fiscal year

The establishment of a standard fiscal year plays a role in your analysis. U.S. tax code allows most businesses to manage taxes based on a fiscal year, which can be any series of 12 months, not necessarily January through December.

It can be convenient to establish the fiscal year as starting the same month that the business launches. In this case, the startup costs and startup funding match the fiscal year—and they happen in the time before the launch and beginning of the first operational fiscal year. The pre-launch transactions are reported as a separate tax year, even if they occur in just a few months, or even one month. So the last month of the pre-launch period is also the last month of the fiscal year.

  • Aim for long-term success by estimating startup costs

Make sure you’ve considered every aspect of your business and included related costs. You’ll have a better chance at securing loans, attracting investors, estimating profits, and understanding the cash runway of your business.

The more accurately you layout startup costs and make adjustments as you incur them, the more accurate vision you’ll have for the immediate future of your business. 

Content Author: Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software , a co-founder of Borland International, and a recognized expert in business planning. He has an MBA from Stanford and degrees with honors from the University of Oregon and the University of Notre Dame. Today, Tim dedicates most of his time to blogging, teaching and evangelizing for business planning.

Check out LivePlan

Table of Contents

Related Articles

How to calculate hourly employee costs

<1 Min. Read

How to Calculate the Hourly Cost of an Employee

Determine how much money you need to start

4 Min. Read

3 Steps to Figure Out How Much Money You Need to Start a Business

How to reduce your startup costs

5 Min. Read

5 Ways to Reduce Small Business Startup Costs

Hidden startup costs you may overlook

2 Min. Read

The Top 5 Hidden Costs of Starting a Business

The Bplans Newsletter

The Bplans Weekly

Subscribe now for weekly advice and free downloadable resources to help start and grow your business.

We care about your privacy. See our privacy policy .

Garrett's Bike Shop

The quickest way to turn a business idea into a business plan

Fill-in-the-blanks and automatic financials make it easy.

No thanks, I prefer writing 40-page documents.

LivePlan pitch example

Discover the world’s #1 plan building software

create a startup business plan

You might be using an unsupported or outdated browser. To get the best possible experience please use the latest version of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Microsoft Edge to view this website.

19 Small Business Ideas For 2024

Kimberlee Leonard

Updated: Apr 19, 2024, 7:21pm

19 Small Business Ideas For 2024

Table of Contents

1. tutoring, 2. music and voice lessons, 3. bookkeeper, 4. pet care services, 5. subscription box service, 6. dropshipping website, 7. dog grooming, 8. copywriter, 9. copy editor, 10. wedding or events planner, 11. photographer or videographer, 12. home cleaning, 13. personal trainer, 14. sewing and alterations, 15. virtual assistant, 16. college consultant, 17. antique sales, 18. life insurance agent, 19. life coach, frequently asked questions.

Every day, hardworking individuals choose to step away from their employers and start their own companies. Small businesses launched by everyday entrepreneurs have added over 12.9 million jobs to the United States. economy in the last 25 years. If you’re looking to join the fray but aren’t sure which path is best for you, here’s a list of 19 profitable small business ideas.

If you’re a master of a particular subject, you can help students struggling in their classes by becoming a tutor. No certification is required to become a tutor, but you should be an ace in the topic. Usually, a tutor has a college degree in the subject they are tutoring.

You can teach in person or online to expand your target market. You may want to invest in some teaching aid tools, such as Canvas or Blackboard. These will help you interact more effectively with online students. You can market yourself or join a tutoring platform, such as BuffTutor, that brings clients to you.

create a startup business plan

Tutoring is an excellent way to make some money while enriching the lives of the next generation.

Are you skilled with a musical instrument, or do you have golden pipes? Do you love teaching as well? Sharing those skills with others can help foster a love of the arts. You can either set up a studio at your home or travel to your clients’ homes, depending on what works best for your situation. The flexibility means the possibilities here are endless.

You can market yourself to local schools or community theaters where parents are looking to get their kids music or voice lessons. A good teacher quickly gets word-of-mouth referrals for new business, which helps reduce the amount of marketing that you need to do.

Learn more: Find the right scheduling app to keep your sessions organized.

If you’re someone who is great with numbers and pays attention to the little details, starting a bookkeeping business might be a viable idea. Bookkeepers sell their services to small businesses that need help managing the books, preparing payroll and gathering data for taxes. You would need to be very well-organized and understand the inherent liabilities that can come with handling someone’s finances; make sure you form an LLC if you choose this route.

While you don’t need specific credentials to become a bookkeeper, getting something, such as the QuickBooks Bookkeeping Certification, will not only teach you a lot but will also give potential clients confidence in your ability. However, it might cost you as much as $450 to obtain the certification.

A dog walking business is an excellent opportunity for someone who loves dogs and is good with other people’s dogs. You get out every day and enjoy fresh air with grateful pups. This business requires you to go to people’s homes to let their dogs out to play or go for a walk. You don’t need any special credentials to be a dog walker, and since you’ll be using your clients’ leashes, you don’t need to invest in much. Primarily, you should purchase items, such as dog treats and waste bags, so that you are prepared for any situation.

