The Magic of 40

Oakland Bridge

Earlier this week my wife and I had a fun but tough lesson during our French class. Our teacher had us translate the story of Noah’s Ark from English into French. We, normally, translate everything from French to English when reading so we are fairly good at that. In this instance, however, we had to mimic the same form of translation that our brain conducts when we are trying to speak by translating our words and phrases from English into French. That has been hard for us to say the least.

 

The interesting part about reading the story of Noah again, however, was the part about how the rain fell for “Forty Days and Forty Nights.” For me, this was especially relevant because I started the day thinking about what I was going to write this 40th blog about.

 

Noah’s story is interesting and relevant for entrepreneurs because 1) he withstood a lot of hardship in order to start a new life with his family and animals 2) he had to learn how to build a boat while actually building it and 3) he had to walk through this entire journey completely by faith and hope that what he was doing was what was right and what he was called to do. I think that all entrepreneurs and creatives can relate to any one of these feelings and tasks if not all of them at some point in time. In the end, though, the 3rd point is the most important to me. It is the fact that Noah conducted his duties of building the boat and gathering as many animals as he could solely by the sight of faith and his conviction that what he was doing would work to the benefit all of society.

 

The class was also relevant for myself and Jeanesis because during our translation I, like Noah, had to do the one thing in French that is hardest for me; translate from English to French. My former gym trainer and my favorite Australian used to tell me that it is the things that we hate the most while working out our muscles that we need to do the most. In other words, our muscles that are under-utilized are the ones that are inherently weakest and need the most attention. Despite the fact that this weakness makes it more difficult and more uncomfortable to strengthen those muscles, we need to try our best to put in the time to work on those areas of weakness.

 

I think that this same concept reigns true for us as entrepreneurs, creative and everyday people. As difficult as it may seem we all need to look at ourselves and our businesses inwardly from time to time and ask what our weaknesses are. Only then can we work to address those weaknesses and try to transform them into strengths, if possible.

 

I have been reflecting a lot lately on how Jeanesis can move faster and better as we continue preparing for our market test production. As you all know, we have had the usual entrepreneurial setbacks so now we are focused on trying to mitigate those while thinking of ways to improve our current prototypes and launch plans. I encourage you all to look inward this week and think about where you can improve so that you can all be better entrepreneurs and people in the future. If you are like me, however, you will have to walk the fine line between focusing on areas of improvement and being too hard on yourself. So, remember to be kind to yourself and congratulate yourself on the progress you have made while doing this exercise.

 

As always, have a great rest of your week and I will speak with you all soon.

 

Napa Vineyard

During my wife’s last semester of graduate school in California, we decided to take a quick weekend trip to the Napa Valley for her Spring Break. It was such a wonderful experience and the topography is beautiful. The area was recently ravaged by wildfires but we are certainly praying for those affected and that the many people and businesses are able to rebuild and continue to make Napa the great area that it is. This is a photo taken from the Quintessa Vineyard in St. Helena, California. This vineyard is a “biodynamic” vineyard which means that they utilize as much of the the natural topography, wildlife and vegetation to make a more sustainable wine.

 

 

 

 

“By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household.” – Hebrews 11:7

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Sailing On

Sailing On

Hello again everyone,

The past month or so with Jeanesis has been tough, fun, productive and frustrating all at the same time. I thought I would give you a quick update on where we are with our test production. Hopefully, this will spark you to help cheer us on as we begin the final few phases of producing for our market test.

Before coming back to Chicago I had all of our sewing vendors lined up and ready to go. Just as a quick guide to denim production, there are typically three steps needed for production, which can each entail a different vendor. First, the fabric is cut using the pattern you have developed, and then it is sewn. Finally, it’s finished with a special sewing team that applies hang tags, label patches and care instruction labels. This degree of vendor specialization was quite surprising to me as an outsider who never imagined each pair of jeans required so many steps with so many entities. Luckily, I was able to leverage our connection with the group who has been helping us develop our pattern and prototypes and we found excellent vendors in the LA area. They are small and entrepreneurial just like us.  And the fact that they are U.S. businesses allows Rom and I better oversight, ability to easily site visit, and opportunity for better relationships.

