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Category Archives: Business

5 Business Plan to Start Your Business

1: Business/Executive Summary

The executive summary needs to succinctly answer a number of key questions for prospective stake-holders, including investors, employees, vendors and customers. Often, an entrepreneur must summarize his/her new venture in a 250- to 500-word written summary or a three- to five-minute verbal description, said Jon Burgstone, founding faculty chair and adjunct professor at the Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also the co-author of “Breakthrough Entrepreneurship” (Farallon Publishing, March 2012).

“The executive summary should be able to describe how the business will solve a customer pain [problem] in one or two sentences,” he said.

The business summary should also provide information on the management team, including experience, industry credibility, history working together and commitment to the venture.

“Include a specific plan to fill any gaps in your management team,” Burgstone said.

It is also necessary to include the business’s immediate objectives and resources required—including necessary capital milestones expected to be reached, and other information needed to understand the business and technical risk of the venture.

2: General Company Description

Raj Tumber, SCORE business counselor in the area of public relations, said this portion of the business plan should tell the story of your business, how it came to be, where it is today and where do you see it heading.

The company description should cover how you plan to grow and succeed and give investors and other interested parties a sense of your vision, knowledge and experience. Company history, current business position, objectives and ownership should also be included, he said.

3: Products and Services

This section is designed to simply explain to the potential party of interest about your products and services, said SCORE’s Tumber.

“[This section] explain[s] where you will source your supplies and inventory, specifies product comparison with those that are out in the market and explains your research and development plans,” he said.

In the introduction portion of this section, outline the most exciting characteristic or benefit of your product line or service, he said. “How can it attract the target market? Summarize the value and offerings your product delivers,” he said.

Other important things to touch upon are features, benefits and pricing of your products or services. These are key areas where many entrepreneurs skimp on the details, but they are arguably among the most important element of the business plan.

“This is where you have to really spell out how you are going to make money,” said Mike Mirau, owner of a Growth Coach franchise in Dallas. The franchise provides business and sales coaching. “You need to establish your margins, how you will set your pricing and what you offer relative to the competition,” he said.

4: Marketing

A marketing section should be broken into internal and external communication, including a subsection that touches on traditional (print and TV ads) as well as new tactics (social media, blogging, photo and video sharing, etc.)

“A media relations section would delve further into positioning staff and company executives as experts in particular fields, pitching story opportunities, setting up interviews, product reviews, use of bloggers, etc.,” said Jeremiah P. Sullivan, co-owner /integrated communication specialist for Framework Media Strategies, a marketing and public relations firm.

Potential investors also want to hear about how you plan to use mobile marketing to get the word out about your business.

“The number of mobile devices connected to the Internet is very quickly going to exceed PCs,” said Simon Buckingham, CEO ofAppitalism. “Mobile devices carry a much more personal brand and attachment to a consumer than a PC.”

5: Financials

“When you get to the financial part of the business plan, that is what many people fear the most,” said Tim Perry, founder and chairman ofPalo Alto Software, a provider of small-business software.

Cash flow is the most important aspect to focus on, he said. “The balance sheet is the holy grail. Businesses run on cash. No business plan is complete without a cash flow plan.”

Aside from cash and income, there is the balance of assets, liabilities and capital.

The plan should also cover profit and loss, incorporating sales, cost of sales, operating expenses and profits. In most cases it should show sales, less cost of sales, as gross margin, and gross margin less operating expenses as profit before interest and taxes. Normally there is also a projection of interest, taxes, and net profits, he said.

There should be a monthly sales forecast for the first 12 months and annual sales projections for the first three years of operation.

The Skinny Business Plan

It may be time to put your business plan on a diet. Experts say the document doesn’t need to go on for dozens and dozens of pages, include endless descriptions of your products or contain excruciatingly detailed financial projections. Instead, your business plan needs to just get to the point.

Of course, if you are trying to attract investors, you will need to furnish more details; but if the goal of your business plan is to keep you, your partners and employees on track and prepare for the future, you can trim it down to the basics.

“There are business plans for external use, but there should also be an internal business plan that is a living, breathing document that changes with your business, ” said Steven Raz, co-founder and managing partner ofCornerstone Search Group, an executive search firm specializing in pharmaceutical and biotechnology. “It can be 10 pages or less and should really be a selling document that grabs you.”