If you live in a rural area where clients are spread out, you could pursue the option of offering more generalized pet-sitting services for those who are on vacations or business trips. The income for this type of service may be less consistent, but it’s an excellent fit for someone with experience handling different types of animals. Many small critters, such as birds, reptiles and fish, require very detailed care that their owners don’t trust just anyone to handle. If you can build a reputation for taking good care of these pets, winning new clients will come with ease.

create a startup business plan

Getty Images

Subscription boxes are a hot trend right now. There are subscriptions for anything and everything, including vitamins and contraception. If you have an idea for a subscription box, you could have the next hot trend.

You’ll want to establish a website where customers buy your box. At the end of the month, you send each customer a curated box of goodies. While you can often purchase these items based on the demand, you may need to carry some inventory of certain products. It will all depend on your subscription box.

A dropshipping website promotes products that it doesn’t keep in stock. Instead, it has a deal with a distributor who will take your orders and mail them to your customers on your behalf. This eliminates the cost of having inventory and expands the number of products that a business owner can market and sell.

To start a dropshipping business , you’ll need to find relationships with dropshippers. There are big companies that have thousands of products, such as Oberlo and Alibaba, that do this. You’ll also need to create a website that features the products. Getting started may cost you $500 to $1,000 if you need help setting up a website.

Dogs’ coats need regular care, and dog grooming is a service that is in high demand. Washing dogs, trimming their nails and clipping their fur must be done as often as every 4-6 weeks for some breeds. While you can do this in a client’s home, most groomers have either a retail location or a mobile pet salon where they have all their supplies and tools.

To have a complete setup, a mobile pet grooming van may cost anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000. If you’d prefer clients bring their pups to you, converting a shed into a grooming salon may be a more convenient option.

Just about every business has an online presence, most with some sort of blog or distributed content. This content needs to be written, and most business owners don’t have the time to do this themselves. They hire a professional writer. If you have a passion for certain topics, an ability to do deep research and are a good writer, this can be a profitable business for you.

There are no startup costs other than having a computer with a good internet connection. Many writers market their services on LinkedIn or in business social media groups. You can also reach out to the marketing director of businesses to offer your services.

With hundreds of blogs and content streams starting every day, there’s a huge demand for reliable editors who can ensure high-quality content goes live. If you have an eye for grammar and punctuation, you might consider becoming an editor who reads and helps improve content. And you don’t have to be limited to blogs or social media; you can edit books and print articles as well.

Make sure that you are a grammar stickler and that you know the differences between AP and Chicago-style writing. You’ll want to invest in these manuals so that you can help your clients meet the right style guides. Other than that, you only need your computer to start this business. You’ll market yourself in online groups and may choose to invest in building a website to help promote your new business.

Featured Partners

$17 per month

Wix

On Wix's Website

$1.95 per month

Customizable templates, Easy drag-and-drop technology, SSL certificate

Web.com

On Web.com's Website

Squarespace

$16 per month

Squarespace

On Squarespace's Website

$15 per month

AI Content Assistant, drag-and-drop editor, premium hosting, live chat

Hubspot

On Hubspot's Website

If you’d love to help make a special day as memorable as possible, the events business is very rewarding. Those who organize these events should have strong networking skills, pay close attention to details and be highly organized. It helps to have a creative edge that enables you to come up with new and exciting ideas for your clients.

If you want to focus on weddings, be prepared to help with all aspects of the wedding, from the decorations and venue to entertainment and food. While you don’t need any licensing or credentials to do this, you want to have a Rolodex of professionals who can fill certain roles at the event.

Learn more: Use CRM software to keep your vendors and your clients organized.

This is a great business for a creative person with an eye for composition. You can be a generalist or niche down as a wedding videographer or family photo session provider. You don’t need any specialized certifications to start a photography business or start producing videos.

However, you do need a high-quality camera and may also want to invest in lighting accessories. To start a videography business, you’ll need a good digital video camera, lights, microphones and bounce boards to help you get the best quality footage. You should also launch a website that shows potential clients your portfolio of work.

A home cleaning service business is an excellent idea for detail-oriented people who want to be solopreneurs or who want to grow to have a team. As a home cleaner, you go to people’s homes and clean the kitchen, bathrooms and all other rooms. You’ll dust, mop and vacuum rooms and make sure that sinks, toilets and tubs are clean.

You don’t need to be licensed to be a home cleaner, but it’s a good idea to get bonded and insured . This gives clients confidence that you are a professional. As far as investment goes, you will want to have your own cleaning tools and supplies so that you don’t rely on clients to provide them—though some will.

A personal trainer helps people meet their fitness goals. As a trainer, you are part workout expert and part motivational expert. You help develop workout plans to help people either lose weight, build muscle or meet other fitness goals. Certification is required if you plan to work at a gym and will also help you build your credentials to get new clients.

A certification might cost you anywhere from $500 to $1,000. Many fitness trainers also have degrees in kinesiology from a university, but this is not required.

If you’re talented with a needle and thread, you could have a business sewing and making alterations for others who don’t have this skill or the tools to do it. While you may be busy with alterations, the real money is in custom jobs for dresses and costumes. If you live near a thriving Renaissance fair or convention center, you can expect to find plenty of potential customers dressing up for events at these locations.

