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  1. Women-Owned Business – Getting Started 10

    How to Buy Inexpensive Professional Looking Business Cards –

    Business cards are one of the staples of owning and operating a business regardless of whether you’re a brick and mortar or an internet based business. One never knows when they’re going to run into their next best customer. It could be in the grocery store or on a hike in the mountains – seriously! It pays to have professional looking business cards on you at all times.

    The good news is, professional and quality business cards do not have to be expensive. Here are 5 great places to find inexpensive, and amazing, business cards to promote your business anywhere and everywhere.

    VistaPrint.com. Vistaprint.com is probably the best known online resource for inexpensive business cards. In fact when you register with VistaPrint.com, you automatically get 250 free full color business cards which you can customize from more than 40 designs. On top of that great initial offer, VistaPrint.com often offers specials, discounts, and coupons on other promotional tools for your business including postcards, labels, magnets, sticky notes and so on.

    123Print.com offers business cards for $4.95 for 100 business cards. Like VistaPrint.com, they also offer customized templates – more than 100 templates to choose from.

    Printsmadeeasy.com is another online business card printer. Full color business cards start at $14.99 for 100 cards.

    Finally, ClubFlyer.com offers 1000 business cards for $30. You can supply the artwork or have them supply it for you. They also offer you the ability to proof your cards. It is strongly recommended to always proof your cards. Imagine receiving, and having to throw away, 1000 business cards with the wrong information or spelling.

    Your local printer and postal supply store often offers great rates for business members. Additionally, as a possible last option, you can purchase precut business cards at your local office supply store and, using compatible business card software, print them yourself. Quality paper and ink will help create a professional look.

    It is almost guaranteed that you’ll run into a great contact or potential customer when you don’t have a business card. You could be at the zoo with your children, at the local pool, or on vacation. Stock up on business cards so it doesn’t happen to you. Business cards are not only a necessity for any business. They’re a valuable marketing tool. Of course they don’t replace a comprehensive marketing strategy but are an integral aspect of business marketing.

  2. Women-Owned Business – Venture Capital 5

    What is a Venture Capital Fund? – Having your own business is one of the dreams and goals of the average person. Most of us would rather be their own boss than become someone else’s employee. Unfortunately having your own business is not easy. Money is difficult to earn and more difficult to find.

    Starting your own business may take a lot of thinking, guts and money. Fortunately new entrepreneurs have other options in finding funds for their business. A venture capital fund consists of private equity from outside investors.

    People who provide these funds are called venture capitalists. These are a group of wealthy investors, financial institutions and investment banks that can gather money. They invest in new businesses that are still getting started. In return they get a portion of the equity and have a say in the company’s decisions.

    Business Ventures

    We often hear about business ventures from rich people. Many investors who have enough money will embark in a limited partnership with a new company. This may sound good for aspiring entrepreneurs but it is not easy. Venture capitalists have now become more conscious and careful since the dot com bust. They may not mind taking the risk but they have become more selective on where to invest their money.

    Venture capitalists are usually executives from a firm. These investment professionals are referred to as limited partners. These are a group of people who have access to large sums of money for investment. Their funds usually come from private and state pension funds, foundations, financial endowments, investment companies and other institutions.

    Investors are usually grouped according to their interest. Most venture capitalists invest in start up companies. These companies are usually high-technology businesses such as electronics, computers, research and development. Venture Capital funds usually last for ten years. The general partners or VCs receive a 2% management fee every year and require 20% of the net profits. They invest in more than one startup company for more returns in the long run.

    Venture capitalists are very selective and most of the time have strict requirements. Apart from that they also have a say in the company’s decisions which may not be good for the company. Venture capitalists are known to invest a lot of money in a short period of time.

    They may invest by advertising your company in magazines that are not well-suited for your type of customers. Companies end up spending money at a faster rate before they learn how to conduct their businesses, but eventually earn positive returns after the learning process.

    For other entrepreneurs who have a hard time getting their business plans approved, there may be hope with angel investors. Angel investors are individuals who also have access to large amounts of capital and are willing to invest money on highly speculative start up companies. These businesses usually don’t have a solid proof for their technology or show great promise for their product(s) or services at the start.

