I have had the pleasure of being the program manager for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA) of Lincoln Square for the last seven months. YEA is a 30-week, three-hour-a-week business start-up program for sixth through eighth grade students. This program has given me the opportunity to think through the process of starting a business from the most basic level. This is a great exercise for anyone thinking of starting a business, no matter their age.
We started the program talking about what the students like and don’t like doing and had them write it down. We talked about the difference between starting a business and starting a social enterprise. Then they looked at their lists again to see where their interests fell between a business and a social enterprise. Then they started brainstorming ideas.
It was amazing how easily the ideas started coming to them. We had them write down all of them and then share them with the class or a friend to get an outside opinion. This step is important to every entrepreneur, discuss your ideas with someone you trust and see what their gut reaction is to it. Make sure you bounce your ideas off someone who will be honest with you, not just tell you you’re great.
Once the ideas were narrowed down, they started to draft a very basic business plan, starting with an executive summary. They described the idea and what they bring to the table, then they jotted down what resources were needed to create the service or product, defined their market and created brief financials covering the costs and potential income. Additionally, they included a basic marketing plan which explored how were they going to let people know about their product or service.
Drafting this business plan in a very basic, quick way that allowed them to think more critically about the idea. This helped some students vet out potential road blocks and encouraged some to change their idea all together.
I realize that for most people, the thought of doing a business plan can move one to complete inaction. Drop the formality of it and just get your ideas down. This will not be the draft you show investors but it will help you decide if you want to commit to a particular idea. These young students lack the fear of failure that many adults have that stop adults from trying something new. Stop being logical and just start writing it out. The logic part comes later.
As managing partner of MJF Partners LLC, Ms. Flynn brings over eight years of experience in small business and non-profit development. Prior to founding MJF Partners, Ms. Flynn was the executive director of the Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce. As executive director she brought her passion for independent business and community building to Lincoln Square and created a sense of place that helped to transform the Lincoln Square Community. Flynn is a skilled and experienced executive with a proven track record of creating a successful business climate balanced by strong values of sustainability and community. This experience is utilized as she partners with businesses to maximize resources and opportunities to exceed their goals.