Part 5: Reflection on Writing the Plan

Through the course of writing the business plan, I have come to understand many different aspects of entrepreneurship that I was previously unacquainted with. For me, the most useful aspect of writing the business plan was that it gave me a greater understanding of how to advertise myself as an excellent worker and show off my entrepreneurial qualities. I now feel that I have a better understanding of the types of skills that an employer or investor would look for. I also have learned the best way to counteract your weaknesses is to discuss the weaknesses that you are working to overcome, which is very useful advice for an interview situation. I found this quote from Jonkman quite inspirational, and I will try to keep it in mind.

Fight your fears and you’ll be in battle forever.

Face your fears and you’ll be free forever.

— Lucas Jonkman

Another important element that resulted from writing this plan was the possibility to explore the brand identity industry in greater detail. I have learnt some useful information about key competitors in the Meath area such as Brand Designs and Panda Creative. Having an awareness of competitors will be helpful for me finding future work regardless of whether I choose to begin a career as an entrepreneur or not. The process of writing this plan, although not strictly related to entrepreneurship, genuinely helped me to market myself better. I have recently created a Jobbio job seekers page as seen below. I feel the quality of what I have written has been increased by a greater awareness of what competitors look for in employees.

 

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Jobbio Profile

 

Personally, I feel the most difficult aspect of writing this plan was the financial and investment section. Business and maths have never been my strengths so I have put in a lot of research to determine the investment I would need and to estimate the budget. I did find it was a struggle to get information from competitors about how they price design jobs and an estimate of their turnover. This could be explained by the fact that the vast majority of design companies do not provide their prices until the first consultation has occurred.

Having written this plan I have considered the suitability of myself as an entrepreneur and weighed both the advantages and disadvantages of entrepreneurship as a potential career path.  I believe I am closer on the path to consider entrepreneurship as a career further down the line and I feel like I now have a greater awareness of what it takes to start a company. If I were to write this plan for a factual company, something I would change would be that I would invest in assistance in the financial side of the business to ensure that budgets were accurate as I have had no formal training with this.

My Plan For Life After College

For the future, I feel that entrepreneurship is definitely a career path I will keep in mind. It is not something that I feel I am ready for right now purely due to my lack of real world experience. My current goal is to keep adding to my Behance portfolio, as seen below, and to continue applying for jobs as a brand identity designer.

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Part 4: Seeking Investment & Financial Details

As a component of the business plan, we had to come up with prices for our services provided and come to a conclusion on the amount of investment we would need to start our company.

 

This was definitely the most difficult element of writing the plan for me. I have never had any education in business or accounting, and in school maths was the subject I consistently struggled with. To say I dreaded this element of the plan is an understatement. On reflection, I think I did fairly well considering I have zero knowledge in this area. It was a large learning curve for me but I think having a basic knowledge of business will be a great asset regardless of whether I become an entrepreneur or not. This website was my go-to guide for all financial terms. This knowledge was essential for me as a potential entrepreneur to assist me in writing a solid financial plan.

Finance terms for student investors
Image 1: Financial Terms

After estimating costs for my expenses and income, I came to the conclusion that to start-up Graphic Spark I would need an investment of €10,000. My next question was where should I approach to seek investment? This took a lot of time to figure out. Having analysed many different options for finance and investment, I now feel I would be better prepared in selecting the correct investor for my venture.

Investors

The two investors I chose for my business plan were Delta Partners in Leopardstown and the Local Enterprise Office for Meath.

While researching Delta Partners I found out that they provide an extremely useful and free service they provide. It is called Around the Table and it provides the opportunity to ask any investment questions at an early stage. Unfortunately, there was an event held in Dundalk IT in March this year, but I wasn’t aware of this at the time. Having learnt of this service, it is something that I would consider as the next step for gaining an investment.

However, from conducting research, I think that overall the Meath Enterprise Office would be a more suitable choice for me. This is a short video on what the Enterprise Office does.