    If you really need a venture capital fund make sure that you pick a general partner that will work with you not just for the money. Venture capitalists have been known to kick the founders out and bring in their own trained CEOs.

  3. Women-Owned Business – Getting Started 9

    How To Find A Great Graphic Designer –

    Finding a great Graphic Designer can be about as difficult as finding your life’s calling with a million dollar paycheck. Sure they exist, however finding the right one takes patience, diligence, a whole lot of time and a bit of luck, right? Not necessarily. Finding a great graphic designer is easy when you know where to look.

    Begin by asking friends, family and business associates who have great graphics. Unless they did their graphics themselves, they had to have hired a graphic designer. Referrals are the best place to find a great graphic designer. However, know that great graphic designers are like great babysitters. Once you’ve found one you may be reluctant to share them with others since that may mean they’ll be unavailable to you. Your friends and associates may hold out on you even if they do know a great designer.

    Visit websites you like with great graphics. Many businesses will use the same graphic designer for all their design needs. That means designers that do logos may also create website graphics. Often, at the bottom of a website you’ll see the website creator and/or graphic designer listed. It’s usually a link that you can click on to visit their website. View their portfolio and if everything looks good, give them a call.

    Visit graphic design associations. Every vocation has a number of associations and graphic design is no different. Participation in these associations isn’t a guarantee that the designer is spectacular. However, it is a good place to start. Two main organizations are:

    – The Graphic Artists Guild – www.gag.org
    – The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) – www.aiga.org

    Once you have a few names to check out, it’s time to compare. While price may be at the top of your priority list, it’s important to also view their portfolio. A logo and design you, and more importantly your target audience, love is well worth twice the price of a poorly designed logo.

    You’ll also want to evaluate their terms, professionalism and the systems they have in place to make sure they understand your needs and the image you’re trying to project. Some graphic designers will speak to you on the phone while others have a form they’ll have you fill out. If a designer never asks about the image you want for your material, find a different designer.

    Make sure you get the terms in writing. The terms of your agreement should include payment terms, revisions, and how you’re expected to communicate. While these may seem like small details they can make all the difference between a great relationship with your graphic designer and an unsatisfactory experience.

  4. Women-Owned Business – Venture Capital 4

    What the Definition of Venture Capital Doesn’t Tell You – Venture capital can be a rather complicated arrangement for beginners in the business world. While there may be lots of resources available on the topic, these articles are sometimes too technical for the ordinary person.

    The definition of venture capital, in simple terms, is investment money provided by professional capitalists and venture capital firms to promising companies in the hope that the company will make more money after a few years. Aside from this definition, here are some things to discuss about this subject.

    A venture fund has a relatively short lifespan. The goal, then, is to maximize profit within a short time period. Venture capitalists and investors have developed strategies and business plans that are “proven” to yield results, but this is not always the case. Remember that their aim is a return of investment in a short time frame and not the development of a lifelong business.

    Aside from the profits that they seek, they also charge certain fees to pay their management staff. These fees are taken out of the venture capital fund, often causing the fund’s assets to run out sooner than expected.

    As a general rule, only 10% of the investments are successful. Because of this you might wonder why these companies continue to operate. Since these Venture Capital firms have tons of money, they’ve managed to distribute their investments among several companies. The key to success, then, is to make more good investments than “bad” to offset the losses. So when everything is taken into consideration, they end up gaining more than they’ve invested.

    If you consider the venture capital option, be prepared to lose control over your company for a couple of years. Because these investors and firms have spent big bucks to help your company, they also have a say on how things get done. We’re talking of major stakes here, not just a couple of hundred dollars that you borrowed from a friend.

    They usually assign one or more partners to sit as members of the board to take part and know the decisions that you make as CEO of the company. At the same time, they report to the firm what they think of how you run things. This can be crucial should you need additional capital later on.

    Venture capital is one way to get into business with minimal capital. But remember that there may be several requirements with which you must comply. These firms have developed plans which may have proven to be effective when employed in past businesses. But, such plans may be unsuccessful for some new and future companies.