Upon my return from the LA area, I began reaching out to the different suppliers to let them know our components would slowly be trickling in, and we’d be ready for production soon. At that point, one vendor let me know it’d recently become inundated with orders and would be unable to sew for us this fall. Once again, I was left scratching my head about what to do, as it was the only group for that step in the process willing to take such a small order.

I found out another small brand we had been in touch with had the same issue with its supplier. They had, however, found a new sewing group close to downtown LA who was a family-run business looking for new customers, even as small as us. I reached out to them and it looks promising! We are setting up a face-to-face meeting to insure everything is as it seems. As a denim brand with a higher purpose, it is paramount we get to know our vendors in person to make sure their facility and their people appear to be in working order for both the economic as well as social benefit of all stakeholders.  Even a quick visit can shed a lot of light on where a vendor’s values lie.

Admittedly, I was somewhat dispirited after the initial sewing vendor backed out on us but what helped me was taking a step back and looking at where we were, how far we had come and what could be achieved with this small market test production run. We already have the fabric, sewing thread and zippers with only a few more POs outstanding.

I thought back to two years ago when this was just an idea in our heads and I couldn’t believe we now had raw material inventory waiting to be transformed into the manifestation of our vision.

I’ve mentioned it before but it deserves to be reiterated. Sometimes, taking a step back and looking at the 30,000 foot-view picture is exactly what we need.  I got so involved in the day-to-day management of vendors and POs that I allowed one setback to mentally throw me off course a bit. Remembering to take a breath and focus on our vision and mission has been so valuable for me on several occasions now.

Recently, I’ve heard a number of similar stories of start-ups who have hit some rough patches. For many of them, turning products and services into sales has been tougher than initially imagined.  I want to dedicate this post to all of those folks out there. Know that you are not alone and that storms will come and go as you navigate the waters of business start-ups.

If you are an entrepreneur who has hit a snag, I hope this post gives you some ammunition to get back on the saddle and navigate your way out of the problem. At the end of the day, that is the true essence of an entrepreneur anyway. We are all, in a sense, problem solvers. Here to make things and services work better for the people that use them. Stay hungry, stay healthy and stay motivated and I will speak with you all again soon.

hibiscus.jpg

Upon our move back home I wanted to get something that reminded me of California so I purchased this Hibiscus plant since its a warm weather plant. When I first purchased it, the plant was just a bunch of dark green leaves in a pot. I was skeptical that it would grow but after a few weeks of consistent watering this flower bloomed and I was amazed. This is just another example of how far a little bit of daily TLC can take you.

 

 

 

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2-4 ESV

Competition? What competition?

kingpins-show-floor

What competition?” We don’t have any competition.” I’ve been hearing that a lot lately.

 

As some of you know, in addition to my focus on starting a business, I recently also became a part time consultant for a small venture capital firm. So I’ve been listening to pitches from early-stage and start-up entrepreneurs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard them discount the fact that their businesses have any competition.

It seems to me many in the entrepreneurial world don’t like to talk about competition. And part of me gets it. Entrepreneurs must have the confidence they are onto a good idea. They do so when there’s no evidence to support them. Having faith in an unproven business is a hallmark of successful entrepreneurship, one could argue.  Perhaps entrepreneurs believe acknowledging competition might make their ideas look less original or less attractive to stakeholders, or derail them from their goal.

In the past, I too have been guilty of not giving the competition the credit it deserves. However, as I’ve immersed myself in the denim market, I’ve come to admire and respect what large manufacturers like Adraino Goldschmied (AG Jeans) and Levi Strauss (Levi’s) have done for the industry and consumers.

So I am a little more open and honest about the incredibly competitive landscape of the denim world. Yet, I am very optimistic we can establish ourselves successfully within our niche market.

