Purdue News

December 14, 2004

Purdue Extension tool helps entrepreneurs write business plans

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A new business tool from Purdue University promises to help entrepreneurs take their ideas one step further.

Purdue's Agricultural Innovation and Commercialization Center (AICC) developed a Web-based business planner that entrepreneurs can use to help them write a business plan that they can take to partners and financial backers. The planner is available online.

"The Web tool has benefits that we think are really valuable," said AICC co-director Mike Boehlje. "It organizes thought processes and approaches business planning in a systematic way. It's the Turbo Tax of business planning."

The planner helps entrepreneurs define the fundamentals of their business, including market analysis, production, marketing and financial issues.

"It breaks a business plan down into steps that make it less threatening than it might be to start with a blank sheet of paper. It has a number of prompts and examples," Boehlje said. "If you're trying to write a plan and have a mental block, you click on a link and it will show you examples of how to proceed. It doesn't say, 'Here's the end, hopefully you get there.' It really tries to guide people through the process."

The Web planner also requires people to assess their progress at several stages.

"It asks the hard questions about whether this can be a successful new venture. Sometimes people get so excited about the idea that they think the market is there, but it's critical to evaluate the customers and competitors," Boehlje said.

Most importantly, if an entrepreneur follows all the steps in the planner they will end up with a business plan they can take to partners and potential financial backers.

"It provides a base to go to outside funders and say, 'Here's my business plan and here's how I'm going to generate a revenue stream to pay you back,'" he said.

While the AICC focuses mainly on ag-related businesses, the planner, and other AICC products, have applications for ag and non-ag sectors.

"We've structured the business planner and our publications so they're viable for any organization and any industry," Boehlje said. "At the same time, we've tried hard to use some terminology that will connect with agribusinesses. It's not just user friendly, it's friendly for farmers."

AICC publications cover topics like intellectual property rights, first steps for entrepreneurs, industry analysis and selecting consultants.

"We've put together a significant number of resources that can supplement the Web site," Boehlje said. "If someone is struggling with a part of the site, we refer them to these publications."

The publications also can stand alone for entrepreneurs interested in finding out more about what goes into developing a business. AICC publications include:

• "Selecting and Managing Consultants," EC-719.

• "Industry Analysis: The Five Forces," EC-722.

• "Intellectual Property: Obtaining Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights," EC-723.

• "Defining Your Business Through Goals and Objectives: First Steps for New Entrepreneurs," EC-727.

The publications cost $1.50 each and are available through the Purdue Extension Education Store or by calling 888-EXT-INFO.

Writer: Kay Hagen, (765) 494-6682, kjh@purdue.edu

Source: Mike Boehlje, (765) 494-4222, boehljem@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes, forbes@purdue.edu
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