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Spoiltchild Design

On business plans and playing the game

I submitted the business plan for Pinstripe to DBIC before Christmas. Its nervewracking to submit a plan for an idea you have been thinking about and planning for ages to a third party with the possibility they could laugh it out of the building. Just a day or two later I got a phone call from them inviting me in to chat which i took to be a great sign. Unfortunately I was away at the time and got the massage too late.
That meeting was rescheduled to last Thursday and I have to say it was a very productive meeting.

My basic cost outline in the plan is that I need funding for one developer for 1 year. All other costs are covered by the normal day to day running of Spoiltchild design. We are going to have the office, lights, heat etc anyway so for a small additional cost a whole new product and business could be created.
We have most of the interface already designed.
After a year, xx low number need to be sold to break even. Tiny risk that becomes almost no risk over a longer period of time

I thought it was simple but that’s not how the game is played.

This is actually my third meeting with DBIC. I originally attended a start your own business course the middle of last year organised and run by DBIC. While I was already running Spoiltchild, I wanted to do a refresher course and find out what the support options are before embarking on Pinstripe. Its also a class full of new business who will be shortly looking for design!

I followed this up with a short business outline which I had to submit to their brilliant and strict gatekeeper Sandra before being deemed suitable for an initial meeting. DBIC focus on technology business so they need to be sure you fit within their remit before committing any time.
This initial meeting only took about an hour but I left with some clear goals of what the next step needed to be before any more help could be given by them.

The business plan.
I never wrote a plan for Spoiltchild so this was my first. It took bleeding ages. But I have to say it was a very worth while exercise.
I read a lot of blogs and articles while writing my own business plan. Information from leading VCs, from currently successfull companies etc. Each with strong views on business plans and money forecasts. How most of the old way of preparing business plans are pure fictional stories. Figures had to be plucked out of the air and are pure guesswork. They nicely suggest new ways of doing things. More realistic business plans.

Ignore them.

At least ignore them when you are chasing money. Especially government money. Why? They like things the old way. Their entire system is built around the old way. They have a checklist to go through of what makes a good business plan and what doesn’t and if you want their help and money then yours has got to match up to each item in that list.
By all means prepare the suggested realistic business plan. Have two versions. Follow that yourself and lead your business to success. But when you are looking to others to start off then you have to play their game by their rules.

So back to Thursdays meeting. It went great. Michael who I was dealing with went through it all with me step by step, pointing out the weaknesses and strengths and also what exactly a funding body requires to see (even if it is made up, they need to see that the space for that item is filled).
My original approach was to focus the business plan on just Pinstripe. This is the product, market and low costs.
The new approach will be to instead focus on Spoiltchild Design, show its growth, success and accounts from the last two years and then highlight Pinstripe as a new direction and opportunity for Spoiltchild, building on its proven success and extending it in a new area. This approach shows a lot more stability and proven ability behind the product and makes it appear to have a better probability of success.

So I have come away with lots of homework. I find preparing a business plan takes me ages. The information from DBIC is that submitting for funding can happen very quickly (few weeks) but in this case I am the bottleneck. Spoiltchild has a huge workload at the moment (with no signs of slowing). Finding time in between projects is going to be very difficult for the next while which is going to delay Pinstripe. But clients have to come first!

Oh and another thing I learnt. When at all possible, show screen shots.
1. It makes the product a lot more tangible (and easier to invest in) and
2. While the concept might be clear in your head it might not be so clear from your description to someone else. A picture can sometimes be so much clearer.