According to 2014 Mintel reports, the men’s apparel industry will grow to $82.9 billion by 2018. I’m happy to start with an initial goal of capturing 0.0001% of that market. I realize that will take a great deal of hard work. Yet, putting our initial goal into a quantitative perspective makes it seem much more achievable.

Hopefully, this post helps you realize you can stay focused on your goals and still recognize the reality of the competitive landscape. Ultimately, we all want to create positive change within our industries and address under-realized needs. Use your mission and your vision as your motivation to allow your story and ideas to really show through your product and certainly consumers will respond.

I will likely not be the next Levi Strauss but I would also be happy with my passionate 0.0001% of the market, engaging consumers who love what we are designing and love the “why.” I hope you too can find your piece of the pie within your market.

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“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4

Being Reluctantly “Choosy”

Sunflowers

While we have been tucked away in our shells trying to create a great product to debut later this year (if all goes according to plan) I have been thinking more about who we are and how we want to be perceived by our consumers. This is, obviously, a huge deal since our brand and image will be what sets us apart from the hundreds of other denim brands currently on the market.

Whenever people ask me, “what do you do?” and I tell them about Jeanesis, they always ask me to tell them more about our jeans and specifically what makes them different. My natural intuition is to talk about our unique design and sourcing aspects until I see that something peaks their interest. Some people like the fact that we are committed to responsible production; some like the fact that we will offer colors other than the standard denim “blue jean” and others like the fact that we are based in the Midwest where few apparel brands choose to locate.

I am always glad to hear their feedback and hope that they want to be more engaged with our brand and story after speaking with me. I am slowly coming to the realization, however, that we have to be more specific and targeted with our marketing as we transition to sales and promotion from design and sourcing. Simply put, no business (or person for that matter) can be everything to everyone. Yes, this may seem obvious but it is counter to Rom and my natural instincts to be people pleasers.

Tree

As a result, we have thought more over the past few weeks about what we are most passionate about in our story and our design and making sure that those things come through strongly and loudly. This may isolate us a bit in the short run but it will also allow our consumers to easily communicate who we are and how we stand out from the pack. When it comes to branding, I have found that less is more. We want people to be able to say what our brand’s identity in a sentence or less as opposed to long and drawn out explanations.

If you wouldn’t mind, please share below what the specific message and points of difference of your business are and how you communicate with your consumer. Everyone’s method for their messaging is unique and noteworthy. If you do not have a business yet, maybe share a bit about your favorite brands and what they communicate and exemplify that really resonates with you. How are they able to capture your attention over others?

In the meantime, we will keep planning our messaging while also producing more prototypes. The key is for us all to grow every day we certainly hope that these blogs are helping you all grow as well. Please, make this week great and help make someone else’s great along the way.

Bridge

 One key to our brand’s identity is our desire to establish a connection to the nature and the resources, both human and natural, that go into our jeans. We want to really make an impact on how our consumer’s think about their clothes and shopping so that they can feel a stronger connection to the materials, our brand and the people that worked to produce the clothing. Today, our photographer and my cousin Troy (pictured above) went with me to scout out a few locations for our first product photo shoot at the Morton Aroboretum in Lisle, IL. It was incredible. I had never been to the Arboretum before and it was amazing to see the abundant nature and beauty right in our backyard. I am looking forward to seeing the final images in a few months.

 

 

 

 

 

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.    Matthew 7:13-14

Maze

Turning The Page…Again

California Adventure

These past few weeks have been a whirlwind in the best sense. My wife and I packed up all of our belongings and moved back to Chicago from Orange County, California. This was an immense deal for us personally because it means we are both turning new chapters in our storybook of life. As you all may know, we began our entrepreneurial journeys in California with the intention of following our dreams and passions, so our move was both physical and metaphorical. We moved away from conventional career wisdom and tradition towards our own paths.

