When I decided to start my own business – a vegan cheese shop in Brooklyn – I knew I needed a business plan to help me put a roadmap together and ensure that I was looking at all the right things.
But, where does one begin? Staring at a blank piece of paper is rather intimidating, even with very fully formed ideas in my head. Sure, there is a lot of information online, but I felt I needed a bit more hands-on assistance, someone to talk to and brainstorm with.
So I set out to look for resources that offer assistance to start-ups and entrepreneurs, and that didn’t cost and an arm and a leg. I was pleasantly surprised to find many at my disposal, free or low cost. My only investment was my time and effort.
The two resources I’ve turned to most often are SBS and SCORE. SBS is New York City’s department for small businesses and its purpose is to get businesses up and running faster. SCORE, on the other hand, is a nationwide nonprofit organization consisting of retired and semi- retired executives with a minimum of 10 years experience on an executive level.
At SBS I learned what to look for in a lease, bookkeeping, and which permits I’ll need to open my business . I also attended a 6-week course (called FastTrack) on how to write a business plan, how to do research at the Science, Industry and Business Library (an art on its own), and how to write my financial plan – including all the templates needed for that. And it was all free.
(I should mention that I went through several Account Managers at SBS, because not all of them are equally knowledgeable.)
And when it’s time for me to start hiring employees (soon), I will also turn to their service called “Workforce 1” which helps with job postings, candidate screenings, and interviews.
At SCORE, on the other hand, I found a mentor whom I meet with every other month to brainstorm or talk about things I’m struggling with. My mentor is named Mary, and she’s been in marketing and retail for 30 years. She’s very hands-on and likes to get involved in every detail of my business. It’s great to have someone neutral who asks unexpected questions and offers different views. She’d also never had vegan cheese and was very curious about the whole concept — another one on the hook!
SCORE also offers classes at a low cost on marketing, technology, employment law, etc.; mentorship is free.
Being something of a worry bug, I also went to the New York State Small Business Development Center at Baruch College to have yet another resource and “sanity check.” These small business development centers are available all over the country and often work in colleges with MBA students. I was connected with my own Business Advisor who reviewed my business plan, provided recommendations, and enhanced my financial plan by adding more details.
My brick-and-mortar store – 820 Washington Avenue in Brooklyn – isn’t open yet, and there are still many things I don’t know: taxes scare me, and employment law is not as straightforward as one might think. And I really, really hope that my sales forecasts will come through! But using all these resources and doing all that research was a good start. And I’ve met so many people, aka “entrepreneurs” (never thought I’d count myself as one of them) out there who are on this exciting path, too, and who are happy to help. Best of all: I’ve piqued the interest of several people on veganism, vegan lifestyle, and – of course – vegan cheese.
Because, at the end of the day, my goal for this undertaking is to make a difference – for the love of all animals!
Michaela Grob is the founder & operating owner of Riverdel, a vegan cheese shop opening in Brooklyn in late 2015. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and several rescued pets. In fact, the name “Riverdel” stems from the name of her dog, River, and cat, Fidel. In her past professional life, she was a Sales Director managing large, cross-functional sales teams in the online industry for eleven years. She holds a degree in Tourism & Leisure Management and has several years of restaurant and hotel management experience. She is also a recent graduate of the Main Street Academy and the Matthew Kenney Culinary Academy. Follow Riverdel on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.