The Meath Enterprise Office is a key investor in start-up companies in Meath. They actively seeking new investments, and they release campaigns, like the video above, to encourage companies to localise in Meath. The qualification process can be made through Micro Finance Ireland, who specialise in small loans up to €25,000. The required assessment criteria have been met for qualification of a priming grant and the application process is underway. Having analysed investors, I now feel this is the most promising investor for Graphic Spark as they specialise in companies with under 10 employees that do not make above €2 Million.

Additionally, Micro Finance Ireland provided a very useful loan calculation tool, as seen below. This was key for my research as it made the process considerably easier than me trying to work it out myself.

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Image 2: Loan Calculator

 

I have significantly developed my awareness of business terminology and improved my skills in this area. Although, if I were to create a business plan as a future entrepreneur, I would definitely invest in sourcing professional help in this area with an accountant. It is by no means an area I am proficient in, so to create a plan that it realistic and accurate I think this would be a wise approach to take.

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Part 3: Graphic Spark & Brand Identity

For my business plan, I wanted to create a company that specialises in Brand Identity. As I recognised that there were no specialist companies in my hometown of Navan, I felt this location was suitable. I then came up with the name Graphic Spark.

The main aim of the company is to provide attractive, personalised brands at competitive prices. While researching business name registration, I discovered the cro.ie website. Previously, I wasn’t aware before of how easy it is to register a companies name online. This knowledge will be very useful after I have graduated if I do go down the route of creating a company or even in listing a business name for myself as a freelance designer.

Graphic-Sparkl

As my company consists of brand identity, I felt that it was necessary to create a strong, impactful logo. On reflection, I would say that this logo would definitely need more work if I were to actually push this idea forward as a business. Building a brand identity takes a far longer time than I had available to design the logo for this project. For the future, this is something that I will come back to and re-evaluate for my design portfolio.

Local Competitors

From my research, I found that there are three competitors in the Meath area that would be the largest competition for Graphic Spark. These are Panda Creative, BrandDesigns and Costello Print. The stand out company for me is Panda Creative. They are a start up company but they provide services that closely resemble Graphic Sparks.

Competitors

As I am completely new to developing a business idea, or plan for that matter, I decided at this point it would be great to speak to someone going through the process of starting up a graphic design company in my area. I enlisted the help of Barbara in Panda Creative. Barbara’s company is located in Clonee, Co. Meath which is around thirty minutes from Graphic Spark, and they also provide brand identity as a service.

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I found Barbara to be very helpful and it was great to get an insight into a local start-up in a similar field. This provided me with the best information possible to write my own business plan. Having discussed the services, employees and general pricing issues with Panda Creative, I significantly improved my knowledge of the process behind operating a Graphic Design business.

Barbara did recommend contacting companies in my area for a quote, but this was something I was uncomfortable doing for a hypothetical plan. From experience, I have found that design companies generally do not like talking about prices unless you are a genuine potential client. If I ever do create my own business, I would most definitely take Barbara’s advice and ring local companies.

What makes Graphic Spark stand apart from the crowd?

Upon completion of primary and secondary research of local Meath competitors, I spent some time contemplating what would make clients choose Graphic Spark over its competitors.

  1. Graphic Spark is located in Navan town. The likeability of businesses turning to a service within five minutes of their own location over the competitors discussed is greatly increased. This location makes it easier for clients to physically visit the design studio to attend consultations and meetings.
  2. Brand identity is its sole focus, not a supplementary service.

Part 2: The Creative Business Plan

Business and Location

On completion of my reflective process of myself as an entrepreneur, it was time to conduct some research into industry experts and to plan my own creative venture. At this point, I narrowed down my idea from a general design services business to a specialist brand identity company. Having narrowing my companies service to a brand identity specialist, I now feel it will help to attract clients by offering expertise in brand consultancy.

As Navan in Co. Meath has no brand identity specialist, I have decided to locate the company there. Navan is a growth town with a population of 29,8225. According to CSO.ie, Co. Meath has had a 13% increase in population in a five-year span. This growth is expected to continue to grow steadily providing a great opportunity for start-up companies. The most relevant element of the CSO website in assisting my research was that it provided a greater insight into the people and location.

This video from Meath County Council was a key influencing factor in helping me to decide on Navan as a viable location for my business.

