"I was so confused, I didn't know what I was doing at first," says Marian Fletcher, 55, who has been running a profitable party-planning and catering service in and around Baltimore since early last year. "I had to go everywhere for information. The library provided me with different books about what information goes into a business plan. I wrote to my congressman; he told me about a booklet, available through the Department of Economics' Division of Business Development, that provided useful demographic information."
While preparing her business plan, Fletcher happened to be enrolled in Women Entrepreneurs of Baltimore City (WEB), a local entrepreneurial education program where she received invaluable feedback on early business-plan drafts. "We composed the business plan piece by piece. The instructors would take each piece, mark it up, and explain why it was not yet quite what they were looking for," she explains. "The wording had to be just so. At the time I didn't think it was an easy process at all, but I'm glad they did it that way. I certainly learned a lot from it."
Fletcher says she referred to her plan extensively during the first few months of business, and has since taken the time to revise it. "I found I could get my products cheaper and more easily," she says, "and I learned that it was going to take me twice as long to train new employees than I initially thought it would. I updated my business plan to reflect these realities so it would remain a valuable document."