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Writing a Business Plan
While it may be tempting to put off, creating a business plan is an essential part of starting your own business. Plans and proposals should be put in a clear format making it easy for potential investors to understand. Because every company has a different goal and product or service to offer, there are business plan templates readily available to help you get on the right track. Many of these templates can be adapted for any company. In general, a business plan writing guide will recommend that the following sections be incorporated into your plan.
The executive summary is the first section that business plans open with, but is often the last section to actually be written as it’s the most difficult to write. The executive summary is a summary of the overall plan that highlights the key points and gives the reader an idea of what lies ahead in the document. It should include areas such as the business opportunity, target market, marketing and sales strategy, competition, the summary of the financial plan, staff members and a summary of how the plan will be implemented. This section needs to be extremely clear, concise and engaging as you don’t want the reader to push your hard work aside.
The company description follows the executive summary and should cover all the details about the company itself. For example, if you are writing a business plan for an internet café, you would want to include the name of the company, where the café would be located, who the main team members involved are and why, how large the company is, who the target market for the internet cafe is, what type of business structure the café is, such as LLC, sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation, what the internet café business mission and vision statements are, and what the business’s short-term objectives are.
Services and Products
This is the exciting part of the plan where you get to explain what new and improved services or products you are offering. On top of describing the product or service itself, include in the plan what is currently in the market in this area, what problems there are in this area and how your product is the solution. For example, in a business plan for a food truck, perhaps there are numerous other food trucks in the area, but they are all fast –food style and unhealthy so, you want to introduce fast food that serves only organic and fresh ingredients every day. This is where you can also list your price points and future products or services you anticipate.
The market analysis section will take time to write and research as a lot of effort and research need to go into it. Here is where you have the opportunity to describe what trends are showing up, what the growth rate in this sector looks like, what the current size of this industry is and who your target audience is. A cleaning business plan, for example, may include how this sector has been growing by 10% every year due to an increase in large businesses being built in the city.
Organization and Management
Marketing and sales are the part of the business plan where you explain how you will attract and retain clients. How are you reaching your target customers and what incentives do you offer that will keep them coming back? For a dry cleaner business plan, perhaps if they refer customers, they will get 10% off their next visit. In addition, you may want to explain what needs to be done in order for the business to be profitable. This is a great way of showing that you are conscious about what clear steps need to be taken to make a business successful.
Financial Projections & Appendix
The financial business plan section can be a tricky one to write as it is based on projections. Usually what is included is the short-term projection, which is a year broken down by month and should include start-up permits, equipment, and licenses that are required. This is followed by a three-year projection broken down by year and many often write a five-year projection, but this does not need to be included in the business plan.
The appendix is the last section and contains all the supporting documents and/or required material. This often includes resumes of those involved in the company, letters of reference, product pictures and credit histories. Keep in mind that your business plan is always in development and should be adjusted regularly as your business grows and changes.
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Your Guide to Writing a Business Plan
If you’re starting a new business, then you need an effective plan. Not only does this enable you to plan your company, but it also gives potential clients an insight into how your business works. A business plan is also vital if you want to attract investors or secure a loan from the bank. Drafting a business plan is a complex process, but it doesn’t have to be. This guide will ensure you create a definite plan to impress investors and clients.
When creating your business plan, there are some essential elements you must include. The Executive Summary provides a description of your business, and what you hope to achieve. People usually write at least one page, but leave their Executive Summary until last.
You’ll also need to detail what your business offers and define your target audience. This makes it easier for people to see whether your company has a chance of succeeding. The opportunity section is also an excellent way for you to see what competitors offer and how you can create a USP to stand out from the competition.
Appealing to Investors
Every business that wants growth and prosperity must ensure they promote themselves to potential investors. Business plans aren’t just about what the business is, but who is part of it too. Detail your current team members and explain what they bring to the company. Investors want to know they’re making a wise investment.
Your current finances and financial forecast are also essential aspects of your business plan. Look at your products, how much you’re selling them for and what kind of profit margin you expect to gain. It’s also vital you detail your outgoings and look at how various economic situations could affect your finances.
Writing a Winning Executive Summary
There are problems in every market, and a successful business solves that problem. If you can show how you’ll be able to offer solutions in your business plan, you’ll appeal to investors. Choose your target audience based on research and ensure you show your research. There are many ways to conduct market research including defining SOMs, SAMs and TAMs.
TAM stands for Total Available Market and comprises everyone you want your product to reach. Your Segmented Addressable Market (SAM) is a specific portion of the market you’ll target. This is important because it shows you’re able to direct your product at the right people and not just everyone. Your SOM (Share of the Market) is what you feel you’ll gain with your product.
How to Determine Pricing
Pricing your product is one of the most challenging things you’ll have to do. There are many things to consider, such as how much it’s worth and making sure you don’t charge unrealistically. Many new businesses believe undercharging is the best way to go, but doing this can undermine your company’s authority and cause fewer people to be interested in investing.
Market-based pricing involves looking at your competitors and evaluating their prices. Which company has the most customers? How does their pricing match others? These are all vital aspects you should consider. Remember, customers expect quality and a fair price, so make sure you combine the two.
Investors and banks want to know that you’ve considered what the future will hold for your company. When you write your business plan, be sure to take into account how you see the company growing, what you’ll do to ensure it thrives and that you understand the potential risks. Banks and investors want to know that you can build a business and are aware of the obstacles you’ll have to overcome.
Starting your own business doesn’t have to be difficult. If you ensure you produce a robust business plan, it can be an exciting process. Your business is part of your future, so start by outlining your goals and look forward to seeing results.
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How To Write the Perfect Business Plan in 9 Steps (2023)
- by Desirae Odjick
- Dec 3, 2022
- 25 minute read
A great business plan can help you clarify your strategy, identify potential roadblocks, decide what you’ll need in the way of resources, and evaluate the viability of your idea or your growth plans before you start a business .
Not every successful business launches with a formal business plan, but many founders find value in taking time to step back, research their idea and the market they’re looking to enter, and understand the scope and the strategy behind their tactics. That’s where writing a business plan comes in.
Table of Contents
What is a business plan?
Why write a business plan, business plan formats, how to write a business plan in 9 steps, tips for creating a small business plan, common mistakes when writing a business plan, prepare your business plan today, business plan faq.
A business plan is a document describing a business, its products or services, how it earns (or will earn) money, its leadership and staffing, its financing, its operations model, and many other details essential to its success.
We had a marketing background but not much experience in the other functions needed to run a fashion ecommerce business, like operations, finance, production, and tech. Laying out a business plan helped us identify the “unknowns” and made it easier to spot the gaps where we’d need help or, at the very least, to skill up ourselves. Jordan Barnett, Kapow Meggings
Investors rely on business plans to evaluate the feasibility of a business before funding it, which is why business plans are commonly associated with getting a loan. But there are several compelling reasons to consider writing a business plan, even if you don’t need funding.
- Strategic planning: Writing out your plan is an invaluable exercise for clarifying your ideas and can help you understand the scope of your business, as well as the amount of time, money, and resources you’ll need to get started.
- Evaluating ideas: If you’ve got multiple ideas in mind, a rough business plan for each can help you focus your time and energy on the ones with the highest chance of success.
- Research: To write a business plan, you’ll need to research your ideal customer and your competitors—information that will help you make more strategic decisions.
- Recruiting: Your business plan is one of the easiest ways to communicate your vision to potential new hires and can help build their confidence in the venture, especially if you’re in the early stages of growth.
- Partnerships: If you plan to approach other companies to collaborate, having a clear overview of your vision, your audience, and your business strategy will make it much easier for them to identify whether your business is a good fit for theirs—especially if they’re further along than you in their growth trajectory.
- Competitions: There are many business plan competitions offering prizes such as mentorships, grants, or investment capital. To find relevant competitions in your industry and area, try Googling “business plan competition + [your location]” and “business plan competition + [your industry].”
If you’re looking for a structured way to lay out your thoughts and ideas, and to share those ideas with people who can have a big impact on your success, a business plan is an excellent starting point.
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Business plans can span from one page to multiple pages with detailed graphs and reports. There’s no one way to create a business plan. The goal is to convey the most important information about your company for readers.
Common types of business plans we see include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Traditional. These are the most common business plans. Below, we’ll cover the standard elements of a business plan and go into detail for each section. Traditional business plans take longer to write and can be dozens of pages long. Venture capitalist firms and lenders ask for this plan.
- Lean. A lean business plan is a shorter version of a traditional business plan. It follows the same format, but only includes the most important information. Businesses use this plan to onboard new hires or modify existing plans for a specific target market.
- Nonprofit. A nonprofit business plan is for any entity that operates for public or social benefit. It covers everything you’ll find in a traditional business plan, plus a section describing the impact the company plans to make. For example, a speaker and headphone brand that aims to help people with hearing disabilities. Donors often request this plan.
Check out real-world examples of different business plans by reading The Road to Success: Business Plan Examples to Inspire Your Own .
- Draft an executive summary
- Describe your company
- Perform a market analysis
- Outline the management and organization
- List your products and services
- Perform customer segmentation
- Define a marketing plan
- Provide a logistics and operations plan
- Make a financial plan
Few things are more intimidating than a blank page. Starting your business plan with a structured outline and key elements for what you’ll include in each section is the best first step you can take.
Since an outline is such an important step in the process of writing a business plan, we’ve put together a high-level overview you can copy into your blank document to get you started (and avoid the terror of facing a blank page). You can also start with a free business plan template and use it to inform the structure of your plan.
Once you’ve got your business plan outline in place, it’s time to fill it in. We’ve broken it down by section to help you build your plan step by step.
1. Draft an executive summary
A good executive summary is one of the most crucial sections of your plan—it’s also the last section you should write.
The executive summary’s purpose is to distill everything that follows and give time-crunched reviewers (e.g., potential investors and lenders) a high-level overview of your business that persuades them to read further.
Again, it’s a summary, so highlight the key points you’ve uncovered while writing your plan. If you’re writing for your own planning purposes, you can skip the summary altogether—although you might want to give it a try anyway, just for practice.
An executive summary shouldn’t exceed one page. Admittedly, that space constraint can make squeezing in all of the salient information a bit stressful—but it’s not impossible. Here’s what your business plan’s executive summary should include:
- Business concept. What does your business do?
- Business goals and vision. What does your business want to do?
- Product description and differentiation. What do you sell, and why is it different?
- Target market. Who do you sell to?
- Marketing strategy. How do you plan on reaching your customers?
- Current financial state. What do you currently earn in revenue?
- Projected financial state. What do you foresee earning in revenue?
- The ask. How much money are you asking for?
- The team. strong> Who’s involved in the business?