You don’t need any certification to become a seamstress or a tailor. You will need to invest in a good sewing machine and get materials and supplies that you use when working for clients. Advertising your services on-call or even setting up “emergency” booths at costumed events can bring you new clientele from those in a bind.

create a startup business plan

More business executives are turning to virtual assistants (VAs) to help them with certain business tasks. This saves the business money because they don’t need another full-time employee with benefits while still getting the work done. As a VA, you will do certain tasks, such as managing social media, coordinating travel and maintaining the calendar.

There is no prerequisite to becoming a VA. You just need to be good with people and have keen organizational skills. You’ll want a computer with a fast internet connection to service your clients.

Parents will do whatever they can to help their children get into the college of their dreams. This includes hiring a college consultant who can help prepare them for standardized tests, review personal statements and navigate the world of financial aid and scholarships.

There is little to no overhead as a college consultant. You simply need a computer and a good internet connection. While there are no required certifications, the College Consultant Certification from Heartland Institute can help give you credibility in a competitive market.

You might love going to garage sales and auctions. This hobby can become a business where you buy antiques and then resell them after freshening them up with some paint. You may even work on consignment for clients to limit your cash outlay.

This is a business where you can work from your garage or invest some money and open a storefront. The cost will depend on your location and the size of the store.

If you’re passionate about helping families prepare for the worst-case scenario, then you may be highly fulfilled working as an independent life insurance agent. You’ll work with people to help assess their life insurance needs and find the right type of coverage. You’ll become their main point of contact for sales and service.

To become a life insurance agent, you must pass a state licensing class and a standardized test. Once you do that, you’ll need to get appointed with life insurance companies to offer their products.

A life coach helps people navigate through difficult times in their lives. Coaching may come into play for relationships, parenting or other challenging life transitions. A life coach has a lot of experience and can bring that experience to the table to help people successfully navigate through their troubles and blocks.

While you don’t need a certification to become a life coach, it does help to give you credibility in what you do. A certification may cost you anywhere from $500 to $1,000, depending on where you get it from. The International Coach Federation offers a three-day, accredited program that is $995.

Bottom Line

If you’re ready to start a small business , start with what you’re passionate about and what you already have skills in. You may need a certification or to buy some tools and equipment, but many small businesses can be started for under $1,000 .

How do I start a small business with no money?

There are several funding sources for new businesses and most require a business plan to secure it. These include the SBA , private grants, angel investors, crowdfunding and venture capital.

How can you get money to start a business?

While it takes some work to apply and there’s no guarantee of funding, there are many different types of grants for small businesses available. Competition here can be fierce so make sure you send applications to a variety of sources. Usually, each state has its own programs, but there are also national foundations and organizations that offer grants specifically to minorities . If grants don’t work out, you can always pursue business loans or private investors.

What is the best way to get a business loan?

Online lenders tend to be more flexible than traditional banks, so you may consider shopping around for different rates before applying. Pay close attention to eligibility requirements and repayment terms, and carefully read consumer reviews to gauge the lender’s reputation. Check out our list of the best small business loans to see some of the top lenders.

What is the easiest SBA loan to get?

Small Business Administration (SBA) microloans are the easiest to get because they have little in terms of revenue requirements and are designed for new businesses needing a small amount of capital.

  • Best LLC Services
  • Best Registered Agent Services
  • Best Trademark Registration Services
  • Top LegalZoom Competitors
  • Best Business Loans
  • Best Business Plan Software
  • ZenBusiness Review
  • LegalZoom LLC Review
  • Northwest Registered Agent Review
  • Rocket Lawyer Review
  • Inc. Authority Review
  • Rocket Lawyer vs. LegalZoom
  • Bizee Review (Formerly Incfile)
  • Swyft Filings Review
  • Harbor Compliance Review
  • Sole Proprietorship vs. LLC
  • LLC vs. Corporation
  • LLC vs. S Corp
  • LLP vs. LLC
  • DBA vs. LLC
  • LegalZoom vs. Incfile
  • LegalZoom vs. ZenBusiness
  • LegalZoom vs. Rocket Lawyer
  • ZenBusiness vs. Incfile
  • How To Start A Business
  • How to Set Up an LLC
  • How to Get a Business License
  • LLC Operating Agreement Template
  • 501(c)(3) Application Guide
  • What is a Business License?
  • What is an LLC?
  • What is an S Corp?
  • What is a C Corp?
  • What is a DBA?
  • What is a Sole Proprietorship?
  • What is a Registered Agent?
  • How to Dissolve an LLC
  • How to File a DBA
  • What Are Articles Of Incorporation?
  • Types Of Business Ownership

Next Up In Business

  • Best Online Legal Services
  • How To Write A Business Plan
  • Member-Managed LLC Vs. Manager-Managed LLC
  • Starting An S-Corp
  • LLC Vs. C-Corp
  • How Much Does It Cost To Start An LLC?
  • Commonly Overlooked Must-Haves For Small Business Week
  • Small Business Statistics Of 2024

How To Start A Print On Demand Business In 2024

How To Start A Print On Demand Business In 2024

Katherine Haan

HR For Small Businesses: The Ultimate Guide

Anna Baluch

How One Company Is Using AI To Transform Manufacturing

Rae Hartley Beck

Not-For-Profit Vs. Nonprofit: What’s The Difference?

Natalie Cusson

How To Develop an SEO Strategy in 2024

Jennifer Simonson

How To Make Money On Social Media in 2024

Kimberlee Leonard has 22 years of experience as a freelance writer. Her work has been featured on US News and World Report, Business.com and Fit Small Business. She brings practical experience as a business owner and insurance agent to her role as a small business writer.

