My apologies if you’ve seen this elsewhere. It is available on the SBA community site, where it was posted about a year ago. I developed it originally as a donation to the SBA effort, because I believe what the SBA to help real-world entrepreneurs get started and run businesses is valuable. I cooperate with the Small Business Development Centers (check out asbdc-us.org) and the Womens Business Centers, and I’m a member of SCORE. I post this here — or repost — so you know about it.
Also, it’s a good example of an embedded Rebelmouse page in a WordPress blog. And another way to do a YouTube Playlist on a WordPress blog. If you don’t know about Rebelmouse, check it out.
Today I’m answering, with this post, a lot of similar questions I get often in email, where somebody is asking me how to get connected to or hooked up with or recommended properly for angel investment. Here are some unpleasant and unpopular facts about startups and investment.
Only friends and family believe in you and invest in you because you’re you. And that’s if your friends and family do believe in you; that’s not true for everybody. Outside investors, in sharp contrast to friends and family, either believe in your business prospects, your market, and your team, or they don’t invest. They’re doing it to make themselves money. (back story: I get a lot of emails from people asking how they can get investment for their business when they have pretty much nothing to offer investors. The answer is: You can’t.) Or not at all.
About that great idea you have that’s worth $5 billion for which you need $500 million to get started: unless you’re already a startup star, or an oil prince, or family wealth princess, just forget it. Mark Andreesen or Mark Cuban or Paul Allen could maybe get $500 million for a new idea. You can’t. (If it makes you feel better, neither can I). Give it up or scale it down to a $5 million idea that takes $5,000 to get started; or just forget it.
All of you newbies – new to entrepreneurship, no successful startups, no traction — asking how you start your business with no money: Please, get real. Once in a blue moon a foundation or government agency will grant some money, and usually that’s just a low-interest loan, to some proposal that has social and economic value that fits government priorities. We see this in special development zones, some scientific or defense-related research areas, and occasionally with private money committed to social good. But it’s rare. If you aren’t one of those special cases, forget it. And if you are, do your homework, find out what really happens with grants and such.
If you’re still interested in a startup, stop looking for some pie-in-the-sky solution. Get a job in the business area that interests you, and learn the business. Partner up with people who’ve been there already. And do your homework, look up all those web pages full of good advice about startups, including this one, bplans.com, which is full of information about what you can and can’t do. If you’re in the U.S., connect with your local Small Business Development Center, or Women’s Business Center, or Small Business Administration (SBA) office. If not, find the equivalent in your country. Get some real info, and then do the work: do some research, develop a realistic plan, take real steps.
Starting a business isn’t a right. The government doesn’t owe you your startup. You have to make it happen.
Thanks for asking. Our Oregon Small Business Boost day (business plan software free for Oregonians) yesterday went even better than expected. I like this summary from our local newspaper, which tagged it as “frenzy” on its front page this morning.
We distributed 16,200 cards through 85 locations. By the next morning, we’d had people logging in and registering their new software from more than 170 different cities and towns in Oregon.
When some locations ran out of cards, we got them more units, even though we’d run out of the formal preprinted cards. We made do. As far as we know, no adult Oregonian who went to one of those locations to get Business Plan Pro for free was turned down.
That was hard. One location had 80 people waiting when they opened the doors. Several locations ran out within the first hour or two.
Was it worth it? Well, just for the skeptics, this was not a light version, hoping for an upgrade. It was Business Plan Pro Premier, the more expensive of the two versions we have. And it was not an end-of-market version either; it’s our latest, and just in case anybody notices a later version within the next few months, if that were to happen, it would be upgradable for free.
So was it worth it? I’m big on planning, objectives, and metrics. Here are some values:
We won’t know for a while how many people actually used the software to create new businesses or manage existing businesses better. That will be hard to track. We will be asking people for stories.
We know for damned sure that we’ve already helped a bunch of people think about their businesses better. And we’re ready to bet that the massive distribution of business plan software is going to end up helping small business, in general, in Oregon. Which means job and economic improvement.
Our 85 distribution spots were organizations trying to help business, not commercial businesses: either chambers of commerce, Small Business Development Centers, economic development agencies, town halls, or similar organizations trying to help people do business. None of them had commercial motives. Calling attention to those locations is a good thing. It did our hearts proud to see crowds outside the SBDCs, for example.
We met a lot of cool people, doing good work, within those organizations. That makes us very happy.
So we’ll see. It will be fun to watch. If you’re one of those who got a copy yesterday, keep us posted, okay?