Professional Guidance: Questions & Answers
1. Are there grants available to me?
2. What do you think of my business idea?
3. Why do I need a business plan?
4. What are the major parts of a business plan?
5. What is the difference between primary and secondary market research?
6. How do I do a survey to get information about my market?
7. How do I figure out how much money I'm going to make?
8. Do you think I should incorporate?
9. How do I register my business name?
10. I've invented/written something that I want to secure. How do I get information on patents/copyrights/trademarks?
11. I am looking for a networking group in my area. Do you have recommendations or contact information?
Women's Enterprise Centre DOES NOT provide grants. We DO provide business loans, which are repayable with interest. View a list of grant programs.
We frequently get asked this question. While in some cases we can give you our initial opinion, generally what you really need is research to determine the potential of your business idea.
As a first step, you need to determine if there are enough people interested enough in your concept to buy it at a price that will make you a profit. And, of course, the potential of your idea will also depend significantly on you and your goals. What may not be a good business for one person, could very well be a good fit for another.
A business plan is a vital and dynamic blueprint of your business that will outline the direction it will go, how it will get there and the projected results. Your business plan should reflect how all the pieces of your company fit together to create an organization capable of meeting its goals and objectives. The plan must also be able to communicate your company's distinctive competence (key competitive advantage).
A business plan is also the key document that investors and lenders rely on when deciding whether or not to finance the business venture. With this in mind, your business plan should reflect a strong degree of professionalism and organization.
While preparing your business plan, try to put yourself in the shoes of the reader. Ask yourself, "As an investor, would I finance this business based on the information provided?" Remember, lenders and investors don't know your business as well as you, so try to give as much information as possible based on fact and research.
Finally, changes occur; therefore, it is essential to update and revise your business plan to reflect changes on an ongoing basis.
Check out the Business Planning section of our Business Resource Library for free resources to help you develop a great business plan.
A detailed business plan consists of:
- Executive Summary
- Business Background
- Industry Analysis
- Competitive Analysis
- Marketing Analysis
- Production Plan
- Management Summary
- Implementation Plan
- Financial Plan
If you have never written a business plan, it would be beneficial to visit Small Business BC's website and take a look at one of their sample business plans.
Primary research involves going out and gathering data first hand from the source (i.e. surveying potential customers, interviewing suppliers, observing competitors, counting traffic). The advantage of doing primary research is that you can get information on the specific question or problem you need answered, not information that merely applies to your industry or type of business in general.
Secondary research is information that someone else has already gathered and generally published in a form that is easy for you to use. This includes books, articles, publications, internet sources and things like Statistics Canada data. It may be less reliable than primary research because the information you obtain was not developed with your particular problem or situation in mind.
In general, we recommend you start your research by doing secondary research. This will give you an idea of what information is currently available so that you know what gaps you need to fill in doing your primary research. It is common for information to be available on a Canadian or provincial basis, but it can be more difficult to obtain for your particular market area.
Primary research can be used to test whether the information that is found for a larger area will hold true for your market area and particular target market. It is also a way to get information that is just not available in secondary sources.
First you need to be really clear in your own mind about exactly what you want to know. What is it you want to find out?
Draft a number of questions that you think will ellicit this information. Remember to keep your survey short - most people will give you only a few minutes. After you have drafted all your questions, pilot your survey by asking someone you know to answer the questions. Review their answers and see if you are getting the information you want. If not, you will need to revise your questions. If any of the questions seemed unclear to your test subject, you will also need to revise those questions as well. It will be easier for you to tabulate the results later if you ask specific questions that require short answers. You may wish to view Sample Market Research Questionnaires in the Market Research section of our Business Resource Library for question ideas.
Deciding who to survey can also be challenging. You want to ask the kinds of people who are likely to purchase your goods or services. Asking family and friends to be part of your survey is not a good idea because they are likely biased. Sending a survey out by email isn't usually productive as so few people respond. It is best if you can determine where your prospective clients spend time and then ask them personally. An example is getting permission to survey shoppers going into a mall.
Women's Enterprise Centre recommends having your survey reviewed by one of our business advisors while you are in draft stage. We can help you with wording and also help you identify who should be part of your survey group and how you might approach them.
Accurately estimating cash flow can be very challenging. Essentially, you are taking your market research and converting it into a sales forecast. This means you need to be very specific and thorough in your market research. You need to determine who your mostly likely customer is (i.e. identify a target market), where they are and how many of them there are. Next, you need to determine, realistically, how many of them would likely purchase from you, at what frequency and how much an average sale would be.
For example, if 300 people purchase two times a month and spend an average of $56.00 each time (300 x 2 x 56 = $33,600.00/month).
Another way is to try and find out how your competition is doing. Remember, though, that you will not open your doors and get the same sales volume as a competitor who has been in business for a number of years. Be realistic that your sales will start slowly and build. Also remember that some businesses are seasonal and your sales may be lower in some months than others.
There are advantages and disadvantages in incorporating and this is a decision you should discuss with your lawyer and accountant. Usually what you trade when you incorporate is equity (money) for control. For example, incorporating allows you to sell shares in your company, thereby gaining equity; but, at the same time you give up some of your control over the company to your shareholders. It can also be expensive to incorporate. For more detail on the pros and cons to incorporating, search Small Business BC's website on proprietorship.
Before you register your business name, it is important that you take the time to understand the key reasons for choosing between the three major business structures: sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation. Research the advantages and disadvantages of these structures. If you need additional assistance in choosing the correct structure for your business, we recommend that you consult legal and accounting professionals.
Registering your business name is a fairly simple process if you are planning a sole proprietorship or partnership. Setting up a corporation can be much more complex, depending on your business needs. While you can incorporate yourself, many people require the assistance of legal and/or accounting professionals to ensure they get the correct setup for their business.
You can find all the information you need to register your business at the One Stop BC Business Registry. As the name suggests, this site will also let you register for other key accounts you may need for your business such as GST, PST, payroll deductions, Workers Compensation Board, municipal business licenses, etc.
If you have invented something, please check the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) for information on how to get patents/copyrights/trademarks.
Many locations in BC have a women in business network and/or a home-based business association. Check out our Networking Connections page! You can call us at 1.800.643.7014 for contact information to a group in your local area. You can also contact your local Chamber of Commerce for additional contact information for other networking groups in their area.