    There is the possibility of failure. Your start up may be difficult and the stakes rather high. But the gains you receive later could possibly outweigh the demands and difficulties that you face at present.

    Here’s hoping this article helps you understand the definition of venture capital better. For more information, it is best to seek help from a professional. Ask a financial expert about the pros and cons of venture capital and how you can avoid the many pitfalls of this type of financing.

    He can also help prepare your business proposal to make it more attractive to capitalists and angel investors. There are a few websites which provide this type of service.

  5. Women-Owned Business – Getting Started 8

    Find an Accountant You Can Trust for Your Business –

    Hiring an accountant for your business is like hiring a plumber for your pipes. Sure you could do it yourself but wouldn’t you rather hire an expert? One of the many reasons people struggle to handle their own accounting is the fear of trusting their finances and personal information to a stranger. That is certainly an understandable reason to hesitate however there are measures you can take to hire an accountant you can trust for your business.

    Step One: Determine what you need an accountant to do. Do you need them to handle payables and receivables or are you more concerned about quarterly tax filings? Are you looking for someone to compile financial statements on a regular basis or to simply perform the task once in order to apply for a business loan or to present to investors? Define what you need an accountant to do before you set out to find one you can trust.

    Step Two: Ask for referrals. One of the best ways to find any kind of provider whether it is a ghostwriter, attorney or an accountant is to ask people you know and trust for referrals. The presumption being, of course, that the accountant has an established history working with people you know and trust and is therefore trustworthy for your business needs too.

    Step Three: Schedule an appointment. You have your list of the tasks or responsibilities you need an accountant to handle. Once you have a handful of potential accountants to contact, start at the top of the list and make appointments to meet with them for a consultation. This doesn’t have to be face to face and in our virtual world it often isn’t. However scheduling a bit of time to chat with a potential accountant is important.

    Step Four: Ask questions. In addition to making sure they’re ready, willing, and able to take you on as a client, make sure they have experience with your sized business, the tasks you need accomplished, and that they have the time available in their schedule to be responsive to your needs. It’s important to find an accountant who isn’t just trustworthy but who also isn’t too busy to return your calls.

    Step Five: Recommendations. Ask your potential accountant who they’ve done business with. If you have questions about them don’t be afraid to also ask for recommendations or people you can contact to make sure this is the right accountant for you.

    Step Six: Establish a system of how communication and documentation are going to work. If you set this up ahead of time you will know when to anticipate a call back from your accountant or when you need to have your paperwork together for your quarterly returns.

    Step Seven: Shake hands. Sign agreements and take the necessary precautions to ensure a professional and accountable relationship on both sides.

    Hiring an accountant you trust can be an intimidating process however there are steps to take to ensure you’ve found not only an honest accountant but one that will work well with you and your business.

  6. Women-Owned Business – Getting Started 7

    Find Legal Help for Your Business –

    Attorneys come in every shape, size, and purpose. There are contract attorneys, estate planning, family law, corporate attorneys, litigation, patent law, real estate and so on. Before you can set out on the search for legal help for your business, it is first important to determine what type of attorney you need.

    Once you know what kind of legal help you need, it’s easier to find a match for your specialty. Here’s where to look:

    Referrals. One of the best ways to find great legal help is to ask friends, family, and associates who they like to work with or who they know. Not only will this likely give you a list of trusted legal help, when you’ve been referred by a client, it may give you a little wiggle room with fees.

    Online directories. There are a huge number of listings and directories online. Each one generally lists attorneys by several categories including specialty and location. One notable directory of attorneys and legal advisors is Nolo, http://lawyers.nolo.com/.

    Lawyer referral services. These services generally require attorneys to register to belong to the referral service and the attorneys are also generally screened quite thoroughly.

    Networking groups. Both online and off, business associations, forums, membership sites and local chamber of commerce meetings can generate a number of options for legal help recommendations. If you’re in a very unique industry and have specialized legal needs, starting with associates in your industry is likely the best first step.

    Once you have a list of potential attorneys, it’s time to screen them to find the attorney right for you and your business needs.

