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How 2 Entrepreneurs Wrote Their Business Plan on a Napkin at a Bar (and Why the Plan Worked) The ZinePak co-founders had a simple strategy, and they stuck to it.
By Gerard Adams • Jun 27, 2017
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
In this episode of Leaders Create Leaders , Entrepreneur Network partner Gerard Adams spotlights Kim Kaupe, co-founder of ZinePak, which creates fan merchandise like a magazine, magnets and patches. Kaupe explains how she and co-founder Brittany Hodak came up with ZinePak's business model on a napkin at a bar. The entire plan was just two simple steps:
- Make money.
That's it. But, by following those two simple steps, Kaupe and Hodak have transformed ZinePak into a sustainable business model. Click play to learn more about how they did it.
See more episodes of Leaders Create Leaders Season 1 and 2 on Gerard Adam's YouTube channel .
Related: Why You Need to Work for Your Opportunity, Not Wait for One
Entrepreneur Network is a premium video network providing entertainment, education and inspiration from successful entrepreneurs and thought leaders. We provide expertise and opportunities to accelerate brand growth and effectively monetize video and audio content distributed across all digital platforms for the business genre.
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Entrepreneur, angel investor, self-made millionaire at 24
Gerard Adams is The Millennial Mentor™, inspiring the generation to leverage their passions for success and create the lifestyle they dream of. A serial entrepreneur, angel investor, self-made millionaire by the age of 24 and millennial himself, he is most popularly known as the co-founder of Elite Daily. To date, he has built, backed or invested in nine businesses across multiple industries that have all delivered over seven-figure profits. Gerard has recently developed a video series, Leaders Create Leaders , to offer a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. Learn more at GerardAdams.com
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Why your business plan should fit on a napkin
One of my favorite quotes comes from Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who was asked if he did customer research. His answer was "It's not the customer's job to know what they want."
Why is it that truly great leaders seem to get right to the point? Bold clarity does not take more than a few words.
The Power of the Napkin
Why do so many business plans for new ventures turn into dozens, or even hundreds of pages? My return challenge is always the same: “Send me your idea on a napkin.”
If you have a great idea, you can capture the vision for it in a sentence. Encapsulate the strategy in a few bullet points. Projections in a couple of numbers. And wouldn’t an actual picture of the customer be nice, instead of a table of demographic data?
Okay, if you need tons of data to sell some uptight financial analyst who can’t form an opinion without of mountain of detail, fine. But you should certainly attach the napkin to the top of the package. And since some of my best ventures started over a long lunch with the founder, the napkin approach will fit right in where some of the best ideas take form.
Do You Have a Valid Dream, or an Unrealistic Fantasy?
The longer the business plan, the greater the fantasy that the idea will become a viable commercial success. Dreams drive entrepreneurs and are good things. Long plans support fantasy, and rarely seem to lead anywhere. To make sure your dream doesn’t stall out, ask yourself:
What action can I take today? Do you have that business plan already written out? How about an elevator pitch? If so, it’s time to test your idea. Make it fit on a napkin. GO.
What is my 5-day plan? So, 5-year plans can be important for helping you understand in what direction you want to drive your business, but most successful entrepreneurs focus on their 5-day plans. What can you accomplish in the next week that will get you closer to your 5-year goal.
Who can I talk to? Advice about your business plan is always helpful…unless it’s coming from a biased party. It’s time to start talking to those fellow entrepreneurs who are further down pipeline. How did they kick-start their ideas? And how are they accomplishing their goals?
Why should I never throw away my napkins? Okay, you’ve got your business plan down on your napkin but suddenly it’s not looking so great. Don’t chuck it. All it takes is a tiny kernel to sprout a fruitful idea. It may just need some time to grow.
I wonder, did the plan for the initial version of the iPod fit on a napkin? You know the answer.
Check out Toptal's breakdown of the key skills and attributes you'd want in a business plan consultant here .
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A business plan is a document that outlines your vision for your business . It describes your big-picture dream for where your company is going but also includes some of the nuts-and-bolts steps you’ll need to take to make your dream a reality.
You’ll use your business plan to:
- Stay on track—Your plan can help you set out the exact steps you’ll need to take to develop your business so that you always know what comes next.
- Measure your progress—Put some milestones in your business plan that you can check off as your company grows.
- Court investors—Prospective backers will want to know that you have a realistic plan and may have questions about nitty-gritty details, such as any financial projections.
- Recruit employees and partners—Having a realistic vision can help persuade top-notch employees, customers, and partners to work with you.
“We have a strategic plan. It’s called ‘doing things.’ “ —Herb Kelleher
Your business plan can be as simple or as detailed as you choose to make it. Some business plans are drawn up on the back of a napkin. Others can be as long as a book.
You can consider including the following in your business plan:
- Executive summary—A quick overview of your whole plan.
