Monthly Archives: June 2017

The Best Online Business Plans

Successful entrepreneurs know that getting the details down on paper is critical before starting any new venture. For help in the planning stages, many new owners use an online business plan service. Such services provide potential investors with details on how a new business will become profitable. Online business plan software offers the tools and templates needed to create a professional presentation that can be put in front of prospective backers to demonstrate where you want your venture to go and how you plan to get there. The best services provide financial calculators and chart generators to help crunch numbers and illustrate the business’ vision in a quantifiable manner. They also offer a number of additional features such as performance graphs and goal achievement monitors that let business owners track their progress and make necessary changes along the way.

The Best Online Business Plans

#1 LivePlan

LivePlan earned this year’s TopTenREVIEWS Gold Award for simplifying the business plan writing by providing access to the work and materials from any computer with an internet connection. For those launching their first venture, the service guides them through each step. By incorporating teaching into the writing process, LivePlan produces not only an exceptional business plan, but also a more informed entrepreneur.

Document Generation Tools: Chief among the document generation tools offered by LivePlan are the table generators such as sales forecasts, budgets and profit and loss statements. Each part of the LivePlan Financial Plan section contains an easy-to-use table generator for the specific table type desired by the business owner. The service also gives advanced business owners the option of operating in its “Full Financial Mode.”

Guidance Resources: LivePlan walks users through each section of their business plan, giving precise instructions for developing each component. The service divides the writing into chapters, including Executive Summary, Company, Products and Services, Target Market, Strategy and Implementation, Financial Plan and Appendix. Each section contains specific instructions on what needs to be included and examples of what investors and lenders are looking for. Each section also has video tutorials.

#2 BizPlan

BizPlan earns high marks for providing a step-by-step process that’s accessible to users of all skill levels. While new users have resources to learn what they need, business veterans have the tools required to formulate a business plan without unnecessary handholding. A highlight is the service’s overall compatibility with other widely used applications such as Excel and cloud-based document creation and sharing services like Google Docs. Additionally, it integrates with social media sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter.

Document Generation Tools: For beginners, the BizPlan service provides a step-by-step guide to creating a business plan, making the process of building from scratch easy. In addition, BizPlan allows users to share and coproduce their business plan with an unlimited number of partners – even those who many not be central authors on the document but still have important content contributions, such as a lawyer or financial advisor.

Guidance Resources: The entire service is set up to guide users through the process with as little pain as possible. In addition to building the business plan, Bizplan offers investor information to help kick-start the hunt for funding. As users move through the process, each section is clearly labeled and explained in order to remove the ambiguity many entrepreneurs battle when they create their first business plan.

#3 PlanHQ

PlanHQ is well regarded not only for helping users write a business plan, but also assisting in executing it and setting business goals. Through a unique approach of couching almost everything in the context of goal setting, the service helps business owners fully understand exactly what needs to take place in order to start a successful business. The service also enables users to collaborate with business partners, identify demographics and size up the competition.

Document Generation Tools: PlanHQ offers a number of tools, such as financial calculators and chart generators. The service generates all these documents within the context of goal setting. In addition, the documents are dynamic as opposed to static pie charts and graphs.

Guidance Resources:While PlanHQ is excellent at helping users plan and achieve their goals, it doesn’t provide much in the way of actual business advice.

Turning a Great Idea Into a Business

So you’ve got a great business idea. Now what? Often, that’s where would-be entrepreneurs get stuck. They have no idea how to turn their business idea into a business plan.

Charles Lee, CEO of Ideation, has some advice on how to take the next step. His companyspecializes in turning good ideas into successful brands by developing innovative business strategies and infrastructure, strong brand presence, memorable visual identities and design, creative marketing, new media public relations strategies and a strong Web presence.

3 Steps To: Turning a Great Idea Into a Business

Lee, the author of the book”Good Idea. Now What?” (John Wiley & Sons, 2012),  said he has seen a lot of great business idea never make it beyond the idea stage.

