Big Dreams, Little Steps
By Jennifer S. Croft

If you’re like most would-be small business owners, big-picture thinking paralyzes you, and your ambitious dreams outstrip your ability to implement them. The next time you have a big dream, do something now, by breaking it down into the smallest steps possible. Here’s an example…

Let’s say I want to start a snowboarding camp for women. I’ve had this idea for years but haven’t done anything about it. How can I start? What can I do today? Following are some moves I can make immediately.

Research the competition
I can start by checking out the competition, if there is any. I can search on the web, visit the business section of my public library, and conduct informational interviews with people in the industry.

Find instructors
I can informally “interview” potential instructors, tell them about my idea, get their feedback, and figure out how much they’d need to be paid. This will help me determine my costs involved with putting on the camps.

Casual Focus Group
I can invite women snowboarders to a meeting and ask them questions about what they’d like to see in a weeklong camp, how much they’d pay,
and what might prevent them from participating.

Select a location
I can initiate preliminary discussions with my top three choices for host mountains: Winter Park, Copper Mountain, and Breckenridge. I can call their directors of marketing to see if they have a similar product and/or what they might do to support my camps.

Alliances
I can look into the possibility of forming alliances with businesses that target the same type of customers as my camps, such as snowboard equipment and clothing companies or extreme travel and adventure agencies.

Insurance
I can call an insurance agent and get a ballpark quote on how much a general liability policy would cost per year to insure a business like this.

Legal
I can talk to a lawyer for an hour or so and listen to his/her worst-case scenarios so that I can determine what I’ll have to do to help prevent problems and what I can do to protect my personal assets.

Name registration
I can check with the Secretary of State of Colorado and find out if the name I’d like to use for my business is available.  I can also look up potential URL addressees to figure out what I can reserve as a domain name for my future web site.

Policies and procedures
I can begin to set up an organizational system that would allow me to run the business efficiently.

Marketing material
I can jot down ideas for marketing materials (brochure, website, business card, promotions) as catchy thoughts and inspiration come to me.

Start-up costs
I can make a list of everything I’ll need to start the business, then find out how much each item or service will cost. By adding them all up, I’ll have a good idea of my start-up costs.

Expenses
I can make a list of everything that will comprise my monthly overhead, then get price quotes on each item or service. The total will give me an estimate of my monthly obligations.

Pricing
I can tentatively set pricing and play around with the figures. By estimating my cost of holding each camp and knowing the number of participants, I’ll pinpoint my absolute pricing floor (which is breakeven). By having talked to potential clients in my focus group and researched the competition, I’ll have some idea of my pricing ceiling (which is the absolute maximum the women in my target market would pay for something like this, the most the market will bear). I’ll choose three different price points that lie between my floor and ceiling and plug
those into my cash flow projections.

Cash Flow
By comparing the gross profit I’ll make on each camp (at the three different price points) and multiplying that times the number of camps
I could hold each season, I’ll have a sense of my overall gross profit for the year. After subtracting my annual overhead expenses, I’ll soon know if I can make money on this type of business.

So far, I’ve spent very little money, and by the end of these simple action steps, most of which haven’t taken more than one to four hours each, my big dream is well on its way to becoming a small business.