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Tips For Writing A Business Plan in 2021 & Examples To Keep You Inspired

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Tips For Writing A Business Plan in 2021 & Examples To Keep You Inspired

September 6, 2021

In today's article, we are going to discuss the factors one must prioritise before beginning the process of starting an eCommerce store (or any store for that matter). To guide us on this matter is the author of this article, Alexandra Sheehan. She has worked with retailers, ranging from Fortune 100 companies to Etsy shop owners, and is always looking for innovative ways to help her clients. She is also a Shopify Expert, and always provides incredible value in her recommendations. This is the main reason we asked Alexandra for her assistance. Let's get started!

Any aspiring entrepreneur researching how to start a business will likely be advised to write a business plan. However, very few resources provide business plan templates and relatable examples to truly help guide them through the process of writing one of their own.

This is why we took some real-world and hypothetical examples of product-based ecommerce businesses to show you how you can write your business plan.

Business plan examples: section by section

The business plan examples we’ll look at below follow this example template:

  • Executive summary - An introductory overview of your business.
  • Company description - A more in-depth and detailed description of your business and why it exists.
  • Market analysis - Research-based information about the industry and your target market.
  • Products and services -What you plan to offer in exchange for money.
  • Marketing plan - The promotional strategy to introduce your business to the world and drive sales.
  • Logistics and operations plan - Everything that happens in the background to make your business function properly.
  • Financial plan - A breakdown of your numbers to show what you need to get started as well as to prove viability of profitability.

Below, we have some real-world and hypothetical examples of each of these sections to show you how a business plan comes together.

Executive summary

Your executive summary is a page that gives a high-level overview of the rest of your business plan. It’s easiest to save this section for last.

In Alexandra's business plan template for Paw Print Post, the executive summary is four paragraphs and takes a little over half a page:

Paw Print Post Summary

Company description

You might repurpose your company description elsewhere, like on your 'about' page, social media profile pages, or other platforms that require a boilerplate description of your business.

Soap brand ORRIS has a blurb on its 'about page' that could easily be repurposed for the company description section of its business plan:

ORRIS Homepage

You can also go more in-depth with your company overview and include the following sections (as we did for the Paw Print Post):

  • Business structure: This section outlines how you registered your business—whether it is a LLC, sole proprietorship, corporation, or other business type.
  • Nature of the business: “Paw Print Post sells unique, one-of-a-kind digitally printed cards that are categorised with a pet’s unique paw prints.”
  • Industry: “Paw Print Post operates primarily in the pet industry and sells goods that could also be categorised as part of the greeting card industry.”
  • Background information: “Jane Matthews, the founder of Paw Print Post, has a long history in the pet industry and working with animals, and was recently trained as a graphic designer. She’s combining those two loves to capture a niche in the market: unique greeting cards customized with a pet’s paw prints, without needing to resort to the traditional (and messy) options of casting your pet’s prints in plaster or using pet-safe ink to have them stamp their ‘signature.’”
  • Business objectives: “Jane will have Paw Print Post ready to launch at the Big Important Pet Expo in Toronto to get the word out among industry players and consumers alike. After two years in business, Jane aims to drive $150,000 in annual revenue from the sale of Paw Print Post’s signature greeting cards and have expanded into two new product categories.”
  • Team. “Jane Matthews is the sole full-time employee of Paw Print Post but hires contractors as needed to support her workflow and fill gaps in her skill set. Notably, Paw Print Post has a standing contract for five hours a week of virtual assistant support with Virtual Assistants Pro.”

Your mission statement can be feautured here too. Passionfruit shares its mission statement on its company website, and it would also work well in its business plan example:

Market analysis

The market analysis provides information about supply & demand, your target market, industry trends, and the competitive landscape. You might run a SWOT analysis and attach that in your business plan. Here is an example SWOT analysis done for an online tailored-shirt business:

You would also want to perform a competitive analysis as part of the market research section of your business plan. This will tell you who you’re up against and allow you to consider approaches that will give you a competitive advantage. Your competitive analysis may look a bit like this:

Products and services

This section of your business plan describes your offerings—which products and services do you sell to your customers? Here’s an example of a post from Paw Print:

Marketing plan

It’s always a good idea to develop a marketing plan before you launch your business. Your marketing plan shows how you’ll get the word out about your business, and it’s an essential component of your business plan too.