2. Describe your company
This section of your business plan should answer two fundamental questions: who are you, and what do you plan to do? Answering these questions with a company description provides an introduction to why you’re in business, why you’re different, what you have going for you, and why you’re a good investment bet. For example, clean makeup brand Saie shares a letter from its founder on the company’s mission and why it exists.
Clarifying these details is still a useful exercise, even if you’re the only person who’s going to see them. It’s an opportunity to put to paper some of the more intangible facets of your business, like your principles, ideals, and cultural philosophies.
Here are some of the components you should include in your company description:
- Your business structure (Are you a sole proprietorship, general partnership, limited partnership, or incorporated company?)
- Your business model
- Your industry
- Your business’s vision, mission, and value proposition
- Background information on your business or its history
- Business objectives, both short and long term
- Your team, including key personnel and their salaries
Some of these points are statements of fact, but others will require a bit more thought to define, especially when it comes to your business’s vision, mission, and values. This is where you start getting to the core of why your business exists, what you hope to accomplish, and what you stand for.
This is where you start getting to the core of why your business exists, what you hope to accomplish, and what you stand for.
To define your values, think about all the people your company is accountable to, including owners, employees, suppliers, customers, and investors. Now consider how you’d like to conduct business with each of them. As you make a list, your core values should start to emerge.
Once you know your values, you can write a mission statement . Your statement should explain, in a convincing manner, why your business exists, and should be no longer than a single sentence.
As an example, Shopify’s mission statement is “Making commerce better for everyone.” It’s the “why” behind everything we do and clear enough that it needs no further explanation.
What impact do you envision your business having on the world once you’ve achieved your vision?
Next, craft your vision statement: what impact do you envision your business having on the world once you’ve achieved your vision? Phrase this impact as an assertion—begin the statement with “We will” and you’ll be off to a great start. Your vision statement, unlike your mission statement, can be longer than a single sentence, but try to keep it to three at most. The best vision statements are concise.
Finally, your company description should include both short- and long-term goals. Short-term goals, generally, should be achievable within the next year, while one to five years is a good window for long-term goals. Make sure all your goals are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.
3. Perform a market analysis
No matter what type of business you start, it’s no exaggeration to say your market can make or break it. Choose the right market for your products—one with plenty of customers who understand and need your product—and you’ll have a head start on success. If you choose the wrong market, or the right market at the wrong time, you may find yourself struggling for each sale.
Market analysis is a key section of your business plan, whether or not you ever intend for anyone else to read it.
This is why market research and analysis is a key section of your business plan, whether or not you ever intend for anyone else to read it. It should include an overview of how big you estimate the market is for your products, an analysis of your business’s position in the market, and an overview of the competitive landscape. Thorough research supporting your conclusions is important both to persuade investors and to validate your own assumptions as you work through your plan.
How big is your potential market?
The potential market is an estimate of how many people need your product. While it’s exciting to imagine sky-high sales figures, you’ll want to use as much relevant independent data as possible to validate your estimated potential market.
Since this can be a daunting process, here are some general tips to help you begin your research:
- Understand your ideal customer profile . If you’re targeting millennial consumers in the US, you first can look for government data about the size of that group. You also could look at projected changes to the number of people in your target age range over the next few years.
- Research relevant industry trends and trajectory. If your product serves retirees, try to find data about how many people will be retiring in the next five years, as well as any information you can find about consumption patterns among that group. If you’re selling fitness equipment, you could look at trends in gym memberships and overall health and fitness among your target audience or the population at large. Finally, look for information on whether your general industry is projected to grow or decline over the next few years.
- Make informed guesses. You’ll never have perfect, complete information about the size of your total addressable market. Your goal is to base your estimates on as many verifiable data points as necessary for a confident guess.
Some sources to consult for market data include government statistics offices, industry associations, academic research, and respected news outlets covering your industry.
A SWOT analysis looks at your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. What are the best things about your company? What are you not so good at? What market or industry shifts can you take advantage of and turn into opportunities? Are there external factors threatening your ability to succeed?
These breakdowns often are presented as a grid, with bullet points in each section breaking down the most relevant information—so you can probably skip writing full paragraphs here. Strengths and weaknesses—both internal company factors—are listed first, with opportunities and threats following in the next row. With this visual presentation, your reader can quickly see the factors that may impact your business and determine your competitive advantage in the market.
Here’s an example:
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There are three overarching factors you can use to differentiate your business in the face of competition:
- Cost leadership. You have the capacity to maximize profits by offering lower prices than the majority of your competitors. Examples include companies like Mejuri and Endy .
- Differentiation. Your product or service offers something distinct from the current cost leaders in your industry and banks on standing out based on your uniqueness. Think of companies like Knix and Qalo .
- Segmentation. You focus on a very specific, or niche, target market, and aim to build traction with a smaller audience before moving on to a broader market. Companies like TomboyX and Heyday Footwear are great examples of this strategy.
To understand which is the best fit, you’ll need to understand your business as well as the competitive landscape.
You’ll always have competition in the market, even with an innovative product, so it’s important to include a competitive overview in your business plan. If you’re entering an established market, include a list of a few companies you consider direct competitors and explain how you plan to differentiate your products and business from theirs.
You’ll always have competition in the market, even with an innovative product.
For example, if you’re selling jewelry, your competitive differentiation could be that, unlike many high-end competitors, you donate a percentage of your profits to a notable charity or pass savings on to your customers.
If you’re entering a market where you can’t easily identify direct competitors, consider your indirect competitors—companies offering products that are substitutes for yours. For example, if you’re selling an innovative new piece of kitchen equipment, it’s too easy to say that because your product is new, you have no competition. Consider what your potential customers are doing to solve the same problems your product solves.
4. Outline management and organization
The management and organization section of your business plan should tell readers about who’s running your company. Detail the legal structure of your business. Communicate whether you’ll incorporate your business as an S corporation or create a limited partnership or sole proprietorship.
If you have a management team, use an organizational chart to show your company’s internal structure, including the roles, responsibilities, and relationships between people in your chart. Communicate how each person will contribute to the success of your startup.
5. List your products and services
Your products or services will feature prominently in most areas of your business plan, but it’s important to provide a section that outlines key details about them for interested readers.
If you sell many items, you can include more general information on each of your product lines; if you only sell a few, provide additional information on each. For example, bag shop BAGGU sells a large selection of different types of bags, in addition to home goods and other accessories. Its business plan would list out those bags and key details about each.
Describe new products you’ll launch in the near future and any intellectual property you own. Express how they’ll improve profitability.
It’s also important to note where products are coming from—handmade crafts are sourced differently than trending products for a dropshipping business, for instance.
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6. perform customer segmentation.
Your ideal customer, also known as your target market, is the foundation of your marketing plan , if not your business plan as a whole. You’ll want to keep this person in mind as you make strategic decisions, which is why an overview of who they are is important to understand and include in your plan.
To give a holistic overview of your ideal customer, describe a number of general and specific demographic characteristics. Customer segmentation often includes:
- Where they live
- Their age range
- Their level of education
- Some common behavior patterns
- How they spend their free time
- Where they work
- What technology they use
- How much they earn
- Where they’re commonly employed
- Their values, beliefs, or opinions
This information will vary based on what you’re selling, but you should be specific enough that it’s unquestionably clear who you’re trying to reach—and more importantly, why you’ve made the choices you have based on who your customers are and what they value.
For example, a college student has different interests, shopping habits, and pricing sensitivity than a 50-year-old executive at a Fortune 500 company. Your business plan and decisions would look very different based on which one was your ideal customer.
7. Define a marketing plan
Your marketing efforts are directly informed by your ideal customer. Your marketing plan should outline your current decisions and your future strategy, with a focus on how your ideas are a fit for that ideal customer.
If you’re planning to invest heavily in > Instagram marketing , for example, it might make sense to include whether Instagram is a leading platform for your audience—if it’s not, that might be a sign to rethink your marketing plan.
Most marketing plans include information on four key subjects. How much detail you present on each will depend on both your business and your plan’s audience.
- Price. How much do your products cost, and why have you made that decision?
- Product. What are you selling and how do you differentiate it in the market?
- Promotion. How will you get your products in front of your ideal customer?
- Place. Where will you sell your products?
Promotion may be the bulk of your plan since you can more readily dive into tactical details, but the other three areas should be covered at least briefly—each is an important strategic lever in your marketing mix.
8. Provide a logistics and operations plan
Logistics and operations are the workflows you’ll implement to make your ideas a reality. If you’re writing a business plan for your own planning purposes, this is still an important section to consider, even though you might not need to include the same level of detail as if you were seeking investment.
Cover all parts of your planned operations, including:
- Suppliers. Where do you get the raw materials you need for production, or where are your products produced?
- Production. Will you make, manufacture, wholesale , or dropship your products? How long does it take to produce your products and get them shipped to you? How will you handle a busy season or an unexpected spike in demand?
- Facilities. Where will you and any team members work? Do you plan to have a physical retail space? If yes, where?
- Equipment. What tools and technology do you require to be up and running? This includes everything from computers to lightbulbs and everything in between.
- Shipping and fulfillment. Will you be handling all the fulfillment tasks in-house, or will you use a third-party fulfillment partner?
- Inventory. How much will you keep on hand, and where will it be stored? How will you ship it to partners if required, and how will you approach inventory management ?
This section should signal to your reader that you’ve got a solid understanding of your supply chain and strong contingency plans in place to cover potential uncertainty. If your reader is you, it should give you a basis to make other important decisions, like how to price your products to cover your estimated costs, and at what point you plan to break even on your initial spending.
9. Make a financial plan
No matter how great your idea is, and regardless of the effort, time, and money you invest, a business lives or dies based on its financial health. At the end of the day, people want to work with a business they expect to be viable for the foreseeable future.
The level of detail required in your financial plan will depend on your audience and goals, but typically you’ll want to include three major views of your financials: an income statement, a balance sheet, and a cash-flow statement. It also may be appropriate to include financial data and projections.
Here’s a spreadsheet template that includes everything you’ll need to create an income statement, balance sheet, and cash-flow statement, including some sample numbers. You can edit it to reflect projections if needed.
Your income statement is designed to give readers a look at your revenue sources and expenses over a given time period. With those two pieces of information, they can see the all-important bottom line or the profit or loss your business experienced during that time. If you haven’t launched your business yet, you can project future milestones of the same information.
Your balance sheet offers a look at how much equity you have in your business. On one side, you list all your business assets (what you own), and on the other side, all your liabilities (what you owe). This provides a snapshot of your business’s shareholder equity, which is calculated as:
Assets - Liabilities = Equity
Cash flow statement
Your cash flow statement is similar to your income statement, with one important difference: it takes into account when revenues are collected and when expenses are paid.
When the cash you have coming in is greater than the cash you have going out, your cash flow is positive. When the opposite scenario is true, your cash flow is negative. Ideally, your cash flow statement will help you see when cash is low, when you might have a surplus, and where you might need to have a contingency plan to access funding to keep your business solvent .