For starters, you need an executive summary that quickly provides a hook, said Christian Seale, chief operating officer of Equitable Origin, which has created a responsible certification program designed to promote higher social and environmental standards, greater transparency, and more accountability in oil and gas exploration and production.

“You should summarize the problem or opportunity and address how your company’s product or services will address a need,” he said. “You also want to briefly summarize the team that is in place and the skills they have to make it happen.”

The condensed business plan needs to include a description of the product and a description of potential consumers, experts said. “This should be backed up by a brief analysis of who current competitors and potential competitors will be, explaining how the product differs from other offerings,” said Mark Cracknell, co-founder and executive director of Kondoot.com, a social network that lets members broadcast live to family and friends for free.

While you need to make the case for your product or services, too many business plans get bogged down with pages of market research, experts said. “While this may be necessary as you look for investors, keep that to a minimum to make the business plan manageable,” Seale said.

While you can still include financials, don’t overload the plan with data and projects and present relevant information in bright, colorful chart formats. “In this document you are not reaching exclusively financial people and potential investors, so make the information accessible,” said Raz.

In a more brief business plan, exceedingly detailed analysis of expenses can be left out. “Depending on the product and industry, it can be very difficult to gauge exact expenses when dealing with unknown growth factors,” Cracknell said. “If the figures or amounts cannot be determined with a reasonable amount of accuracy, then it’s best to leave them out.”

Cracknell added that there should also be a brief history about who started the company and its origins, he said. “You need to communicate how the business came about and the view going forward,” he said.

Sales and marketing strategy are also important elements of the slimmed-down business plan. “This is always fluid, but putting it in writing as things change help you to remain focused,” said Beth Goldstein, president ofMarketing Edge Consulting Group and directorof the $50K New Venture Competition at Boston University.

The best business plan is a finite and defined outline of key acts by specific dates, said

Nicholas L. Turner, co-chief executive officer for Kaye/Bassman International Corp., which provides strategic recruiting and executive search services.

He said developing a formal business plan goes against the grain of many entrepreneurs. “If you put too much detail, you will never get it done, you will never adhere to the map and you will feel restricted from a dynamic capacity to be the entrepreneur,” he said. “I say adapt the plan to you, not you to the plan. A business plan is a tool to use, not the objective to accomplish.”

7 Things to Do Before Opening a Salon

For many beauty-industry professionals, owning a salon is a dream come true. If you’ve got the styling skills and the capital needed to start your business, you’re already halfway there. However, just like with any other industry, opening your own business can be challenging, and it comes with a lot of tasks and responsibilities to complete.

Thinking about putting your beauty skills to the test and opening your own salon? Make sure you follow these 10 expert tips first.

“A business plan is key to starting a salon. The plan offers a road map for salon owners to follow and helps entrepreneurs consider all areas of the business. A business plan makes sure you set up a metric for success and consider the financials before you invest huge amounts of time and money in a new salon.”

“With salons on every corner, even in small towns, entering into the market with a specialty or service niche can dramatically increase buzz and press about your opening. Most salons try to please everyone, offering a huge menu of services. But this does nothing to differentiate you in the market. Even if you do offer many services, promoting a niche or specialty service will help you attract not only a very loyal client base, but will [also] instantly lend credibility to your salon as the experts in your niche space.”

“Do your research. Ensure that you are complying with the state laws and regulations. If you have to make some adjustments to your plan because of regulations and laws, do so early so that you can avoid potentially having to stop your operation later or [having to pay] a fine. This will save you time and money.”

“Get in touch with major product distributors like Redken, Paul Mitchell, etc. Some of them offer support services such as training [and] consultants to salon owners and staff. “

“My number-one tip for aspiring entrepreneurs before they open up a salon is to have a number of professional clients of your own that will cover your overhead. Salon employees have an independent mind-set and will try to make power plays. With a solid client base of your own, you’ll be in a better position to call the shots.”

“Secure a solid location with plenty of parking. If you make it convenient for clients to visit your salon, you’ll have more customers, which in turn means more revenue to pay off your initial loan and to put toward growth expenses.”

