All businesses start with an idea. All great businesses start with a plan.
When starting out on the adventure of business ownership, you need to take the time to develop a plan. When you bake a cake, you follow a recipe. Same is true when you start a business - you have to follow a recipe. You can't just dump things together in a bowl, stir it around a bit, then realize to turn on the oven, and just hope and pray it will all turn out fine in the end. Chances are if you did that with flour, eggs, sugar and butter you would end up with a mess, so why would you think you would yield any other result when starting a business in the same manner?
So you have the statement: "I want to start a cake business" - now what? This statement is very broad, what you need is to focus - what is your vision?
What kind of cake business will you offer?
This part takes time - do not skip over it because you want to start picking out your paint colours and equipment. You need to think about what you are looking to offer in terms of services and style - what is your mission statement? what is your vision?
A mission statement?? Really? "I'm not a corporation, I just bake cakes" .... if that's what is going through your mind, you might as well just end this idea right here and now. Remember what I had stated earlier - this is a business - just because it involves sugar and creativity doesn't mean it somehow functions in a magical land of icing and sprinkles versus the real world of capitalism and commerce.
A mission statement sets out the purpose of a company. The statement will guide the actions and decisions of the company, set forth the goals and provide a clear path on where the company is going.
Having a solid, sound and tangible vision becomes the anchor to your business. It's what you will keep coming back to to ensure you are on course. It is the big picture, but it is also the solid foundation. A strong vision will aid you in all future decisions. Is this true to my business? Is this true to my brand? Is this true to my vision. It is your checks and balances - it is vital to your business.
So your first step in your business recipe is to build your foundation and set your goals.
What kind of cake business will you offer?
Will you offer custom cakes?
Will you offer pre-set catalogue designs?
Will you offer any other baked items? Cupcakes? Cookies? Macarons?
Will you offer cakes for all occasions? Or will you focus on weddings only?
What will your overall style be?
Will you focus on luxury? Sophistication? Whimsical? Graphic? Modern?
Will you be looking for a retail location?
Will you be offering wholesale or retail only?
Who is your target audience?
So again, what kind of cake business will you offer?
This is the time to sit down and plan - the devil is in the details. Write down everything that comes to mind. Review it. Rework it. Rewrite it. Keep it. Create it. Destroy it.
This process will take time, but its going to be your business recipe, the one that you will follow, the one that you will always fall back on - it's your tried and true recipe to success. Sure over time you may play with it, tweak it, add things to it, take things away, but it's still the core to your business and what will guide you in the years to come. This step is at the heart of your business, everything else that comes after is simply frosting and decorations, but you still need a solid amazing cake to build upon.
Create Your Recipe ... for success.
This is the most crucial first step to any successful business - creating your recipe, i.e.: building your business plan.
Without a business plan , you will not have a vision of where you are, where you are going, and how you will get there. Most people skip this step because they find it too boring, too much work, too slow, etc. Building a business takes time, building a successful business takes effort. If you jump in with your eyes closed, you may be successful but chances are very slim, and at what costs? Your business plan once completed will either encourage you to move forward, or demonstrate that more thinking and more development is needed before proceeding. It will also be extremely helpful should you be looking to the banks or investors for loans (but that's another story). Do your homework, do your research. Be pragmatic. Be sensible. Dream, then work for the dream.
Overwhelmed? Don't be. Just take it one step, one day at a time.
Need more help? Here are several websites with more information about starting a business and writing a business plan:
Starting a small business in Ontario - Ontario.ca
Restaurant Start-Up Guide from Canada Business Network
Writing Your Business Plan from Canada Business Network
BDC Business Plan Templates
ScotiaBank's guide to writing a business plan
Bank of Montreal's Small Business Centre
CIBC's Guide to Business
TD Bank Business Planner
RBC Royal Bank Business Resources
This is just the beginning of a long process....but the reward is sweet! Stay tuned for more!