It can be especially helpful to forecast your cash-flow statement to identify gaps or negative cash flow and adjust operations as required. Here’s a full guide to working through cash-flow projections for your business.
Download your copy of these templates to build out these financial statements for your business plan.
Know your audience
When you know who will be reading your plan—even if you’re just writing it for yourself to clarify your ideas—you can tailor the language and level of detail to them. This can also help you make sure you’re including the most relevant information and figure out when to omit sections that aren’t as impactful.
Have a clear goal
You’ll need to put in more work and deliver a more thorough plan if your goal is to secure funding for your business versus working through a plan for yourself or even your team.
Invest time in research
Sections of your business plan will primarily be informed by your ideas and vision, but some of the most crucial information you’ll need requires research from independent sources. This is where you can invest time in understanding who you’re selling to, whether there’s demand for your products, and who else is selling similar products or services.
Keep it short and to the point
No matter who you’re writing for, your business plan should be short and readable—generally no longer than 15 to 20 pages. If you do have additional documents you think may be valuable to your audience and your goals, consider adding them as appendices.
Keep the tone, style, and voice consistent
This is best managed by having a single person write the plan or by allowing time for the plan to be properly edited before distributing it.
Use a business plan software
Writing a business plan isn’t the easiest task for business owners. But it’s important for anyone starting or expanding a business. Fortunately, there are tools to help with everything from planning, drafting, creating graphics, syncing financial data, and more. Business plan software also have templates and tutorials to help you finish a comprehensive plan in hours, rather than days.
A few curated picks include:
- LivePlan : the most affordable option with samples and templates
- Bizplan : tailored for startups seeking investment
- GoSmallBiz : budget-friendly option with industry-specific templates
For a more in-depth look at the available options, read Get Guidance: 6 Business Plan Software to Help Write Your Future .
Other articles on business plans would never tell you what we’re about to tell you: your business plan can fail. The last thing you want is for time and effort to go down the drain. Avoid these common mistakes:
- Bad business idea. Not every idea is going to win. Sometimes your idea may be too risky and you won’t be able to get funding for it. Other times it’s too expensive or there’s no market. Aim for small business ideas that require little money and bypass traditional startup costs.
- No exit strategy. Investors reading your business plan want to know one thing: will your venture make them money? If you don’t show an exit strategy, or a plan for them to leave the business with maximum profits, you’ll have little luck finding capital.
- Unbalanced teams. A great product is the cost of entry to starting a business. But an incredible team will take it to the top. Unfortunately, many business owners overlook a balanced team. They assume readers want to see potential profits, without worrying about how you’ll get it done. If you’re pitching a new software idea, it makes sense to have at least one developer or IT specialist on your team.
- Missing financial projections. Your numbers are the most interesting part for readers. Don’t leave out your balance sheet, cash flow statements, P&L statements, and income statements. Include your break-even analysis and return-on-investment calculations to create a successful business plan.
- Spelling and grammar errors. Some businesses think hiring a professional editor is overkill. The reality is, all the best organizations have an editor review their documents. If someone spots typos while reading your business plan, how can they believe you’ll run a successful company?
Read through the following business plan example. You can download a copy in Microsoft Word or Google Docs and use it to inspire your own business planning.
Download sample business plan example (.doc)
A business plan can help you identify clear, deliberate next steps for your business, even if you never plan to pitch investors—and it can help you see gaps in your plan before they become issues. Whether you’ve written a business plan for a new online business idea , a retail storefront, growing your established business, or purchasing an existing business , you now have a comprehensive guide and the information you need to help you start working on the next phase of your own business.
Illustrations by Rachel Tunstall
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How do i write a business plan.
- Executive summary
- Company description
- Market analysis
- Management and organization
- Products and services
- Customer segmentation
- Marketing plan
- Logistics and operations
- Financial plan
What is a good business plan?
What are the 3 main purposes of a business plan, what are the different types of business plans, about the author.
Desirae is a senior product marketing manager at Shopify, and has zero chill when it comes to helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
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How to Write a Great Retail Business Plan for Your Store
- Growth Strategies
Every successful business has a strong retail business plan. It’s one of the first things many investors and donors ask for when inquiring about your business. Why, you ask? That’s because a business plan details your business’ short- and long-term goals, and lists the steps and financial requirements necessary to achieve those goals.
To help you get started, we’ve outlined what you should include in your retail business plan. If you follow these tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating a strong foundation for a viable retail business.
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Provide a company description
Your company description is one of the most important aspects of your retail business plan. This section should reflect how you want people to envision your business. It should include the logo, concept, ownership and business structure, design, and layout. Think of a retail shop that you enjoy. What is it about that business’s logo, concept, and design that stands out to you?
Include information from target market and industry analysis
A retail market analysis is a deep look at your industry, competition, and geography. All of these things need to be defined in your retail business plan in order for investors to have a full picture of what your particular brand is and how it fits into the overall retail puzzle.
Target market and customer analysis: You’ve probably heard business owners say they want to target anyone interested in their brand. However, defining your target market makes it much easier for you to see who your audience is and how to best market your company to that audience. When researching and analyzing your target market and customer base, it’s important to figure out the characteristics of your ideal customer. From there, dig deeper to determine your ideal customer’s age, location, gender, income and education levels, marital status, and more.
Industry analysis and industry segment: An industry analysis is a qualitative and quantitative assessment of your retail market. It looks at upcoming trends in retail , what’s selling and what’s not, and more. Once you know the state of the overall industry, break it down a bit further. What trends are you seeing for specific products and categories?
Competitor analysis: You need to take a deep look at how your competitors fit into the puzzle. When analyzing your retail market and location, research which of your competitors has the biggest market share, how close competitor retailers are to your location, and what advantages your brand has over the competition.
SWOT analysis: The last thing to check out is your SWOT analysis , which looks at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities your brand can capitalize on, and threats from tough competition. When you add SWOT to your retail business plan, you can identify and focus on your strengths so you can minimize weakness and stand out from your competition.
Explain your products
This is where the fun begins. Everyone, especially investors, wants to know exactly what they can buy at your store. In your retail business plan, you want to be as detailed as possible about the items you’ll be selling.
If it’s clothes, include whether there will be tops, pants, and/or shoes. Will customers be able to purchase accessories there? What sizes will you carry? What about plus sizes? Here is where you want to show your vision for your retail shop and feed the imagination with vivid descriptions of what your products will look and feel like.
Additionally, you should include information about your supplier and any contracts you need to have with suppliers to keep your shelves full. Will your items be made overseas or in the U.S.? How will you manage inventory? What will happen to the items you don’t sell? You should also detail your pricing strategy: how much will items cost? Will there be regular sales? How much will your sales be?
Address operational needs
Thinking about how to run your business is an important aspect when first starting out. Therefore, it’s important to assess various retail operations and determine a custom strategy for your business.
Supply chain: This is part of inventory management. Making sure that your supply chain runs smoothly is the best way to ensure profits. Include how you’ll control and oversee ordering inventory, store that inventory, and control the amount of product for sale. This helps to ensure you never run out of product or overpay for it.
Merchandising: You need a merchandising plan to show how you’ll plan, buy, and sell your products to maximize your return on investment while meeting market demands.
Technology: How will you complete transactions? One way to streamline everything from sales and inventory to orders and customer directory is through Square for Retail. Square for Retail allows you to keep track of every aspect of your business in a way that helps optimize business profitability.
Create an organizational structure
If you’re going to run a successful business, investors will want to know its legal structure. Will you operate as a sole proprietor, general partnership, limited partnership, LLC, or corporation? Choosing a business entity determines how you file state and federal taxes each year, which affects your earnings and profits.
Additionally, you need to include how many team members your retail shop employs. Who will serve on the management team? Who will work under the managers? How will this play into the overall structure of your company?
When you’re thinking about your team, technology such as Square for Retail can help make life much easier. You can integrate your POS system to centralize payments and sync calendars. You’ll have a centralized place with customer information, in case you want to market promotions or sales directly to them via email.
Here is where we start getting into the nitty gritty of your retail marketing strategy . You want to include a positioning statement, which explains how you want the outside world to perceive your brand. For your positioning statement, write a description of how your retail shop differs from others, how customers will enjoy your brand differently than that of competitors, the category in which your brand competes, and any compelling reasons why your target audience should have confidence in your claims.
Additionally, you want to include which channels you’ll use to open your business and which channels you’ll continue to use to promote your business. This can include digital channels such as a website , social media platforms , and rewards and loyalty programs .
Provide a financial plan
Your financial plan helps investors understand how your business will make money to achieve its strategic goals and objectives. For your retail shop, you need to conduct a financial analysis and analyze your startup costs, funding options, break-even point, and projected profit and loss. Using these plus a cash flow analysis benefits your financial plan, as well.
When analyzing your startup costs, you should look at everything it takes to run your business. That includes everything from the products you sell in your store to the technology you use to build and maintain your store’s website and point of sale. Investors need to know how much money your retail store will cost up front, and how long it will take for them to see a return on their investment.
Another important area to look at is your break-even analysis . Investors will want to see this breakdown. Essentially, the break-even analysis is a look at how much revenue you need to justify how much you’re spending.
Running a business is no easy feat, but Square is here to help. We have all the tools you need to start, run, and grow your business, whether you’re selling in person, online, or both. And we’ve made all our tools to work together as one system, saving you time and money — and making decisions easier. So you can get back to doing the work you love and focusing on whatever’s next. See how Square works .
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Step-by-step guide to creating a small business plan
- by Mark Thomasson
So, when an employee isn’t satisfied with their work environment, it’s no surprise that some of them decide to opt for the more exciting small business route. In fact, some entrepreneurs claim they’d rather work 20 hours a day for themselves instead of working 8 for someone else.
Being your own boss does sound really appealing, but you’re also choosing to carry 100% of the responsibility, which can be quite intimidating, especially if you’re unprepared.
According to a study, 50% of small businesses fail within the first five years . It’s a rather drastic stat, and yet people react to it differently: some get scared, others see a challenge. The truth is, there are many factors that will determine your company’s success or failure. Recognizing what’s in your control will give you the upper hand and help you prioritize and focus on activities that will make a difference.
When you’re starting a business, the first thing you should do is create your small business plan. If done well, it will be a powerful foundation that will make every future decision easier, relevant and more effective. Let’s focus on the key steps you’ll need to take in order to create an impactful small business plan.
- Company description
- Product/service description
- Market and competitor research
- Organizational structure, team, and core processes
- Marketing and sales strategy
- Give your financial plan
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Step 1: Company description
The key to a good plan is starting with what you already know and building around that theme.
For starters, you don’t need to write elaborate depictions and envision every single detail. A short description, a.k.a “the elevator pitch”, will do the trick. Imagine you have 30 seconds to explain what your company is all about, ideally reflecting your company’s vision and mission. What would that concise message sound like?