- Business description—The basics of your business model and what your company has accomplished so far.
- Market analysis—Who are your customers and who are your competitors?
- Organization and management—What’s your company’s legal structure ? Who are the superstars on your team?
- Marketing plans—Your plan for getting the word out about your business and finding customers.
- Funding needs—How much money do you need to get off the ground?
- Financial projections—Your best estimate of your company’s sales and profits for its first few years.
“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.“ —Eleanor Roosevelt
Here are some important things to keep in mind as you draft your business plan:
- Trends: Consider who will use your product or service and how fast that market is growing (or whether it’s there at all). Online research or focus groups might help. What you learn can help you refine your plan.
- Audience: Write your business plan for its intended audience. For example, if you’re planning to find investors or ask a bank for a loan, research what information they’ll want to see and be sure to include it.
- Help: You don’t have to go it alone. Ask a friend to look at what you’ve drafted, find a professional, or talk to another business owner who can give feedback and suggestions. Family is a possibility but take what they say with a grain of salt. Your grandma’s going to support you even if you’re trying to sell milk to a cow.
A business plan isn’t always a set-it-and-forget-it document. You might want to update your business plan if:
- You’re seeking new or additional funding
- You’re adding a new product or service
- The market for your product is changing
- Your business has grown significantly or undergone some type of change
- You have new goals (or a new set of owners who have their own big plans)
Even if none of those situations apply, you should still periodically review your plan to decide whether it needs an update. If you wrote it five, ten, or 20 years ago, there’s a chance it doesn’t reflect reality anymore. Plus, revisiting your plan can be a good chance to check in on where you are and come up with a new set of goals.
A business plan is a road map for your business. It can be simple or include detailed information about your products, services, finances, and market. Potential investors, lenders, and partners usually want to see a business plan before deciding to work with you.
- Southwest Airlines, Shark Week, trickle-down economics, and no fewer than four Pixar movies were all supposedly conceived of on napkins.
- In real-world Silicon Valley, founders are known to exaggerate facts and figures about their business when they pitch their plans to prospective investors. As one founder said, “Being honest in Silicon Valley is like being the one member of an Olympic team that isn’t on steroids.”
- Your business plan is your company’s road map.
- You need a business plan for yourself and for potential investors, employees, and business partners.
- Some business plans will be extremely detailed, while others may be more of a simple vision statement.
- Update your business plan as your company grows and changes.
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How to Create a ‘Back of A Napkin’ Marketing Strategy Plan? Sometimes, you get stuck by an idea or a dream, and you get so mesmerised that you want to lay your hands on the next paper you find and start everything at once. We all have been there, but if I tell you businesses are no different in this aspect, would you believe me? Let’s find out more in this blog post and Create a Back of a Napkin Marketing Plan.
You must have heard that once a famous artist whilst sitting in a cafe’ in Paris’s streets got a brilliant idea for his/her next masterpiece. If I tell you that these miracles happen in the business world, you might find it strange. Still, yes, we have numerous examples of the successful back of a napkin marketing plan.
You must have heard that ideas and inspiration can strike you in the most unexpected spaces with unexpected people. If you have worked in the business world, you might not find it strange when I’ll tell you that most important decisions are not taken in the air-conditioned conference rooms but during tea breaks or our beloved Chai par Charcha.
Let’s get round the table and unravel this little piece of a napkin business plan and how you can create one in this article together.
What is a Napkin Business Plan?
If you have watched the movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, we saw that Imraan Qureshi’s biological father Salman Habib played by Farhan Akhtar’s character Naseeruddin Shah, asks him what you do for a living and he answers by writing Jingles. Salman proceeds and asks him what he actually does for himself, and he replies- “I write poetry.”
Similarly, formalised business plans in the organisation explain the vision, strategies and mission to the outsiders for numerous purposes. On the other hand, back of a napkin marketing plan is the poetry written by firms for themselves . The verses of this poem reflect your own vision and the goals that you set for your firm.
This back of a napkin plan should be the most used document in the firm as it carries your vision, mission, objectives and the strategies.
You might be thinking why not be content with a formalised plan when everybody knows about it inside and outside the organisation. The back of a napkin marketing plan is informal, and as is on the back of a napkin, it can be tweaked and improved as time goes on . Hence, it eliminates the need for commitment while you grow and improve yourself.
Now we know what is meant by a napkin plan, let’s move on and learn how do you create an effective plan using the two most essential things- Your imagination and a Napkin, literally.
How to Create a Back of a Napkin Marketing Plan?
The best method to create a back of a napkin marketing plan is to pick up a pen and the nearest piece of paper you can lay your hands on and start writing your plan. Yes, I am serious, it is as simple as it sounds, but you might disagree with me, and I understand your concern- What exactly to write? What is the plan I am talking about?
