"The business plan was the most difficult thing I've had to do while preparing to begin my business, but I was less stressed by the time I got it done," explains Judy Proudfoot, 45, who, from her home in Alexandria, Minnesota, designs and sells handpainted clothing using a unique watercolor painting technique with acrylic paints.
"Composing a business plan makes you really focus on your goals and to think six months or more ahead. It's a challenging thing to do when you're first starting out," Proudfoot says, "but it gives you a clearer picture of what it's going to take in order to accomplish what you want to accomplish."
Proudfoot became involved with the Foundation for International Community Assistance (FINCA) before launching her business, so help in preparing her business plan was always just a phone call away. Based in Washington D.C. (202-682-1510), with regional offices nationwide, the national foundation provides start-up capital, instructional training and ongoing support to entrepreneurs.
"The people at FINCA gave us a four-page worksheet to help us organize our financial information, and they provided a couple of charts regarding money matters," she says. "Then they turned us loose to prepare our business plans on our own, with the understanding that we could always call whenever we had questions or needed additional support."
Proudfoot also uses the business plan as a touchstone. "I refer back to it monthly. It lets me compare projections to reality and discover what works well, and what needs to be changed."