    Schedule a time to talk. Personality, communication habits, and demeanor are all important when seeking an expert to help you and your business. Take a few minutes to chat with any potential advisors.

    Ask plenty of questions. Have they worked in your industry? Have they worked with your sized company before? What is their experience with your issues? What companies have they worked with? Can you contact any of their clients? How quickly can they turn around your project? Will they be doing the work themselves or will it be handed to someone in their firm or office?

    Request an estimate of fees before you get started with actual work.

    Building a positive relationship with an attorney is a great way to ensure your business needs can and will be handled as needed. Rather than waiting until you have a pending legal issue, take the time to find a great attorney ahead of time. If something comes up that is out of their realm of experience, they can most certainly recommend a specialist to help you.

  7. Women-Owned Business – Venture Capital 3

    Knowing Your Funding Options – Entrepreneurs and business experts have defined venture capital as a financing style between a capitalist and an entrepreneur with a common goal of a handsome return in a short period of time, maybe 3 to 5 years. But while there are several resources on the definition and characteristics of this topic, few have actually discussed the options of this kind of business arrangment.

    Before taking the plunge, know what these options are and how they can be applied to your current business plan.

    The funding option depends on the stage of a company’s progress. Investment firms can invest from $50,000 up to $20 Million. If a company is still in its earliest stage, when a concept or invention is still to be developed or proved, the option is called seed financing. Here investment is spent on marketing and product development. Product ingenuity and market research are the areas that are stressed.

    When the company has already developed its product and marketing strategy but needs money for the actual production and initial marketing, the funding option is called start-up financing. This is the most common option for new entrepreneurs and inventors. In this case funds are spent for production and initial marketing. Amounts can range from $50,000 to $1 Million.

    Sometimes a company already has its products and may have initially introduced them to the market, but receives little or no revenue at all. In this case, the entrepreneur may need financial assistance in what is called the first or early stage. The funding amount usually ranges from $500,000 up to $15 Million, depending on the extent of changes that are needed. The product may need to be revised or developed to make it more saleable. Or it may merely require repackaging or a change in advertising strategy.

    The next option is called the second or late stage. The company has its products and may have received revenues. There is potential for making it big in the near future. But for some reason the company has no funds at hand. It could be that there are loans that need to be repaid, or other financial obligations that need to be resolved. This is why venture capital firms may invest from $2-15 Million to help the company.

    Some profitable companies want to expand, but they do not want to put in more capital out of their own pockets. Their goal is not to keep the company for many years. Rather they seek quick growth to get to an IPO within a few months. This option is called the third or mezzanine stage. Amounts range from $2 Million to $20 Million.

    Similarly, this next option may provide an investment before an IPO, but the time frame is 3-12 months. This is called the bridge. Investment is also between $2 Million to $20 Million.

    Remember that there are specific options for each stage of your company’s development. The key is to know what options to use. Similarly, you must know how and where to find these venture capital firms. You must also develop a concise but comprehensive business proposal to present to them. Lastly, keep in mind that venture capital is not the end-all but just the beginning of more challenging things to come.

  8. Women-Owned Business – Getting Started 6

    How to Negotiate Successfully –

    The mere mention of the word “negotiation” is often enough to send people into a quivering mass of anxiety. Negotiation, however, can be quite fun, not to mention profitable. In this economy, whether for business or personal benefit, it pays to be a successful negotiator. Here’s how:

    Step One – Become Comfortable With the Concept

    Once you’re truly comfortable with negotiation, you’re better able to think outside of the box and to be creative with possibilities and solutions. Removing fear and discomfort helps you look at all sides, not just what you have to offer but what your potential partner has to offer as well.

    Step Two – Be Prepared

    Decide in advance, what you want to walk away with and try to determine what the other party wants to walk away with. It is likely that somewhere there can be an overlap or a give and take. Successful negotiation happens when you know exactly what is important and what you can live without. It’s an opportunity to collaborate and build a mutually beneficial relationship.

    It’s also important to know what you’re going to do if the two of you are unable to come to an agreement.