If you’re not sure about what you want your company to be, a good trick is to turn the tables and start with what you don’t want because sometimes we’re more aware of what we dislike. By doing this, and writing it all down, piece by piece you’ll start to paint a picture of what you want.
Step 2: Product/service depiction
Now is the time to get real specific. Describe exactly what you plan to offer to the market in great detail. Whether it’s a product or service, there needs to be a reason why you think people would be willing to pay money for it. Try to pinpoint what makes your offer special and unique, how does it satisfy a specific need of the market and why do you think people will choose it over anything else that is available to them.
A SWOT analysis might be pretty handy at this point as it is a great framework for brainstorming the strengths, the weaknesses, the opportunities and the threats related to your product or service.
Step 3: Market and competitor research
At this point, you should have let go of the idea that your entire business plan is already in your head and it just needs to come out on paper. The true value of your business plan will come from market research of 2 main things: your target audience and your competitors .
Usually, as you acquire information about one, you’ll learn more about the other. This is such an important step. So much so, you probably might choose to make an entirely separate plan in order to perform it more efficiently.
Take Groupe Dynamite for example. For years now, they’ve been using an invented target customer to whom they cater their whole experience, from merchandising to their brand, staff training, and website. Garage ’s target is “Alexa,” a 16-year-old girl who loves spending time with her friends and being active, and Dynamite ’s was “Rachel,” a late 20’s fashionable professional who enjoys the occasional 5a7 with her friends.
Step 4: Organizational structure, team, and core processes
Here you’ll need to define your needs in terms of staffing resources. Once you’ve made an educated assessment on how many employees you’ll need (or can afford to hire), the next step would be to put everything down into what is called an organizational chart .
This chart serves as a visual aid which shows your organizational structure, basic information about your staff (like their purpose) and the relationship of your company’s core processes.
While bigger companies usually go with a hierarchical structure, often rigid and built around explicit sets of rules, smaller businesses have a tendency of choosing a flat structure, which gives them a competitive edge because of its added flexibility.
You’ll also want to figure out what your hiring process will be. Will you post jobs online or just a “help wanted” poster in your store? What’s your training process? It’s important that you properly train new staff, not only so they are empowered to do a good job, but also to minimize employee turnover.
Step 5: Marketing and sales strategy
Up until this point, you’ve defined what you’re going to sell and to whom you’re going to sell it to. Now, use this information to plan exactly how you intend to sell it.
In your marketing section, create a budget that assigns a dollar amount to each marketing task. There will be costs involved in marketing your business, including software subscriptions, paying for an employee or marketing firm to manage social media, design fees and advertising. Break the budget down by quarter and by marketing channel, then include it in the next section for your overall budget.
Keep in mind that the more work you put into your research phase now, the easier it will be for you to determine the best processes (and eventually software ) to assure you work efficiently and that your product or service will reach a relevant and sizable portion of your market.
Step 6: Give your financial plan
This section will be of the utmost importance if you’re applying for a loan or looking to bring on investors. If you’ve been in business for a while, provide data on past sales. If you aren’t yet operating, create sales forecasts for the first three years.
Something every investor or bank will want to see is your business budget. Don’t rush through this section, because you’ll need to cover every inevitability in terms of business expenses in your budget, from inventory to rent and insurance to your own salary.
Even if you haven’t started selling products yet, it’s a good idea to include what your prices will be once you launch. Prices are, especially for retail , the key to your profit margins, and to making investors happy.
How do you calculate your pricing? You’ll need to include four numbers:
- Business cost: What you’ll spend on payroll, inventory, and overhead annually.
- Your salary: The amount of money you plan to pay yourself annually.
- Estimated number of yearly sales : Make an educated guess if you don’t have sales history to help you determine the average markup for your profit margin.
- Average cost per inventory item: Your products might range in price, but taking an average gives you an idea of what sort of profit you can add around that cost.
Also include a break-even analysis that shows how much you will need to make each month to cover your expenses, as well as projected cash flow, projected profit and loss and balance sheet. These are all the essential documents that investors or banks will use to assess how risky your business is, as well as how fast you would be able to pay back a loan.
If you have additional data that is useful in your business plan, you can include it in your plan’s appendix. These extra items might include:
- Additional financial data
- Market research
- Contracts in place
- Credit history
- Licenses and permits
- Packaging design
- Resumes for your leadership team
On the bumpy road to becoming a self-starting entrepreneur, your business plan will be one of your closest allies. On top of providing a guiding direction for your company, it can also be used as a tool to secure funding.
Your market analysis will shine a new light on your product, and your business model will help you pinpoint your most relevant competitors. Each piece of the puzzle will reshape your perspective and affect your outlook, but you need to maintain coherency between these sections so don’t be afraid to adjust accordingly.
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Mark is a biz-dev hero at Invoicebus - a simple invoicing service that gets your invoices paid faster. He passionately blogs on topics that help small biz owners succeed in their business. He is also a lifelong learner who practices mindfulness and enjoys long walks in nature more than anything else.
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Retail Business Plan Template
Written by Dave Lavinsky
Over the past 20+ years, we have helped over 10,000 entrepreneurs and business owners create business plans to start and grow their retail businesses. On this page, we will first give you some background information with regards to the importance of business planning. We will then go through a retail business plan template step-by-step so you can create your plan today.
Download our Retail Business Plan Template here >
What Is a Business Plan?
A business plan provides a snapshot of your retail business as it stands today, and lays out your growth plan for the next five years. It explains your business goals and your strategy for reaching them. It also includes market research to support your plans.
Why You Need a Retail Business Plan
Sources of Funding for Retail Businesses
With regards to funding, the main sources of funding for a retail business are bank loans and angel investors. With regards to bank loans, banks will want to review your business plan and gain confidence that you will be able to repay your loan and interest. To acquire this confidence, the loan officer will not only want to confirm that your financials are reasonable. But they will want to see a professional plan. Such a plan will give them the confidence that you can successfully and professionally operate a business.
The second most common form of funding for a retail business is angel investors. Angel investors are wealthy individuals who will write you a check. They will either take equity in return for their funding, or, like a bank, they will give you a loan.
Venture capitalists will not fund a retail business. They might consider funding a chain, but never an individual location. This is because most venture capitalists are looking for millions of dollars in return when they make an investment, and an individual location could rarely achieve such results.
Your business plan should include 10 sections as follows:
The goal of your Executive Summary is to quickly engage the reader. Explain to them the type of retail store you are operating and the status; for example, are you a startup, do you have a retail business that you would like to grow, or are you operating a chain of retail businesses.
Next, provide an overview of each of the subsequent sections of your plan. For example, give a brief overview of the retail industry. Discuss the type of retail store you are operating. Detail your direct competitors. Give an overview of your target customers. Provide a snapshot of your marketing plan. Identify the key members of your team. And offer an overview of your financial plan.
In your company analysis, you will detail the type of retail business you are operating.
For example, you might operate one of the following types:
- Speciality Store – a store with a tight focus (e.g., hip apparel for women)
- Off-Priced/Used Goods Store – sells massively discounted or used products
- Department Store – often located at a mall and offer tons of products (e.g., Macy’s)
- Supermarket – focuses primarily on food items
- Convenience Store – offers just the most popular items a supermarket offers in a much smaller location
- Drug Store/Pharmacy – primarily offer medicines and medical products
- Discount Store – offer large inventories at low prices (e.g., Walmart)
- Hypermarket – offer many food and non-food items often in large quantities at a discount (e.g., Costco)
- E-commerce – offers products for sale online (e.g., Amazon)
Include answers to question such as:
- When and why did you start the business?
- What milestones have you achieved to date? Milestones could include sales goals you’ve reached, new store openings, etc.
- Your legal structure. Are you incorporated as an S-Corp? An LLC? A sole proprietorship? Explain your legal structure here.
In your industry analysis, you need to provide an overview of the retail business.
While this may seem unnecessary, it serves multiple purposes.
First, researching the retail industry educates you. It helps you understand the market in which you are operating.
Secondly, market research can improve your strategy particularly if your research identifies market trends. For example, if there was a trend towards local retail businesses with online counterparts, it would be helpful to ensure your plan calls for a significant online presence.
The third reason for market research is to prove to readers that you are an expert in your industry. By conducting the research and presenting it in your plan, you achieve just that.
The following questions should be answered in the industry analysis section of your retail business plan:
- How big is the retail business (in dollars)?
- Is the market declining or increasing?
- Who are the key competitors in your local market?
- Who are the key suppliers in the market?
- What trends are affecting the industry?
- What is the industry’s growth forecast over the next 5 – 10 years?
- What is the relevant market size? That is, how big is the potential market for your retail business. You can extrapolate such a figure by assessing the size of your niche’s market in the entire country and then applying that figure to your local population.
The following are examples of customer segments: college students, sports enthusiasts, soccer moms, techies, teens, baby boomers, etc.
As you can imagine, the customer segment(s) you choose will have a great impact on the type of retail business you operate. Clearly baby boomers would want a different atmosphere, pricing and product options, and would respond to different marketing promotions than teens.
Try to break out your target customers in terms of their demographic and psychographic profiles. With regards to demographics, include a discussion of the ages, genders, locations and income levels of the customers you seek to serve. Because most retail businesses primarily serve customers living in their same city or town, such demographic information is easy to find on government websites.
Psychographic profiles explain the wants and needs of your target customers. The more you can understand and define these needs, the better you will do in attracting and retaining your customers.
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Your competitive analysis should identify the indirect and direct competitors your business faces and then focus on the latter.
Direct competitors are other retail businesses. They are most likely local businesses who sell similar items to you.
Indirect competitors are other options that customers have to purchase from you that aren’t direct competitors. You most likely will have online competitors; companies that sell the same or similar items to you, but which operate online.
- What types of customers do they serve?
- What products do they offer?
- What is their pricing (premium, low, etc.)?
- What are they good at?
- What are their weaknesses?
With regards to the last two questions, think about your answers from the customers’ perspective. Look at review websites to gain this information.
The final part of your competitive analysis section is to document your areas of competitive advantage. For example:
- Will you provide superior products or services?
- Will you provide products that your competitors don’t?
- Will you make it easier or faster for customers to acquire your products?
- Will you provide better customer service?
- Will you offer better pricing?
Think about ways you will outperform your competition and document them in this section of your plan.
Product : in the product section you should reiterate the type of retail business that you documented in your Company Analysis. Then, detail the specific products you will be offering.
Price : Document the prices you will offer and how they compare to your competitors. Essentially in the product and price sub-sections of your marketing plan, you are presenting the items you offer and their prices.
