Navigate Startup Course
The Business Plan, the Pitch & Resources to Help
By the end of this module, you should be able to:
- Understand the role of the business plan in the startup process
- Understand the anatomy of a good business pitch
- Explain the basic startup financing process
- Have some idea on resources that can help get you started
Congratulations on making it to the last module of this course! A lot of work has gone into your start – but there can be much more to go! This module concludes the course with a few resources to help get you on your way to funding!
The Business Plan
The business plan was once the main planning tool for a business. As you have learned throughout the course, this has changed for the startup stage. At this point, if you found that you needed funding from the last module, and it is likely that you may qualify for government or other NGO funding, you will have to complete some or all of a business plan. However, you have done a lot of the work so far, and you have validated your idea. Therefore, a business plan should be easy, and it should also be evidence-based and not a “best guess”. So, you should feel confident at this point that you can write a good plan and get funding.
This course does not go through how to write a business plan step-by step. However, there are resources out there to help. At Navigate, we often refer clients to a business plan writer tool by Futurpreneur (link: https://www.futurpreneur.ca/en/resources/start-up-business-planning/tips-tools/business-plan-writer/). This tool has a free online fillable business plan writer that you can access and save. In addition to the tool, Futurpreneur offers financing to entrepreneurs between the ages of 18-39. If you are looking for a way to complete the business plan at this point, be sure to check it out.
Once you have filled out this version of the business plan, that may be all you need. However make sure that if you apply to other funding bodies that you read their requirements. You would not want to miss out on funding because you didn’t take the time to make a few small tweaks! This bit of research time is time well spent.
Crafting the Pitch
Pitching is a key part of obtaining funding and communicating your idea to potential stakeholders. It can make or break a deal for funding. The main rule about an effective pitch is to know your audience. Are you dealing with government officials or private investors? Do they know much about the industry you are in or do they know relatively little? Will you likely hold their attention for awhile, or will they only have time for a few seconds before deciding to move onto the next opportunity? Being able to anticipate these issues is a key skill, and one that can be learned. Have a look at this article that gives some ideas on crafting a good pitch. One point to be critical of is to only take 10 minutes. Sometimes you have less time!
While some pitches are only verbal or by using your MVP, it is also a common practice to use a pitch deck in more formal settings. Unfortunately, people butcher slideshow presentations, and often suffer “death by PowerPoint”! Do not do this – instead, use slides to reinforce what you are saying. Do not make slides word-heavy, or too busy. Oftentimes people use wordy or busy slides as a crutch because they have not taken the time to practice their slides. Avoid doing this, use visual slides light on text, and let your audience focus on YOU. The video below also has some tips on this:
Finally, have a look at this pitch from Shark Tank to compare what you have read to a pitch in practice. What tips and tricks can you see that are implemented in this pitch? What other things make the pitch effective?
The following video is a good summary of how venture capital and early venture financing can work. Have a look at it to help get you started on this topic. While this course does not go into much detail about it, an overview is a good place to start:
Keeping track and staying ahead of your finances is very important in managing your business. If things get out of hand, they can pile up and become something that causes stress. It can take your attention away from growing your business, and potentially put you out of business. The main decision that we will discuss here is whether you can do the bookkeeping on your own, or whether you should hire someone to manage it for you.
Bookkeeping is not difficult, but it can take time to learn and time to manage it on your own. One of the main factors in this decision is the amount of time you can invest in the process. Although it will be cheaper to go this route, you should not underestimate the time required. You should also consider your own strengths and weaknesses. Are you organized? Do you enjoy using the types of software required to keep up with bookkeeping? You might also wan to consider if you would like to maintain this level of detailed contact with your business. Your final decision will be on how you would like to handle the bookkeeping:
- Microsoft excel of another spreadhseet software: these types of software are very versatile but can be difficult to set up for specific functions. It is possible to keep track of your books this way, and it is a cheap service. However, you should have access to a good template (or be comfortable enough with the software to make your own). The better the template, the more automated the process can be. Consider your own experience with Excel in this way.
- Off the shelf software: there are a number of options for software to help maintain your books. Two prominent ones are Sage Accounting and Intuit Quickbooks. They both have cloud-based options, and have their strengths and weaknesses. Do some research before selecting a software. Using software requires some familiarity with the platform, but once you learn this, it becomes easy. These platforms will also be better for tracking larger numbers of transactions.
Alternatively, you may hire someone to do your bookkeeping, either full-time or on a contract basis. It is also possible that they will require software as explained above. It is important to consider the qualifications of someone in this role, and whether it is something you can afford. Ideally you will have contacts or local referrals for a bookkeeper. However, if you cannot find someone, you could always use a platform like Upwork to find a remote worker. You should also note that Upwork has people who can do a number of types of work for your business. Like any remote work, you should do your research before making a choice and start with small commitments first.
Permits and Licenses
For your further reference, you might want to consult BizPal – a tool to give you some guidelines on some of the permits or licenses required for your business.
Your Final Assignment
- Bring your BMC, your VP, and your updatd MVP together and examine them closely.
- Create a startup pitch that you can present to investors. Aim to create a 10-minute pitch, but be able to adjust it to your audience.
- When you are ready, write a business plan for funding!
This brings us to the end of the course – congratulations! You should now be well on your way to getting this startup off the ground. To finish, you should try to craft your own pitch for investors. If you feel that you have developed your idea enough, you can also write a business plan using the business plan writer.
Finally, ensure that you are developing your idea as part of a local startup community. Be sure to stay engaged with the Navigate program manager, and attend some of the local events that help build a community of other entrepreneurs like you!