Sustainable Business Creation & Permaculture Innovation – Information for First Time Entrepreneurs

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
  • Stationery
  • Business phone (outgoing calls)
  • Business phone number (incoming calls)
  • Email
  • Website
  • 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

 

BUSINESS PLAN:

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:

  1. Is there a demand for the product/service?
  2. If yes, what do the customers want of the product/service and how do they want it delivered?
  3. 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:

  • Product/service.
  • Potential clients.
  • The industry.
  • Competitors.

 

Data can be sourced from anywhere, but a good start is:

  1. The industry itself.
  2. ABS – Australian Bureau of Statistics.
  3. Local tourist authorities.
  4. Phone books – white pages, yellow pages.

 

From industry:

–  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.

 

Researching customers:

–  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).

 

Questionnaire:

– 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.

 

Methods:

–  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….

 

By….

–  Identifying strengths/weaknesses of each aspect.

–  Identify info gaps which can be exploited/addressed.

–  Check out overseas market industry & how they operate.

 

Research competitors:

–  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:

 

Quality:

  • 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:

Data management:

  • business plan/model
  • data entry programs
  • apps.
  •  life cycle analysis
  • records
  • stats.
  • reviews
  • templates
  • questionnaires
  • calendars
  • workbooks
  • websites/blogs
  • timelines
  • newsletters
  • emails
  • advertisements

 

Methods:

– utilize one tool to serve many functions

– always present professionally, so info can be transcribed and reused (as needed and for various purposes)

 

Expansion:

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.

 

Questionnaires:

– feedback from clients should ask what improvements/new products/services they would like to see.

 

Cultural icons:

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.

 

Financial plan:

–  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.

 

Marketing:

  • selling
  • research
  • packaging
  • promotion
  • display
  • distribution
  • public relations

 

Advertising & Promotions.

 

Media:

– newspapers

– radio

– TV

– magazines

 

FREE ADVERTISING:

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.

 

Tour groups:

– Local tours

– Tour groups that tour by a theme (ie. Organic gardening)

 

Location:

– Use property to hold meetings, events, festivals etc.

– Run a competition

 

PAID ADVERTISING:

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.



About The Author

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About The Author

Chrissy-Tiina Laurikainen

In person + online permaculture teacher. Online permaculture consultant. Upkeep of a 30 acre rural property (using permaculture & other agroecological techniques). A communal research laboratory focusing on free innovation in the works. Doing what I can to support LIFE on planet Earth!!

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