 

After my wife graduated last month, we spent a lot of time in reflection, taking stock of our accomplishments on this leg of our journey, and thinking about what we want to achieve going forward. This is an exercise I hadn’t done lately.  I’ve been so focused on tasks and to-dos; I realized I hadn’t taken a step back to see how far we’ve come as a business. Certainly, we still have a ways to go, with many obstacles standing in our way, but there has definitely been progress. For example, I have been able to carve out the foundation for our supply chain in California, which including five different service organizations, ranging from cutting to finishing and washing.

 

Ultimately, I hope we can all agree there comes a time when we need to take a step back, and reflect on how far we have come. This helps us acknowledge and appreciate our own hard work and effort. Surely, there will always be work to do and more goals to achieve but taking a moment to give yourself a little pat on the back is healthy and essential for your future growth and motivation. I know it was for me.

Southwest

Please share below some of your most recent accomplishments and reflection on your growth. We would love to hear your story and support you on your journey as well. Remember, that charting your own course is a long and arduous ride. It will take time; energy and a lot of effort so don’t expect an overnight miracle. Take care and for those of you in the United States, happy belated 4th of July!

 

Disney Panorama

During our last week, we stopped by Disney’s California Adventure Park since we had never been. I, personally, am not very fond of rollercoasters but it was a welcome distraction from packing boxes. More importantly, I thought that the name of the park was especially relevant to us as we wound down our very own California Adventure. 

 

 

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” – Psalm 119:105 ESV

Test Taking

As many of you may know, we are currently gearing up for our “Market Test” where we will be giving our jeans away to dozens of men (many of whom follow this blog) in hopes we get great feedback on how we’ve done with our product development and how we can make our product even better before launch.

I wanted to write a little bit about the test because, sadly, several of our vendors have said we are the only ones they’ve known to plan such a test. Many brands launch their designs straight to market, having already invested large amounts in inventory and marketing before gaining trial and consumer feedback. We wanted to take a more conservative approach so we could maximize our product’s efficacy from the very beginning.

Admittedly, pre-market product testing is not a new idea. Apparently though, it’s not something done in the apparel industry.  Yet It seemed like a natural and vital first step to me. You see, I had spent considerable time in the hair care product industry; an industry that relied heavily on trial and pre-market product testing. So I was familiar with their benefits.

 The company  I used to work for made hair care products featuring natural ingredients such as olive oil, coconut oil, paprika, nettle, and many others.. The company borrowed its inspiration for ingredients from the food industry and the burgeoning popularity of natural and organic foods. In order to gain initial trial of its products, the company created small “fish bowls” filled with sample size shampoo, conditioners and styling products, and placed them next to their full-size versions on store shelves. Armed with a big sticker on the front of the fish bowls saying “Try Me for Free,” consumers often emptied out the free samples within a week or two. With startling regularity, those consumers would come back to those stores to purchase the full sizes and the company grew quickly from there. Our test, in a smaller but equally impactful way, will also give us the opportunity to gain a few enthusiastic consumers prior to our full launch.

In addition to encouraging early trial, we want our testers to give us valuable feedback so  we can make our product as good as it can be at launch. Again, I leaned on my experience in consumer packaged goods where it was customary to test market products with panels of consumers, tracking their responses as they used the product. We even had a “company beauty salon” where we tested prototypes daily, getting data not only from consumers from the stylists as well. The salon was even next to Research & Development so product input could get directly to development chemists in real time.

It goes without saying, that when you are working in the product business, user input is critical in the product development process. Without that valuable outside feedback, you could be developing something you love but your consumer doesn’t.  And in this age of social media, where user feedback is instant and broadcast, optimizing a product before it gets to market is critical to the life of the product.

Besides, assuming you’ve done your job well before going to test, you will get a positive reception and gain brand ambassadors – always a vital marketing tool.

These are the reasons behind our market test but what are yours? What have you done with your brand in order to either gain consumer feedback or gain trial? I would love to hear your stories so we can give our readers a few examples of what they can do with their start-ups. Whatever you do, the important thing is to have a way to let people evaluate your product prior to launch. One of the last things you want is to invest thousands of dollars into inventory that will sit on shelves or in warehouses. Perhaps, those few changes you make could mean the difference between breaking even or breaking the bank.