  • Build your business

Business Tools

  • Profit Margin Calculator
  • Business Name Generator
  • Slogan Generator
  • Traffic Calculator
  • Ecommerce Statistics
  • Ecommerce Wiki

Free business tools

Start a business and design the life you want – all in one place.

  • © 2015-2024 Oberlo

how to start a dropshipping business

How To Start a Dropshipping Business: A Detailed Step-by-Step Guide (2024)

Starting a dropshipping business is an excellent way to dip your toes into the world of entrepreneurship . It allows you to sell products without needing to stock inventory or make upfront payments. And with dedication and hard work, this business model can lead to a steady income over time.

This complete dropshipping guide details essential business and financial steps to consider. Some steps are necessary from the beginning, while others are beneficial. Considering them early on will save you time and headaches down the road.

What is a dropshipping business?

Dropshipping is a business structure that allows you to operate your store without holding any inventory. Once you’ve made a sale, your supplier will ship the products from their warehouse directly to your customer’s doorstep. This eliminates the hassle of storing, packaging, and shipping products yourself.

How does the dropshipping business model work?

Dropshipping is an order fulfillment model that enables online stores to sell products to consumers without holding any inventory. When a customer buys a product from their catalog, a third-party supplier ships it directly to them.

The selling process involves setting a retail price higher than the wholesale price you pay the supplier, with the difference being your profit. There’s no need to handle products directly or invest in inventory.

dropshipping business model

To start selling, you only need to set up an account with a supplier.

To find suppliers for your dropshipping business, you have three main options:

  • Supplier databases. Platforms like Alibaba or AliExpress enable you to find a diverse array of suppliers.
  • Integrated supplier directories. Tools such as DSers directly integrate with your store’s back end, simplifying the process of browsing and selecting suppliers.
  • Print-on-demand services. Services like Printify give you access to a network of print-on-demand suppliers who can customize products with your designs upon order.

The simplest dropshipping method for Shopify store owners is using DSers. It lets you find and add millions of AliExpress products to your store with one click.

In dropshipping, your tasks include developing your website and brand, selecting and promoting your products, handling shipping costs, and setting prices that ensure profitability.

What are the advantages of dropshipping?

A dropshipping business is a profitable business model where you only pay for the products that you sell. This means you’re not burdened with the cost of creating products or carrying inventory. As such, the startup costs of running a dropshipping store are quite low compared to those that come with operating a standard ecommerce business.

In this business model, you also avoid the costs of maintaining unsold inventory and employing staff for packaging and shipping products. While it will require daily work when it comes to processing orders, most of the order processing steps are automated and only require the click of a button. The dropshipping business opportunities are endless—you just need to take the first step.

How to start a dropshipping business: The 8-step dropshipping business plan

1. choose a dropshipping business idea.

dropshipping business ideas

The first step in launching a dropshipping business is comprehensive market research. It’s akin to evaluating different aspects like location, competition, and market trends when opening a retail store. Your aim should be to explore a niche that not only interests you but also holds profitability potential.

Products catering to specific niches often attract a dedicated and passionate customer base. As such, it’s easier to sell them and generate higher profit margins for your dropshipping business.

Examples of niche dropshipping products include:

  • Handcrafted leather wallets for minimalist enthusiasts
  • Organic skin care products for eco-conscious consumers
  • Customized meal prep containers for health-conscious individuals
  • Sustainable fashion accessories for trendsetting shoppers

By focusing on niche and trending items, you can catch the eye of potential customers and gain momentum without facing off against larger, more established ecommerce brands.

There are a few tools and tactics you can use to validate your dropshipping business ideas:

  • Google Trends . Google Trends is a valuable tool for learning about product trends. It provides insights into whether an item is trending upward or downward over time, as well as the seasons when it tends to be most popular. Although you don’t see the search volume for a specific term, you get enough data to conduct keyword analysis and assess the product’s popularity in search.
  • DSers order volume. DSers lets you search for products based on order volume. A higher order volume indicates a stronger demand and potential success for your business idea.
  • Keywords Everywhere . Keywords Everywhere reveals monthly search counts and competition level for your products. This data helps you understand your dropshipping idea’s popularity and can spark ideas for future products.

2. Do competitor research

create a startup business plan

Once you have decided what to sell, you now need to educate yourself on who your competitors are, what they sell, and how they sell their products. Market research is an essential part of this step, and there are many ways to do it.

  • Run a Google search. Search engines are a clear starting point for mapping out your competition. Enter key terms related to your niche to see who you’re up against. For example, if you’re selling eco-friendly water bottles, enter terms like “sustainable water bottles” into Google. Examine the companies that appear in the search results and study how they promote their products. If targeting a specific geographical area, utilize tools such as Ahrefs or Semrush to get keyword data related to those regions.
  • Browse social media. Look for Facebook ads related to what you sell and note the top brands. See how they talk to customers, how they design their pages, and how much people interact with them. You might even follow them to keep up with their posts. Use what you learn to make your business more visible and improve your approach to social media marketing.
  • Use competitor spy tools. Online tools like Similarweb are invaluable for tracking your competitors’ online presence. Use them to get a detailed snapshot of competitor website information, including their visitor counts, main traffic sources, social media engagement, and main competitors. This information can help you strategize and position your business more effectively.