Place : Place refers to the location of your retail business. Document your location and mention how the location will impact your success. For example, is your retail business located next to a heavily populated office building, or gym, etc. Discuss how your location might provide a steady stream of customers. Also, if you operate or plan to operate kiosks, detail the locations where the kiosks will be placed.
Promotions : the final part of your retail business marketing plan is the promotions section. Here you will document how you will drive customers to your location(s). The following are some promotional methods you might consider:
- Making your storefront extra appealing to attract passing customers
- Social media marketing
- Search engine optimization
- Advertising in local papers and magazines
- Reaching out to local bloggers and websites
- Partnerships with local organizations
- Local radio advertising
- Banner ads at local venues
While the earlier sections of your business plan explained your goals, your operations plan describes how you will meet them. Your operations plan should have two distinct sections as follows.
Everyday short-term processes include all of the tasks involved in running your retail business such as serving customers, procuring inventory, keeping the store clean, etc.
Long-term goals are the milestones you hope to achieve. These could include the dates when you expect to serve your 5,000th customer, or when you hope to reach $X in sales. It could also be when you expect to hire your Xth employee or launch a new location.
Ideally you and/or your team members have direct experience in the retail business. If so, highlight this experience and expertise. But also highlight any experience that you think will help your business succeed.
If your team is lacking, consider assembling an advisory board. An advisory board would include 2 to 8 individuals who would act like mentors to your business. They would help answer questions and provide strategic guidance. If needed, look for advisory board members with experience in retail businesses and/or successfully running retail and small businesses.
Your financial plan should include your 5-year financial statement broken out both monthly or quarterly for the first year and then annually. Your financial statements include your income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statements.
Income Statement : an income statement is more commonly called a Profit and Loss statement or P&L. It shows your revenues and then subtracts your costs to show whether you turned a profit or not.
In developing your income statement, you need to devise assumptions. For example, will you serve 100 customers per day or 200? And will sales grow by 2% or 10% per year? As you can imagine, your choice of assumptions will greatly impact the financial forecasts for your business. As much as possible, conduct research to try to root your assumptions in reality.
Balance Sheets : While balance sheets include much information, to simplify them to the key items you need to know about, balance sheets show your assets and liabilities. For instance, if you spend $100,000 on building out your retail business, that will not give you immediate profits. Rather it is an asset that will hopefully help you generate profits for years to come. Likewise, if a bank writes you a check for $100.000, you don’t need to pay it back immediately. Rather, that is a liability you will pay back over time.
Cash Flow Statement : Your cash flow statement will help determine how much money you need to start or grow your business, and make sure you never run out of money. What most entrepreneurs and business owners don’t realize is that you can turn a profit but run out of money and go bankrupt. For example, you may need to purchase inventories now that you can’t sell (and get paid for) for several months. During those months, you could run out of money.
In developing your Income Statement and Balance Sheets be sure to include several of the key costs needed in starting or growing a retail business:
- Location build-out including design fees, construction, etc.
- Cost of fixtures
- Cost of initial inventory
- Payroll or salaries paid to staff
- Business insurance
- Taxes and permits
- Legal expenses
Attach your full financial projections in the appendix of your plan along with any supporting documents that make your plan more compelling. For example, you might include your store design blueprint or location lease.
Retail Business Plan Summary
Putting together a business plan for your retail business is a worthwhile endeavor. If you follow the template above, by the time you are done, you will truly be an expert. You will really understand the retail business, your competition and your customers. You will have developed a marketing plan and will really understand what it takes to launch and grow a successful retail store.
Download Our Retail Business Plan PDF
You can download our retail business plan PDF here . This is a business plan template you can use in PDF format.
How to Finish Your Retail Business Plan in 1 Day!
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Retail Business Plan FAQs
What is the easiest way to complete my retail business plan.
Growthink's Ultimate Retail Business Plan Template allows you to quickly and easily complete your Retail Business Plan.
Where Can I Download a Retail Business Plan PDF?
You can download our retail business plan PDF template here . This is a business plan template you can use in PDF format.
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How to Create a Retail Business Plan That Can Get Your Store Off the Ground
In this post, you’ll learn the ins and outs of creating a plan for your retail business. We’ll discuss the benefits of having it and we’ll walk you through the various steps you need to take to create one.
Whether you’re an aspiring retailer who’s just starting out or an existing merchant seeking an investment, this post can help you formulate the right plan.
What is a retail business plan?
It’s a written document that outlines the need-to-know information about a retail business. Think of it as a roadmap that tells you (or any other reader) what the business is and how it plans to grow.
A business plan doesn’t have to be set in stone, but it should give readers an idea of the inner workings of the company.
Why should you create one?
So, why go through all the trouble of creating a business plan? Why not just… you know, start the business?
While there’s a lot of value in taking immediate action and diving into hustle mode, certain businesses — particularly in the retail sector — have a lot of moving parts. You need to iron out an array of details and in some cases, you require serious capital to start and run your company. You can’t accomplish these things if the plan is just inside your head. It’s important to formalize it and put it on paper for the benefit of yourself and your stakeholders.
Here are the key benefits of creating a business plan:
To give you clarity on what you need to do
We’ve said it earlier in this post, but it’s worth repeating: your business plan can serve as a roadmap for how to take your business off the ground. Your retail journey consists of multiple steps, and figuring out how to prioritize and implement everything can get overwhelming.
Writing a business plan forces you to be clear about what you need to do, so when it’s time to carry out the steps, you already have an idea of how to accomplish them.
To test your business idea
A business plan requires research and the process of writing it uncovers roadblocks or issues with your business idea.
As an entrepreneur, you want to spot issues as early as possible, so you can make the decision of whether or not to pursue your idea. The last thing you want is waste time on a business idea that has little chance of succeeding.
To attract investors or help you secure funding
A retail business plan is critical if you’re planning to secure funding for your venture (be it through investments, loans, or lines of credit. Creditors and investors will want a formal document in place so they can understand your idea, which then helps them decide whether or not to provide the funds you need.
How do you write a retail business plan?
Now that you understand what a retail business plan is and why you need it, let’s discuss how to create one for your company. The best way to go about this is to list out the different components of a business plan and what each part requires.
Let’s dive in.
1. Executive summary
The executive summary gives readers an overview of what your business is all about. It offers a glimpse into why you started the company and your general goals. The specifics will vary from one retailer to the next, but here’s a rundown of what you could tackle in this section of your biz plan:
This should be a paragraph or two detailing what your business is. As an example, let’s say you’re planning to start a maternity apparel boutique. Your business synopsis could be something along the lines of…
Luxe Maternity is a high-end apparel boutique that caters to affluent mothers-to-be. As our name suggests, Luxe Maternity will sell high-end maternity wear for the wealthy.
We will be the first luxury maternity boutique in Neptune, CA. Our goal is to capture 75% market share and become the go-to store for wealthy moms-to-be.
Your mission and vision
Talk about the purpose of your business and the big aspirational goal that you’d like to achieve. Going back to the Luxe Maternity example, the company’s mission and vision could be:
To serve the needs of well-to-do mothers-to-be through stylish clothes that make them feel beautiful and confident.
Create a bullet point lists of key goals that you want to achieve. In the case of Luxe Maternity, some of their objectives could be:
- To create a store environment that makes mothers-to-be feel comfortable, beautiful, and stylish
- To capture 75% of market share by 2020
- To gain a 50% profit margin after year 1
2. Business summary
After the overview, you’ll want to reveal more specific details about your business. In this section, you’ll talk about:
Company structure and ownership
Whether you’re the sole owner or have partners on board, this is the section to talk about these things.
You should also mention the legal and business structure of your company. Are you a sole proprietor or a corporation? Are you an LLC? Whatever the case, be sure to mention it in your retail business plan
You may not have secured your official premises at this stage, but you will want to give readers an idea of where you intend to set up shop. Luxe Maternity, for example, could mention that they’re planning to establish their store in an affluent part of town.
Take some time to talk about what you plan to sell. If you’re purely an inventory-based retailer, this is the part where you describe the products that you’ll have in-store, what makes those items special, and how you plan to source them. (Are you making them yourself or do you intend to purchase from suppliers?)
3. Market research
This component of your retail business plan describes your target market and customers. It should outline the size of the market as well as the demographic and psychographic profile of the people who would buy your products. Consider including the following information:
Size of the market
Do some research on how big the market is. Luxe Maternity, for instance, could look into the number of pregnant women in Neptune , CA each year, then make assumptions on the size of the market from there.
It’s also important to look at companies that sell similar products and cater to the same market. Who are they? Where are they located? This part of your plan should answers those questions.
Market trends and forecasts
Based on your market and competitive research, you’ll need to forecast where the market is going. How much will the market be worth a year from now? What about in 5 to 10 years? What are the notable news or movements in the industry that you can capitalize on?
Demographic information of your target customers
Talk about the demographic profile of your customers. Make sure to have the following information handy:
- Annual income
- Education level
- Where they live and work
Psychographic information of your target customers
You’ll also want to dig into the psychographic profile of your customers. What makes them tick? What would prod them to seek out your store? What are their burning needs? The answers to these questions will not only beef up your business plan, but it can help you determine the right positioning and strategy for your retail business.
4. Marketing plan
Now it’s time to talk about how you’re going to engage and sell to your market. This part of your business plan should outline:
Your position in the market
Discuss the niche that you plan to carve out. It may be helpful to come up with a graph that shows your exact position in the market, relative to your competitors. Here’s a sample graph of what Luxe Maternity’s positioning might look like:
Your competitive edge
Talk about your store’s unique qualities. Get clear on what sets you apart from competitors and how you plan to take them on.
This section should detail the specific branding strategy that you’ll implement, along with the style, language, and tone you plan to use in your messaging.
Discuss your pricing structure . Readers of your business plan would want to know the price ranges you plan to offer and the margins you intend to set. Your pricing structure should also be mentioned. For instance, do you intend to sell items at the suggested retail price? Are you looking to implement keystone pricing? Whatever the case, now is the time to discuss it.
This section should give readers an idea of how you plan to put your business out there. What advertising and marketing channels do you intend to utilize? How will you get people through the door?
Sales process and retail experience
You’ve talked about how you plan to get people to your store, now it’s time to discuss how you intend to convert them. Describe your retail experience and sales process. What will visitors see and do when they enter your store? How will you turn them from lookers into buyers ?
5. Management plan
You should also talk about how you intend to run your business. This section should give readers insights into the people you will hire and what your management structure would look like. You should discuss:
This section should outline your organization’s hierarchy. Consider adding a flowchart showing what your org structure would look like — e.g., who sits at the top, who answers to whom, etc.
If you already have an executive or management team in place, you can use this section to talk about who the members are and their backgrounds. If you don’t have a team yet, you can still outline the roles that you want to bring on.
Discuss the different positions you need to fill. If you’re looking to hire managers and associates, mention how many people you need to bring on, what their job descriptions are, and the qualifications you’re looking for.
