20 ways to make your social enterprise business plan shine

If you’re a social entrepreneur who has dived straight into the market with your new venture but without a business plan, you’re not alone.

At Inspire2Enterprise, one of the most common mistakes we encounter is the complete lack of a business plan.

But, we get it. The urge to get your social enterprise off the ground can sometimes be so strong that the idea of sitting down to spend hours writing a plan to which you’ll probably never refer again seems like time wasted.

It really isn’t. A business plan should be a living, breathing manual for your social enterprise and will be absolutely vital if you ever need to seek funding from an investor.

To get you in the mood, here’s twenty quick-fire ways to make a social enterprise business plan shine:

1. Go into the detail

A high-level overview of your social enterprise isn’t enough – you need to dig into every cost, income stream and customer persona if you’re to explore every opportunity and threat.

2. Grab a mentor

Even the best business minds on the planet have mentors (in fact, that’s why they’re the best). A mentor will be able to guide you through the business plan creation process and use their experience to help make it the document it should be.

3. Treat it like a story

Every brilliant story has a beginning, middle and end. Your business plan should be the same, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to write it as you would a blockbuster novel; your passion will shine through as a result.

4. Answer the most common questions

What’s your perfect customer? How will you reach the target market? What separates you from the competitors? What should customers take from your brand? These are the most common questions that need answering in every business plan, no matter the sector in which it sits.

5. Create a second plan if need be

If you’re going for investment from the off, it might help to create a second business plan that is more of a personal map used by you to guide you through the social enterprise’s journey.

6. Speak to an advisor

Getting completely independent, experience-led advice from a social enterprise expert will help you focus your efforts on what matters when it comes to the business plan.

7. Don’t stray too far from your target demographic

You’ve already got a really good idea of who will buy from your social enterprise, so don’t be tempted to look for wider market segments at this time; that can come later.

8. Show how you’ll make money

An obvious one, but something that is lacking from so many business plans. You know your ideas and business model, but how will a profit be made?

9. Price strategically

Pricing is a major part of a business plan, but it’s so easy to get wrong. Thankfully, the guiding principles are common across all sectors.

10. Don’t shy away from visual elements

There are so many ways you can easily create bar graphs and charts, and some numbers look far more interesting when presented visually in this way.

11. Add to your startup costs

Once you’ve projected your startup costs, add another 20%, and make it clear that’s for unforeseen costs. Trust us – you’ll almost certainly need that extra cash, and, this way, you’ll at least have planned for it.

12. Tell the story about your beginnings

Social enterprises benefit from fantastic stories about their reasons for being. Tell yours on the first page and take time to rewrite and have it proofed and polished by a professional writer if you’re not confident; it’ll make all the difference and set the tone perfectly.

13. Make goals specific

Setting specific goals will give your business plan a clear path ahead. Most importantly, they’ll need to be attainable if they’re to be worthy of a place in that document. If you’re unsure – revise your goals.

14. Get some help from a numbers bod

If numbers aren’t your strong point, it’s imperative that you seek help from someone who is great with financials. Above all, this is one element of your business plan you do not want to get wrong!

15. Explain how you’ll execute the plan

Another common mistake is for social entrepreneurs to document in detail their plans for the enterprise, but fail to explain how it’ll be executed. What (and who) will you need to turn this document into a profitable business?

16. Include some sector stats

What have you got to hand that backs up your claims about the sector into which you’re about to throw your social enterprise? Is the gap in the market really wide enough? Do enough customers exist?

17. Tailor the plan to your audience

Writing a business plan solely for investors is a bad idea. Speak to your audience within its pages. They’ll never read it, but this is for them as much as it is for you.

18. Treat it like a business plan!

You’re running a social enterprise, granted, but it’s still a business! Please don’t make this mistake; it never ends well…

19. Spend time on the design

Although a pretty business plan doesn’t make a successful social enterprise, designing it to be pleasing on the eye, branded (if possible) and easy to read is vital.

20. Ask a friend to take a look

As important as it is to involve colleagues or business partners in the production of your business plan, they’ll have a slightly blinkered view that’s an inevitable consequence of being on the inside. Spread your net and ask trusted friends or family to read through and ask for their honest opinion.

Wrapping up

We’d love to help if you need assistance with your social enterprise’s business plan, but the above tips are worth keeping by your side for your entire journey. Refer to them regularly, and you’ll stand a far better chance of success!