    Step Three – Listen

    Listening really is the key to a successful negotiation. Rather than heading into it with a combative stance, be ready and willing to listen to what the other party needs. There may be some points that you were unaware of. If the other party can tell that you’re really taking their concerns to heart, they may be more willing to work with you.

    Step Four – Practice

    Your mom was right, practice does make perfect. Practice negotiating and you’ll not only become more comfortable with it, you’ll get better. Consider every communication you’re involved in as a mini negotiation. Evaluate what you want to get out of it, what your partner wants to get out of it, and how you’ll both come to a mutual agreement.

    Negotiating can be a powerfully positive experience for everyone involved. When you look at it as collaboration rather than a competition, it becomes an enjoyable experience. There really are win-win situations out there just waiting for you.

  9. Women-Owned Business – Getting Started 5

    Find Local Assistance for Starting Your Own Business

    Starting your own business is a huge endeavor. That isn’t to say that it isn’t a fantastic and rewarding adventure; however it is most certainly a large undertaking. When starting a business, most experts will agree and advise entrepreneurs to seek expert advice. We’re all good at some things and not so good or knowledgeable about other things. Starting a business requires knowledge and skill in a number of areas including but not limited to:

    * Financial Planning
    * Customer Service
    * Sales
    * Management
    * Systems and metrics
    * Marketing
    * Goal Setting
    * Administrative tasks
    * Business technologies
    * Business models
    * Contracts
    * And, of course, your core business which may be product or service based.

    With so much to learn and know, it is a great idea to find people who have been there, people who have experience starting a business, and people who are experts in various areas of expertise. For example, a lawyer to help with business structures and contracts and an accountant to help with financial planning and goal setting will be of great assistance.

    Finding experts online is fine, however it may be significantly more beneficial to you and your business if you’re able to find experts locally. Here’s how:

    Join your local chamber of commerce. The chamber of commerce is established to help businesses connect, share resources and share knowledge. Many chamber members give free workshops on various aspects of running a business. For example a marketing firm who belongs to your chamber may give a free seminar or workshop on how to build a marketing database or how to optimize your website for search engine ranking. A local accounting firm may give a seminar on how to set up your home office to maximize deductions and so on. Additionally, Chamber of Commerce members often give discounts to other Chamber members so fulfilling your business needs locally makes financial sense.

    Join your local Small Business Association. Like the Chamber of Commerce, the Small Business Association exists to help small business owners start a business and stay in business. They’re chock full of resources to help you learn all there is to know about starting and running a business and local members are committed to helping each other.

    Many communities also offer free university or community education classes. These classes can fill in the knowledge gaps because they’re often offered by experts in your community.

    There are a number of resources right outside your front door to help you start your own business. Taking advantage of them is just good business.

  10. Women-Owned Business – Getting Started 4

    How To Think Of A Good Company Name –

    Naming your business is perhaps one of the most impossible decisions. It seems like there are a million options and yet very few if any sound good or resonate. The trick to coming up with a good company name is all in the process.

    Step One: Remove all boundaries and brainstorm.

    Often people become trapped in what they think they should name their company. They limit themselves with definitions, beliefs about what makes a good company name and quite honestly by thinking that their company name is the key to profitability.

    Let go of all of those perceptions and simply allow yourself to brainstorm. Limit your brainstorming time. This will result in maximum results and the time limit will also help you eliminate preconceived notions about what a name should be.

    Make a list of your ideas either by writing them down or if your creativity flows better when you speak then simply record them with a digital recording device. You could even call yourself on the phone and leave a long voicemail of ideas.

    Step Two: Do a little keyword research.

    Even if you’re opening a brick and mortar company and don’t plan to have an online presence, the majority of shoppers search online before they head out to buy products or services. This means, in order for them to find your business, it helps to have common search words in your company name. There are wonderful, and yes some of them are free, keyword tools available online.

    Write down the keywords and keyword phrases which are commonly used and fit your company description and industry.

    Step Three: Take a combined look at your brainstorm list and your keyword research.