Study your main competitors thoroughly: website, pricing, marketing strategies, product details, and reputation. Organize this research in a spreadsheet for quick reference when deciding on your store’s strategy.

3. Find a dropshipping supplier

Suppliers are the backbone of a successful dropshipping business. They ensure the store has a steady supply of products, handle shipping directly to customers, and maintain the quality and availability of merchandise.

Ecommerce platforms like Shopify make it easy to find dropshipping suppliers . Once you’ve created an online store, install the DSers app to find potential suppliers for your business.

DSers is a marketplace for dropshipping suppliers to showcase their products. It features a wide range of items, including toys, electronics, and women’s apparel. You can add any product to your store with one click and benefit from automated order forwarding to suppliers. Best of all, getting started is completely free.

The DSers app connects to AliExpress to give you easy access to a wide range of products for your store. On the DSers product page, you can find detailed information on product quality and shipping times, or learn more about a supplier.

create a startup business plan

Clicking on a supplier’s link redirects you to their AliExpress page. There, you can find customer reviews and their top-selling items.

create a startup business plan

On the DSers suppliers page, remember to select products with ePacket shipping if your supplier is based in China.

ePacket is an efficient and affordable shipping method from China to countries like the US, the UK, and Canada. Instead of waiting months, your customers can receive their packages in up to two weeks, for just a few dollars.

4. Set up your dropshipping store 

create a startup business plan

There are a few components to building a dropshipping business store the right way:

Domain name

Your domain name is especially important if you’re building a long-term brand. You can use a free business name generator to simplify the process. Always opt for a .com domain , regardless of your niche. If you want your niche to be a keyword in your new domain, make sure it’s broad—like “beauty,” “jewelry,” or “fashion”—rather than specific. This way, you won’t need to change your domain name down the road.

Ecommerce platform

Shopify is the most comprehensive ecommerce platform on the market. With new features, tools, resources, and apps being added regularly, you’ll find it easy to run a business on the platform. Plus, Shopify connects with print-on-demand services, should you choose to diversify your dropshipping approach

As a Shopify user, you get access to free themes . One of these is Minimal Motion . It offers a clean and user-friendly interface, perfect for those just starting out with store design. As your store begins to generate revenue, consider upgrading to a premium theme to further improve your store’s appearance.

Dropshipping app

To manage your inventory and place orders efficiently, you’ll need a reliable dropshipping app. DSers is a solid choice that allows you to explore products in a variety of popular niches. When starting out, it’s advisable to focus on 10 to 25 products, as writing descriptions for a larger inventory can become overwhelming. If you have questions or need guidance, you can turn to the DSers blog, its social media pages, or Shopify’s own support line.

5. Decide on a business structure

Best Web Hosting For Small Business in 2021

If you’re dedicated to your project, consider creating an official business entity. Though we aren’t legal advisers and cannot give legal guidance, we can outline three common types of business structures for you:

Sole proprietorship

This is the simplest form of business structure, but it lacks personal liability protection. If your business is sued, your personal assets could also be at risk. The filing requirements are minimal, and you just include your business’s income on your personal tax returns. There are no additional state or federal business filings required.

Limited liability company (LLC)

Most dropshipping companies prefer forming an LLC. This structure better protects your personal assets by recognizing your business as a separate legal entity. Although the liability protection isn’t perfect, it’s stronger than that of a sole proprietorship. You’ll need to meet more filing requirements and pay both incorporation and ongoing fees.

Related:   Sole proprietorship vs. LLC: A Breakdown

C corporation

Most major corporations are established as C corporations, which offer the greatest liability protection when set up correctly. However, they are more expensive to start and C corps face double taxation, where the business’s income is taxed at both the corporate level and again as it is distributed to shareholders.

You’ll want to consult with a lawyer before making any incorporation decisions. These professionals know the ins and outs of each structure and can help you choose the ideal one for your dropshipping business.

Request an EIN number

You’ll need an employer identification number (EIN) number, which the IRS requires every business to have one. It works like a Social Security number, but for your business. You need it to file taxes, sign up for wholesale dropshipping accounts, open a bank account, and do other business tasks.

The good news is, getting an EIN number is simple and doesn’t cost anything. You can apply for it online .

6. Market your dropshipping business

SMS marketing guide 2023

You’ve selected your products and set up your store. The next step is to market your dropshipping business.

This is a crucial component of any dropshipping business plan. For those just starting out and likely on a tight budget, it’s worth noting that effective marketing doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are some methods to explore:

Facebook and Google ads

Facebook ads tap into the impulse to buy, are scalable, and can highlight your products well. Google Shopping Ads allow targeting of long-tail keywords to attract ready-to-purchase shoppers. You can test both platforms to see which advertising method leads to better results for your business.

Influencer marketing

If you’re just starting and have a tight budget, influencer marketing is a cost-effective way to reach your audience. People often trust influencers more than traditional ads. Instead of paying influencers a fixed amount, consider a deal where they earn for every sale they bring. This method is more affordable for you and rewarding for them.

Content creation

To keep visitors coming to your store, start creating content. Launch a blog focused on your niche. Aim to both entertain and educate your audience. Other options include making YouTube videos, creating infographics, or starting a podcast to raise awareness of your brand.

