Starting a company: Pen and paper first

Start building your food production company on a paper before you waste valuable time and money on problems that could have been solved beforehand.

So you have been growing plants at home for quite some time already and now you are considering taking it to the next level and maybe starting a business production? In this new category of articles, I will walk you through the whole process that I was taking in order to launch an urban farming company. There is no tutorial in the world that would assure you a hundred-percent success if you followed it. The tools I will be using are by no means not a must, but they can significantly boost your operation and eliminate some of the upcoming problems.

Before even starting anything though, you need to realize that building a company will cost you A LOT of time, hard work, and troubleshooting. It will consume you and will not let go. If you aren’t dreaming about it every day, I wouldn’t even consider trying anything and wasting your time. If you are still not sure about all of that, these few first articles can definitely help you with viewing the full picture.

Starting on a paper is essential since it makes you think about the whole process, from buying seeds to delivering the product to your customer. You should be able to pinpoint every step in this process, know its money and time costs, and connect it all together. If your concept doesn’t work on a paper, it will surely not work in reality. If it works on a paper, you still have a long way ahead, but you have definitely eliminated some possible errors.

Today we are going to start with Lean Canvas, a single-page structured plan for your business. It consists of 9 important areas, which you should be able to define before taking another step forward. I like using Lean Canvas when developing a new project because it allows you to see things from different points of view, uncover potential risks and communicate your intents to others more clearly.


By the time your canvas will be filled up, you will already have a number of important information and data which will help you answer many of your questions and will keep you on the right track. Be sure to know that all contents of the canvas can be a subject to change over time, so don’t worry about making estimates at the beginning. It is perfectly okay to write down in single points. Don’t forget to include any questions that you have at the current time and don’t know the answer to yet. If you are a creative type of person, you can even draw in it – there are no limitations.

You can find an online version of the canvas here, however, the approach is completely your choice. You can edit it on your computer or print it out, whatever feels the most comfortable to you. On the internet, there are also many tutorials on this topic, so I will walk you only through the basics:

Customer segments

Who is your target group, are you going to sell to chefs or regular customers.
The more specific the better. You can use personas – a deeply described individual, around which you will then build your solutions. Try to imagine as many details of the person as possible, including gender, age, education, job etc.

Problem

Based on your customers, what are their main needs and how are you going to address them? Do you know about any deficits in the market and will you be able to fill this hole? Also, try looking up some existing alternatives.

Solution

Your solution should reflect the two previous sections – zákazníci and problém. It should describe your product, its contents, specs and values that it brings.

Unique value proposition

This is one of the most important sections of the whole canvas because you are summarising the value you are going to bring to the customers. Your text should be understandable for people who never heard of anything similar. You can use already known and existing products in order to describe your offer.

Revenue streams

The question of a price is a hard one. The numbers can look great on the paper, but the reality is ruthless. You will need to do some research on this, trying to sum up your costs, search in your competition, ask your potential customers, and similar. Don’t be afraid to start with a rough estimate and adjust it later on in your process.

Channels

How are you going to reach customers? Flyers, online ads, writing a blog, tasting on the streets? Try to write down very descriptive ways which you will use. Try thinking from their perspective and ask yourself why they should choose your product.

Key metrics

Put in place some indicators to measure your progress. Based on them you should be able to focus on your goals and to evaluate your operation. You can set anything that provides you a feedback, from a number of customers, through sales, to customer satisfaction.

Cost structure

Some costs are obvious, but some aren’t and are often overlooked. You should really include every single thing. You will probably spend some money on web hosting, phone expenses, gas – it is much more than only cost of a plant production. Also be sure to not forget the cost of your time, you absolutely need to count it in and you’ll understand later how important it is.

Unfair advantage

In the era of the internet, this one is probably the hardest one, since information and resources spread around the world at insane speeds. If you are lucky enough, your unfair advantage will be a new technology that you have developed or a star team member (a pioneer in the field). However there is still some place for people who don’t have such luxury – for example, you can be the only supplier for a company of which your brother is an executive staff.

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