Sustainable Business Creation & Permaculture Innovation – Information for First Time Entrepreneurs
So I discovered permaculture & got inspired – found a permaculture community & have been scribbling business ideas in notebooks ever since. The innovation just keeps on coming – I am overflowing, to the brim! So what do I do now? To answer this question, I’ve been doing a little research. I’m currently studing the book “Don’t Dream It, Do It – Making Money from New Farm Ideas” by Greg Cahill (a big thank you and hat down to you, Greg!) I’ve found it so practical & to the point – I thought I’d share my notes…
BUSINESS OFFICE ESSENTIALS:
- Business cards
- Business phone (outgoing calls)
- Business phone number (incoming calls)
- Mailing address (ie. PO Box) – secure & confidential
- Site address
- Property map
- Emergency contacts
- First aid safety
- Fire safety plan
- Facebook page
- Online location of the PDC courses (+ other business ventures)
- Hardcopy of business plan
- Computer & internet connection
- Printer, ink & paper
Be ultra clear and specific – just like aims in scientific research.
Do a life-cycle analysis (LCA) on the product/service to clearly define all aspects.
Identify key players in the business & maximize their efforts:
– permanent contributors/temporary contributions (with dates/times when available)
– skills, talents, interests (be specific)
– place each player in a position which best serves the project & stabilizes it’s future
FEASIBILITY STUDY (aka. MARKET RESEARCH):
This is part of market research and should be completed first. Use the info:
- to perfect product/service design.
- to guide business (in business plan).
Market research means to ascertain if there is a real demand for a product/service.
Questions the study should answer:
- Is there a demand for the product/service?
- If yes, what do the customers want of the product/service and how do they want it delivered?
- Can I supply my product/service at a competitive price?
The advantage a small business has it that it can target a more specific market (as opposed to large business which is more broad). It is better to be specific and target “real customers”.
A feasibility study collects data, with the aim of determining if there is a place for a product/service in the industry. The more data collected, the more realistic the feasibility study market research will be – the more accurate to the market the business plan, the less work in product/service adjustment & the more successful the business is likely to be.
Data to be collected focus’ on:
- Potential clients.
- The industry.
Data can be sourced from anywhere, but a good start is:
- The industry itself.
- ABS – Australian Bureau of Statistics.
- Local tourist authorities.
- Phone books – white pages, yellow pages.
– Contact others in the industry (start with the key players such as founders or those of a paradigm shift).
– Use a market research questionnaire to compile relevant info.
ABS: They have many records (including imports, exports, production records, registrations, population numbers etc) – collect anything related to the product/service.
Local tourist authorities have records of:
- how many tourists per season.
- when they visit.
- where they come from.
– Understanding what is required to satisfy potential clients (what the customer wants/would like) is the most important aim of market research.
– Contact select clients and find out exactly what they would like/don’t like, and what quality.
– Find clients from: phone book, events/meets, relevant locations
– Ask existing/old customers what they would like and how they like it delivered via a questionnaire: upon payment/booking, after course completion/delivery & follow up contact (ie. 2 months after).
– Do a life-cycle analysis (LCA) on the product/service to clearly define all aspects.
– Brainstorm on the various methods (and combinations of) delivery methods, teaching styles, content, handouts, assessment & take home outcomes etc.
– Cover as much detail over widest range possible (to get the most out of the output).
– For products, samples can be sent out.
Research the industry:
- Know who is in the industry.
- How the industry works.
- Understand pitfalls.
- Identify opportunities.
– Join producer organisations to establish contacts.
– Contact as many people in industry as possible.
– Sign up for newsletters, product/service updates.
– Join member groups, follow groups etc.
Aim: To select the best features from all others….
– Identifying strengths/weaknesses of each aspect.
– Identify info gaps which can be exploited/addressed.
– Check out overseas market industry & how they operate.
– Keep up to date with standards and movements (changes in direction, popularity in aspects/topics) within industry.
– Establish an advantage in some way to be able to compete. This may be in: quality, service, price etc.
– Identify gaps and establish a unique niche.
– Start an industry group, newsletter, reviews etc.
– Check out regulations & legalities specific to industry.
THE PRODUCTION PHASE:
- Offering unique qualities may give an advantage – being the only operator with a provision.
- Assess the term quality (in the industry) and define the terms “top-”, “medium-” and “low-quality”.
- …Small business needs to be top quality to succeed.
- …Lower quality aspects can be turned into another product/service.
- Think big, start small. Allow to evolve by adjusting and directing:
- …tend to most significant aspects in relation to joining industry “standards”.
- …allow market to guide directions and meet market demand as it forms.
- Actively seek out constructive criticism & negative feedback.
- Be flexible & adapt – take steps to change directions where alternative outcome is desired.
- Expect plans, budgets, strategies etc to be changeable and evolve. Thus,
- …Do not put too much time & effort into one strategy.
- …Allow a basic business structure/skeleton to form, from which variations and trends can be delivered.
- …make sure effort equates to relevant and strong changes.
Plans & strategies:
- business plan/model
- data entry programs
- life cycle analysis
– utilize one tool to serve many functions
– always present professionally, so info can be transcribed and reused (as needed and for various purposes)
The business should be kept fresh and up to date by continually upgrading and launching new product/service lines. The timing of these should be managed for effectiveness.
- increase in numbers (more of existing products/services)
- new product/service lines
- modifications to online sites (websites, blogs etc)
- increase in land parcel size (business address)
- additions to transport
- increase in employee numbers
- increase to available time (via increasing efficiency of data management)
- continually be on the lookout for improvements/modifications/new products/services.
– feedback from clients should ask what improvements/new products/services they would like to see.
All products/services can be continually upgraded/updated to keep it fresh. The only products/services that this does not apply to are cultural icons such as Coca-Cola & “Permaculture – A Designer Manual” (By Bill Mollison). Cultural icons can be added to only – but should never be changed. Such changes should be clearly visible and the integrity of the original kept sound.
– A solid record that can be relied upon to observe business dealings. Shown as a business cycle with sidelines of products/services.
– Detailed diagram of business skeleton from which product/service lines branch from.
– Product/service lines are complete and thorough – including future possibilities and additional product/service lines that may result from this.
– Record of all contributions to the business product/service lines (incoming and outgoing). This includes money transactions, donations, goods & services, people etc, etc.
– Each line can be viewed solo with stages of development (on a timeline).
– Not for profit lines, educational line, saleable goods line, research lines etc, etc.
THE MARKETING PHASE:
This is the most important aspect of the business cycle and determines whether or not a business will succeed or fail.
- public relations
Advertising & Promotions.
Reasons why media may cover a story on the business for free:
- Different/unique is interesting. (especially to media types who’s focus is different/unique).
- Human interest stories.
- Success stories.
- Statewide/national media may pick up from having had local media coverage.
- Attend events that have best media coverage (widest audience, greatest number people).
- Enter competitions that are highly covered by the media, especially where there are follow-up stories.
– Local tours
– Tour groups that tour by a theme (ie. Organic gardening)
– Use property to hold meetings, events, festivals etc.
– Run a competition
Choose the media provider (TV, magazine, radio etc) which has large numbers of the target audience. Advertising to a small media provider with a small audience may be cheaper but it still costs – don’t waste time and money on cheap advertising.