QUIANA CORDÉ, 34
Business Barazzo Bags
Web Site barazzo.com
MY CONCEPT: In 2007 I launched a company that sells high-end custom gift bags for celebratory events and retailers. Before the launch, I created a business plan that focused on marketing. My goal was to source spa accessories and package them inside chocolate and pink gift bags with Swarovski crystals for women. I also made chocolate and blue bags for men with a custom robe and a men's shaving kit. At the ESPY Awards, awardees and VIPs received gift cards for the bags. They loved the packaging, color scheme and plushness of the robes, resulting in higher sales.
MY CAPITAL IDEA: I self-financed the business and competed in the Miller-Coors Urban Entrepreneur Series Business Plan Competition (millercoorsmues.com) with hopes of winning $50,000. The first time I entered in 2009 I didn't advance because my plan's financial information was lacking. After taking a marketing course and working on my plan for three months while pursuing an M.B.A. at Strayer University, I reentered the next year and won $25,000. We offer custom packaging and private label services for individuals and companies. Our 2011 sales were close to $45,000.
MY CHALLENGE: As is the case for many entrepreneurs, figuring out the financials was the difficult part. Software programs like QuickBooks were a big help. You can also take a continuing education accounting class at a local college. I also let several friends who knew less about my business read the plan to address any questions.
MY ADVICE: Writing a business plan may seem overwhelming, but it's worth the effort. It eliminates the chance of wasting time and money on an approach that doesn't work, and it helps you understand your industry and how to succeed.
A three-step start-up guide:
STEP 1 Write a plan. Go to sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/starting-managing-business/starting-business/writing-business-plan for a template.
STEP 2 Research business licenses and permits. Log on to sba.gov/content/business-licenses-and-permits for guidance.
STEP 3 Register your business. Visit sba.gov/content/register-your-fictitious-or-doing-business-dba-name for information.
Monique Greenwood is co-owner and CEO of Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns (akwaabainns.com), an upscale hospitality collection.