Seller Handbook

Advice and inspiration for successfully running your Etsy shop

Seller Handbook

How to Write a Creative Business Plan In Under an Hour

A marketing pro shares her “pitch first, plan second” approach to business planning that’s short, sweet, and pretty painless.

By Caroline Cummings Aug 15, 2013
Photo by AmyWalters

Most people view writing a business plan as an arduous process or a necessary evil. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t need to be difficult, and not only is it possible to write your plan in under an hour, it can also be a fun process. Seriously. After all, you’re thinking about and documenting your strategies for selling your products out in the world — this should be an enjoyable experience. There’s no reason your plan can't be as creative as you are.

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan doesn’t need to be a 75-page document that you write, print, and place proudly on a shelf in your office. Those days are long gone — thankfully. A business plan can be done on one page, and should merely have brief descriptions for each of the following 10 categories. Channel Twitter in that each section should not contain more than 140 characters:

  1. A one-sentence description about your business. (Value Proposition)
  2. The “problem” your product is responding to by being in the market. (Market Need)
  3. A description of your products (photos are always appreciated). (Your Solution)
  4. Who else in the market is doing similar things and why your products are better? (Competition)
  5. Who buys your products (or will buy your products)? (Target Market)
  6. How much does it cost you to produce one of your products? How much do your products cost, how many of them will you sell this year, and how will I make a profit? (Financials: Budgeting & Forecasting)
  7. How do (or will) you market your products? (Sales Channels & Marketing Activities)
  8. What are your business achievements? What are you working toward? (Milestones)
  9. Who are you, and why are you the right person to lead your venture? (Management Team)
  10. Optional: How much money you need to launch or grow your business, and what specifically will you use the funds for in your business? (Funding Needs & Use of Funds)

Pitch First, Plan Second

As you’re thinking about filling in these planning areas, don’t think of the experience as “I’m writing my business plan.” A better philosophy is to think, “I’m pitching my business.” The “pitch first, plan second” philosophy is a best practice in business anyway, and a “business pitch” conjures a much better image in one’s mind than a “business plan” does.

An Example Business Pitch Built in Under an Hour

One of my fantasy businesses is to create and sell vintage-inspired hats — and maybe one day I’ll actually get around to doing this. For now, I wanted to share a sample one-page pitch for a fictitious Etsy store called Haley’s Vintage Hats and show how you too can easily create a one-page business plan (or pitch, if you will).

Let’s Break It Down (in under 140 characters)

To stick with the spirit of Twitter, here are descriptions of what’s needed in each section of your plan/pitch in under 140 characters.

Value Proposition: Think about what you would tweet if you had less than 140 characters to describe the gist of your business. This forces you to hone in on what you do and what’s special about it.

Market Need: No market need = no need to market your product. If you’re not sure, ask your customers/potential customers why they like your products. You’ll get your answer.

Your Solution: Describe your product and why it’s so great. Think what you’d say if someone asked you “what do you sell?"

Target Market: Be specific about who buys your products (ex: gender, geography, age, shopping habits, etc). Segment your markets if you plan on reaching them differently. Learn more in How to Find Your Target Market by full-time Etsy seller Brenda Lavell.

Competition: Think about who your customers will buy from (or do buy from) if your products didn’t exist. Knowing your competition is as important as knowing your customers. Learn more in 5 Tips to Stand Out From Competition.

Funding Needs: You may need some funds (even if it’s just $1–3,000 to purchase materials). Be sure you understand how those funds will help you, and when you can pay off the debt.

Sales Channels: This is where you will sell your items. Example: Your Etsy shop is a sales channel. Perhaps you also sell at a local boutique or craft fair, and your goal is to land several wholesale accounts. It’s good to have multiple channels.

Marketing Activities: How you will market your products. Examples: Etsy Search Ads or advertising on a design blog. You may need different activities for each market segment.

Financial Projections: How much does it cost you to make/market your products? How much do you plan to sell in a given time period? These questions will help you develop your financials.

Milestones: What have you accomplished so far, and what other milestones are you shooting for? This will help you stay on track. Examples: Buy supplies, hire a bookkeeper, create a pitch, etc.

Management Team: Don’t be afraid to brag about yourself and your team if you have one. Share why you’re the right person to be leading your venture. Also note the roles that are missing on your team.

Ready to craft your own creative business plan? LivePlan is offering Etsy sellers special pricing to build your creative one-page business pitch/plan. Get started for less than $10. Good luck — and remember to have fun planning!

How do you feel about creating a business plan for your creative business? Share your thoughts and questions in comments below.


Caroline Cummings

Caroline Cummings is a technology entrepreneur and has a passion for anything vintage — especially vintage fashion. She has raised close to $1M from angel investors for her two startups, and she enjoys mentoring other women entrepreneurs. Caroline is currently the VP of Business Development for Palo Alto Software, makers of, the #1 online business pitching, planning, and financial tracking software.


Continue reading in Growth strategies