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Build a Better Business Plan

Bypass some of the most common mistakes made by startup entrepreneurs, and you'll zero in on a better business plan.

This story appears in the February 2007 issue of Start Up.

Jessica D. Herrin's first experience presenting a business plan to investors taught her many lessons, including a hard-knocks course in humility. During the dotcom boom, Herrin's plan for an online wedding gift registry called for selling products directly to consumers and also through retailers. Herrin, a business school student at the time, lacked wedding industry experience, so she didn't know retailers would never support a startup that competed with them. "When we presented the plan, people looked at us like we were crazy," Herrin recalls.

But the 34-year-old Burlingame, California, entrepreneur turned out to be crazy like a fox. She revamped the plan to employ a retailer-only distribution system and eventually got funding for her gift business. And before she even began to solicit investors for her latest business, a custom jewelry maker, she spent time with a retailer partner who showed her the industry ropes. As a result, Herrin was able to quickly raise the $350,000 in seed money Luxe Jewels needed to get off the ground in 2004. Today, Luxe has $1.2 million in sales, 10 employees and a CEO with a strong appreciation for the power of avoiding deal-breaking mistakes in a business plan.

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