Its time I answer you- What are the steps in creating a marketing plan? Let’s tackle this plan first and then we’ll delve into What exactly to write and how?
We all have in one point in our lives have heard the phrase- If you fail to plan, you plan to fail . This is so common it’s almost a cliché, but what exactly is a marketing plan? What are its components, and what do we get out of marketing planning?
I will try to answer these questions in this article and first consider what a marketing plan is?
What is Marketing Strategic Planning?
Have you ever wondered why some firms go out of business like-Ambassador cars, Luna Moped and some continue to run for many years like Nestle and PepsiCo? The answer to this lies in that the firms couldn’t plan properly and could not adapt to changing times and simply vanished.
So Strategic planning is a process of creating and maintaining a fit between a firm’s objectives, resources and the evolving marketing opportunities. In the managerial world, it is done via several frameworks like SWOT, PESTLE or simply by keen observation.
Also Read: Ansoff Matrix – Samsung’s Journey from a Grocery Store to Diversified Conglomerate
SWOT Analysis of Apple [Detailed]
The formalised planning process in the business world should ideally come from the firm’s individual independent units and then is consolidated by higher-level managers to have a consistent vision and mission throughout the organisation.
Now, armed with this knowledge, we move on to the components of a Marketing Plan and see how we can create a back of a napkin marketing plan on our own.
Marketing Plan Elements
Marketing plan elements just like your clothes will not fit everyone and are always different for different firms and even within firms are sometimes not the same. This, however, does not imply that basics are different. Just as fabric, thread, and knitting form the basis of your clothes, some elements are common to all business plans.
The fundamental constituents of your napkin business plan are these elements. Let’s have a look at them pictorially-
The mission will tell you what you aspire for, the situation will tell you what the world is telling you to do. After finding a balance between the two, you will look for a sustainable objective .
This will prompt you to have a marketing strategy using a marketing mix to achieve your objective. An implementation plan will help you realise your goals and the most crucial aspect is the evaluation of your goals.
These elements are a must-have in your napkin business plan. Still, no, I am not limiting you to only incorporate these.
Hey this your napkin, your own canvas and you are the artist. You can use this picture above as a guide but don’t forget you can add as many elements of our own as you see fit.
The back of a napkin marketing plan allows you the freedom to check your elements from time to time. Then you can alter your strategies, objectives or your goals after your evaluation. This evolving process gives you the room to continuously keep a check on your business and continuous development.
You now know how you create an effective plan. It’s time to look at an example of an e-marketing plan using the back of a napkin and let’ learn by example and finally create a back of a napkin marketing plan by ourselves.
Example of a Back of a Napkin Marketing Plan [e-Marketing Plan]
I’ll give an example of a fictitious firm losing website conversion rate even after everybody is accessing everything online after the onset of a pandemic. While pondering over the issue, the marketing officer wants to have a plan to increase the firm’s website traffic by over 20%. He/ She has come with this number on their own.
Let’s use our knowledge and create a back of a napkin marketing plan for them.
The firm has a clear objective to grow traffic by 20%. Now, let us talk a bit about their consumers. Almost everybody has started to spend more and more time online and are going for consumer-friendly and easy to navigate sites. Consumers prefer comfort over other aspects.
The next step is to come up with a strategy to revamp the existing website. The firm will have to look at its own resources and decide whether to outsource the operations or hire somebody to do the job.
The implementation will also include a checking system which will be website analytics to confirm if there is actually an increase of 20% or not.
The plan seems simple right and covers every single aspect. Also, if you are interested in looking at the back of a napkin strategy plan for content strategy, have a look at this video here-
Now, let’s grab a piece of paper and start with your own Back of a Napkin Marketing Plan.
Why You Need a Back of a Napkin plan?
You might be wondering why you need a back of a napkin marketing plan when you already have a formal business plan? What is the need for an informal plan when you already have you set goals written in the formal one?
The answer lies in the difference between the two plans. The formal business plan is mostly used to convey people outside the organisation like the financers, investors to communicate the goals, vision, strategy and implementation.
The back of a napkin plan is highly effective in working through the initial stages of any new business plan, business idea , a product idea or a new issue. The flexibility provided by the napkin plan helps one to continuously evolve and get better at decision making.
Consider if you are the CEO and is launching a new product in the market. You and your team are continuously evolving to better the product, and every day you learn a unique aspect. If you keep updating your formal plan every day, the process is time-consuming, require your considerable resources and is not even required by your financers.
In this case, having a back of a napkin plan will help you be on top of things and help you translate your vision into reality.
And now you have the sufficient expertise to create a Back of a Napkin Marketing Plan.
In this blog post, you learned how to create a back of a napkin Marketing Plan. This entails a thorough understanding of a few things like-
- A back of a napkin plan is an informal plan that helps businesses plan and evaluates their new strategies.