 

 Beginning.jpg

 

 

This is a photo of our apartment when we first moved  to California. As you can see, it was pretty barren. We had a dining room table and some fold out lawn chairs as our dining room chairs for the first few weeks. As we prepare to go back home to Chicago, I have been reflecting on our time here. This trip, in many ways, has been a true test for both my wife and I and it is one that we are grateful for. Since being here, we have tested new careers, a new state to live in and we have tested and expanded our own personal expectations and goals. We have grown tremendously and we have this one big “test” to thank for it.

 

 

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2 ESV

Why I Blog and Why You Should Consider It

Thank You Overflow

Almost a year and a half ago, I was sitting in the Daystar Center in Chicago’s South Loop at a meeting with one of my business/life coaches, Brandon Neely. I sat there staring out at 16th Street with the daily rush of parents picking up their kids from the school next door. Brandon and were brainstorming on my medium- to long-term goals for Jeanesis. Brandon asked me, “What can you do now while you are developing your product and your launch strategy that will help you promote your business?” I was stumped. How does one promote a business with no product? I paused and thought hard. As mentioned in a previous blog, sales and promotions have never been my forté so I sat pondering amidst the awkward silence for about 30 seconds or more.

Then, Brandon interjected and gave me what turned out to be a great idea. He said, “You are starting out on a great journey of moving away with your wife, and you both are pursuing your dreams. Why don’t you start a blog about your progress so that you can gain a small following on what you are doing while inspiring others?” He mentioned that he and his wife did something similar while they were ramping up for the grand opening of South Loop café, Overflow.

 If it weren’t for that talk, I wouldn’t be blogging. These blogs have been a great way for me to clarify my ideas and, hopefully, connect with folks’ interests in responsible and ethical clothing. More importantly, I really liked the idea of inspiring others to follow their passions and not being afraid to step out on their own. It certainly hasn’t always been an easy journey but there is nothing more worthwhile than beginning your own business focused on doing what it is that you want to accomplish.

I received a great gift about two or three months ago when a friend of mine and a reader of this blog informed me of his decision to begin his own entrepreneurial journey. I was floored, and honored that he considered my blog to be a motivating factor in his decision to step out on his own. In the beginning, all I set out to do was to simply share the intricacies, processes, emotions and motivations you don’t often hear about, in starting a business. I never imagined that a follower would be inspired, but I am glad and I am very proud of my friend for taking this leap of faith.

I say all of this to say that you too should be inspired to share your story because you never know whose life or lives you may touch. When you authentically and genuinely allow yourself to be seen, great benefits could follow, and you will find encouragement in knowing there are others walking a similar journey. Blogging is especially great for those, like me, who may not be blessed with the salesman’s “gift of gab.”

Please feel free to share a bit about your story below with a brief introduction or just a quick comment. I would love to hear more about you and you never know who you may touch as a result. Thank you for following and I hope that you too will let your voice and your story be heard.

 

Overflow Here is a perfectly crafted “Overflow” from the café. You have to try one if you haven’t and you live in the area.

 

 

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:24-25

Ebbs and Flows

Now that we are finished with the general start-up business tips, I wanted to update you on how Jeanesis is coming along. We have been working hard and we have been growing every week as we tackle assignments and learn more and more about this process and ourselves.

 

Simply put, the update is complicated. This time last year we were pulling teeth trying to make any progress on our product development because we had a vendor who either would not or could not properly service us. Now, we have the opposite problem. We have an amazing product development partner who is helping us develop our pattern and making samples as we request them.

 

Nonetheless, nothing is perfect so with every two steps forward we, inevitably, take one step back. For example, I began collecting information for our jeans testers with the goal of having those samples made this May/June but our fabric is back ordered until the middle of June. So now, it looks like it will be another delay or about 6 weeks or so. I truly believe, however, that everything happens for a reason and the delay was meant to be. Now, we have more time to finalize more details and continue tweaking our fit for the test, which will make the prototype even closer to our desired final product. This will give us the opportunity to get better feedback from those involved in our test.

