Why Every Entrepreneur Needs a Business Plan

businessplanThe internet is the land of opportunity, where anyone can make a quick buck, right?

That’s what we like to think. But time after time people jump online and create a business website without really figuring out how the business is supposed to make money. That is why no matter what your idea, you need a business plan.

A business plan sets you up for success – it makes it much easier to reach your goal of being profitable because you know how you’re going to get there.

To break it down a bit further, here’s what else you get from creating a business plan:

1. Check the viability of your idea
Sometimes ideas sound great in your head, but when you put them down on paper, you start to find holes. Do you have a market? Will you be able to make enough profit? The list goes on. A business plan will help you identify flaws BEFORE you sink your time and money into an idea that might not fly.

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Are You Ready to Start Your Own Business?

startThe life of an entrepreneur isn’t for the faint of heart – but for every risk, there is an opportunity for huge gain. The thrill of success is made even better by knowing that it’s YOUR dream being realized. What could be better than being your own boss, running your own small business?

Keep in mind that before you jump in with both feet, it’s important to make sure you can swim. Being prepared and going in with the right attitude and information sets you up for success.

Two years ago, Alexa von Tobel launched LearnVest.com, a website dedicated helping and teaching women to manage their finances. In a recent blog post, Alexa outlines her top tips for starting your own company – and she’s got some great points.

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The Monday Five: Quick Hits for Your Small Business

Happy New Year! We’re back in the office and hitting the pavement running. Are you?

Whether you’ve already set out your business goals for 2011 or are still refining them, if you’re like us you might be spending this week thinking about the big picture. Here’s some food for thought as you plan your year:

5 Easy Strategies from Carrie Thru for an incredible 2011. Easy yes, but effective and often overlooked!

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When Were You Last Creative?

artAs an entrepreneur, you’re probably a pretty creative person by nature – but when was the last time you did something creative outside of your small business?

Most small business owners just don’t have the time to pull back from the business and do something for themselves. When you have ten or more hats to wear (sales, marketing, production, etc.) it’s hard to find time to take them all off. However, according to Shelley Carson, those creative endeavors you take on just for yourself can have a positive impact on your business.

It seems that the more you engage in creative activities the more you can transfer that kind of thinking to your business endeavors. Creativity breeds more creativity – so your ability to see a potential picture frame in a pile of scrap wood is the same ability that will allow you to identify an idea for a powerful viral video campaign.

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KIVA.org: Giving Back to Entrepreneurs Globally

It’s the season for giving! No matter what religion, race, or denomination you belong to, if you’re reading this you probably share our belief in the entrepreneurial spirit.

This winter, why not help someone else achieve the same dream? KIVA.org supports entrepreneurs all over the world through a micro-loan system – based on the same idea that Muhammed Yunus, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize created. This concept is based on funding entrepreneurs through the concept of microloans, rather than donations. Since 2009 Kiva has helped raise over $160 million in loans with a 98.90% repayment rate. For as little as $25 you can help fund an entrepreneur’s dream – so please join our CityMax.com giving team.

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Trendsetters, Influencers and Connectors

andrea-headshotclr_Guest post – Andrea Baxter is a senior marketing professional and a co-founder of Smart Cookies, founded in early 2007. Educating women on how to be smart with their money while living fabulously, the Smart Cookies have appeared on CNN, Oprah, MSNBC, and ABC News. They have published two best-selling books and host their own TV show.

As a businesswoman, more importantly, an entrepreneur, I have come to learn that there are 3 very important people you must surround yourself with in order to help your business grow and make it successful: trendsetters, influencers and connectors. Why? Because these are the people who are going to believe in you, believe in what you are doing and will want to help you grow your business as ferociously as you do.

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Back to School… for Small Business?

schoolFor every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Chances are, if you’re really strong in one part of your small business, there’s another area you’re having some trouble with.