You should also discuss the compensation and benefits you plan to offer, as well as the staffing policies and procedures you’ll have in place.
This is one of the most important parts of your retail business plan. You need to outline how the company will make money and how much you’ll earn over a certain time period. This component of your business plan should include:
Capital and startup needs
Talk about how much money you need to get off the ground. This section should also detail where you intend to spend the capital. In the case of our fictitious example, Luxe Maternity could say that they need X amount of capital and plan to spend it on leasing expenses, hiring, inventory, etc.
The numbers don’t have to be exact, but they do need to make financial sense, particularly as you move into your more detailed sections like your break-even analysis and forecasts.
A break-even analysis should show the point at which your company will break even. Factor in your costs and sales and plot out when you’ll start to break even. This section will be most helpful if you created a chart illustrating your break-even analysis. Consider the following example:
You should also project your profit and loss over specific time periods. How much revenue will you earn in your first year of business? What about years 2, 3, 4, and 5?
Cash flow projections
Cash flow is critical to any retail business , so be sure to forecast how cash will flow in your company. Create a table explaining how much cash balance you’ll have for month 1, 2, 3, etc of your business, then use your projected sales to calculate cash flow.
In it you’ll learn:
- How to budget for your POS system
- How to find and vet providers
- How to get the most out of the solution
Creating a business takes work. There’s a ton of research involved, and you’ll have a fair amount of calculations and projections to make. But when done right, your retail business plan can set you up for success. A well-developed plan brings clarity in your business and can attract the funding you need to get started.
So don’t shy away from the work. Get down to business and starting mapping out your plan for success.
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest , a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn , Twitter , or Google+ .
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March 22, 2021
How to Write a Business Plan: The First Step for Your New Retail Store
- Small Business ,
A 7-Step Guide for Writing Your Business Plan
Have you ever experienced a burst of creative genius, fabricated something lovely, and had someone say, "Wow! You should sell that" or, "That's a great business idea!" It's a great feeling to know that something you consider a hobby could become a way to make some extra cash. You start selling a few pieces here and there, and people seem to enjoy what you create. As demand for your creations starts to grow, you wonder, "What if I opened my own retail shop? Could it be possible?" The short answer is yes! If you have something creative to sell and believe there is a market for it in your area, you can absolutely open your own shop and become a business owner.
Key Takeaways You Will Get From This Article 1. The foundation for any successful business is a business plan. 2. Your business plan should be used as a roadmap for how to structure, run, and grow your new business. 3. A financial plan is one of the most critical sections of your business plan for investors. 4. A solid business plan can convince critical people working with you or investing in your company that they've made the right choice.
All it takes is some imagination, investment, and a whole lot of hard work. To help you along the way, we are presenting a four-part blog series on How to Build Your Retail Store from the Ground Up .
Table of Contents
- Laying the Foundation for a Successful Shop
Why You Need a Business Plan
How to write a business plan for your retail store.
- Move Forward with Your Retail Shop
Lay the Foundation for a Successful Shop
In a way, building a retail shop from the ground up is like building a house. Once you have the blueprints together (in this case, the idea and products you will sell), you can start work on the foundation. The foundation for any successful business is a business plan. You may want to jump right in and start looking for a storefront, but it's essential to get all of your ideas down on paper first. If the thought of creating a business plan completely overwhelms you, that's okay. It's a big undertaking, especially for a sole proprietor, but we're here to lay out the steps to help you through. First, let's explore why you need a business plan.
Maybe you're wondering, " Why do I need a business plan ?
I'm just going to sell my product and make money; do I really need to write that down?"
Creating a written business plan is vital for several reasons, all of which will help your shop succeed.
Here are five of them:
1. Educate Investors
If you don't plan on funding your shop entirely on your own, a well-crafted business plan with your company description will help you convince investors or the bank that they should fund your shop.
2. Seek Employees and Partnerships
You'll certainly need employees to help you around the store, and partnerships with other local businesses can drive traffic to your shop.
Your well-organized business plan can get these people excited about working with you and start drawing the attention of potential customers.
3. Set Realistic, Attainable Goals
Laying out your entire plan on paper can help you set clear goals for your new business.
It also gives you something to go back to when it's time to revisit those goals.
4. Create a Timeline
Your business plan can help you create a timeline for getting your shop up and running.
Define a target opening date, and work backward from there.
5. Stay Organized
Your business plan will be an important point of reference for you during the process of starting your business.
You won't have to worry about forgetting a step with everything documented.
Business Plans Help Run Your Business
A good business plan will guide you through each stage of starting and managing your business.
Your business plan should be used as a roadmap for how to structure, run, and grow your new business .
It's a way to think through the key elements of your business, everything from your marketing strategy to a competitive analysis of your target market.
A traditional business plan can help you get funding or bring on new business partners.
Investors need to know they'll see a return on their investment.
A solid business plan can convince people that critical people working with you or investing in your company that they've made the right choice.
Now that you know why you need a business plan, let's talk about writing one.
When you’re ready to start writing your business plan, it can be difficult to know where to start. To save you from staring at a blank page for a while, here’s a simple outline to follow when writing your plan:
- Executive Summary
- Company Overview
- Market Analysis
- Products and Services
- Marketing Plan
- Logistics and Operations Plan
- Financial Plan
You can find free business plan templates with a quick Google search, and there is also business plan software available.
Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to build a business plan.
You should know a few things before starting your business plan, like who your target audience is, your organizational structure, and you should have a detailed description of your business in mind.
Feel free to do some template research and pull pieces that you like from different sources as inspiration for your complete business plan.
For this post, we'll stick to the example outline above to create an effective business plan.
Let's take a deeper dive into each of those pieces.
1. Executive Summary
The executive summary is a key element of your business plan.
It's a short section of your business plan designed to give the reader a taste of the information inside.
This is possibly the most important part of your business plan, whether you're a startup company, limited liability company, or anything in between.
Potential investors may only ask to see your executive summary, so make sure it is readable, concise, and informative.
This section of your business plan should include a detailed business description.
It needs to inform the reader of what your business does, where it currently stands, where you aspire to be in three to five years, and why you will find success.
When constructing your executive summary, be sure to include these points:
- Mission Statement: Explain what your business does and why you are in business.
- General Company Information: This is information about where your business is located and who is involved. You can use this section to briefly share the story of how your hobby became a business.
- Products and Services: Include information on your product – what you sell and who you sell it to. If you plan to expand to offer additional products, you can share that information as well.
- Financial Information: Especially if you are on the hunt for investors, be sure to include your funding goals and other pertinent financial information at the end of your executive summary.
- Future Plans: Leave your reader with an inspiring statement on where you plan to take the business in the future.
Remember, you don't have to stick to this format. If you feel there is other vital information to include in your executive summary, go for it!
One last tip: write it last even though the summary comes first.
That way, you'll have an easier time summarizing the information included in your business plan.
2. Company Overview
The company overview is another key element to any type of plan.
Your company overview should be a high-level explanation of who you are, what you do, and why you do it.
This section should show the reader what's different about you and why you'll be successful.
Here are some ideas of points to include in this section of your business plan:
- Your business structure (i.e., sole proprietorship, general partnership, limited partnership, or incorporated company)
- What you sell
- Your industry/competition
- The vision, mission, and values your business will uphold
- History of your business
- Short and long term S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) business goals
- Your team, including any key employees and their salaries
Use this section to explain what makes your business unique and why people should be excited about working with you!
3. Market Analysis
Potential investors or partners may not ask to see the market analysis section of your business plan, but it will end up being one of the most helpful sections for you.
For this section, you will complete research and gather information on the market for your products.
Make sure you thoroughly research and make informed estimations to document the following:
- The size of your potential market
- Your ideal customer profile
- The trends and trajectory of the industry
In this section, you'll also want to complete a SWOT analysis .
This is a documented chart of your business's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Your SWOT analysis should look something like this:
4. Products and Services
I n this section, you will also want to complete an analysis of your competitors. For example, who is selling similar products in your area?
Who sells similar products online?
Please include a list of businesses you would consider direct competitors and how you plan to make your shop stand out from theirs.
Obviously, what you'll need to include in this section are your products! If you are going to be selling many different kinds of products, have a brief description of each.
You can write more detailed descriptions if you only offer a few different products.
Also, within this section, it's a good idea to go into detail about your customers. Consider the following:
- Who is your ideal customer or target market?
- Where do they live?
- Where do they work?
- What is their age range?
- What is their level of education?
- How much do they earn?
- Do they have any common behavior patterns?
- How do they spend their free time?
- What technology do they use?
- What are their values, beliefs, or opinions?
You may not be able to answer all of these questions straight away, so don't be afraid to make educated guesses based on your experience and research.
5. Marketing Plan
Investors may want to know how you plan to market your new business.
A good marketing plan will focus on your ideal customer and how to engage them with your business.
For example, if you have learned that many of your customers are avid Facebook users, you should include a budget for Facebook ads in your marketing plan.
Here are other items you will need to include:
The price of your products
The products you are selling
Your plan for getting the products in front of customers
The location where you will sell your products
If you plan to sell your products through different channels, such as a brick-and-mortar shop and an online store, be sure to include that information here as well.
6. Logistics and Operations Plan
The logistics and operations plan portion details all aspects of your business operation, from gathering supplies to tracking inventory.
Answer the following questions in this section:
Where do you get the materials you need to produce your product?
Will you create, manufacture, wholesale, or drop ship your products?
How long does it take to produce your products?
How will you handle a busy season or demand spike?
What tools and technology do you need to get up and running?
How much inventory will you keep on hand, and where will you store it?
How will you keep track of inventory?
If you're not sure how you'll handle inventory or payments, we can help with that!
Electronic Merchant Systems offers complete solutions that can process payments and help you manage your business. If you want the best payment processing solutions, click here for a free consultation with EMS .
7. Financial Plan
This will probably be one of the most critical sections of your business plan for investors.
The amount of detail you need to include in the financial statement portion of your business plan will vary based on your audience and goals.
However, investors will typically want to see these three significant aspects of your financials:
Income statement : details your revenue for a specific time period. If you don't have revenue yet, forecast this information based on your plan for reaching customers.
Balance sheet : shows how much equity you have in the business. List your assets (what you own) versus your liabilities (what you owe). Assets – Liabilities = Equity
Cash-flow statement : details when revenue comes in and expenses go out. Again, if you don't have revenue yet, you can forecast this information. You may also find it helpful to forecast your cash-flow statement as you move forward with your business to plan for gaps and adjust operations as necessary.
Download our free e-book: Chargebacks: A Complete Guide.
Moving Forward with Your Retail Shop
We hope that you find this information helpful in building the foundation for your new business. But, remember, it's YOUR business, so adapt the plan however you see fit. At the end of the day, your business plan is a document that represents you and all you hope to achieve. So, take your time, do your research, and put your best foot forward.