 

In addition, we have been able to use this time to interview new sewing manufacturers so we can use our test as a “practice run” for them and work out the kinks of our supply chain before we begin full-scale production.

 

It has been the busiest few months of our Jeanesis lives and it has been a blessing. Yes, the road blocks continue to appear but we continue to move forward, regardless. I suppose that if I had gone through the “traditional” route of working within a denim company before, things may be smoother and faster but that wouldn’t be as much fun. There’s something exciting about being an outsider and giving yourself the task of solving a humongous problem. In addition, I motivate myself to get through the roadblocks by reminding myself of our ultimate goal and mission. That is to use this business, including its capital, supply chain and network as a source of positive change in the world. Once I meditate on that and re-center my focus, I truly feel ready to tackle whatever is in front of me.

 

At the end of the day, business is really just three simple things: problem solving, decision making and communication. It’s the pursuit of finding perfect equilibrium and harmony in those three simple things that we all strive for and is the ultimate scavenger hunt. More importantly, our motivation for conducting those three tasks will ultimately drive success. Join us as we continue our journey and as we move further along in our product development and let us know how you are doing with pursuing your career dream and/or passion project. We would love to hear.

 Jeans Colors

 Attached is a photo of the potential colors of our final prototypes on our fabric.

 

 

“ ‘No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who may enter may see the light.’ “ – Luke 8:16

Making A Name For Yourself

For the last part of this blog series on “getting started 101,” I wanted to talk about finding and reserving your name.  Names are key identifiers to not only us as individuals but also for businesses. This is the most basic form of how companies differentiate themselves from other companies within a market. I will walk you through the steps on how we reserved our name via a trademark so that other businesses can’t use our chosen name.

 

First off, you have to really get your brain going and find a name that doesn’t just describe what you do but really evokes the emotions and senses that you want to be a part of your brand’s identity. As you all know, our brand’s name in Jeanesis. This is a combination of the word “Jean,” what we intend to sell, and the word, “Genesis,” which is the first book of the Bible.  Also, according to dictionary.com, genesis means “an origin, creation or beginning.” We want our consumers to identify our brand as the start of something great and inspire others to follow their passions and dreams along the way whether that is with designing responsibly sourced apparel or something completely different. So, choose your name wisely and maybe bounce ideas off of friends, colleagues and family to see what they first think of when they hear it.

 

Once you have chosen your name you need to reserve it so that other businesses can’t use the awesome name that you have chosen. For this, you will need to register your name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. If you are in another country, there will be a similar office that handles intellectual property. You can either register your name (or “mark” as they call it) after you have begun selling your product or service or before using an “intent-to-use” application. We registered our name under the “intent-to-use” application because we have not begun selling yet and this has worked out well. The downside is that applicants need to pay to continuously re-register the application every 6-months until the company begins “using” the mark by selling the goods or services under the brand name. I highly recommend registering under the “intent-to-use” application if what you will be marketing will take some time to develop.

 

Now, I can write blogs, but I am no expert on filing applications with the U.S. government, so I hired an expert Patent and Trademark Attorney out of an office in San Diego, CA. Our attorney, actually, happens to be a college friend of my brother and he is awesome. If you would like to get in touch with him, please message me or leave a note in the comments section and I can email you his details. He helped us do quick and easy “preliminary” searches in the U.S. PTO’s database to see if our name would be available. Using his guidance, we were able to narrow down a few of our top name choices and we found that Jeanesis would have a good chance of being accepted by the Office. So, our attorney submitted our application and we waited…then waited some more until, finally, we received the go-ahead for our brand name. Overall, the waiting period took about 4 months so I recommend starting the process early. Otherwise, you have to wait before you can start designing logos, slogans, business cards and websites until you have an approved mark.

