Business planning is an important exercise for any business, and of course, there are certain areas of the plan which will be specific to creating your own men’s fashion brand.
Before delving into the specifics of how to write a business plan, let’s first examine why it is important to write one:
- Sets your direction – I am sure you can think of a trip abroad, where you wished you had spent a little more time planning ahead. The same is true for your business. You get more out of the experience with at least some level of planning, which makes for better execution.
- Funding Your Business– Garments produced in high volume cost money and lots of it. Therefore you will probably be looking at raising capital whether it be through an angel investor, family, government grants, crowdfunding or through loans. Each one of these options will require some level of a business plan. Even before lodging your own hard-earned savings into a business account, it makes sense to go through the exercise of putting pen to paper, because very quickly you will realize if you are as committed as you think you are.
- De-Cluttering Your Mind – If you are an entrepreneur at heart, chances are that your mind is one very cluttered place. With inspirational spurts coming at the most inconvenient of times, and ideas popping into your head round the clock, it will be hard to keep the road ahead clear and to prioritize the tasks at hand. Only the ideas worth thinking about will end up making their way onto your plan, with less feasible ones becoming more obvious when you are forced to actually write them down.
- Forces you to Solve Problems –Sometimes it is easy to take the beginning steps in a new project or initiative, but not so easy to keep consistent with knocking through problems. A detailed business plan will actually force you to solve problems prior to ever actually having to face them. For example, you will need to know where your product will be made, how much it will cost, how it will be delivered, how you will sell it, etc.
So now that we have covered why you would write a business plan, let’s discuss how. I have said it before and I will say it again, that your business plan should be the bare minimum depending on the stage that you are at. Meaning that if you are just trying to set your own direction and self-funding, a 10-page document will be fine. If, on the other hand, you are approaching a seasoned investor for several thousand in seed funding, you will need to be more thorough. Planning should be an activity, but not the primary activity you carry out in getting off the ground. Trust me, it is extremely easy to fall into this trap.
The saying less is more is true and most definitely true when it comes to getting your business plan in the hands of someone who is most likely a very busy decision-maker. That is why I would strongly advocate for an approach where you have an Overview Deck for quick viewing, in addition to your more detailed plan. We had an inhouse graphic designer and photographer, with this deck being through several iterations.
However, in the beginning, you shouldn’t go out spending money on this kind of material, but the content is what is most important. Excepting applying for investment. This is a time where proper branding and professional content will go a long way to showing you mean business. But in terms of the content, here are the topics which I believe are key to address:
- An Introduction to Your Business – Why did you start this business? Are you one brand, or a reseller of multiple brands? Do you design your own garments, or are you dropshipping someone else’s products? Or maybe you are positioning yourself as a lifestyle brand which sells clothes right now, with the potential to become any number of indefinite possibilities.
- Customer Value Proposition – What problems does your customer face right now, and how do you solve them?
- Buyer Personas – A semi-fictional representation of people who you believe are the most likely to buy your products.
- Market Research – By what methods did you create your buyer personas and what evidence do you have that they will purchase your products?
- Your Product – Details of your product with some initial designs and details around branding, trimmings, fabric and unique aspects.
- A Competitor Analysis – Who is out there right now and how do you differ from them? Be completely open and honest with both yourself and the reader here because you are doing no one any favors by ignoring the competition. Competitors can actually help confirm that you are going down the right path.
- Your Supply Chain– How you will get the product from idea to your customer. Are you going to entrust your warehousing, logistics and delivery completely to an e-fulfillment company? There are plenty of them out there and this could make sense if you are dealing with a very high margin product.
- Cost Base and Margin – This will be the area of most interest to any potential sources of finance and should be the most important piece to you because cash flow is the highest priority on your business’s hierarchy of needs.
As mentioned you can go into more detail depending on your audience, but the truth is that cash flow projections and market strategy are largely hypothetical until you start executing. They certainly help but will in no way be accurate, nor should they consume too much of your time in the beginning. Take it from someone who spends too could do with spending less time planning and more time executing.