“I would advise any new salons to invest time in the training and motivation of the staff. Now, any technician is going to know their trade. However, they might need help with the selling and customer-retention side. Your salon will be built around your stylists and technicians, [so] ensuring they are comfortable with up-selling products and other treatments across the brand is the difference between success and failure. Spending time before launch training your key staff to learn these key skills and learn how to teach them to new employees will pay dividends once the salon is running, and will go a long way to help with the smooth operation of a successful business.”

7 Free Business Plan Templates

Business plans can seem daunting to someone who has never written one. The business idea itself might be fairly simple to explain, but if you want to apply for a loan, raise investor capital, or simply have a solid, documented direction for your company, you’re going to need to write a business plan.

Luckily for entrepreneurs, there are templates out there that allow you to plug in all of the information, instead of struggling with formatting and figuring out what you need to include. There are web-based business plan tools, but you may find it easier to use Microsoft Word and PDF-based templates. Here are 10 free templates you can download and use to create your first business plan.

Bplans.com, known as the authority on business plans, offers a free Word business plan template, complete with instructions and a table of contents. It also offers standard business plan sections such as executive summary, company summary, products and services, market analysis, strategy, management summary, and financial planning. Once you register, you will be able to download the materials and choose from a wide range of businesses in different industries in which to base your plan. Whether your business is online, service-based, or a food establishment, Bplan’s Word business plan templates are comprehensive and are a great option for beginners and new business owners.

Entrepreneur.com provides business tools, with a collection of business plansfree in PDF, PowerPoint and Word. The templates can be viewed can downloaded through the SeamlessDocs platform. The site includes a template for a variety of specific business types, a business plan model that outlines the different parts of a business plan, and customizable templates that allow users to add their logos and business information. If you need a guide to writing a business plan, Entrepreneur.com also provides a download for that.

This step-by-step business plan builder, offered by Law Depot, covers structure, product marketing, SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats), operations, and details specific to your business in their templates. Once the template is complete, you can download and print. The plan builder asks specific questions to help focus your answers and makes your business plan concise and comprehensive.

MOBI, or My Own Business Institute, is part of Santa Clara University’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. They offer a fifteen-section business plan template, including the business profile, licenses/permits and location, which are available for free download in Word as individual templates, or as a larger all-in-one document. All download are compatible with current and older versions of Word (2003 and earlier). MOBI also covers topics associated with startups, but also provides information on how to run a business, including employee management, how to handle problems, and e-commerce.

Office Depot’s Business Resource Center contains free business plan samplesfor retailers, manufacturers and service providers. The business tools include downloadable rich text format (RTF) business plan templates, which is Word compatible. Excel business plan financials are also available for manufacturers and service providers, while the retailer business plan template is complete with forecasting and financial tables, but this requires Microsoft Word version 6.0 or later.

Catering to businesses owned by women, Oprah.com’s free one-page business plan templates can be used by anyone who wants to start a business. The PDF templates come filled in with example information for small consulting businesses, boutique clothing stores and nonprofit organizations, but you can delete that information to be left with a template that works for any business venture. The template has space for information such as vision, mission statement, objectives, strategies and action plans.

When you create a free business plan with Rocket Lawyer, you get the advantage of an attorney’s advice to make sure your document is legally sound. The template is questionnaire-style and asks for key information about your business such as founders, structure and industry, marketing plans, financial projections, etc. Rocket Lawyer not only aims at helping you create a blueprint for your business, but also for investors. Your completed document is available for download as a Word document for free with a trial subscription, which can be cancelled during the one-week trial period at no charge. The document is $10 on its own without a subscription.

6 Business Plan Competitions for Entrepreneurs

The entrepreneurial spirit is rooted in innovation and competition. Given this drive to succeed, it’s no wonder that competitions rewarding entrepreneurs for their business plans and pitches are popping up all over the country.

Throughout the year, schools and organizations allow early stage startups and aspiring entrepreneurs to present their new business ideas and plans to panels of industry-renowned judges, for a chance to win some much-needed funding. Even if these entrepreneurs don’t win the grand prize, the competitors still get the opportunity to network with leaders and innovators in their industries, and share ideas with fellow entrepreneurs and mentors.