Community engagement

Join groups passionate about your niche. Start discussions with potential customers on Reddit, Facebook groups, or forums. Focus on being helpful, not just selling. This approach builds trust and makes people more likely to buy from your brand.

Email marketing

Email marketing is a powerful tool for building long-lasting relationships with customers and driving repeat purchases. Consider sending personalized content, such as product recommendations, promotional offers, and informative newsletters, to increase engagement and boost sales.Shopify Inbox is available at no cost for managing these communications in your Shopify store.

7. Streamline your finances

create a startup business plan

Starting your own dropshipping business comes with a crucial financial management step: separating personal and business finances. Mixing these can lead to confusion, complicate accounting, risk personal assets, and attract IRS scrutiny during audits.

Creating distinct accounts for your business is the best practice. This includes:

Business checking account

This account should handle all your business transactions. All business income goes in, and expenses come out, streamlining your accounting processes.

Business credit card

Opt for a credit card dedicated to business expenses, especially useful for buying dropshipping inventory. Choosing a rewards card can earn you significant benefits from frequent supplier purchases.

Sales tax collection

You need to collect sales tax if your state requires it and you sell to someone in your state. For sales outside your state, current laws may exempt you from collection, but keep an eye on potential legal changes.

If collecting sales tax is necessary, register with your state’s department of commerce as an online retailer to understand your obligations.

Local business licenses

Many places require a business license, which might vary for home-based businesses . Research your local requirements to ensure compliance.

Incorporating outside the United States

For international merchants aiming to enter the US market, setting up a business in the United States is possible but requires understanding and fulfilling specific legal requirements. This might involve traveling to the US, partnering with someone in the country, or hiring an agency to manage the setup.

8. Test and optimize

create a startup business plan

Once you’ve spent time building your website, brand, and marketing, you can start to analyze the results of your hard work. You may find that certain marketing activities are hugely successful, while others not as much. You can also compare your prices to that of your competition and see if you could make things more competitive.

You can use tools like Google Search Console or Google Analytics to evaluate your online traffic and make sure it’s increasing, not decreasing. If you’re using third-party tools for email marketing or social media reporting, set up weekly or monthly automatic reports to remind you to analyze this information regularly. Even a quick snapshot of data from a tool can be enough to decide if a campaign is working or not.

Overall, the most important part of a successful online ecommerce store is to test and optimize. This ensures that your website will not fall behind best practices and keeps you ahead of your competitors.

Where to find dropshipping businesses for sale?

If you don’t want to build a Shopify dropshipping business from scratch, you can easily find a dropshipping business for sale on Flippa .

Flippa is a marketplace of websites for both people looking to invest in a fully functioning business and those who want to skip the building phase and start directly with marketing. Flippa has a great collection of online stores, including dropshipping ecommerce businesses, of varying price ranges and niches that you can choose from depending on your budget and interests.

So, if you’re looking for a dropshipping business for sale, Flippa has got you covered.

Factors to consider when buying a dropshipping store

When choosing to buy a store, take into account the cost, the design, the age of the website, how much money it has made, the popularity of the niche, penalizations, and the type of business.

Type of business

If you plan on buying a dropshipping business, you need to select the ecommerce filter on Flippa. Other options may require you to buy and hold inventory, which can cost more money over the long term, especially in unsold inventory.

Do you have a budget that covers not just the cost of a premade store but also allows for its growth? If so, you need to work out what your budget looks like. What price are you willing to pay for a business? Is there room to negotiate a better deal?

Does the store look like it was designed by a professional or by a new entrepreneur who’s looking to make a quick sale? If the store design looks professional, clean, and easy to navigate, it may be worth pursuing.

Age of website

On Flippa, you can choose an ecommerce business based on its age. An older website will typically have a better chance of ranking online than a newer one.

Sometimes you’ll see that a store made a lot of money. However, a question you need to ask is, “How much money was it making at its peak, and how much is it making now?” This will help you understand if the dropshipping business is growing or dying.

Niche popularity

You probably don’t want to be selling fidget spinners anymore, or any trending product. However, if a store is within an evergreen niche and sells trending products , it could work out well. Broad topics (beauty) tend to perform better than stores focused on a specific type of product (makeup brushes).

Penalizations

Before buying a dropshipping business, you need to double check that the website hasn’t been penalized (removed from Google’s search index). You can use a tool like Is My Website Penalized to determine if a website has been penalized by Google. If a store has been penalized it may be harder for you to rank in search engines. You also want to ask, “Were any of the business’s Facebook ads banned?”

Getting started with dropshipping

Whether you’re new or seasoned in business, dropshipping with Shopify is your low-risk gateway to online sales. Sign up, choose your plan, add DSers, and select your niche products. Customize, import, and sell—your ecommerce journey begins now.

How to start dropshipping FAQ

What are the benefits of starting a dropshipping business.

  • Easy to start
  • Wide selection of items to sell
  • Flexible location
  • Highly scalable

How do I start a dropshipping business?

  • Choose a dropshipping business idea.
  • Research your competitors.
  • Find a reliable dropshipping supplier.
  • Establish your online store.
  • Market your dropshipping business.
  • Assess and optimize your store.

Do I need to incorporate a dropshipping business?

