This is part I (of a five part series) leading up to, “How to Start a Mobile Food Business (Legally!!!),” a La Cocina Incubator workshop. You can read part II on “Defining Your Market,” here. You can read part III on “Setting Realistic Expectations,” here. You can read part IV “Know How to Use Technology (Or Hire Someone Who Does),” here. You can read part V, “Be Flexible With Your Vision,” here
If you decided to build a house, you’d have some architectural plans right? If you’re going to cook a great recipe over and over again, makes sense to write down some ingredient measurements, no? Well, the same thing goes for starting a mobile food business. There are a lot of parts of this business that you are not going to be able to keep in your head and know at a moments notice: Startup costs, Insurance rates, Food Costs, Cart/Truck Maintanance, Marketing Costs, Division of Labor, and Company Philosophy (to name a few). So with that in mind here are the three biggest reasons (from my experience) most entrepreneurs use for failing to complete a business plan:
2) “We’re not raising money for a loan, so we don’t need a business plan.”
3) Reasonable Entry Cost Doesn’t Justify It
In my experience the words “Business Plan” make entrepreneurs shudder; it must go against the freewheeling spirit required to “go it alone” and starting your own venture. Or maybe its that most entrepreuers are optimists and struggle with the frustrations that result from solving contradictions in their plan. But here a fact: If you want a business that is going to be sustainable you are going to need some sort of business plan. Is it possible to make something work without one? Yes. Do businesses without plans fail at a higher rate than those with them? Yes, no question.
What’s important to remember is that the first version of your BP doesn’t need to be enough for you to issue stock on the Stock Exchange. The first version of your business plan should simply be a few sections about 1) What you are going to do, and 2) How you are going to do it. I would also encourage you to add a third section, “Why are you doing this?” What you want to do is establish clear reasons and expectations about what you are going to create, what the values of that creation are going to be, and where you have a reasonable expectation about how this is going to allow you to continue living. At that point you can choose to stop, but I also imagine that once you have a working document you’ll want to keep adding to it because you’ll value it. But, even if you don’t keep revising and improving it, you will have established a benchmark set of expectations for you to return later in order to evaluate your progress and assess your successes (or failures).
2. “We’re not raising money from a bank, so why do we need a Business Plan?”
What if you flip that around? Would you spend your own money, and risk your own future, on something that a Bank would turn down flat? Don’t you want to know why they’d turn your down? Or how about another way of looking at it: Do you want to purposely ignore the possibility of raising some money in the future? The basic truth is: Regardless of whether you are going to a bank or not, you deserve to be honest with yourself (and your friends and family who might contribute) about your assumptions for this business you are creating, and how you are going to make money.
3. Low Entry Cost = Less Need for A Business Plan
Many small entrepreneurs simply feel that if the entry costs are low enough, that the business qualifies as a hobby and doesn’t require planning. While it may be true that the latest, greatest, road bike for Triathlons might cost the same as your new food cart (around $8000), what you also need to remember is all the hours of training and planning that go into successful participation in a marathon or triathlon. Its not simply a matter of getting on the bike and riding for 100 miles. There are hundreds (maybe thousands of hours) that go into preparing for a race. The same goes for any food business (and especially the mobile food business). Your time is valuable, even if the upfront investment isn’t that great. If this is a hobby, consider a solid business plan your training period. You owe it to yourself to put in the time.
Continue to Part II: Define your Market
Continue to Part III: Set Realistic Expectations
Continue to Part IV: Know How to Use Technology (or Hire Someone Who Does)
Continue to Part V: Be Flexible With Your Vision
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