Does anyone have advice for an entrepreneur's dream business?

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I received the following email from Dan last week:

"Pamela:  I just signed up for your free reports.  I have had a life-long dream of starting a business of historical and authentic Old West and Frontier "reenactments."  Instead of the "annual" dates that are celebrated in this country, I would like to take important events in US and Idaho history that for the most part have been forgotten. Instead of the "annual" amateur approach, my idea was to have a continual reservoir of historical and entertaining events for businesses functions, private celebrations and public events.  Help.  I am still hanging in there, but my friends, fellow actors and even the "Small Business Administration" have informed me that this idea is just not practical.  I have invested all of my time and money on costumes, guns and holsters, and properties, but I no longer have actors or investors.  I need to either do something with this idea OR put it to sleep.  Any help would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you, Dan."

Here is what I sent him in response:

I like to use the backbone of a business plan as a way to analyze any business idea.  The Sloan Brothers from Startup Nation have a great list of twelve questions that lay the groundwork for a business plan that works in their book Startup Nation:  Open for Business.  They are:
  1. What’s your idea?  Describe it in simple terms as you did for me.  Your audience (prospects, investors, potential employees) should be able to easily understand what you do.
  2. How does your idea address a need?  This is the biggest question for me with your idea.  While I know that you are very passionate about it (which is great!), does anyone else see it as a solution to their problems?
  3. What model suits you best?  Your model may be resource-intensive, or hard to replicate.  Would a movie/video/travelling theater work best?
  4. What’s so different about what you offer?  This assumes that you know about competition in this area.  Who else is doing like things? 
  5. How big is the market, and how big will you grow?  Who are all your potential customers?  Is it a growing market, or a finite one?
  6. What’s your role going to be?  Will you be the promoter/actor/invester, etc?
  7. Who’s on your team?  Who else can make sure you succeed with your idea?
  8. How will customers buy from you, and how much will they pay? 
  9. How much money do you need and how much will you make?  What expenses will you have, and what are likely income projections?
  10. Where’s the startup money coming from?  It sounds like you already have gone through some of your own and others’ money.  Are there any other sources?
  11. How will you measure success?  Is it purely in revenue terms?  Realizing your dream?
  12. What are your key milestones?  Do you have a plan for how to grow this business?  What needs to happen, and it what order?
The main gap that I see from the limited amount I know about your plan is the market for your idea.  While you have great passion about it, does it address a real need, and is anyone willing to pay money for it? 

I never want to discourage people from realizing their dreams.  If this doesn’t turn into a viable for-profit business, perhaps you could make money in another way, and fund this as a non-profit?  Even in this case, you would have to prove that people are interested in this type of offering.

What other advice would you give Dan?  I know he would appreciate your ideas.  Thanks!

3 Responses to “Does anyone have advice for an entrepreneur's dream business?”

  1. Dan,

    I think Pam’s comments on the size of your market are right on! I also think that her suggestion of looking into non-profit status is definitely worth pursuing.

    Your passion for your work comes through loud and clear in your post; however, I worry that your target of businesses may be too challenging to grow a viable business.

    How about turning your events into a curriculum (or an adjunct to an existing curriculum) for local public school districts? For example, if your events fit in with the sixth grade history curriculum, you’ve got a built-in new market every year. And, you can document your process (how to turn historical reenactments into curriculum) and sell it to other districts and/or event providers.

    Good luck!

  2. Hi Cindy:

    Thanks for your question.
    The “model” the Startup Nation book refers to in question three is business model. The types they describe in the book are:

    -Brick and mortar
    -Multilevel marketing

    I have an inkling that Dan could pursue a radically different business model (besides live theater) that may allow him to realize his dreams. But all depends on the need in the market for what he is offering.

  3. Cindy Morus says:

    Hi Pamela, I love these questions. Could you elaborate on #3 What model suits you best?

    What is a model? Thanks.