Incorporating a dropshipping business has clear benefits. It separates your personal and business finances, protecting your money if the business runs into debt. Additionally, incorporating gets you an employer identification number (EIN), which makes it easier to file and pay sales tax. So if you’re planning for long-term success, think about incorporating. It’s a good way to manage your finances and taxes.

Is dropshipping really profitable?

Dropshipping can be a highly lucrative business, as it allows you to avoid the substantial overhead associated with traditional wholesaling. You bypass the costs of bulk purchases, storage, and shipping logistics—and can earn a good profit margin with the right suppliers.

Many dropshippers earn up to $50,000 per year as a side hustle. To hit such figures, you’ll need to pick the right suppliers and build a strong brand.

Keep in mind that dropshipping can be highly competitive. Because the barrier to entry is low, you may encounter numerous brands offering similar products at competitive prices.

Is dropshipping worth it?

The value of dropshipping depends on the time and money you invest in it. If you dedicate time to growing your online business, you are more likely to reap the rewards. Setting up a dropshipping business involves multiple steps: You need to set up a store, import products, decide on your pricing strategy, and start selling. All of this requires effort and commitment for your business to be successful.

Want to learn more?

  • How to Start a Photography Business
  • Bootstrapping a Business: 10 Tips to Help You Succeed
  • Seven Dropshipping Secrets Discovered on TikTok [VIDEO]
  • 9 Best Free Online Courses You Can Start Today

IMAGES

  1. Free business plan templates and examples for your startup

    create a startup business plan

  2. Free to edit and print startup business plan templates

    create a startup business plan

  3. Free to edit and print startup business plan templates

    create a startup business plan

  4. Business Plan For A Startup Templates: How To Write & Examples

    create a startup business plan

  5. How to Write a Business Plan for a Startup?

    create a startup business plan

  6. How to write a business plan for a startup company

    create a startup business plan

VIDEO

  1. business startup

  2. How to Start an IT Startup Business

  3. HOW TO WRITE A LEAN STARTUP BUSINESS PLAN STEP BY STEP • Click above to watch the full video

  4. How to Start a Business in 2024: A Complete Step by Step Guide

  5. 📚 Entrepreneur's Business Plan guide🏅

  6. How to Write a Business Plan for Your Online Business

COMMENTS

  1. How to Write a Startup Business Plan (10 Effective Steps)

    Step 10: Conclusion and Call to Action. Time to wrap it up and rally your readers. Summarize the key points of your plan, driving home why your startup is a solid bet. But remember, this isn't just a conclusion—it's a launchpad.

  2. How To Write A Business Plan (2024 Guide)

    Describe Your Services or Products. The business plan should have a section that explains the services or products that you're offering. This is the part where you can also describe how they fit ...

  3. How To Start A Business In 11 Steps (2024 Guide)

    The best way to accomplish any business or personal goal is to write out every possible step it takes to achieve the goal. Then, order those steps by what needs to happen first. Some steps may ...

  4. How to Write a Business Plan in 9 Steps (+ Template and Examples)

    1. Create Your Executive Summary. The executive summary is a snapshot of your business or a high-level overview of your business purposes and plans. Although the executive summary is the first section in your business plan, most people write it last. The length of the executive summary is not more than two pages.

  5. How to Start a Business: A Startup Guide for Entrepreneurs [Template]

    Jump to: How to Start a Business Plan →. Featured Resource: Free Business Plan Template. Grab your free business plan template here. 2. Choose a business name. Your business name is an essential part of your new business. It determines what you'll call it on official documentation and on the business plan you'll share with investors.

  6. How to Write a Business Plan: Guide + Examples

    Most business plans also include financial forecasts for the future. These set sales goals, budget for expenses, and predict profits and cash flow. A good business plan is much more than just a document that you write once and forget about. It's also a guide that helps you outline and achieve your goals. After completing your plan, you can ...

  7. Write your business plan

    You might prefer a lean startup format if you want to explain or start your business quickly, your business is relatively simple, or you plan to regularly change and refine your business plan. Lean startup formats are charts that use only a handful of elements to describe your company's value proposition, infrastructure, customers, and finances.

  8. How To Write a Business Plan

    Step 2: Do your market research homework. The next step in writing a business plan is to conduct market research. This involves gathering information about your target market (or customer persona), your competition, and the industry as a whole. You can use a variety of research methods such as surveys, focus groups, and online research to ...

  9. How to Write a Business Plan: Beginner's Guide (& Templates)

    Step #3: Conduct Your Market Analysis. Step #4: Research Your Competition. Step #5: Outline Your Products or Services. Step #6: Summarize Your Financial Plan. Step #7: Determine Your Marketing Strategy. Step #8: Showcase Your Organizational Chart. 14 Business Plan Templates to Help You Get Started.

  10. How To Make A Business Plan: Step By Step Guide

    The steps below will guide you through the process of creating a business plan and what key components you need to include. 1. Create an executive summary. Start with a brief overview of your entire plan. The executive summary should cover your business plan's main points and key takeaways.

  11. How to Create a Business Plan: Examples & Free Template

    Startup Business Plan: Tailored for new ventures, a startup business plan outlines the company's mission, objectives, target market, competition, marketing strategies, and financial projections. It helps entrepreneurs clarify their vision, secure funding from investors, and create a roadmap for their business's future. ...

