Simple Business Plan Template (2022) – Forbes Advisor


Whether you need a quick-launch overview or an in-depth plan for investors, any business plan should cover the six key elements outlined in our free template and explained below. The main difference in starting a small business versus an investor-funded business is the market research and operational and financial details needed to support the concept.

1. Your Mission or Vision

Start by declaring a “dream statement” for your business. You can call this your executive summary, vision statement or mission. Whatever the name, the first part of your business plan summarizes your idea by answering five questions. Keep it brief, such as an elevator pitch. You’ll expand these answers in the following sections of the simple business plan template.

  • What does your business do? Are you selling products, services, information or a combination?
  • Where does this happen? Will you conduct business online, in-store, via mobile means or in a specific location or environment?
  • Who does your business benefit? Who is your target market and ideal customer for your concept?
  • Why would potential customers care? What would make your ideal customers take notice of your business?
  • How do your products and/or services outshine the competition? What would make your ideal customers choose you over a competitor?

These answers come easily if you have a solid concept for your business, but don’t worry if you get stuck. Use the rest of your plan template to brainstorm ideas and tactics. You’ll quickly find these answers and possibly new directions as you explore your ideas and options.

2. Offer and Value Proposition

This is where you detail your offer, such as selling products, providing services or both, and why anyone would care. That’s the value proposition. Specifically, you’ll expand on your answers to the first and fourth bullets from your mission/vision.

As you complete this section, you might find that exploring value propositions uncovers marketable business opportunities that you hadn’t yet considered. So spend some time brainstorming the possibilities in this section.

For example, a cottage baker startup specializing in gluten-free or keto-friendly products might be a value proposition that certain audiences care deeply about. Plus, you could expand on that value proposition by offering wedding and other special-occasion cakes that incorporate gluten-free, keto-friendly and traditional cake elements that all guests can enjoy.

3. Audience and Ideal Customer

Here is where you explore bullet point number three, who your business will benefit. Identifying your ideal customer and exploring a broader audience for your goods or services is essential in defining your sales and marketing strategies, plus it helps fine-tune what you offer.

There are many ways to research potential audiences, but a shortcut is to simply identify a problem that people have that your product or service can solve. If you start from the position of being a problem solver, it’s easy to define your audience and describe the wants and needs of your ideal customer for marketing efforts.

Using the cottage baker startup example, a problem people might have is finding fresh-baked gluten-free or keto-friendly sweets. Examining the wants and needs of these people might reveal a target audience that is health-conscious or possibly dealing with health issues and willing to spend more for hard-to-find items.

However, it’s essential to have a customer base that can support your business. You can be too specialized. For example, our baker startup can attract a broader audience and boost revenue by offering a wider selection of traditional baked goods alongside its gluten-free and keto-focused specialties.

4. Revenue Streams, Sales Channels and Marketing

Thanks to our internet-driven economy, startups have many revenue opportunities and can connect with target audiences through various channels. Revenue streams and sales channels also serve as marketing vehicles, so you can cover all three in this section.

Revenue Streams

Revenue streams are the many ways you can make money in your business. In your plan template, list how you’ll make money upon launch, plus include ideas for future expansion. The income possibilities just might surprise you.

For example, our cottage baker startup might consider these revenue streams:

  • Product sales: Online, pop-up shops, wholesale and (future) in-store sales
  • Affiliate income: Monetize blog and social media posts with affiliate links
  • Advertising income: Reserve website space for advertising
  • E-book sales: (future) Publish recipe e-books targeting gluten-free and keto-friendly dessert niches
  • Video income: (future) Monetize a YouTube channel featuring how-to videos for the gluten-free and keto-friendly dessert niches
  • Webinars and online classes: (future) Monetize coaching-style webinars and online classes covering specialty baking tips and techniques
  • Members-only content: (future) Monetize a members-only section of the website for specialty content to complement webinars and online classes
  • Franchise: (future) Monetize a specialty cottage bakery concept and sell to franchise entrepreneurs

Sales Channels

Sales channels put your revenue streams into action. This section also answers the “where will this happen” question in the second bullet of your vision.

The product sales channels for our cottage bakery example can include:

  • Mobile point-of-sale (POS): A mobile platform such as Shopify or Square POS for managing in-person sales at local farmers’ markets, fairs and festivals
  • E-commerce platform: An online store such as Shopify, Square or WooCommerce for online retail sales and wholesale sales orders
  • Social media channels: Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest shoppable posts and pins for online sales via social media channels
  • Brick-and-mortar location: For in-store sales, once the business has grown to a point that it can support a physical location

Channels that support other income streams might include:

  • Affiliate income: Blog section on the e-commerce website and affiliate partner accounts
  • Advertising income: Reserved advertising spaces on the e-commerce website
  • E-book sales: Amazon e-book sales via Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing
  • Video income: YouTube channel with ad monetization
  • Webinars and online classes: Online class and webinar platforms that support member accounts, recordings and playback
  • Members-only content: Password-protected website content using membership apps such as MemberPress

Marketing

Nowadays, the line between marketing and sales channels is blurred. Social media outlets, e-books, websites, blogs and videos serve as both marketing tools and income opportunities. Since most are free and those with advertising options are extremely economical, these are ideal marketing outlets for lean startups.

However, many businesses still find value in traditional advertising such as local radio, television, direct mail, newspapers and magazines. You can include these advertising costs in your simple business plan template to help build a marketing plan and budget.

5. Structure, Suppliers and Operations

This section of your simple business plan template explores how to structure and operate your business. Details include the type of business organization your startup will take, roles and responsibilities, supplier logistics and day-to-day operations. Also, include any certifications or permits needed to launch your enterprise in this section.

Our cottage baker example might use a structure and startup plan such as this:

  • Business structure: Sole proprietorship with a “doing business as” (DBA).
  • Permits and certifications: County-issued food handling permit and state cottage food certification for home-based food production. Option, check into certified commercial kitchen rentals.
  • Roles and responsibilities: Solopreneur, all roles and responsibilities with the owner.
  • Supply chain: Bulk ingredients and food packaging via Sam’s Club, Costco, Amazon Prime with annual membership costs. Uline for shipping supplies; no membership needed.
  • Day-to-day operations: Source ingredients and bake three days per week to fulfill local and online orders. Reserve time for specialty sales, wholesale partner orders and market events as needed. Ship online orders on alternating days. Update website and create marketing and affiliate blog posts on non-shipping days.

6. Financial Forecasts

Your final task is to list forecasted business startup and ongoing costs and profit projections in your simple business plan template. Thanks to free business tools such as Square and free marketing on social media, lean startups can launch with few upfront costs. In many cases, cost of goods, shipping and packaging, business permits and printing for business cards are your only out-of-pocket expenses.

Cost Forecast

Our cottage baker’s forecasted lean startup costs might include:

Gross Profit Projections

This helps you determine the retail prices and sales volume required to keep your business running and, hopefully, earn income for yourself. Use product research to spot target retail prices for your goods, then subtract your cost of goods, such as hourly rate, raw goods and supplier costs. The total amount is your gross profit per item or service.

Here are some examples of projected gross profits for our cottage baker:

Bottom Line

Putting careful thought and detail in a business plan is always beneficial, but don’t get so bogged down in planning that you never hit the start button to launch your business. Also, remember that business plans aren’t set in stone. Markets, audiences and technologies change, and so will your goals and means of achieving them. Think of your business plan as a living document and regularly revisit, expand and restructure it as market opportunities and business growth demand.

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