Are you eager to learn more? Check out the other three posts in our How to Build Your Retail Store from the Ground Up series here:
Part Two: Choose a Location
Part Three: Marketing and Merchandising
Part Four: Promote Customer Loyalty
Sources: Shopify , Shopkeep , TheBalanceSmb
Samantha Hubay is the Content Writer for Electronic Merchant Systems (EMS). Since joining the company in 2019, her mission has been to develop imaginative, relatable content for EMS’ customers, partners, and team members. Samantha is an enthusiastic reader and passionate flute player. On the weekends, you can find her pursuing one of these hobbies or playing outside with her husband and their dog.
How to Write a Small Retail Business Plan
- Small Business
- Business Planning & Strategy
- Small Business Plans
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How to Start a Pet Boutique
How to write a retail action plan, examples of liquor store business plans.
- How to Grow Potted Herbs for Profit
- How to Start a Concession Business
Retail is a high volume industry conducted largely by small businesses. Total retail sales in the U.S. in 2010 were nearly $4 trillion but more than 95 percent of retailers are one store operations, according to the National Retail Federation. Succeeding with a small retail business requires a thorough understanding of the market niche you intend to serve. Creating a business plan helps a small business owner become more customer focused in all aspects of his business.
The starting point for a retail business plan is identifying market needs that the retailer can fill through the products and services he provides. For the business to succeed, the need must be urgent enough that target customers will be willing to visit the store and make a purchase. The target market must also be large enough to support the store and generate sufficient sales that the retail business will be profitable.
Products and Distribution
Describe what product lines will be your major revenue sources and why these were chosen. Explain your unique selling proposition -- what you intend to offer that is new, different and better than what the retailers you compete with are offering. Clarify what makes the concept of your store stand out. For example, a pet store could offer exotic tropical fish that are hard to find. Discuss your distribution channels -- how you will get your products in front of customers. Choices include store retailing, mail order business, Internet retailing and vending machines.
Describe your target customers so vividly that the reader of your plan can see them as individuals. Avoid demographic generalizations such as you intend to market to 21 to 35 year olds. Be specific about what motivates your targeted groups to purchase from you. They could be seeking convenience, product variety, low prices and information from knowledgeable sales personnel.
You have already identified that a market need exists that is not being met by current competitors. This is the gap you intend to fill with your retail business. Now discuss each major competitor in detail -- their strengths and weaknesses, the target customers they cater to and the marketing strategies they use.
Describe the actions you will take to acquire new retail customers -- your marketing strategies. Discuss why each strategy will have a positive effect on revenue generation. Use your unique selling proposition as the basis for the marketing message you will deliver to target customers. Describe the merchandising strategy for your store; for example, how you will arrange the merchandise to showcase high profit margin items and provide easy access to impulse purchases.
Forecast your staffing requirements by day of week and time of day. Project any seasonal variations as well. Describe how you intend to train your employees so they will consistently deliver superior customer service -- a key success factor for any retail business.
Prepare a month-by-month forecast of revenues and expenses. Build a revenue model that reflects the sales process with measurable variables you can track over time. For example, a retail bakery could forecast how many customers will visit during the morning hours versus the afternoon hours, which products they purchase -- doughnuts and rolls in the morning and cakes and cookies in the afternoon -- and the average dollar purchase. Make sure you include all categories of expenses, no matter how small, in your forecast. Smaller items such as postage or cleaning supplies can add up to a significant dollar amount over the course of the year.
- Entrepreneur: How to Start a Retail Business
- National Retail Federation
Brian Hill is the author of four popular business and finance books: "The Making of a Bestseller," "Inside Secrets to Venture Capital," "Attracting Capital from Angels" and his latest book, published in 2013, "The Pocket Small Business Owner's Guide to Business Plans."
How to plan & grow a business venture, how to set up a disposable diaper retail business, thrift store marketing plan, feasibility analysis for pet store, example of a business plan for a fashion designer, business plan for a start-up clothing store, how to attract wholesale clients for a bakery, how successful is a pet supply store as a small business, how to write a business plan for a convenience store, most popular.
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Do you have dreams of owning your own brick and mortar retail store? Or an eCommerce website you can run from the comfort of your own home? Whichever retail option you choose, you’ll need a business plan to get started and successfully manage it.
Check out our library of retail sample plans for inspiration and guidance as you build out your own physical retail or eCommerce business.
Or to develop a more modern online plan that updates with your retail needs, we recommend you try LivePlan . It contains the same templates and information you see here, but with additional guidance, sections you can update on the fly and automatic financials to help you easily manage your business.
Plan, fund, and grow.
Easily write a business plan, secure funding, and gain insights.
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How to Write a Business Plan for a Retail Clothing Boutique
You have always had flair when it comes to your personal style. You have an eye for picking out the best pieces, and you know how to tailor your taste to different people. You know you could put together a unique product line and draw in customers if you were to open your own retail clothing boutique. Now it’s time to write a business plan to officially bring your style to the world.
Is it really necessary to write a business plan for your retail clothing boutique? The short answer is yes. Not only will a business plan be key to getting loans and investments, but it will also play an important role in distinguishing your boutique from your competitors. Think of it as a way of answering the question of why does the world need your small business?
Due to the heavy competition, writing a business plan for a retail clothing boutique, or any business for that matter is essential.
A clothing retail boutique business plan will include many of the core parts of a standard business plan . However, there are a handful of additional planning aspects you will need to outline such as your product line and choice of shop location, for example. This article will walk you through how to tailor your plan to take into account these and other features while ensuring you include all the necessary pieces of a traditional business plan.
If you want an example of a business plan for a general clothing store, it might be helpful to view our sample business plan for clothing retail . It can help give you a starting point when developing your own plan as you go through the rest of this article.
Why you need a business plan for your retail clothing boutique
If you’re opening a retail clothing boutique, you already know it’s important to distinguish your business from your competitors. A retail boutique is going to compete with other boutiques as well as various types of clothing retailers, such as chain stores, department stores, and outlet stores, to name a few. It will also face online competitors, such as Etsy shops and even Amazon and Craigslist. And these other clothing retailers will often have more flexibility than a boutique in terms of location and inventory. So it will be important for you to identify and leverage any competitive advantage that sets you apart.
A retail clothing boutique differs from other clothing retailers by offering specialized products. You will likely have a more selective product line than other retailers, but the items in that line will be unique or difficult to find in other stores. You will likely choose styles and items that cater to a particular kind of shopper, also known as your target market . We discuss the specifics of how to outline your target market later in this article.
Naturally, you will also want to address investors’ concerns in your business plan . You’ll need to write a plan that will help you figure out your startup costs and the purchasing strategy you will use to get your inventory. Show them you have thought through who you want to shop at your store, and how you will get them in the door.
What to include in your clothing retail boutique business plan
For the most part, you will stick to the basic format of a business plan. But you will need to include some specific points that other types of businesses might not be concerned with. The following is an overview of essential elements for your business plan:
Every business plan must contain an executive summary . We advise you to write this section last so that you can crystallize the details of your plan beforehand. The executive summary will touch on the key points of your plan but keep it brief. Limit it to 1-2 pages, at most.
This is the part of the plan you will first share with potential investors. If they’re interested, you’ll share your whole plan with them later.
Your executive summary should provide an outline of your vision for your store, a concise breakdown of your target market , and a list of the primary features of your management team and financials. You can also include the gist of your market analysis if you conducted one, but make sure to keep it at a level suited to a casual reader.
Opportunity: Vision and concept
This section of the business plan lays out the “problem and solution.” As previously mentioned, clothing retail is a crowded market, so your plan will most likely discuss the problem of heavy competition. You’ll then need to provide a solution, as to how your boutique will set itself apart from competitors.
What will be your boutique’s unique niche? Will you only utilize local suppliers or carry clothing from specific designers? Maybe you include personal stylists or outfit packages as part of the experience? Whatever the case, establish how your boutique will differentiate itself and provide a solution to customers that are tired of dealing with crowded and all too similar clothing options.
This mindset will also apply to your location. Unlike larger or more general retailers, boutiques tend to occupy spaces within larger structures, such as plazas or shopping centers. Explain how you will decide upon a location, how you’ll use the space, and again differentiate from the competition.
You’ll want to be sure to describe the style of your products and what needs they will fill for your clientele. A boutique tends to provide higher-end or more specialized products, and you’ll want to include a detailed list of what you plan on carrying.
This section should also map out who your vendors will be, and the expected costs of obtaining your product line. You will want to consider a purchasing strategy for obtaining products. Will you look for a domestic or international manufacturer? How will you vet the quality of their materials?
It’s important to note that boutiques offer a limited inventory variety. General merchandise retailers tend to feature a wide variety of products. A boutique, however, offers specialty products, meaning you will likely need to carry less inventory and therefore won’t incur a heavy amount of up-front inventory management costs.
Specialty products should fill a particular niche in the market. Maybe you will specialize in hats and jewelry, upcycled clothing, or something else entirely. There are many possibilities depending on your vision for your boutique.
The target market section is one of the most crucial aspects of your business plan. Your target market consists of your ideal customers. Your mission is not to appeal to everyone. Rather, a clothing boutique makes itself attractive to a niche market.
Maybe you find your niche among shoppers seeking vintage clothing. Maybe you are marketing discounted clothes to a campus crowd at a nearby university. Know your target market, their price range, and where they are likely to come across your store.
You’ll often find that the specialization described in your solution from the previous section is often informed by your target market. You may have a love for a specific product line or method, but if you can’t identify a potential customer base , then it may not make sense to provide that solution. If you can, talk with your potential customers directly, run surveys or even limited sales runs to see if your business is viable. Including any results that support your solution here not only ensures your idea is sound but also makes your business a more viable option for investors.
The target market section of your business plan can be extremely detail-oriented. It could be well worth it for you to check out our article on all the details that can enhance this section .
Design and Branding
When it comes to a boutique, brand identity is essential. Your company name, choice of location, the setup of your space, and the kinds of products in your inventory will all play parts in building your brand. The design and branding of your boutique will help attract your ideal client base and again differentiate your business from the competition.
As we’ve mentioned, location can be key to making your store accessible to your target market. You will also want to pick a location that has rent and utility costs that are within your budget. That’s something to consider when calculating your startup costs.
Typically, clothing boutiques reside in larger structures, such as malls and outdoor plazas. Think about which location will make it easy for your target market to find your shop.
Furthermore, consider the types of neighboring stores around yours. You will want to position your boutique alongside other businesses that speak to your target market, but that does not compete with you directly.
Should it be located alongside high-end eateries and other shops for a luxury experience? Or should it be in a downtown area for more of an accessible, bohemian branding? Do you want your window displays to be colorful and crowded, or sparse and selective? When answering these questions, keep your target market in mind.