If you’re thinking of applying to a business plan competition, here are six great options open to entrepreneurs in any state.

Location: Waco, Texas

Website: http://www.baylor.edu/business/newventurecompetition/

The Baylor New Business Venture Competition features current students and recent alumni of any accredited university across the nation competing in one of two tracks: consumer and internet technology companies, and nontechnology companies. Companies in the technology track must fall into categories such as internet security, social media and mobile commerce. There is a preliminary round, followed by three presentation rounds. The top teams from both tracks will compete against each other for the cash grand prize of $60,000.

Location: Savannah, Georgia

Website: https://www.thecreativecoast.org/programs/fastpitch/

The Creative Coast’s FastPitch competition offers student entrepreneurs, service-based entrepreneurs and product-based entrepreneurs the chance to show off their innovative ideas via a 3-minute pitch. Local community leaders, academics and investors will assess the viability of each venture and provide coaching and feedback throughout the process.

Location: Austin, Texas

Website: http://www.hatchpitch.com/

Since 2012, HATCH Pitch has been an official SXSW event. In 2016, it branched out to become an independent program and event. This competition is for startups using information technology to make life better. Finalists are chosen and receive coaching and mentoring leading up to their demo day, when finalists present their business plans to a prestigious judging panel of corporate, angel and venture investors. Panel members provide feedback and select winners in which they would invest a virtual $1 million.

Location: Multiple international locations

Website: http://www.innovationworldcup.com/

The Innovation World Cup Series is a collection of international competitions in a variety of technology categories like wearable technology (WT), theinternet of things (IoT), cloud technology and digital marketing. Entrepreneurs in each category get the chance to present their tech solutions to a panel of industry experts. With prizes worth over $300,000, the competition is designed to stimulate and inspire next-generation solutions with the potential for real marketable products. The next event is the WT Innovation World Cup, being held in Munich, Germany, in February 2017.

Location: Santa Clara, California

Website: http://www.boomerventuresummit.com/index/competition/

This Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit is geared toward business ideas that show potential for the baby boomer generation. Early stage entrepreneurs in all industries are welcome to submit 10-slide-deck business plans to the first round of judges at Santa Clara University. Finalists then present their slide shows in person at the summit to be considered for the top prize.

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Website: https://veinternational.org/national-online-competitions/

This business plan competition brings together some of the best and brightest student leaders and future entrepreneurs at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus. Teams representing 28 virtual enterprise companies — simulated businesses set up and run by students for educational purposes — submit written business plans and give oral presentations that are judged by industry professionals and educators. After receiving top honors in local and regional business plan competitions during the school year, these teams earn the chance to compete.

5 Trends Fueling Big Growth for Small Business

Propelled by access to new technology, a changing workforce and easier opportunities to reach a larger audience, small business growth is expected to skyrocket in the coming years, new research finds.

According to a study from Intuit andEmergent Research, the number of small businesses are projected to increase to 42 million by 2026, up from this year’s 30 million. The 3.3 percent annual growth rate over the next decade is significantly higher than the 2 percent average growth between 2004 and 2014, the most recent data available.

While the number of small businesses will grow over the next decade, their size is actually getting smaller. The research found that the average size of small businesses dropped by 20 percent between 2001 and 2014. Specifically, in 2001, the average small business started with 6.5 employees. In 2014, the number shrank to just four employees.

“The next few years will see an acceleration in the number of small and micro businesses, thanks in large part to new technologies that reduce the costs and risks of operating a small business and open up access to customers around the world,” Steve King, a partner at Emergent Research, said in a statement. “While running a business is always going to be tough work, economic and technological changes are making it easier and cheaper to start and operate a successful small business.”

The study’s authors highlight five key reasons that will not only fuel the growth of small businesses, but will allow them to compete with big businesses like never before.

