Women and Money – Women in the Food Biz Talk Business Plans

Can street smarts, charisma and passion stand in for a business plan?  It all depends on who you ask.

Women in the Food Business at the San Francisco Commonwealth Club From left to right: Kathy Wiley, Christine Doerr, Malena Lopez-Maggi and Mindy Fong

Women in the Food Business at the San Francisco Commonwealth Club - From left to right: Kathy Wiley, Christine Doerr, Malena Lopez-Maggi and Mindy Fong

I recently hosted two panel discussions that focused on women entrepreneurs in the food business. Participating were eight vibrant businesswomen in their 20’s and 30’s.  Each had the entrepreneurial bug from an early age, each has boot strapped their business and most had no written business plan before they launched.

Of Passion and Practicality

Molly Fuller of Hands On Gourmet and Kathy Wiley of Poco Dolce are self-described pragmatists. “I wanted to make money,” said Molly. “My father always told me to do it myself, that was the way to make money.” Kathy Wiley said her decision “came down to the stable shelf life and high price point” of high-quality artisanal chocolate. Other participants cited their love of good food, and their lifelong desire to start a food business.

Fire, Ready, Aim

Kika Besher of Kika’s Treats and Christine Doerr of Neo Cocoa are graduates of La Cocina, a food business incubator in San Francisco where eligibility requires a business plan. Kika’s current business profile no longer resembles her first plan and she wishes she had a new one. “So many things change,” she said. Christine Doerr said her plan has changed and there’s a lot of “fire, ready, aim” in her business.  Kathy Wiley (Poco Dolce) started a number of business plans, only one of which she came close to finishing. Malena Lopez-Magg of The Xocolate Bar said, “I did write a long business plan but it was obsolete as soon as it left the printer.”

Recurring Themes

-    Understand the numbers, but don’t get hung-up on producing a document.
-    If you make a plan, be aware that things change and the plan may need updating.
-    Pay attention as you go and you’ll learn.
-    If you are self-funded, the decision to create a business plan is in your hands.

A Different Take

I have no doubt that these amazing women will succeed. Street smarts and passion can take a business a long way. However, as a financial planner I see what bootstrapping can do to a business owner’s personal finances and I am duty bound to counsel caution. Here are  my three reasons why you should consider developing a business plan.

Writing a business plan compels you write down the numbers and
decide which are most important to your particular business – then it’s
up to you to watch them like a hawk.

Taking shortcuts doesn’t work when it comes to growing a business.
Writing a plan helps you to think strategically and decide what’s best for the company in the long term. This can even include an exit strategy.

Assumptions change and circumstances change, but don’t make that an excuse to avoid having a plan.  Even if you launched on sheer gut instinct, step back and create a plan now. You’ll be rewarded with clarity and peace of mind.

What do you think?  Is a business plan an integral first step to launching a business? As always, your comments are welcome. If you have any topics you’d like to see here, feel free to let me know.

Women Entrepreneurs in the Food Business Panel
Molly Fuller, Hands On Gourmet http://handsongourmet.com
Nona Lim, Cook! S.F.  http://cooksf.com
Gabrielle Fuersinger, Cake Coquette http://www.cakecoquette.com
Kika Besher, Kika’s Treats http://www.kikastreats.com

Women and Chocolate – A Natural Combination Panel
Malena Lopez-Maggi, The Xocolate Bar http://www.thexocolatebar.com
Kathy Wiley, Poco Dolce http://www.pocodolce.com
Christine Doerr, Neo Cocoa http://www.neococoa.com
Mindy Fong, Jade Chocolates http://www.jadechocolates.com
Dayna Macy, Author  http://daynamacy.com

About Cathy Curtis

Cathy Curtis is a fee-only financial planner and investment advisor specializing in the finances of women, their families and businesses. She likes to work with clients who admit that they need help and want to work with someone they can trust; who are savvy about money but who know what they don’t know; who could do it themselves, but don’t have the time or the interest. She loves working with women who are in charge of the finances for themselves or for their families. Find out more about on her website: About Cathy Curtis

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5 Responses to Women and Money – Women in the Food Biz Talk Business Plans

  1. Kristina July 1, 2009 at 7:32 pm #

    Hi Cathy – Really good advice! I think a business plan is almost essential yet the intricacy of it depends upon your type of business. Sometimes this step can hold hopeful entrepreneurs back from even getting started which I think is unnecessary & so your FIRE, READY, AIM suggestion is perfect.

  2. Nona Lim July 1, 2009 at 7:35 pm #

    Hey Cathy,

    Great summary! As I mentioned in the panel, I did have a business plan…. it was helpful to have that as a baseline.. although reality was quite different afterwards.. My view is that as a small business, the 80/20 rule really does apply. Don’t strive for theoretical perfection with a complex financial model. Rather, it is more important to establish what are the key drivers, and key indicators that I need to measure.

    Have a quick business plan and financial model, but be diligent in measuring the key indicators so that you can then modify and adapt as you go along. The great thing about small businesses is that we are like little jet-skis or speed boats rather than tankers. It is much easier to correct course as long as we remain flexible!

  3. Malena July 1, 2009 at 11:09 pm #

    Hi Cathy, thanks for the article. It makes me want to spruce up my biz plan for peace of mind (although getting realistic about the numbers can be at times painful!)

  4. leana November 16, 2009 at 9:49 am #

    Cathy,
    Not surprised one bit your a choclate expert… awesome cathy… Leana

  5. leana November 16, 2009 at 9:50 am #

    Cathy,
    Not surprised one bit your a chocolate expert… awesome Cathy… Leana

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