Ideas are sexy,” Lee said. “They are attractive, unbridled and full of inspired passion. There’s no doubt that ideas are fun to think about, share and platform.”

Unfortunately, he said, many people with good (or even great) ideas will never see their ideas actualized. In fact, many will end up taking their ideas to the grave.

“In a world where ideas are a dime-a-dozen, it’s imperative that we focus on idea-making rather than idea-loving,” Lee said. Here are three initial steps you can take in turning your great idea into a viable business:

1. Stop talking and start writing

Recent studies have shown that people who immediately talk about their new ideas are less likely to actually implement them. Talking about an idea prior to doing some initial processing on paper tricks our brains into thinking that we are actually doing something about the concept.

While sharing definitely has its benefits and is highly recommended in the overall idea-making process, taking the time to document our thoughts on paper first will provide greater focus and a practical point of reference for development. It’s difficult to move ideas forward when it remains in the world of “he said, she said.”

2. Do the hard work of clarifying an idea

Business ideas that stick with customers are usually easy to understand and engage. This requires us to do the hard work of simplifying and clarifying concepts. Hype may initially sell our idea, but it will never sustain it. Carve out the hoopla that surrounds your new idea and see if it actually works on its own. Edit your idea until you feel that you’ve reached its core and then build upon it for launch.

3. Start moving and launch

You don’t need to have everything figured out before launch. In fact, it’s impossible to even know all of the questions you should be asking prior to launch. Hypothetical or irrational concerns too often get in the way of idea-making. Ideas come to life in real-life scenarios. Wisdom is usually found while you’re in motion.

Start lean with minimal features, and then build upon it by listening to your customers and stakeholders. Give yourself permission to “experiment” with the core concept while transparently asking for input during your alpha or beta phase.  It is far better to launch with 80 percent of an idea developed than it is to sit on 95 percent and never launch.

5 Wedding Businesses to Help Couples Plan the Best Day Ever

Anyone who’s ever attended or hosted a wedding knows that these events are big business. Engaged couples often seek out the best vendors in the industry to ensure their day is perfect — and they’re willing to pay a hefty price for it. According to the 2016 American Wedding Study, the average wedding cost of a wedding is $26,522, nearly as much as a year of tuition at some private universities.

Brides and grooms are (understandably) picky about the services they choose to make their nuptials special and memorable. These unique businesses help couples make their pre- and post-wedding plans as stress-free as possible.

Though not all couples choose to have one or both spouses change their last name after marriage, those that do often find the legal process intimidating. Miss Now Mrs makes it simple by streamlining all the paperwork you need in one place for one flat fee. Newlyweds looking to make the switch answer some questions about their current and married names and various accounts they hold. Then, these answers are used to complete the appropriate forms. Proofread, print and file, and your legal name change is well underway.

Kristen Rocco, founder of Love Notery, has always been a communicator. Her passion for storytelling led to a fruitful public relations career (even working with Gary Sinise, better known as Lt. Dan from Forrest Gump). Like any good romance, she took a leap of faith with Love Notery to tell great love stories. Rocco’s journalistic skills help her craft a customized “love story” through in-depth interviews with couples. The stories are then printed out as an heirloom keepsake.

This app is a multilayered wedding tool, with checklists for the engaged couple leading up to the wedding, vendor lists, ways to stay on budget, and tools to create a wedding site and registry, the site said. The Knot, which also published a print bridal magazine, even has answers to various social and etiquette questions answered by experts. In addition, the app provides a countdown to the day, so nearly-newlyweds can stay excited.

The quality of smartphone pictures has greatly improved, making collecting guests’ wedding photos worthwhile — and a pain. WedPics is a free app that aggregates wedding photos captured by guests. Users can keep photos organized with the albums feature, which is great for capturing photos of all wedding events such as the engagement party, wedding shower, rehearsal dinner, reception, ceremony and more, the site said.