  1. Top-notch technology: Small businesses now have the ability to build sophisticated business and technology infrastructures that previously were only available to large companies. Cloud computing and manufacturing and distributing capabilities are now available with a cost structure that allows small businesses to scale up and down and only pay for what they use.
  2. Deeper insight:  Access to insightful data is giving small businesses the capability of gaining deeper customer and business insights. Access to machine learning has taken away much of the complexity of data analysis, which allows small businesses to make faster and better decisions.
  3. The on-demand workforce: By the year 2020, freelance workers are projected to represent 43 percent of the workforce. This gives small businesses access to the right people at the right time in a flexible way, without the responsibility of hiring traditional employees.
  4. Online marketplaces: Online outlets are giving small businesses the ability to not only sell more niche products and services, but also to extend their reach to millions of customers that they previously never had access to.
  5. Affordable advertising: Online advertising has made it cost-effective to connect with customers worldwide. For a fairly low cost, small businesses can deliver their targeted messages, whether it be a sponsored photo or in-stream video ad, to a whole new audience.

“This next decade will be the decade of the small business,” said Karen Peacock, senior vice president of small business at Intuit. “Industry-shifting trends like lower-cost, scalable infrastructure to start and grow your business, the ability to build a team with amazing on-demand talent, and data that helps you fuel your business and delight your customers are game changers.”

Tips Stretch Your Startup Dollars

Initial startup costs are some of the biggest expenses a new business owner will have to encounter. Before you turn a profit, there are many parts of the business that need to be covered up front, and entrepreneurs don’t always anticipate some of these expenses.

To reduce your startup costs and stretch your dollars a little farther, follow these tips.

A simple way to save money as a new business owner is to set spending and expense limits. However, a surprising number of business owners don’t have a formal budget, said Carissa Reiniger, founder of small business support community Thank You Small Business.

“There is so much power in knowing what is going on in your business, for better or for worse,” Reiniger told Business News Daily. “Managing the finances of my business is not something I naturally enjoy, so I’ve put rules in place to help me stay on track. I advise setting up a standard time every week or month for reviewing and managing your budget.”

Angie Segal, an ActionCOACH business coach, advised entrepreneurs to factor their own salary into the budget as soon as possible.

“When you don’t pay yourself, you take money out of the business elsewhere to cover your own expenses,” Segal said. “Giving yourself a salary forces you to make everything in your budget work.”

Thatcher Spring, CEO of GearLaunch, said entrepreneurs should always do as much as possible with what they have before they add more fixed costs.

“At my company, we only hire when there is too much for the current staff to reasonably accomplish without additional help,” he said. “I’ve also found that hiring less-experienced, smart, adaptable employees, instead of only those that are senior and highly experienced, can help keep salaries under control.”

When you created your business plan, you might have envisioned all of the latest office equipment, lavish holiday parties and enough staff to take on big projects. However, not all of those business luxuries are guaranteed.

Office Evolution founder and CEO Mark Hemmeter said small business owners can suffer from a lack of flexibility in their grand plans.

“Your ego and vanity can get in the way,” he said. “You want that car or that perfect sign, but it just isn’t a good fit for the core of the business.

Hemmeter recommended looking into short-term solutions, like using shared office spaces and hiring freelance workers, until you can afford to make long-term commitments such as acquiring private office suites and hiring full-time employees.

Spring added that business owners should always plan for every effort to take longer than expected, whether it’s launching a new website, signing up customers, sourcing new products or hiring employees.

“Make sure you always set aggressive goals, but realize that there will be unexpected terrain on the pathway to success,” he said.

Startup costs for a new business add up, but there are tips and tools for finding the best areas to spend the money and those where you can cut back a bit. Spring noted that there are numerous cost-effective, self-service tools available to small business owners who want to save money by taking care of their own branding and website development.

However, it’s wise to be wary of “free” opportunities, warned Raad Mobrem, CEO and co-founder of Lettuce Apps (acquired by Intuit).

“Free tools can be a bad idea — they’re free for a reason,” Mobrem said. “Always pay for the important things, like software. You can ask for discounts with B2B services. People understand that you’re a small business just starting out, and if they offer discounts, you’ll want to work with them in the future.”

That said, spending money on the lowest-priced items can mean getting the lowest quality. As a result, you may have to replace things multiple times, and that can be more expensive than going with a pricier option in the first place.

“It’s a huge mistake to go as cheap as you can,” Hemmeter said. “It doesn’t look very professional.”

