Thursday, July 14, 2011

Behind on times, but here it is! S.O. Nelson's Business Women Magic

We are lucky enough at C.L.A.P. to have an amazing woman, Steph Nelson, who is willing to share her legal expertise with other creatively-minded women. As a musician, Steph knows a lot about working as a creative lady and has so far contributed two columns to our zine. Her words of wisdom are truly golden for those of us who are interested in pursuing creative careers in ways that involve paying the bills and growing as creative women. Since this advice is so imperative to like-minded women, we will always have her column available online for those who could benefit from it.

With that, here is her first column, all about crafting a business plan, from our preview issue!

I. In my dreams, I have a (business) plan!
Spring is here and it is time for new flowers, new creatures and...a new business venture? The readers of C.L.A.P. zine are skilled in many creative areas and some are pursuing a career in their craft. The purpose of my column is to provide a simple overview of issues that you may encounter when starting your business. If you have ideas, questions or success stories, please contact me!
Before we dive into entity formation and tax consequences, let’s start at the very beginning…
The first step is a simple business plan. This is your chance to put your thoughts down on paper. Your business plan will change as your business grows so don’t feel like your first attempt will be set in stone. Here are some ideas to get your business plan started:
1. SUMMARY – What is a concise overview of my business?
· Mission Statement – what do I want to do with this business?
· Date business began
· Names of founders
· Location
· Experience and background
2. MARKET ANALYSIS – Who is my target market and who are my competitors?
· Who is your customer?
· What is your industry?
· Who is your target market?
· What are the characteristics of your market?
· What types of media will you use to reach your target audience?
· Who are your competitors? What are they doing right? What are they doing wrong?
3. ORGANIZATION & MANAGEMENT – How will I organize and manage my business?
· Names of owner(s)
· Will there be employees or other individuals involved?
· Percentage of ownership
· Extent of involvement
· Will there be stock or other forms of ownership?
· Who are the managers?
· Will there be a board of directors?
5. MARKETING AND SALES MANAGEMENT – What is my marketing strategy?
· How will my business enter the market?
· How will my business grow and branch out?
· What sorts of distribution should I use?
· How will I reach my customers?
6. SERVICE LINE – What am I selling?
· Focus on areas where you have an advantage
· Identify a problem in your target market
· What people are willing to pay for your “solution?”
· What are the benefits to my product/services?
· Do I need trademark, copyright or patent protection?
(We’ll talk more about this later)
· Am I researching or developing any new products?
7. FUNDING – How much funding do I need to start or expand my business?
· What is my current funding requirement?
· What are my future funding requirements over the next five years?
· How will I use funds that I receive?
8. FINANCIALS – What do expect your company to do in the next five years?
· What are my monthly net sales? What is the cost? What is the profit?
· What are my expenses?
I hope everyone has a chance to experiment with the business plan this spring. It is a great way to start thinking about your small business. Keep this plan and make changes/updates as necessary.
Another first step in starting a business is taking advantage of resources in your community and on the web. Here are a few websites to check out:
· The U.S. Small Business Administration has one of the most helpful websites for small business information.
· Women Venture is a great local organization for classes and other resources.
· Metro IBA is a non-profit alliance working to support locally owned businesses.
· Springboard for the Arts provides information and services that artists need to make a living.
· The Minnesota Small Business Assistance Office provides an EXCELLENT publication called Guide to Starting a Business in Minnesota. It is available for download at their website.
S.O. Nelson is an attorney and musician. Although she is a lawyer, this is column has been prepared for general information only and does not provide specific legal advice. Please contact her at