    Ideally you’ll be able to create a memorable and unique combination that both represents what your company is about but also incorporates a few keywords. That being said, sometimes a name strikes you as memorable and unique and try as you might there are just no keywords which fit. Relax. Go with your gut. If you’re really uncertain, consider taking a quick poll amongst friends, family and associates and ask them to choose between a few.

    Naming your business is a big decision. However, with a little bit of broad thinking, some targeted research and a little optimism you will find the perfect name for your business.

  11. Women-Owned Business – Venture Capital 2

    The Basics –

    A lot us have ideas, but the real challenge is turning ideas into a reality. There are a lot of opportunities in business. However, earning money is as difficult as finding money. No one really wants to be a cubicle drone. But without any capital most of us become regular employees.

    There are many ways to start a business. If you have a great idea that has big potential, there are ways to access funds for your business. Venture capital funds are just one source of seed capital for your start up company.

    Venture capitalists invest in start up companies with big potential and high growth. They like high technology companies that may lead to big returns in the long run. The downside of seeking venture capital funding is that the venture capitalists get a share of your company and have a say in the company’s decisions. A person who has always dreamt of owning and running their own business may find this uncomfortable.

    The low down on Venture capital

    There are some venture capitalists that provide financial services to start up companies. These are usually companies that are entirely new, with mostly an idea and a business plan in their hands. Venture capitalists are willing to make risky investments on businesses that banks and the capital markets are afraid to make.

    Venture capitalists are general partners that offer only limited partnership to a company. The general partners are usually executives from a financial firm. They have the ability to provide a large amount of capital. These funds are usually derived from pension funds, foundations, insurance companies, financial endowments and financial institutions.

    Venture capital may seem a very good idea to a startup company but there is downside to this. In the business world nothing is free. General partners often require 20% of the net profit of the company. They may also demand a 2% management fee every year.

    It’s not easy to attract venture capitalists. They often have strict requirements. They will not invest in companies that don’t have reasonable proof of their technology. They may agree to meet with you, but that does not mean you’re already on good terms. Most of time 99 business plans get rejected out of 100. They can reject your plan for a lot of things that may seem trivial. And the hurdles don’t stop there.

    General partners may help your company to jumpstart and expand. But they won’t just let you make the decisions when they have invested a lot of money in your company.

    In some instances this may lead to problems, especially when general partners only care about making money for themselves. They may invest in advertising but not in the right places for your customers. Some of them like to spend too much money and the sudden growth may be too fast for your company.

    Before you find yourself a venture capitalist make sure you are aware of their potential impact on your company. A venture capital fund may seem convenient at the time. But you should always look ten steps ahead. Look for a general partner that will help your company grow, not just add weight to their own wallets.

  12. Women-Owned Business – Getting Started 3

    How to Conduct Meetings Successfully –

    Sometimes the only way to accomplish something is to have a meeting. Meetings can be an incredibly effective tool to motivate, to accomplish, and to communicate. However, without a proper strategy, a meeting can quickly go awry which means wasted time and effort. Make the most of your meetings and follow these steps for success.

    Step One: Determine why a meeting needs to be held and what you hope to accomplish. What are your goals for the meeting?

    Step Two: Determine who you’d like to have at the meeting and who must be there. In some cases, not everyone is essential. However, a few key figures must be present and to have a meeting without them is ineffective.

    Step Three: Look at your calendar and come up with three times to hold the meeting, your ideal time, and then two backup times in case not everyone can make it.

    Step Four: Create an agenda. What are you going to discuss, who needs to contribute to the meeting and what do they need to contribute? It’s important to establish this before you send out invitations to the meeting so people know what is expected and how to prepare. Set a time limit for the meeting so people can plan accordingly.

    Step Five: Depending on the size of the meeting, you may need a facilitator. Of course, if it’s a small meeting you can facilitate it yourself. Determine if you need someone to take notes and how you’re going to conduct the meeting. For example, will each person have a few minutes to present followed by a round-robin session of brainstorming or discussion? Or will only one or two people present and will discussion be allowed during or after each presentation?

    Step Six: Invite participants. Know your participants and invite them in a manner that they’ll recognize and respond to. For example, if you send email notifications to everyone and half your members are not active on email, they may not receive the meeting notification in time.