One area where you may want to splurge is your company culture, Spring said. You can invest in small items, such as snacks and comfortable work furniture, which don’t necessarily cost a lot but produce meaningful intangible value. “Having a great office environment will improve productivity,” Spring said.

After you follow the initial tips to save money and reduce the startup costs of your new business, it’s just as important to make sure your expenses stay on track as your business grows. Seek financial advice from accountants and fellow small business owners, and then go over your expenses and try to cut back where you can.

“Find an accountant that acts as a business adviser,” Segal suggested. “Look at your profit and loss with him or her every month, and see if anything is creeping up. Be very conscious of your numbers.”

As you adjust your budget each month to save money, you’ll be able to start investing in bigger, better things for your business. Mobrem’s advice is to plan your budget in terms of stages.

“Analyze and think about your long-term goals with your budget,” he said. “Ask yourself, ‘If I hit this goal, where should my budget go next?'”

Business Plan Tools for Small Businesses

Have a killer business idea? A killer business plan can help you turn it into a successful business. Creating a well-crafted business plan is no easy task, however. You’ll need to not only flesh out your idea, but also have a deep understanding of the different aspects of running a business — before you even start one.

Figuring out how to do this correctly is hard enough, but there are several tools available to make this arduous task a little bit easier for would-be entrepreneurs. Instead of starting from scratch, here are a collection of business plan templates, software, apps and services to help you start a business the right way with a professional business plan.

Business plan templates show you exactly what a business plan is supposed to look like and what goes in each section. You can find them as downloadable sample business plans that you can copy and modify to fit your business, or as fill-in-the-blank or question-and-answer forms. There are also different types of business plans: simple business plans that cover the essentials, comprehensive ones that cover every aspect of a business, and those designed for a specific purpose, such as to raise funding or find business partners. Here are some business plan templates worth considering.

The $100 Startup One-Page Business Plan. One-page business plans take the fuss out creating a business plan by getting down to the basics of what your business is about and how you intend to meet its goals. Think of it like writing down your business on a napkin, but with a purpose. The $100 Startup’s One-Page Business Plan is one such business plan template. Simply answer a few questions like “What will you sell?” “What will you charge?” and “How will customers learn about your business?” in a couple sentences and you’re good to go.

SCORE Business Plan Templates. Small business resource SCORE has a collection of free PDF and Word business plan templates for startups, established businesses and even nonprofits. The organization also offers additional types of business planning resources and templates, such as financial projections, market research, sales forecasts, SWOT analysis and more. Once your business plan is finished, you can meet with a SCORE mentor for feedback and guidance.

Bplans.com. Looking for free sample business plans? Bplans.com offers a wide range of them for all types of businesses, including retailers, online businesses, service providers, restaurants and more. These sample templates come complete with a table of contents and sections like executive summary, company summary, products and services, financial planning, market analysis and other standard business plan sections. Bplans.com offers more than 500 sample business plans that can be downloaded as Word, PDF and other file formats.

Rocket Lawyer. If you need to make your business plan a legal document, check out Rocket Lawyer. Rocket Lawyer lets you create your own legal documents and provides access to various legal services. Its business plans section lets you create business plans in three steps: build, save and sign. You can also print and share your business plans for easy access. Rocket Lawyer business plans come with standard parts of a business plan, as well as sections for funding requests and appendix for supporting documents.

You don’t have to be glued to your desk to create a business plan. There are several business plan mobile apps that will let you write a business plan anytime, anywhere right on your smartphone or tablet. Here are two worth checking out.

StartPad. Recognized by Entrepreneur and Forbes, StartPad is one of the top business plan apps available for the iPad. This app offers a wide range of business planning resources, such as strategic business planning tutorials, professionally made sample business plans, financial projections and other reports. Business plans created on StartPad can also be exported as high-resolution PDFs or printed out. The basic version of StartPad is free to download and use, but requires in-app purchases for additional features. Get StartPad from the Apple App Store.