Registering for wedding items often means signing up with multiple brands to create the best registry. Zola consolidates the process by allowing couples to register for a variety of brands, curated experiences and cash funds on a single page, the site said. Zola goes a step further by giving you autonomy with shipping: Each time you receive a gift, the site notifies you to ship now or later, or in the case of cash gifts, transfer to your bank or convert to a Zola store credit.

Creative Businesses That Will Inspire You

Being an art professional certainly comes with its stigmas — just ask the people who believe in the “starving artist” cliché.

Though friends and family may try to talk professional artists out of their passions (and professions), creative businesses can thrive. Startups like these keep art alive in people’s homes, phones and everyday lives. These seven art-focused businesses are putting a unique spin on their industry, and might even encourage you to better appreciate art.

Want to bring art into your home or office without hanging the pieces on the walls? Artkick allows you to display high-quality art and photography on your TV or computer monitor, with free access to photos from museums, NASA, the Library of Congress, Photos.com and Hubble. You can even import your own photos from Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox, Flickr and more. You control what photos are displayed via the Artkick mobile app on your smartphone or tablet. Think of it as art projected like you would project video with Roku and Google Chromecast devices.

Raaja Nemani and Aaron Firestein met and became friends while traveling through Argentina. Firestein drew a design on a pair of plain canvas sneakers for Nemani, who soon found his shoes were a big conversation starter throughout his travels. This inspired the pair to start Bucketfeet, a company that sells canvas sneakers in a variety of styles that feature original art by more than 40,000 creators from 120 countries around the world. These artists cover every medium, from graphic design and graffiti to photography and painting, and anyone can submit their artwork for consideration by the Bucketfeet committee.

Based in New York, ImageThink makes art functional in the office and the classroom. The ImageThink graphic-recording team creates illustrations based on keynote speeches, presentations, strategy sessions and more to help audiences visualize and better remember the information they see. ImageThink team members create these illustrations live during the meeting or event to go along with the presentation. The company also offers its services for creating animated videos and infographics.

Have you ever posted a photo on Instagram that’s so beautiful it could be a painting? With Instapainting, you can transform that digitally captured sunset or portrait into a real-life work of art. You can order either a mixed-media painting (the artist will print your image onto a cotton canvas and then hand-paint over at least 90 percent of the image with oil paints) or a 100 percent hand-painted painting (the artist will start from a blank canvas and paint the entire picture by hand with oil paints) based on your photo. Your choice depends on your price range and the look you want to achieve. When you order a painting and it’s in the process of being created, you can view all of the progress and changes made and talk directly with the artist, and you’ll have a finished product delivered to you from Instapainting within about three weeks.

With JuicyCanvas, anyone can customize art, turning it into canvas prints, shirts, phone cases, tote bags, throw pillows and greeting cards. Juicy Canvas allows customers to select a medium and an original design, and then “remix” the piece into a custom product by altering colors, rotating and cropping the image, and adding text. Artists can submit their work to be used on the site, and customers can easily search through the available designs by style and country of origin.

Ever wish you could have the works of your favorite artists at your fingertips? Meural offers that accessibility with a digital library of precious works of art, displayable in a “digital canvas” frame. Meural renders each image as lifelike and textured as a real painting, down to the last brushstroke, the site says. The canvas comes in a wooden frame. With a range of art collections from the Romantics to the Renaissance to Contemporary art and classic photography, there are more than 20,000 pieces (and the option to upload your own images) to bring a little culture to your home, office or art space. The website says it’s easy to upload, curate and schedule images to be displayed in your frame.

Are you fickle about your home or office décor? TurningArt is an art-rental subscription service that allows you to select new art to feature in your home or office as often as you like, for a monthly fee. As a subscriber, you can search through thousands of pieces to find what you want, and the pieces are delivered to you at no extra cost. Your first order will come in a frame, and when you’re ready for a new masterpiece, all you have to do is slide the old artwork out of the frame (to be sent back to TurningArt) and put the new order in. If you fall in love with a piece, you can purchase it through TurningArt as well.