- The plan has few fundamental components common to all Back of a Napkin Plans and is your vision, internal and external analysis, followed by the formulation of objectives. To achieve the objectives, a marketing strategy is devised along with implementation and an evaluation system.
- The back of a napkin plan is highly effective in working through the initial stages of any new business plan, business idea, a product idea or a new issue.
- The flexibility provided by the napkin plan helps one to continuously evolve and get better at decision making.
I am sure you can Create your Own Back of a Napkin Marketing Plan and help yourself grow and continuously achieve your objectives.
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[…] a world dominated by lengthy business plans and meticulous market research, the idea of jotting down a business plan on a humble napkin may […]
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My Napkin Business Plan
I’ll never forget my first business plan.
I scribbled it onto the back of a cocktail napkin on a Delta flight from Arizona to Indiana.
I had just attended my very first training session to become a Certified Life Coach, and I was BURSTING with excitement about my new (future) career. I could envision my new life so clearly—working with clients, helping them to set audacious goals and achieve them, and most importantly, NO MORE real estate paperwork! (I was sooo-oo done with real estate sales, and so ready for a big career change.)
I wanted to map out a business plan ASAP.
I grabbed a napkin and I wrote on the back:
- Network your ass off.
- Start with 8 clients a week at $125 per session.
- 4 workshops a year.
- Start a blog.
- Get on local TV.
(I wish I had kept that napkin SO BADLY. I should have framed it. It would look so nice hanging in my office. But I digress…)
Here’s what happened:
In that next year, I graduated from coaching school and I did EVERYTHING that I wrote down on that napkin. I wound up earning $99,500 during my very first year as a coach.
Moral of the story:
Your business plan does NOT have to be complicated. You don’t necessarily need to have 28 different products and services and 47 different ways of spreading the word about your work or a super-complicated mailing list. SIMPLICITY is a huge key to success.
- I know entrepreneurs who churn out business plans that contain 60+ pages of information—but they aren’t making any money.
- I know entrepreneurs who write 6 words on a Post-It note—and then generate 6 figures a year.
- And I know other really smart, talented entrepreneurs who WANT to make a difference in the world but are really struggling with STUCKNESS. Struggling with creating a business plan. Struggling with creating a sustainable business that serves them and the people they want to help.
Because what good is your business if it KILLS you?
As my friend Denise Duffield-Thomas says, “Don’t kill the golden goose.” LOL
After reading the umpteenth email from a smart and hard-working (though stuck) entrepreneur, and because I do recognize that nothing replaces having a mentor say, “…here’s what you do.” I’m gonna help you slay this shit and get. it. done.
My business model is a little more complex than it was 10 years ago, when I scribbled my initial vision on a Delta napkin. I’ve evolved, and my business has evolved too. I offer international retreats and online programs and a couple other things that I didn’t offer 10 years ago, back when I was just getting started. My income has gone up significantly, too. (I earned 7 figures last year and yes I am proud.) But even with all of those changes, my business plan could STILL fit on the back of a napkin.
How about you?
What’s your business, career, or personal goal-plan for 2018?
Is it feeling wobbly and overly complicated? Or tight and focused?
See if you can get the main points of your plan onto the back of a napkin. Seriously, try it. If you can do that, you’ll be right on track.
Simplicity is where it’s at.
But if you are still feeling STUCK. Girl, I got you.
Here’s what’s going to happen in the next round of CLEAR COACHES SELECT (enrollment is open NOW and ONLY until the 10 seats are filled).
- 8 (1 hour) group class calls via zoom…to build strong connections with a community of supportive women who got you, boo! While getting clear on the content and the homework I’m giving you.
- 8 homework challenges…to cut through all the chaos and clutter and millions of other peoples suggestions and get this shit DONE in a way that is ALL AUTHENTICALLY YOU and SUSTAINABLE!
- 4(:30 minute) Coaching Calls with me…to get over any negative thoughts or spots where you’re stuck and struggling to OWN IT and move forward with your bad ass self!
You’ll emerge from this experience with the following:
- An easy to understand business plan.
- A compelling Signature Program to sell.
- A sales funnel designed to sell your program, including a “freebie lead generator.”
- 20 topics for podcasts, blogs, webinars- personalized for your biz and your personality- (Your content calendar for the next 6 months – sorted out!)
- Your newsletter/communication plan for the entire year – (No more wondering, “Uh, what am I supposed to be promoting/talking about right now?”)
- WILD CARD. I will help you create something else if there is a missing link you need.
All this awesomeness, in addition to amazing friendships, coaching, inspiration, and shattering old beliefs, etc.
A Never-Before-Seen, 6-Month Mastermind with Susan Hyatt
Go BEYOND what you thought was possible in your life & business. Reach BEYOND what you believe your goals “should be” by thinking bigger & bolder. Stretch BEYOND what you’re here to do, let pleasure lead the way, and live your life in complete fucking delight!
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