Unfortunately, I did encounter a difficulties in my attempt to uncover how many businesses are located in Navan, which would have been useful to my research. If I were to continue to push forward this business in the future, I would be able to put more time into primary research of local businesses within Navan to discover the exact amount that would use brand identity services.

Who are the experts in brand identity?

Globally, some of the largest names in brand identity are Pentagram, Landor and Meta Design. These companies are responsible for many of the brands that are recognised worldwide today from Nike to Coca-Cola to Volkswagen. These are big-time companies that have set up base in large cities such as San Franciso and London. My personal preference is Landor. They have a simple but impactful website that highlights their strong portfolio.

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Image 1: Landor Website

In terms of Ireland’s standout brand identity companies, the larger, established competitors all were located in Dublin. The two businesses that largely stood out to me were Creative Inc and Red Dog. Having analysed many different websites, I felt that Red Dog in particular had a very effective site. It is dynamic, attractively designed, provides good use of monochromatic to colour rollovers and it presents the vast amount of brands they have worked on. If I were to develop this business further in the future, I would want to build a site that incorporates this design style. See the video below for a run through of the website.

So, what makes a good business plan?

After looking up many different sites and videos, I found this clip that goes through the basics solely through graphics. I feel that this method of learning works much better for me personally in comparison to reading pages and pages of text. By conducting research to assist me in writing this plan, I was made aware that it is advisable even for freelance graphic designers to create their own business plan. This is a path I have been considering for life after college to help my improve my portfolio and gain experience with clients. On completion of this course, I aim to create a business plan for myself as a freelance designer.

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Part 1: Self-Evaluation

As a part of this semester’s Entrepreneurship module, I have been writing a business plan for a new venture. I am very passionate about design, and, for this reason, I knew I wanted to venture in this area. Before I began the process of researching the business plan or even opening Microsoft Word, I felt that it was necessary to evaluate my strengths and weaknesses both as an entrepreneur and as a designer. I spent some time researching what makes a graphic design entrepreneur successful and found this very useful video. It gives a great insight into skills required and the ups and downs of becoming a graphic design entrepreneur.

Do I Have What it Takes?

As part of my continued research on entrepreneurial traits, I discovered an article from entrepreneur.com. Author Nathan Resnick lists five essential characteristics of an entrepreneur as:

  1. Passion
  2. Perseverance
  3. Resourcefulness
  4. Open-mindedness
  5. Sponge-like nature

Having read this article, I felt it would be useful to evaluate myself in terms of these five characteristics. I now realise that while I have elements of each of these qualities, there is room for improvement. In particular, I feel this especially relates to open-mindedness. Upon reflection, I have noticed that I can be quite stubborn with my work. For example, when I have an idea but it just isn’t working I sometimes find it difficult to change course. If I were to become an entrepreneur after I graduate, this is an obstacle that I would have to overcome. Failure and sudden change are both factors that can come hand in hand with entrepreneurship.

The main characteristic of an entrepreneur that I recognise in myself is my passion and drive. After previously experiencing failure in another course, I have learnt from that bad experience and become much more motivated towards seeking a career in design. After reflecting on my own qualities, I decided to write down the key strengths and weaknesses I now recognise in myself, as can be seen in the graphic below.

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My Greatest Weaknesses & How I Can Overcome Them

Previously, I was not aware that during an interview it is advisable not to just list off a couple weaknesses, but to discuss how you have worked to overcome them. I applied this to two weaknesses that I have had ongoing struggles with that would affect my success as an entrepreneur. These weaknesses are; I sometimes take on more work than I can handle and I get very anxious when public speaking. I found the video below extremely useful as my two main weaknesses are discussed. After I recognised my weaknesses, I contemplated the best ways to overcome them. I now have decided to attend a public speaking course that builds up confidence for public speaking. Another method of overcoming a weakness that I have realised is to set a strict guideline for workload and put a contingency plan in place to cover myself if there are any unforeseen circumstances.

For me, the most useful aspect of this exercise was gaining a clearer vision of my strengths that I should be highlighting in a job interview scenario. Previously, I felt that I struggled to answer the strengths and weaknesses question that tends to rise in interviews, but by evaluating my qualities I now feel like I am better prepared.

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