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Most aspiring business owners waste an enormous amount of time and energy. “How do I write a Business Plan?” they ask, often after they’ve downloaded countless templates.

I’ve been a business owner for 25 years. I also work with an economic development agency and run a network of women business owners. Experience has shown me that:

95% of the successful business owners never started with a “proper” business plan.

Instead, they tested their idea with real customers and focused on getting sales. It’s called getting proof of concept; concrete evidence that a business idea is viable.

If you’re looking to start a business save yourself time and effort BEFORE writing a plan with these 3 strategies:

1 : Create your prototype, with the materials and equipment you have on hand. That’s what Lynda Turner did with before launching Fauxmagerie Zengarry, a popular line of vegan cheese. She produced her delicious, fermented cashew cheese in her home kitchen and taught other people how to do it. When her cheese-making workshops consistently sold out, and people were asking her to buy instead, she knew she had a winner.

2 : Sell your products at farmer’s markets, or at a pop-up event. Arisbe Castellanos solidified her business concept for Mi Cocina salsas and corn chip by stopping folks and enticing them to taste as they walked by. This was before investing in professional packaging or renting production space. At these markets she also connected with the producers who now supply her with locally grown ingredients.

3 : Solve the problems you used to have. I started by first business by creating the service I wished I had in my corporate job as Hotel VP of Marketing & Sales. In the late 90s, sales departments were converting to CRMs, and I knew much of their paper files were sorely out of date. I started a data cleansing and lead generation agency and soon my former colleagues and competitors were my top clients!

Getting proof of concept for your start-up is the best time and effort investment you’ll make. There’ll be time for a business plan later, when it’s time to apply for financing!

What Do You Think?

Please share your experiences and thoughts below. Let’s learn from one another and celebrate each other’s successes.

Thanks for reading!

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