For Paw Print, there was a focus on 'four Ps': Price, product, promotion, and place. However, you can take a different approach with your marketing plan. Perhaps, you can select from your existing marketing strategy, or maybe you will decide to break it down through the different marketing channels. Whatever approach you decide on, your marketing plan should describe how you intend to promote your business and its offerings to potential customers. It’s OKAY to go high-level here.

Logistics and operations plan

  • Take Paw Print for example. They focused on suppliers, production, facilities, equipment, shipping and fulfilment and inventory.

Financial plan

The financial plan provides a breakdown of sales, revenue, profit, expenses as well as other relevant financial metrics related to funding and profiting from their business.

Ecommerce brand, Nature's Candy, broke down predicted revenue, expenses and net profit in a graphical format:

They then focused further on their financials to include:

  • Funding needs;
  • Projected profit-and-loss statement;
  • Projected balance sheet; and
  • Projected cash-flow statement.

You can use this financial plan template to build your own income statement, balance sheet, and cash-flow statement.

Types of business plans + what to include for each

One-pager

A one-page business plan is meant to be high level and easy to understand at a glance. You’ll want to include all of the sections, but make sure they’re truncated and summarised accordingly:

  • Executive summary: truncated;
  • Market analysis: summarized;
  • Products and services: summarized;
  • Marketing plan: summarized;
  • Logistics and operations plan: summarized; and
  • Financials: summarized.

Startup

A startup business plan is required for any new business. Typically, these plans are developed and shared to secure outside funding. As such, there’s a bigger focus on the financials as well as on any other sections that determine the viability of the business idea— market research, is important, for example. A startup business plan would include:

  • Executive summary
  • Company description
  • Market analysis: in-depth
  • Products and services
  • Marketing plan
  • Operations
  • Financials: in-depth

Internal

Your internal business plan is meant to keep your team on the same page and aligned toward the same goal and objectives. It would include the following:

  • Executive summary;
  • Company description;
  • Market analysis;
  • Products and services;
  • Marketing plan;
  • Logistics and operations plan; and
  • Financials.

Strategic

A strategic (or 'growth') business plan shows the bigger picture. This depicts a more-long-term look at your business. As such, the forecasts tend to look further into the future, and subsequently, growth and revenue goals may be higher. Essentially, you want to use all the sections you would in a normal business plan and build upon each:

  • Executive summary;
  • Company description;
  • Market analysis: comprehensive outlook;
  • Products and services: for launch and expansion;
  • Marketing plan: comprehensive outlook;
  • Logistics and operations plan: comprehensive outlook; and
  • Financials: comprehensive outlook.

Feasibility

Your feasibility business plan can be seen as a pre-business plan—many refer to it as a 'feasibility study'. This plan essentially lays the groundwork and validates that it’s worth the effort to make a full business plan for your idea. As such, it’s mostly centered around research:

  • Company description;
  • Market analysis;
  • Products and services;
  • Logistics and operations plan; and
  • Financials.

Set yourself up for success

Building a business plan serves as a roadmap you can use for your ecommerce business at launch as well as the journey to reaching each of your established growth goals. Business plans create accountability for entrepreneurs and synergy among teams, regardless of your business model.

Kickstart your ecommerce business and set yourself up for success with intentional business planning- begin by using the business plan examples highlighed in order to naviage your unique path.

SOURCE: Shopify - Author: Alexandra Sheehan - Alexandra Sheehan is a writer/editor and content specialist. She’s worked with retailers ranging from Fortune 100 companies to Etsy shop owners, and is always looking for innovative ways to help her clients.

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