Today I reached the point in my coffee education where I felt ready to begin developing the first iteration of my business plan.

The problem is that I have endless ideas, some of which I have formally developed in a binder, and am only now starting to figure out how to transcribe and articulate those ideas in the form of a business plan. Much easier said than done..

I once read about a clock-maker, or 'timepiece' maker, who was renowned for his artistic brilliance and ability. When asked why he did not take up sculpting or some other art form that would allow him a greater degree of flexibility to be creative, he stated that a blank canvas was too intimidating. The point is that people like to have boundaries and limitations, because then we have waypoints and a bit of guidance from which to then create our masterpieces.

I want to type this business plan until my fingers fall off, but the trouble is getting started. The blank canvas still feels a bit intimidating..

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Comment by Mike M on January 12, 2010 at 3:59am
Hi Victoria!

I was able to get my hands on an example of one (unfortunately, in a moment of weakness I paid for it) and have been reviewing each section and rewriting everything, section by section. The organization and an example of what kind of information each section covers helped tremendously.

As I tried to illustrate with the timepiece maker example, it was the difference between being told to paint a completely imaginary landscape and being told to paint the landscape in front of you. Both will take work, both are still subject to your personal interpretation and such, but having something to provide a picture to work from makes a big difference. At least it did for me!

I don't have a name or logo or design worked out yet. I've been a focused more on the marketing (traditional and non-conventional), customer service ideas, employee management, etc. That's more for an operational business plan and other supporting documents, but I haven't really nailed down my brand identity yet with respect to the customers and the area. I've had some ideas for the brand necessities, but nothing has really hit me as THE idea for each piece.

I have limited restaurant/service experience working as a co-manager of a student-run business when I was studying for a Bachelor's degree. I studied Sociology/Poli Sci and then went with Econ (Managerial Track) for my Master's via a night school program. When I get back to the states in June, I'm planning to attend the ABC business/barista training then hoping to find an internship (no need for payment) with an independent shop for the sake of practical experience!
Comment by victoria fallon on January 11, 2010 at 9:22am
Hi Mike,
I too am staring at a "blank canvas"! How are you doing on your plan? I have the name, logo and design, rough drafts on menues...all the creative stuff. Now to put pen to paper and articulate my idea. Painful!
The hard reality is knowing that in this financial climate trying to get money is most near impossible. I am putting my head down and working on research, networking and writing my plan.
Do you have any restaurant or service experience? Where do you plan to open your cafe?
Comment by Mike M on December 24, 2009 at 6:34am
Thank you again Margo!

Sounds like a great book! As I get closer to drafting the pro forma financials, it sounds as though it would be a valuable resource.

If you wouldn't mind emailing me the sample business plan I'd appreciate it! I've messaged you with my email address.
Comment by Mike M on December 23, 2009 at 9:15pm
Thank you Margo!

I read "Bean Business Basics" and "Effective & Essential Marketing for the Specialty Coffee Retailer" not long ago. Great reads! Could you tell me more about the business plan book you recommended?

I studied business a bit while I was an undergrad and grad student, but never had a class that really dug into the meat of the business plan as you were able to. You said you finished your B School in 9 months!? That's incredible! I finished my Master's in 18 months and I thought I was going at light speed!

As far as financing goes, I remember reading about how bankers and investors care primarily about the bottom line. Amongst all the different investment engines out there, they need to know why their investment in one's business offers a better opportunity for greater returns. In a perfect world, I'm sure bankers and private investors would be more than happy to fund the start-up that seeks to better the world in which we live in many ways, unfortunately most investors are looking to make money with money and if there is a degree of altruism in the mission of that company, then it's a bonus but not a prerequisite.

I absolutely agree with what you said about not using the template as my own and then only modifying pieces to call it by another name. My intention is to use it as a template that I can use as a guide when writing my own plan. To use another bad analogy, I see this as the difference between being asked to write a 10 page paper about anything and being asked to write a 10 page paper about Social Contracts or some other subject.
Comment by Mike M on December 23, 2009 at 8:30pm
I was referencing my blog entry above. I had read about a timepiece maker who said he enjoyed making timepieces because being a sculptor or other permutations of an artists would require working with a blank slate. He enjoyed making timepieces because, if nothing else, he knew he had to make something that performed certain functions, had to have certain characteristics, etc etc. The story is meant to illustrate that people enjoy having some guidance on what it is they are tasked with doing, and then filling in the gaps in the guidance provided with their own creative thoughts and actions.
Comment by Joseph Robertson on December 23, 2009 at 8:06pm
Mike,
What is the "timepiece maker"?
Comment by Mike M on December 23, 2009 at 7:13pm
Thank you for the encouragement! I actually just bought a business plan to use as a template. Just like the timepiece maker, this will give me some parameters to work with!
Comment by Joseph Robertson on December 23, 2009 at 6:54pm
Go for it Mike. Time is passing us by. Buy, beg, borrow, get the plan and go to work on it. Above all, if you haven't been doing it already, write every thought down. Organize it later when you have a plan or template.
Comment by Mike M on December 23, 2009 at 2:47am
I've been trying relentlessly to find a solid example of a coffee shop business plan online to no avail. All the sites I've seen want to charge a fee. I'm at the point where I'm almost willing to pay the fee in the interest of saving time and hopefully receiving a quality example to use as a template and then modify to fit my plan specifics.

I have a good understanding of the niche market I'm looking to cater to (college students and faculty) as I was an undergrad some 3 years ago and am not too far removed from the scene (in terms of time). I've also talked to a couple of my old Sociology professors and picked up a few book recommendations talking about how college affects students in terms of social development to better understand my target market. If nothing else, it should be a half-way decent read!
Comment by Joseph Robertson on December 20, 2009 at 8:59pm
Don't look at as a blank canvas. If you do, that is exactly what you will see. The human mind is a funny place to be. If you say something enough, the human mind will eventually take it for truth.
Better to locate business plan templates. If you google hard enough I think you will find free one's.
Joseph
--
Ambassador for Specialty Coffee and palate reform.

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