 

Overall, it was a fairly straightforward process once we conducted the searches and filed the application. Make sure to really take time in coming up with a great name that helps you stand out. Ultimately, that will be how your consumers identify you. If your name is unique enough, then it should hold up in the registration application process. Thank you all for listening to me rant about trademarks for a bit and I hope that it was useful for you. Have a great week and enjoy the spring!

Plug

 The name of your brand is powerful. Recently, I was shopping for a Level 2 Wall Charger for our plug-in hybrid vehicle. I was reading reviews of dozens of products and I settled on this plug because 1) it received great reviews by users and 2) because it was made by GE and I had heard of the company before. The GE name, to me, meant that the product was designed and built by people who had much experience producing quality electrical supply products. I am sure that other brands also make great wall chargers but I went with what I knew, since I didn’t have a lot of experience with the product type. Choose your name carefully because it will be the way that most people remember you.

 

“The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give” – Isaiah 62:2

Charting Your Course

In continuation of my latest blog topic, start-up business essentials, the focus of this post is on the all-important business plan.. I hear a lot about business plans in daily life, but due to most start-ups’ understandable need for confidentiality, I rarely get to read other people’s business plans. So, when I started doing researching and organizing our business plan, I only had two examples and they were very different from one another.

Example 1: Undergraduate Senior Project

At my alma mater, the Business program is seen as the second most academically demanding course of study behind Pre-Med. This was primarily because of one class: Business Ethics, Strategy and Policy. The class was one of two capstone courses that all business majors were required to take senior year, and it was the single most demanding business class at Pepperdine. For the last six weeks or more of the course, teams worked together to write and pitch a business plan to a panel of professors and alumni. Armed with Red Bull and coffee, my partner and I were in charge of researching and composing the 20-plus-page section describing the internal operations of our desired start-up. In total, the business plan was over 250 pages with about 10 pages of footnotes. It was massive and the Power Point that we created to go along with it was equally massive. We were all exhausted after the final presentation, but it was an amazing experience.

The problem, I found out later on, with this type of business plan is that it is not necessarily “realistic.” Yes, all business plans need research and footnotes, but since there were about 10 of us, we really dug into the details, methodology and references. We got so involved in the details that at times I had to keep reminding myself of the goal and the purpose of our proposed start-up business. More and more it felt as though I was writing a paper to defend the operations and logistics and less about just laying out the flow of the goods from ideation to consumer.

Example 2: Ariel Investments

After my sophomore year of college, I came home to intern in marketing at Ariel Investments. Ariel is a large mutual fund management firm that manages money for individual as well as institutional retirement funds. I loved observing how and why Ariel’s investment gurus selected the stocks they did to invest in and I enjoyed seeing how the funds were then pitched and sold by the Marketing team. It was a great learning experience and an internship like no other. The funny thing is they kept pictures of the Ariel business plan on site.  The founder of the company wrote the business plan on a McDonalds napkin while he was eating lunch there. There were no fancy flowcharts, SWOT Analyses or Venn Diagrams, simply pen ink and a greasy piece of paper.  

This business plan, although sufficient for Ariel since it became an incredible success, may not be enough for your start-up which may need significant outside investment and funding.

I wanted to highlight these two examples because they framed my perspective on business plan styles. Simply put, those starting their own ventures should try to find a middle ground between these two examples that works for them. Don’t get so bogged down in the details that you delay your launch; yet don’t be so casual about planning that you spend valuable time later on having to iron out the details. Find that perfect balance for you so that you can know exactly where you are going, why and how you will get there.

I have copied below a quick and dirty business plan outline I share with a high school business class I mentor. It recaps the nuts and bolts and seems to be a good framework. I’d be interested in your thoughts. Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think might be missing or what you found helpful in creating your business plan. Thanks as always for following along and have a great day.

Hallway

Planning and looking ahead in life is essential. It is hard to view in this photo but there is a (for my standards) HUGE spider in the middle of this hallway. It is very hard to see. If I had not looked up and taken a second to see where I was going, I would have run face first right into it.  

 

 

“Many are the plans in the mind of man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” – Proverbs 19:21