Marketing and PR
You will want to spread the word about your new clothing retail boutique. The PR and marketing section of your business plan establishes how you will announce to your target market that your business is open. You will want to consider creating a dedicated website as well as social media accounts. You might create an email list or purchase space for advertisements in a local newspaper or on a billboard.
In addition to marketing, you want to create a strategy for Public Relations (PR). This is the press coverage your boutique will receive. Think about how you want to be reviewed in local publications and online services such as Yelp. The further you think ahead and establish a communications strategy, the more likely you’ll be able to lead the conversation and mitigate any negative reactions.
Your business plan also needs a financial plan . The financial plan is important when it comes time to pitch to investors. They will want to see projections and cash flow statements. This part of your business plan shows them you have a plan in place to make money.
The financial plan consists of four elements: a sales forecast, income statement, cash flow statement, and a balance sheet. If the idea of managing financials feels daunting, investing in a tool like LivePlan can help you easily create accurate financial projections that you can revisit and update as your business grows.
For further guidance on the financial statements, we’ve created this guide of what must go in your financial plan .
Clothing retailer business plan templates and examples
It might be a good idea to look at how other clothing retailers and businesses across similar industries have designed their business plans. Check out our free library of example plans and templates . You can download any of these documents in Word form to get a headstart on your business plan.
Additionally, if you’re looking for more detail on how to write specific pieces of a traditional business plan, you may want to check out our holistic writeup on how to write a business plan .
A tool for writing your clothing retail boutique business plan
If you’d rather move to a plan that works with you, again you may want to check out LivePlan for writing your business plan. It will guide you step-by-step through the journey of writing your business plan. Moreover, it provides all of the financial forecasts you might need, making it a choice tool for entrepreneurs of every experience level.
Starting a business can feel overwhelming, so take advantage of the tools and articles available to you. Read more about how LivePlan can assist you in writing the business plan for your retail clothing boutique .
Sarah Hovet is a senior English and journalism major and creative writing minor at the University of Oregon Clark Honors College. Currently, she is a content marketing intern at Palo Alto Software, where she writes SEO-researched articles for Bplans. You can learn more about her research and skills at sarahhovet.weebly.com .
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8 Steps to Write a Successful Online Store Business Plan
Whether you’re looking to create an online store or start up a different type of ecommerce business , writing up a solid online store business plan is one of the major jumping off points. This could feel like a daunting task, but with some preparation, it doesn’t need to be.
Read over our steps and tips to creating a strong online store business plan.
Who Needs an Online Store Business Plan?
If you’re looking to jump into ecommerce, you need a business plan. It will prove vital to your overall success by creating an overarching guide for your new venture.
Your business plan can serve multiple purposes. It can help you secure investors or business loans. You can use it as a tool for recruiting employees and partners. Also, you’ll be able to use it as a roadmap.
Creating Your Ecommerce Business Plan
As with so many things in the world, there aren’t really many hard and fast rules when it comes to crafting an ecommerce business plan. However, the most effective business plans tend to have the following components:
- Executive summary
- Company description
- Market analysis
- Marketing plan
- Logistics and operations
- Financial plan
We’ll go through each of the steps you’ll need to take to complete these components.
Step 1: Write an Executive Summary
Your executive summary is the first thing that will be presented in your online store business plan. As the name implies, it acts as a summary for the entirety of your business plan, with high-level information laid out for readers to easily peruse.
The importance of a concise and informative executive summary cannot be understated. It’s likely any potential investors or lenders with busy schedules are going to read the executive summary before taking any time to read the more detailed parts of your business plan. You don’t want to lose them here.
Make sure your executive summary is easy to read and includes pertinent information you want to communicate. You want to give the audience an idea of who/what your company is, without trying to sell yourself too hard. The rest of your business plan will do the selling, as your executive summary should entice them to read the business plan.
Try to write no more than two pages for your executive summary, but you really should be aiming for just one page. At the end of the summary, the reader should know who you are, the problem you have identified, and your approach to solving that problem.
Beyond high-level points in the summary, you can get a bit more granular in pointing out things such as current partnerships, customers, product development, monetization strategies, and other details that will help the reader get a better idea of who you are, and what to expect when reading your full business plan.
You might want to save writing the executive summary until after you have completed the rest of your business plan, or you could write it first to help give you a guide to the bulk of the plan.
Step 2: Complete Your Company Description
Where your online store business plan executive summary should give readers and potential investors a high-level sense of your business, creating a company description is where you need to get extremely specific.
Include all identifying elements of your company, including:
- Business structure, such as:
- Sole proprietorship
- Website domain name
Now, start getting more detailed in describing who and what your company is on a grander scale. This is where your business plan should include your company’s mission statement and vision.
Your mission statement should be short and sweet. You’re essentially wrapping up your entire company in one sentence. Tell the reader and the world why your company exists as quickly as possible.
If you’re having trouble coming up with your mission statement, start with something extremely grand and general. Then try to insert your company into that grand statement.
What grand thing or problem are you attempting to solve are you doing, and for whom are you doing it? If your company sells food from organic and sustainable farms to schools maybe your mission statement is something like, “Keeping the world green and our kids’ diets clean.”
Where your mission statement tells the world who you are now, your vision statement shows where you want to be in the future. Think about the overarching goal you want to reach through your mission. “Our vision is to ensure the health of the people and planet. Through this, we will get nutritional and tasty meals to kids across the country, sourced from our curated and highly-vetted sustainable farmers and producers.”
After sharing your mission and vision statements, give the reader some more background into where you are coming from. How did you find the problem and what made you think about the solution? What experience do you have?
Then, introduce yourself formerly. List the key players involved from ownership down to staff. Though if you are already substantially big, you probably don’t need to list absolutely everybody. Be proud of who your team is and show why their contributions matter.
Step 3: Document Your Market Analysis
As with any good business, conducting market analysis plays a big role in getting off to a good start. Including your analysis in your business plan not only shows anybody reading it what is happening in the market, it also shows the that you fully understand the market yourself.
Break up your market analysis into three distinct categories:
- Audience analysis : Identify the demographics you are selling your products and services to. Use key identifying factors such as age, gender, location, and income. Show your understanding of what is important to your audience.
- Industry analysis : What is the current state of the industry? How did it get there, and where is it heading? Are there ecommerce trends that could impact your business? Back your conclusions with data where possible.
- Competitive analysis : Know and understand your competition. What are the products/services they offer? What is there pricing structure? What is their current standing with the public? Identify their strengths and weaknesses. Find learnings from your competitors’ successes and failures. Identify any gaps that you can fill. Show how you can reach higher profits, how your product is better than theirs, and you might target an untapped audience.
You can even go the extra mile and analyze yourself. Conduct a SWOT analysis to name your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This will give you huge insight into how you are already set up for success, and things that could use extra attention and work.
Step 4: Describe Your Products & Services
Here is your chance to dive deep into your products and services with your online store business plan. Use this space to detail how your products differ from competitor products. Point out how your products helps address any problems.
Keep in mind that this probably isn’t the place to get very technical. Avoid jargon here and make things simple and easily digestible for a wide and varying audience. You also don’t have to go into every single product or service if you have a large selection. Concentrate more on categories of products rather that each single individual item.
Step 5: Put Together Your Marketing Plan
You’re sure to go far with a good plan to market your ecommerce business . Outline your marketing plan here as part of your greater website business plan.
Start by pointing out who your audience is, where you’re most likely to find them, and how best to grab their attention. Then consider how much you want to invest in marketing strategies.
Working in ecommerce gives you several tried and true online methods of marketing.
- You can help your audience find you organically by building a digital content strategy where you create and produce related content, like articles and videos.
- You can learn and establish best practices for search engine optimization (SEO) for ecommerce so that your website will rank higher in web search platforms like Google.
- You can take advantage of Google’s popular pay per click (PPC) program to get your site listed in front of a target audience.
- It’s also a good idea to build a strong social media presence where more people will be able to find you. Social platforms also offer a breadth of paid advertising tools if you want to go that route.
- With affiliate marketing , you can have external editorial websites leverage their built-in audience to highlight your product to get a cut of sales that come through their funnel.
- Many influencers will work with companies to promote products. Target influencers in your niche rather than looking for just the people with the most followers.
It’s important to note that organic marketing (or unpaid) doesn’t exactly mean free. It takes labor and quite often a good chunk of money to build out and implement a good organic marketing strategy.
Step 6: Detail Out Your Logistics and Operations
Here is where you’ll point out all the things you need to keep your business running day to day. If you are selling physical products, you’ll need to consider things like:
Many small ecommerce companies rely on third parties to handle the bulk of their logistics. If you are doing so, be sure to highlight that here.
If you are selling a service, your logistics and operations will look a bit different. You’ll be more concerned about things like transportation, computer hardware and software, office upkeep, and more. Of course, that doesn’t mean that companies selling products aren’t also concerned with these operational items.
By completing this section, you should get a strong grasp of what your business needs to run well, and you’ll be able to give potential investors an idea of the costs required to operate well.
Step 8: Lay Out Your Financial Plan
There’s a ton that goes into ecommerce business planning, and one aspect does seem to loom large: financials.
While you may have touched on your finances in other parts of your business plan, here’s where you need to be much more granular and detailed. Just how into the weeds you get will depends on what you deem crucial for others to know. Investors and lenders, for example, are probably going to pay more attention to your financial plan than anyone else.
You’ll want to include these main pillars of a well thought out financial plan:
- Income statement : This will give your reader a look into your bottom line by showing your total revenue against your expenses over time. Of course, if you have yet to launch your business, you can project these numbers.
- Balance sheet : Used to calculate shareholder equity, your balance sheet reflects your total assets (everything your business owns) minus liabilities (all your reoccurring costs).
- Cash-flow statement : True to its name, this shows how your cash flows in and out. You’ll detail out when your revenue comes in and how much. You’ll also explain when you must pay out all your expenses and how much too.
Wrapping Up Your Online Store Business Plan
Coming up with an entire business plan for online businesses is no small feat. If you need a little more help, check out the many ecommerce business plan templates available online. Once you’ve tied all loose ends, don’t forget to at least give yourself a small pat on the back. As you wrap things up, keep in mind that your business plan can absolutely be a living document. It’s even a good idea to tailor it according to whomever is reading it.
For example, if you know an investor who gets excited by big ideas, you might want to put more thought into products and services. If you’re presenting it to somebody highly experienced in the industry, you might want to throw in a few more ecommerce terms than you normally would. If you have a number cruncher, you probably want to fine-tune your financial plan. If you’re just using it as a roadmap for your organization, you might be content to keep things high level.
Whatever the case, remember that you have the power to make your business plan perfect for your needs. If you need more help with your new company, take a look at some of the top ecommerce KPIs to build your business and grow revenue.
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