Business Plan & Start Startup. Are you an Android user? Business Plan & Start Startup is the app for you. This app isn’t just for creating a business plan, however. It also aims to do three things for entrepreneurs: help start a business the right way with a well-crafted business plan; keep them motivated and on track; and provide a community of fellow entrepreneurs, small business owners and experts to help guide users in creating their business plan and running their businesses. Business Plan & Start Startup can be downloaded from the Google Play marketplace

Don’t want to use any of the above? Try an online business plan service, which guides you throughout the business plan writing process. The services offer similar tools as business plan software — such as document collections and chart generators — with the difference being that they typically offer business and legal specialists who can help you better understand complex aspects of your business and business plan. Two online business plan services to consider are LivePlan and the SBA Business Plan Tool.

Bizplan.com. Need funding? Check out startup.co’s business plan service, bizplan.com. This web-based business plan comes with a step-by-step guide to help you build your business plan and optimize it for investors. Business plans can also be completely tailored to your business with logos, graphics, layouts and custom designs to fit your brand. After building your business plan, you can share and publish it on startup.co’s crowdfunding site, fundable.com, where you can connect with investors and add elements like photos and videos to highlight your business.

LivePlan. LivePlan is a cloud-based business plan service that offers everything from document generation to planning tools, financial calculators, guidance resources and more. The service guides you through each component of the business plan and provides step-by-step instructions and advice based on the objective of your business plan (starting a business, business development, funding, etc.)

SBA Business Plan Tool. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Business Plan Tool covers everything from executive summary and company description to market research, product line, marketing and sales, and financial projections in detail. You can also personalize your business plan with your company logo, as well as save, print and update your business plan as needed.

6 Ways Turn Your Pop Culture Obsession Into a Business

If there’s one thing you can learn from the media industry, it’s that people will always pay money to be entertained. Blockbuster films, binge-worthy TV series, captivating novels, addictive video games and acclaimed Broadway shows all rake in tons of cash for the creative minds behind them. But you don’t need to be a member of the Hollywood elite to profit from popular media. These six types of pop culture-based businesses, many of which are started by fans themselves, make their money outside the spotlight.

How many people might want Dr. Who’s Tardis in their home? Or how about a statue of Han Solo frozen in carbonite? Creating and selling themed decor and furniture to fans is something that will never go out of style. While it might take some significant startup capital to make high quality replicas of some of our favorite pop culture icons, there will always be sentimental demand for a piece of decor inspired by cult favorites. Just think of all those people out there just clamoring for a chance to bring the Iron Throne from “Game of Thrones” into their living room. There’s nothing like having a morning cup of coffee like the King (or Queen) of the Andals and the First Men, after all. For some inspiration, check out this list of pop culture inspired furniture.

Wherever there’s a beloved book, TV show or film, there are artists and crafters ready to create and sell their own interpretations of its characters and universe. A quick search on Etsy for popular titles like “Breaking Bad,” “Game of Thrones” or “Big Bang Theory” turns up countless apparel items, phone cases, keychains, wall art and other handmade knick-knacks for fans to enjoy. Some truly talented entrepreneurs are even able to build a steady business from their pop culture art, like comic book artist and illustrator Chad Sell, who produces postcards and large prints of RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants.

For die-hard members of a pop culture fandom, the best way to immerse themselves in their favorite fictional universe is to dress up as the characters themselves. Whether it’s just for Halloween or to attend one of the above-mentioned fan conventions, people are willing to pay top dollar for authentic, tailor-made replicas of character outfits. California-based Cosplay House, for instance, offers made-to-order cosplay costumes, wigs and accessories based on everything from Disney films and comic books to anime and video games. Many of these items sell for upward of $100, or more if the item is a special commission request.

Live-action film and television is often shot on-location for a more authentic feel than sound stage and backlot sets. Individuals and organizations frequently rent out their land and buildings to directors looking for the perfect place to film. England’s Highclere Castle, more commonly recognized as Downton Abbey, is a well-known example, but there are some stateside properties that generate revenue through film shoots as well. Sands Point Preserve, home of the historic Guggenheim Estate buildings on Long Island, New York’s North Shore, has provided locations for numerous projects, such as HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” FX’s “The Americans,” NBC’s “The Blacklist,” Showtime’s “The Affair,” USA Network’s “Royal Pains” and Paramount’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” Jean-Marie Posner, executive director of the Friends of the Sands Point Preserve, told Business News Daily that in addition to funding the nonprofit organization, film shoots also help to showcase some of the features and buildings of the Preserve and encourage visitors to tour the property and its museums.

