I am a freelance author, writer, critic, artist, and entrepreneur living in the Heart of the Texas Hill Country.
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I was living in Santa Fe, New Mexico when I wrote the business plan, when I finally decided to take the first steps of leg work to pursue what had become a longtime developing dream.
While researching market strategy, and demographics it became clear to me that Santa Fe may not be the market that I should open this bookstore in. I loved the city different, and I wasn't eager to leave it, but I knew that because the needs of Santa Fe's 75,000 people were more than met by Op. Cit. Books, Collected Works, Garcia Street Books, The Ark, Gunstock, Big Star, Books of Interest, Travel Bug, Nicholas Potter, Bee Hive, Book Mountain, Bennett Books, and more.
If I wanted to open my bookstore I realized that I would have to leave this city that I'd come to love in order to do it.
I spent as much time, and resources as I was able to understand the demographics of the United States: buying habits, income, interests, growth, education, population, and what any particular market needed, whether that market knew it, or not.
You can stroll into a town and there might be a restaurant on every corner, many of them with a similar menu, identical even, there might be coffeehouses like there are gas stations, and each and every individual business could the thriving. So, what makes those business work, while others fail?
Where do business owners go wrong?
I'd suggest that it all starts with the business plan. Every business owner develops a plan for their business, though some plans - such as mine - are 30 pages, while others draft out at less than 1, neither represents a clear indication of whether a business will fail or succeed. In many cases even, the less detailed business plan might be more likely to develop into a sustainable business than the more detailed 30 page plan. Why?
You, and your plan need to allow room, not only for growth, but to change. You have to be willing to look at your plan and see it as an outline, this is a guide. My business plan lays out daily routines, such as mopping the floor, washing dishes, shelving books, but even the seemingly necessary day-to-day chores need to be allowed to be flexible.
Why is it that Barnes&Noble is still open, when Borders Books went bankrupt? They both sold new books at list price, they both sold the same authors and the same titles, they both used an eReader (Barnes&Noble invested in creating their own, NOOK; while Borders partnered with SONY, which may have had a slight impact but not considerable).
eReaders did not play as much of a role in the print/book market as many people believe that they did. Print is fine, it dropped a little, it changed even, and then came back. Newspapers are struggling but that suggest more a change in the information industry not necessarily print. Amazon introduced a different way to buy, and a different way to publish, but ultimately what allowed print and Barnes&Noble to favor was their adaptability.
When you write your business plan, when you build, and develop your business, regardless of what type of business it is, you are going to have to learn how to let it change, and if your business plan can reflect that, you are already a step, or two, ahead of the game.
I could have stayed in Santa Fe, and opened CommuniTea Books there, and learned how to change, and compete with other businesses - other bookstores. I had a vision for my store, and part of that vision, part of my plan was to provide something to a community that didn't have it. And I did not know that right away. While I was writing my plan I originally did so with the intention of opening in Santa Fe, and then I redid the number in order to open a store in the Bay Area, California; which is, essentially, the bookstore capitol of the world, but then I realized that I wanted CommuniTea Books to be a town center, and not just for books, I wanted to provide something in a small, rural, artsy, city that needed an identity. I looked at Missoula, Montana; Amherst, Massachusetts; Astoria, Oregon; Spokane, Washington; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; and Savannah, Georgia.
I discovered a niche that hadn't really existed before, and I developed the need. My business plan became a map for me to do that, because I saw it, not as a step-by-step system, but as a means to visualize my goal, and to be creative, wherever I could.