    Step Seven: Follow-up and confirm meeting times.

    Step Eight: Prepare for the meeting by making sure those who are presenting have the information and resources they need. For example, if they’re doing a PowerPoint presentation, do they need a large screen? Do they need outlets? If you’re meeting for a long time, make sure to have food and water available. If people are going to be taking notes, make sure writing materials are present.

    Step Nine: Run the meeting according to the pre-set agenda. Make sure each speaker has the undivided attention of the group by introducing them and outlining the protocol for the session.

    For example, if questions or comments are allowed while the person is speaking then let them know. If not then let people know they can ask questions at the end of the presentation.

    If topics come up that are not on the agenda, set them aside to talk about at the end of the meeting if there’s time or agree to hold another meeting.

    Step Ten: Wrap up the meeting with a summary to make sure everyone is on the same page.

    Conducting a successful meeting is an easy process if you follow these ten steps. Make sure you’re well prepared and expectations are outlined so everyone knows how to behave.

  13. Women-Owned Business – Getting Started 2

    How To Create A Business Plan –

    Creating a business plan is perhaps the single most important thing you can do to start and grow a business. A business plan not only covers your business mission and vision but also outlines your strategy for research, marketing, fulfillment and all aspects related to your business. A business plan will serve as your guide, your roadmap, to achieving your business goals and dreams.

    Step One: Your Business Description.

    The very first thing to do is to sit back and draft a few paragraphs about what your business does. You’ll answer the following questions:

    * What does your business do?
    * What are your products or services?
    * Who is your audience?
    * What makes you unique or different from your competition?

    Condense your business description until it is concise and can be presented to someone in about thirty seconds.

    Step Two: Your Resources, Strengths and Weaknesses

    In this second section, make a list of the resources you have for your business. This will include office equipment, products or services, and also any people you can access. For example, your brother-in-law is an attorney and has agreed to help you with the formation of your company.

    You’ll also want to conduct an analysis of your strengths and weaknesses. What skills, knowledge and experience do you bring to your business? What areas are you weak in? Will you need help or further education?

    Step Three: Your Business Organization and Legal Considerations

    What type of company are you going to form?

    * Sole Proprietorship,
    * Partnership,
    * Corporation
    * Limited Liability Company

    Each offers significant benefits depending on your situation and goals.

    You’ll want to take a look at the certifications, regulations, and insurance needs for your industry and location. Additionally, you’ll want to take a look at how you’re going to handle financial reporting and taxes.

    Step Four: Operating Requirements

    What do you need to start and grow your business? This is the place on your business plan where you outline what you need to get started, for example your office equipment. You’ll also want to outline the tasks required to run your business and who will perform those tasks. For example, an accountant or bookkeeper, a shipping and fulfillment person, a virtual assistant, a copywriter and so on.

    Step Five: Financial Goals

    What are your financial goals and how will you achieve them? Outline your present finances, how much you have to invest into your business. Also outline your financial goals and how you’re going to achieve them. If you’re seeking financing from an outside source, this section will be looked at very closely. You’ll want to create a budget along with your pricing strategy for your products or services.

    Step Six: Sales and Marketing

    This is a big section of your business plan and perhaps the most adaptable. It will change as you grow. In this section you’ll want to outline your competition, who they are and what they do well. You’ll also want to outline your strengths and how you’re going to position yourself above your competition.

    You’ll also want to outline your marketing strategy and the various tactics you’re going to take to promote awareness and sales. For example are you going to have a website, flyers, and advertisements and so on.

    Step Seven: Executive Statement

    This is the conclusion of your business report and where you’ll wrap it all up into a nice concise package. You’ll include your mission and vision statement here along with a summary of the previous six sections.

    Congratulations! Once you’ve completed your business plan you have a plan you can refer to, to keep your business on track. It’s the best way to attain your goals and to achieve the business success you desire.

  14. Women-Owned Business – Getting Started 1

    How to Write a Business Proposal –

    When approaching a new business partner or a potential client your business proposal is your first opportunity to make an impression.

