SII Circuit Program Kicks Off with Business Planning Workshop

December 7, 2011 at 2:50 pm Leave a comment

There are a lot more social entrepreneurs in Portland than most people know. That’s what we learned last Friday at our Social Innovation Incubator (SII) Business Planning Workshop for startup social entrepreneurs. Nineteen entrepreneurs participated in a three-hour workshop covering everything from choosing a legal entity to forecasting future sales. The workshop was delivered with the help of volunteer Dan Bruton and Circuit advisors Brenda Eichelberger, a PSU business professor, and Tichelle Sorensen, a business lawyer and adjunct PSU professor. The goal was to teach participants how to conduct essential research and write a compelling business plan. The five members of the 2012 SII Circuit Program, a six-month series of in-depth sessions taught by local experts, will be selected from workshop participants based on the strength of their business plan summaries.

Wait, a business plan? Aren’t those extinct? Well, not exactly. Your future partners, investors, and bankers will want to see a business plan, even if they don’t call it that. One VC firm (who shall remain anonymous) says they never read business plans—they just need an executive summary, marketing plan, and financial pro formas. Which, if you add them up, is a business plan. But a business plan is an essential element of planning for the entrepreneur as well. Better to think through each aspect of your business concept and identify problems early on than have them appear unexpectedly and cripple your business later. As Brenda says, “Fail on paper instead of failing for real.”

So, if it helps, don’t call it a business plan—call it a “roadmap to success” or “business strategy document.” But go through the process anyway, because it’s that process—writing a document that explains all the key elements of a successful business model—that will help you identify potential problems, recognize opportunities, and identify winning strategies. If you do it right, you’ll end up with a living document, one that grows and changes with your company, always pointing the way to success and your vision for a better world.

Participants used LivePlan, donated by Palo Alto software, to write business plans

See more photos from the workshop at our Facebook page.

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