All Cal State Fullerton student-entrepreneurs are challenged to give presentations to a panel of experts (experts in banking, investing, entrepreneurship, and a variety of other professions) multiple times during their tenures as students. Yesterday, about 100 of those students presented the progress they have made over the course of the semester in launching a business.
And we are talking about real businesses, here!
A couple of the students have already begun their entrepreneurial journeys. Take Alexis (Omoghéné) as one example. She was the team leader for a startup called Kissable, which aims to take a unique spin on the lip balm market and she is also a media entrepreneur. Omoghéné is also a media entrepreneur having recently released a couple of singles, which you can view here and here.
Another presenter during the day was Leonardo Gomez, the creator of Runball and a finalist at the recently concluded CSUF Startup Competition finals. Leonardo’s concept for a rope tethered to a ball is an ingenious way of getting your overly energetic dog some much needed excercise without running yourself into the ground. Over the course of the semester he has been working with his team (and as a resident of the CSUF Startup Incubator) on creating a business plan for Runball.
What’s in a CSUF Entrepreneurship Business Plan?
Nothing earth shattering. At CSUF Entrepreneurship we believe that the most effective way to plan is in a way that is straightforward. Especially for first time entrepreneurs, focusing on what is important – marketing, operations, finance, raising funds – is what is important. Yes, creating discounted cash flow models are great but lets get the most important stuff right first before moving on to the advanced stuff.
For the marketing section, students are required to actually get out of the classroom and interview dozens of potential customers. This is an eye opening experience for our students as most of them have never done anything like it before. Actually talking with people about your startup concept is not something that most entrepreneurs do in a meaningful way. We challenge our students to do that.
Operations are another part of the plan and CSUF Entrepreneurship students usually have a challenge to contend with here. We like to keep our business plans grounded in reality and for our students they do not have a lot of resources (i.e. money, people, assets, etc.) with which to start a business. This makes operations tricky as most of the students are having to staff their businesses without many of the necessary positions being filled and without enough capital to sustain a business in a comfortable way.
Know what? That’s most startups. Most startups have little to no resources available to them at the very beginning. Even a couple of years in, and even for those startups that are one of the few that are able to raise money from investors, most startups are struggling to stay afloat. This is why we think it’s so important for our students to really focus on figuring out an operational plan from the ground up where they really endeavor to understand all of the resources they have available to them and then, from that standpoint, construct an operational plan that is feasible and makes it possible for them to launch a successful business.
All the parts of a business plan are difficult but financials are a special case for most students. Numbers, in general, aren’t something that most people take to. In fact, even for the businesses I have seen that have raised hundreds of thousands, if not a few million, dollars, financials are almost always the weakest part of any plan. Why is this the case?
First, you have to figure out how much everything is actually going to cost. That includes: employees, assets, costs of goods sold, operational expenses, inventory, etc. If entrepreneurs can do a good job at this that takes them a long way to constructing more valuable pro forma financial documents.
Second, you have to forecast sales and everything else that goes into the business. If you spend this much on marketing how many units are you going to sell? What happens if the market goes into a recession? What happens if your product just takes off like a rocket ship; would you be able to keep up with demand in that situation?
Third, accept the fact that all pro forma documents are evolving over time. Creating useful financial forecasts is an iterative process. You change something over in one area of the financials and that will affect multiple other areas, which will in turn…. You get the point.
And the maddening part, and this isn’t the case for only the financial section, is that no matter what you do there really isn’t an easily verifiable way to determine if what you are doing is 100% correct. Planning is great, we certainly think it’s a very important part of the startup process otherwise we would not require our students to create business plans, but, as has been said about military planning, plans only last until first contact. You may have the most beautifully reasoned business plan the world has ever seen but you cannot expect the unexpected.
CSUF Entrepreneurship + Real World Businesses = Success
One of the things that we frequently encounter when talking with entrepreneurs and executives in industry is some level of disbelief that university students are actually, really, honestly being prepared for the life of an entrepreneur and innovator. There’s just so much that goes into making an entrepreneur that there just doesn’t seem to be a way for a university to fully prepare its students for the life of being an entrepreneur.
And while there may be some truth in that, what almost every businessperson we have worked with has quickly realized is that Cal State Fullerton students are being prepared to be leaders in the business world for years to come. A CSUF Entrepreneurship education has been carefully designed to provide its students with an advanced academic understanding of entrepreneurship and innovation as well as the practical knowledge on how to actually get things done.
But we can do more.
The CSUF Entrepreneurship community is awesome. We have events all the time and we have so many, a couple of dozen at the panels from earlier today, community members that selflessly give up their time so that they can be a part of a students entrepreneurial education at Cal State Fullerton.
In order to do more, however, we will have to work with community members to develop our own plans for providing students and community members alike with resources and opportunities to further their entrepreneurial journeys. Building businesses, improving communities, and challenging people to embrace an entrepreneurial lifestyle are what drives the economy forward. It’s no small task and we would appreciate your ideas and, if you’re so inclined, why not join the CSUF Entrepreneurship Board of Directors?
If interested, please contact Center for Entrepreneurship Director John Bradley Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are dedicated to helping the next generation of entrepreneurs develop the skills that they need to compete locally and globally. The CSUF Entrepreneurship program does many things,