    Step One. Do your research. Learn everything you can about your potential partner or client. How long have they been in business? What is their specialty? Who is their target audience? Who have they partnered with or done business with in the past? What do they care about? This information is important because it will help you create a business proposal that appeals to them specifically.

    For example, if your potential client is seeking web design services from you and you’ve created web design for a charity they are passionate about then it would pay to include or mention that relationship in the proposal.

    Step Two. What’s in it for them? While it is important to highlight your strengths and what you bring to the table, it’s even more important to word your strengths as benefits to your potential partner or client. Tell them what’s in it for them. If you’re an expert at email marketing and have consistently created high converting campaigns, tell them what that means to them.

    How will your expertise improve their life, solve their problems, and help them attain their goals? This is why research is so important; you have to know what their problems and goals are.

    Step Three. Don’t skimp on the details. In other words, be specific. Show you’ve done your research. If you say you can achieve a certain sales level, back it up with evidence. If you want to split the profits 60/40 back it up with specific reasons why the split is fair and how the work will be divided. Offer dates, deadlines, and dollars to provide a comprehensive plan.

    Step Four. Be personal. There are an abundance of cookie cutter business proposal templates available. These plans may be fine to provide an outline of what to include in your proposal. However, you’ll have a much stronger plan if it is written with the specific business proposal plans and personalities in mind.

    Step Five. Let them know how to proceed. Give them a call to action. There are two schools of thought on how to wrap up a business plan. The first is to leave the ball in their court. Give them a way to contact you and perhaps include a deadline. This may work well if there is a sense of urgency or scarcity to your proposal and if you have a number of potential partners.

    Conversely, the other possibility is to end the proposal with a time in which you will follow up with them. For example, “I will follow up with you at the end of the week. Please let me know if you have any questions.”

    A comprehensive and personal business plan is a great start to a positive and profitable relationship. Approach the plan keeping your potential partner’s needs in mind and always provide a method for them to contact you. Good luck!

  15. Women-Owned Business – Venture Capital 1

    “Venture capital” is a term that is common to business discussions. More often than not, the belief is that venture capital financing is quite complicated and difficult to understand, especially for those who are new to the business arena. For those who may be interested in going into business, it is essential to know what venture capital is all about.

    Venture capitalists and firms consist of individuals and firms that have pooled their resources to invest in businesses. Their investments may be for start-up financing or for business expansion. Typically venture capital firms are seeking to earn profits within a short period of 4-7 years. The goal is to increase the company’s worth so as to earn more profit at its exit. This may be an initial public offering, commonly known as an IPO. Other exits include an investor’s buyout, a merger, or an acquisition.

    Venture capital firms often concentrate on a particular field or area. It is paramount that you know what these areas are. This is their investment criteria. If your business venture does not match the interests of a particular firm, there are many alternative firms that you can pursue. You just have to know where to look.

    The web is one source of venture capital firms. Do a search on the internet. Many websites are helpful in providing lists of these firms. They may also provide tips on how to draft your proposal and how to raise venture capital.

    When you’ve found a matching investor, it is then time to draft your proposal. It should be truthful, accurate and thorough. You might want to ask a professional to check your proposal before submitting it. Your proposal should leave a mark in the minds of the firms you select since they have to go through tons of them. An estimated 1 of every 400 proposals gets approved so it is imperative that your proposal be impressive.

    When we speak of profit and earnings, we’re not talking about a few thousand dollars in a year. Venture capital firms seek a return of up to five, or even ten, times their initial investment. And this does not include the management fees and other fees they may require.

    This explains why venture capital firms tend to take the reins of the company. It is vital that you organize a solid management team that knows what they’re doing. This team should also be able to handle the pressure from these capitalists. While it helps if you appear to manage the business well, it is still necessary to listen and understand the strategies that these firms provide. Aside from these tried and tested policies, following their decisions will also assist you in the long run should you need more money.

    Venture capital is a wise investment choice for both entrepreneurs and capitalists. You and the investment firm have a common goal. That is to earn as much profit as possible after a short time.

    If this does not seem reasonable to you, other financing options are available. The best thing to do is to examine all the pros and cons before deciding anything.