According to Entrepreneur.com, these “trouble spots” are causing an increasing number of entrepreneurs to expand their horizons – by going back to school.

While you might not want to invest time and money into an MBA – it’s definitely challenging while running your own business – you can still have a positive impact on your business’ bottom line by taking less daunting, more affordable workshops.

So what kind of things might be worth hitting the books for?
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How to Get Out of a Creative Rut

rutEver feel like your brain is stuck in a rut? Looking for some business or personal inspiration?

It happens to the best of us, so chin up! Try out some of these tips to get back in the game:

James Smejlis explains a very interesting method of finding solutions that was created by mathematicians and astronomers, which should help you find your creativity in a hurry.

Mike Michalowicz (aka the Toilet Paper Entrepreneur) recently asked 91 entrepreneurs for their top tips on thinking out-of-the-box and finding inspiration.

Lisa Barone of Outspoken Media gets specific and explores what happens when your blog/web content gets stale and how you can revitalize your audience.

What’s your best way of digging your way out of a personal / business rut?

Website of the Month: Southern Missouri Mule Outfitter & Equine Supply

2010-04-08-somomule2Welcome back our Website of the Month! This month’s spotlight is on Ken Levine from Southern Missouri Mule Outfitter & Equine Supply (Somomule.com).

Ken retired as a federal law enforcement agent in 2007 to focus on his love – outfitting mules. As a trained ferrier (horseshoeing) his hobby quickly became a business after he set up his website using CityMax.com.

Somomule.com is a retail sales outfitter for horses and mules, selling pack equipment, tents and even Amish tack for backcountry pack saddles.

“It was very easy to figure out, and I don’t have any HTML knowledge,” said Ken. “In two and a half years we went from zero to making six figures a year from the business. My wife quit her bank job and we have more time to run our farm now.”

Ken’s site currently receives around 5,000 unique visitors per month. He offers this advice to aspiring entrepreneurs: “You need to be dedicated to your business idea and be organized – be on top of everything. From shipping to selling, this has been a labor of love with thousands of hours going in.”

You can tell the man truly enjoys what he does! Congratulations again to Ken and Somomule.com, our March Website of the Month.

Ken Lyotier: Vancouver DTES Entrepreneur and Olympic Torch-Bearer

2010-02-11-ken_lyotier_07It’s not often that you get to meet someone like Ken Lyotier – a man who rose above his own personal challenges to create a well-respected, non-profit business by uniting a community more known for sad stories of homelessness and addiction rather than those of success.

Lyotier is the founder and former Executive Director of United We Can, a non-profit bottle depot that operates out of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. This week, we were lucky enough to have Lyotier come in and tell his inspirational story to us first hand during our weekly team learning session.

Like many entrepreneurs, Lyotier started off by identifying a problem that he was experiencing himself. While trying to earn a living by collecting recyclable cans and bottles, he found that the stores that were supposed to honor the refunds were often unwilling to accommodate the bottle returns.

With the help of a local minister, he and a friend decided to organize an event where people could bring in non-recyclable items for cash – he was overwhelmed with the response and energy it generated from the community.

“The buzz you get from people being excited about what you’re doing is better than any high you’ll ever get from drugs or alcohol,” says Lyotier.

After searching for answers to local recycling issues and working with the government and VanCity, United We Can was founded in 1995 and has grown into an impressive source of inspiration, empowerment, and employment to people living in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. Over the past few years, the organization has grown beyond the bottle depot to include other services that work well within the community, including a bicycle repair shop and computer recycling.

Along with being a well-respected member of his community, Lyotier’s positive impact on the community has also recently earned him an invitation to light the cauldron at the 2010 Vancouver Games celebration site after being handed the Olympic torch by Canadian singer Michael Buble.

Ken Lyotier is an inspiration to any entrepreneur and he also provides some food for thought. What business opportunities surround you in your own life? What’s holding you back? Use personal challenges to take a step forward and write your own success story.