Business Plan worksheet and Market Research

CaptureComprehensive business plans are critical elements in the start-up process. To effectively plan the future of your business you must analyze industry trends in relation to the needs of your desired market. This information will equip you to make calculated decisions as you move forward with your idea.

Business information is some of the most difficult information to locate and you’re not expected to find it alone. Across Michigan you’ll find Business Resource Centers (BRCs), sponsored by the Michigan Small Business Development Center, staffed by friendly business librarians ready to help you locate the research necessary to complete your business plan.

To guide entrepreneurs through the process of industry and market research, and in conjunction with the I-69 Corridor Region SBDC office, I’ve created this Business Plan Worksheet to help organize the information you collect. Every resource mentioned is available free of charge through your local library. If your library doesn’t offer the resource mentioned, ask a librarian about an alternative. Be sure to review SBDC’s Guide to Starting and Operating a Small Business publication for a complete checklist and more information on start-up in Michigan. The research skills you gain will be valuable throughout the life of your business as you grow and adapt to the changing market.  

Weekly Resource #8 – Michigan eLibrary


In addition to the plethora of digital resources already available to residents through MeL, Michigan’s eLibrary, state funding just made even more research and reference materials available to businesses and entrepreneurs.  (A quick internet search confirmed other states offer similar services.)

How Do These Resources Help You and Your Business?

Research and data are critical at every stage of business development and growth.  While it’s widely assumed entrepreneurs are risk takers, the truth is, people who start and grow successful ventures mitigate real and perceived risks through very careful planning and analysis of relevant data at every stage of the process.

In the Idea or Startup Stage, data is used to identify competitors, define your customer demographic, estimate product or service costs, validate market needs, and prepare the financial section of your business plan in order to secure funding.

Established business poised for growth can use these research tools to analyze the competition, identify new markets, learn about exporting regulations and opportunities, and explore new product or service deliveries.

All businesses involved in product development needs data to analyze the competition, validate a market need for the concept, determine the best materials and processes for manufacturing, understand target customers and how to reach them, apply for and secure a patent, and determine the costs and price of your goods.

What’s Available?

DemographicsNow: Business & People – Business & demographic data to assess business viability, create sales leads & mailing lists, complete location analysis and business plans, analyze population trends, and find potential sponsors and donors.

Business Insights: Global – A variety of international learning and research tools organized by country, company, and industry.

BusinessDecision – Uses Census data and state of the art mapping technology to present consumer market data, including the Tapestry lifestyle segmentation system, consumer spending data, demographic & housing data, population estimates, and forecasts.

A complete listing of business and job resources available can be found here.

“Money, It’s a Gas.” – Part 1

“Money, it’s a gas.  Grab that cash with both hands.”
– Money, Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon

Wouldn’t every entrepreneur with an inspired idea and every small business owner with a current opportunity love to take this advice and grab the cash?  Unfortunately, many aren’t clear about the funding options available to them during their various stages of business development and, therefore, often reach for something they’re either not ready for or are ineligible to receive.

I frequently meet and consult with people who have great ideas for a community-based small businesses.  Some already have well developed plans for launching and a great chance of success.  But they need some start-up capital, so they’re asking about angel investors or grant money.

What they often don’t know is:

  • Government grants for funding private enterprise generally don’t exist; and
  • Typical equity investors, i.e. angels or venture capitalists, are interested only in highly scalable, growth-oriented ventures because they represent the highest return on investment potential.

Therefore, lifestyle businesses are reliant on fundraising from friends and family, crowdfunding, traditional bank loans, and community-based microenterprise lending programs.  The most obvious, but often overlooked, financing source is sales.  But that’s a subject for another post.

For now, let’s focus on external funding sources available at various stages in the business life cycle.  The following graphs, used with permission from Han Peng, Manager of Entrepreneurial Programs at TechTown Detroit in Michigan, help illustrate how profitability, time and stage impact your financing options.  The first is general and works across geographic boundaries, while the second adds a layer to illustrate some specific Michigan program examples.  I’m confident the principles can be applied to similar programs across state lines.

Graph 1.0

Printed with permission from Han Peng, TechTown Detroit

Printed with permission from Han Peng, TechTown Detroit

Graph 2.0

Printed with permission from Han Peng, TechTown Detroit

Printed with permission from Han Peng, TechTown Detroit

These graphs don’t take industry, location, ownership designation, or other individual characteristics of the business into account, but it’s important to note those factors can also have a great effect on an entrepreneur’s or small business owner’s eligibility for funding, as can the application itself.  Knowing how and when to prepare and present your ask is critical to a successful capital raise campaign at all levels, from friends and family loans to venture capital investments.  Stay tuned for a future post with those helpful tips.


Weekly Resource #1 – Bizdom’s Online Entrepreneurial Training

BizdomBizdom’s Online Entrepreneurial Training – Module 1:  The Culture of an Entrepreneur

Brought to you by Bizdom, a non-profit providing accelerator services to startups in Detroit and Cleveland.

Bizdom’s 4 online training modules, each a collection of readings, presentations and actions for you to complete, are designed to help you take your business from idea to execution.  Module 1 includes a link to a personal SWOT analysis, used to evaluate the internal and external Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats you will face as an entrepreneur.  These results are critical to developing and executing your business model.

For more information or to begin your personal SWOT analysis, click here.