Do Entrepreneurs Create Business Plans?

Dan Dannenbaum

I run a family law practice in Northern Virginia. I work mainly with cases of divorce and separation, marital and family law, alimony, child support, and domestic violence.

Did you have a business plan when you started your business?

I did not have a formal business plan when I was first started. I had the plan in my head. My business plan was always to keep my costs down, I could do this by not having a secretary if I had a secretary I could be paying sixty or seventy thousand dollars a year for that expense alone. Also, my plan was to market only to people in need of a family lawyer in the Northern Virginia area.

Do you think business plans are necessary for entrepreneurship?

A business plan was not necessary for me in starting my business. I think it is necessary to have at least a clear understanding of your business in your head when starting your business. Drafting business plans can be extremely helpful in organizing the structure of your business.

What three pieces of advice can you offer developing arts entrepreneurs?

The best advice is to know what it is you are not good at. Once you know this find the best people to do what it is you stink at, and try to hire them for the lowest possible costs. I am not good at getting a thousand documents into binders and organizing them with tabs, so I go out and find the best, most seasoned paralegal who I know can do that. Another thing I am bad at is the billing and the accounting part of my business, this area is beyond my comprehensions, so again what I do is I find the best person who is able to send out emails to all of my current clients containing their financial status. Find out what you are bad at or simply what you are unable to do, then do sufficient research and find independent contractors who are hired on a project basis for specific tasks. The next piece of advice would be to figure out how to keep your business expenses as low as possible; this way you will actually have a greater net profit. The last piece of advice is to be prepared to adapt to changing markets. It is likely you will go through periods of fluctuating demands for your services. So, if you can, be prepared to adjust your marketing and/or services to suit the changing nature of demand, this will better ensure consistent success.

Gabriel Merino

I created an app called Moon Nightlife which is designed for users to find out where their friends are headed on their night out. Moon gives you the platform to get a large number of your friends to all end up at the same venue by checking in on location and choosing certain venues you plan on going to.

Did you have a business plan when you started your business?

We did not have a business plan when starting our business.

Do you think business plans are necessary for entrepreneurship?

No, I don’t think there are necessary for entrepreneurship. They can be necessary to show to investors; we didn’t consult any investors so a business plan was not necessary for us in creating our application.

What three pieces of advice can you offer developing arts entrepreneurs?

Entrepreneurs need to have persistence because there will be hard times. In the summer, our team of engineers would code from seven in the morning to eleven at night with no pay. So, this was absolutely draining. We were literally getting no reward for our hours of work so it can be incredibly frustrating. Next piece of advice would be to know when to quit. Generally, if you’re three years into your project and nothing substantial has come of it, it is probably time to quit. My last advice for successful entrepreneurship: You have to treat it as the most important thing in your life. Everything not related to your business must be secondary. You must be fully committed to your venture to the point of obsession. It should consume your thoughts — you must be constantly thinking of things to improve on, always!

Lucas Millman

I own a company called Happiness Abscissa, we are a fragrance company. The way we differentiate ourselves from a one stock kind of company: we do perfumes, candles, and soap. We have eleven different SKUs which stands for “stock keeping unit.” That basically means I have eleven different differentiated products with their own barcode. I co-founded this business when I was in high school. My mother made the first smell called “Eau De Brooklyn,” and I convinced her to package it. I was the one who took it to flee markets and then we trial ran to great success.

Did you have a business plan when you started your business?

No, I had to get rid of all the dead stock, that was my business plan. We had a hundred of each made of the soap and the perfume, so I had to go out and get rid of it. We immediately decided to re-stock and launch two new products.

Do you think business plans are necessary for entrepreneurship?

I am a “small potatoes” entrepreneur, so I’ve made in profit ten-thousand dollars off of this venture, which is great for a college kid, but that’s not even a year of rent in New York City. If you are serious about becoming an entrepreneur first and not doing a side hustle, like me, then yeah you need a business plan.

What three pieces of advice can you offer developing arts entrepreneurs?

What we didn’t do, is we did not think first of what our product name should be; we made the product first and then decided how to sell them. I think this should be flipped. You should have a marketing ethos and not a product ethos. Start being a salesman and putting consumer-side first before going e-commerce, which is where I went; so you have to talk to people and learn what they think. That is difficult because to have a marketing ethos you have to already know how people think. The final piece of advice I have is, I don’t know, get comfortable sleeping less because it’s a lot of work.

Blake Dannenbaum conducted these interviews for the Developing an Arts Venture Plan class in Meadows School of the Arts, SMU.

The following is Dannenbaum’s analysis, seeking to identify whether entrepreneurs create plans or not. 

Interview Analysis

I interviewed three different men, all hailing from different locations around the country, with varying interests, expertise, products, and services. Dan Dannenbaum was a practicing family lawyer for over a decade before he decided to start his own business of the same service. Gabriel Merino is a Lyle school of engineering major at SMU and a very experienced coder. Finally, Lucas Millman was a senior in high school when he started his fragrance company, he came from a family of the same business, so he was able to gain the knowledge of the business over the course of his time growing up.

It was quite interesting to discover that not one of the interviewees had a formal business plan when they began their business. Their business plans were much more informal, and in most cases, they knew their business plan so well they didn’t feel it was necessary to formalize it. Not surprisingly, since none of the interviewees had business plans for their businesses, none of them felt they were a necessary piece for entrepreneurship, or at least for the sector or scale they were working with.

All of the interviewees had the same overall message: you need to fully grasp what your skills are, don’t wander into areas of ability unless you really know that you are capable of those skills. The entrepreneurs all spoke with passion and vigor in their voices, this is a trait common in successful entrepreneurs, and they back up this zeal in their work ethic. You must have this tireless passion to successfully start your own business, this trait trumps all others, such as education. If you are passionate enough about your business, you will seek education of what you must know over the course of creating your business.

Patterns are seen when examining these three interviews for similar themes to successful developing arts entrepreneurship. One pattern is universal among the three interviewees: hard work is the most vital ethos of a successful business. For all the business starters, they felt it is necessary, especially in the incipient stages, to put their start-up as the number one thing in their life. Two of the entrepreneurs even discussed having to sacrifice their normal sleep cycle for the good of their business.

The most important advice I either learned directly though the words of the interviewees or through the analysis of their business is, you must have an unwavering commitment to your venture. This commitment will probably be in effect for a year or years into the starting of your company. This commitment can only be lessened once your company reaches a stage where aspects of it become self-sufficient.



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