  12. How to Write a Business Plan (Plus Examples & Templates)

    How to Write a Business Plan Step 1. Create a Cover Page. The first thing investors will see is the cover page for your business plan. Make sure it looks professional. A great cover page shows that you think about first impressions. A good business plan should have the following elements on a cover page:

  13. Startup Business Plans 101: Your Path to Success

    A startup business plan should include: Vision and Direction: Set clear goals and objectives, and outline strategies to achieve them. With a well-defined plan, you will stay focused, make informed decisions, and ensure alignment with your vision.

  14. The Definitive Guide to Writing a Business Plan

    Finally, make sure your plan document flows well and doesn't have any "widows" or "orphans" when it prints out. A "widow" is when the last line of a paragraph appears alone at the top of a page, and an "orphan" is a single word that gets left behind at the bottom of a paragraph. 7. Get a Second Pair of Eyes.

  15. How To Write A Business Plan: A Comprehensive Guide

    1. Investors Are Short On Time. If your chief goal is using your business plan to secure funding, then it means you intend on getting it in front of an investor. And if there's one thing investors are, it's busy. So keep this in mind throughout writing a business plan.

  16. How to Write a Startup Business Plan

    Here are five business plan templates for specific industries or situations: For first-time entrepreneurs: The United States Small Business Administration (SBA). For getting your ideas down: $100 Startup. For law firms: Cilo. For established businesses: SCORE. For additional industries: LawDepot. Sample business plan. A one-page business plan ...

  17. Free Startup Business Plan Templates

    This one-page business plan is ideal for startup companies that want to document and organize key business concepts. The template offers an easy-to-scan layout that's ideal for investors and stakeholders. Use this plan to create a high-level view of your business idea and as a reference as you flesh out a more detailed roadmap for your business.

  18. How to Write a Startup Business Plan

    Begin by writing a one-sentence startup business plan introduction that showcases the core customer need/pain point and how you propose to solve it. 3. Develop startup goals and milestones. Next, write down the milestones and goals for your startup business plan. This is a crucial step that many entrepreneurs forget when they're starting out.

  19. How to Write a Business Plan for a Startup (with Pictures)

    Make the business plan look as professional as possible. Open a word processing document and set the font to Times New Roman or Garamond. [13] Add a cover page to your document. You can title it " [Company Name]'s Business Plan" or "Business Plan for [Your Name].". If you have a logo, include that too.

  20. Free Business Plan Template for Small Businesses (2024)

    Our free business plan template includes seven key elements typically found in the traditional business plan format: 1. Executive summary. This is a one-page summary of your whole plan, typically written after the rest of the plan is completed. The description section of your executive summary will also cover your management team, business ...

  21. How to Write a Simple Business Plan

    Write the Executive Summary. This section is the same as in the traditional business plan — simply offer an overview of what's in the business plan, the prospect or core offering, and the short- and long-term goals of the company. Add a Company Overview. Document the larger company mission and vision.

  22. How to Write a Business Plan for Your Startup

    Step 3 - Analyze your competition. In addition to researching your target market, you need to conduct a competitive analysis as well. You'll use this information to create your brand differentiation strategy. When you're writing a business plan, your startup doesn't exist yet.

  23. How to Start a Business: A Step-by-Step Guide

    9. Brand yourself and advertise. Before you start selling your product or service, you need to build up your brand and get a following of people who are ready to jump when you open your literal or ...

  24. How To Create A Winning Business Plan For Your Startup

    Let's explore the key components of a business plan that will serve as the compass guiding your startup toward success. 1. Write An Executive Summary. The executive summary is at the forefront of your business plan, which introduces your plan to the world.

  25. Develop your business plan

    Calculate the start-up costs of your business; Difference between a business and a hobby; Choose a business name; Business names, trading names and legal names; ... There are a number of government services available to help you plan, start or grow your business. These services can provide general advice, workshops, seminars and networking ...

  26. How Much Does it Cost to Start a Business? 2024 Guide

    1. Startup expenses. These are expenses that happen before you launch and start bringing in any revenue. Here are some examples: Permits and Licenses: Every business needs a license to operate, just like a driver needs one to drive. Costs vary depending on industry and location.

  27. How to Start an E-commerce Business: A 2024 Guide

    Step 3: Choose a business name and start building your brand. Next, your business needs a name and brand identity. For those starting white label e-commerce businesses, the brand is especially crucial to the success of your business. Choosing a business name can be fun, but it requires a bit of strategic thinking.

  28. 19 Small Business Ideas For 2024

    4. Pet Care Services. A dog walking business is an excellent opportunity for someone who loves dogs and is good with other people's dogs. You get out every day and enjoy fresh air with grateful ...

  29. How To Start a Dropshipping Business: A Detailed Step-by-Step ...

    How to start a dropshipping business: The 8-step dropshipping business plan. 1. Choose a dropshipping business idea. The first step in launching a dropshipping business is comprehensive market research. It's akin to evaluating different aspects like location, competition, and market trends when opening a retail store.

  30. Adobe Creative Cloud Plans, Pricing, and Membership

    For pricing call 888-649-2990. Includes: 100GB of cloud storage, per license, for easy file sharing. Deeper discounts on all purchases plus consolidated annual billing. Request consultation. Discover Adobe Creative Cloud membership plans and monthly prices for our full suite of applications including Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Illustrator, and more.