Production companies have long capitalized on the popularity of their media products with big-budget theme parks, studio tours and short-term exhibits for fans who want to go behind the scenes of the movies and shows they love. But some fans want to truly live the experience, and companies are willing to give them that. In the fall of 2014, New York City’s Eight O’Clock Coffee Co. and Warner Bros. Studios temporarily set up a functioning replica of the famed “Friends” coffee shop, Central Perk, to commemorate the show’s 20th anniversary. The New York Times reported that fans lined up around the block, waiting for an hour or more for a chance to drink free coffee, sit on the real Central Perk couch and purchase “Friends” gift shop items.

Another example is the College of Wizardry, a collaborative live-action role-playing festival based on the Harry Potter series to give fans the experience of attending a Hogwarts-like school. The multi-day events, which cost more than $300 to attend, are held at Czocha castle in Poland and include classes, social activities and other magical happenings run by fan volunteers.

You might not be able to make a living, but if you’ve got a knack for words and a unique perspective on a particular series or genre, you might be able to make some spare cash in advertising revenues through a pop culture-based blog. For example, FemPop, which began as journalist Alex Cranz’s blog about feminism and mainstream media, has grown into a full-fledged Web magazine with weekly podcasts, TV recaps and film reviews by a well-rounded staff of contributors. To elevate your publication above “side hobby” status, you’ll need to post frequent, compelling content and know how to market it to build up a solid following, especially on social media. BND’s guide to turning your blog into a business has some advice for doing just that.

It is important to note that any aspiring entrepreneur in this space should thoroughly research any potential intellectual property-related legal issues before starting up. While the Fair Use Doctrine can sometimes protect artists who want to use copyrighted materials in their work, do your homework to make sure the commercial sale of your products is legal.

6 Business Ideas That Don’t Require Employees

Are you ready to start your own business, but not ready to hire employees? There are plenty of options for people who would prefer to be “solopreneurs” and keep their business operations simple.

Here are six ideas to inspire you to start working on your solo business plan right away:

Are you educated in nutrition but are still looking to get your career to go in the right direction? Turn your healthy lifestyle choices and education into lucrative business decisions by becoming a virtual health coach. You’ll be aided in your efforts by the myriad new health-related apps and devices being developed to help clients keep track of fitness goals and weight loss.

Anyone with aging loved ones knows how hard it can be to care for them without extra help. Elderly people living in their own homes need help with lots of routine chores like cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping and yard work. Why not start a business that offers senior citizens and their families the help they need to maintain their households without breaking their budgets? With word-of-mouth endorsements and social media targeted at the overworked baby-boomer set, you could get this business off the ground in no time.

Want to turn your love of beer into a viable occupation? Why not jump on the microbrewing bandwagon? With the popularity of craft beers on the rise in the U.S., the demand for innovative breweries is growing. Take a page from the successful owners of Brooklyn Brewery and start by focusing on branding and distribution of your beverages. With some thirsty investors and a few barrels of persistence, you could have your brewery up and running faster than you can say “cheers!” Learn more about starting your own craft brewery in this Business News Daily guide.

With employers and corporations looking to decrease health care costs and a greater awareness of diseases associated with obesity, America is looking to get fit. Freelance personal trainers make their own schedules and work for a diverse range of clients. If you’re a fitness guru with a head for business, this might just be the right idea for you.

Whether it’s a bouquet of flowers in celebration of a wedding anniversary or an ice cream cake delivery for a child’s birthday, there’s a need for businesses that carry out long-distance requests on behalf of those whose loved ones live far away. With the right website and a PayPal account, you could start building your reputation as a “special delivery” courier today.

Are you business-savvy with years of experience, and willing to pass that knowledge on to others? With the right marketing tactics, a strong personal network and a great website, it’s simple to become a business coach on your own. Work with small business owners or startup-hopefuls to carefully craft business plans, and advise those who need that extra motivation. If you know you can be a good motivator and not just a “yes man,” their investment in you will have great returns.