We recently launched a new service business.
Our target is the potential entrepreneur. Our goal is to help the people go from curious to competent in making the go/no go decision in launching their new venture. We have years of experience in raising and deploying capital, competitive analysis and have written and read more business plans than we care to remember.
We have tapped our network of entrepreneurs, angels and friends to read and analyze business plans and their respective market segments to help would be entrepreneurs. We offer a place to practice their elevator pitch and presentations (via skype) and offer a simple SWOT analysis for their plans and summaries. We will not raise capital for people using our services.
This is a lifestyle sideline business. Our capital requirements are zero. Our limitation is time. Since the partners and contributing advisors have their own businesses to run, I estimate that we could only handle about 100 plans a year or about 8 to 10 plans a month.
How would you find and approach this small market segment?
Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving.
If you want to get in front of entrepreneurs, do something valuable like answering questions on this site, have a genuinely useful blog, write guest posts, etc..
If you can't do any of that because you don't have the time, perhaps you shouldn't do it at all. What's the point of a "side business" where you charge a small amount to do a small amount of work?
If you want to do this because it's fun, do it for fun, for free.
If you're already running your own businesses, why are you even thinking about "making money" with something on the side?
So you review people's business plans after they pay you money? Perhaps you should provide real information on your site about why people should pay you - what have you done? What businesses have you run? What ideas have you had? Why do you think you provide any value at all?
Before you start with the slick sales pitch - figure out a way to give value. There are plenty of others in the arena who are just in it to be part of it, because they love it. You are in it for $60 per hour and you have no credibility at all. You're fighting a losing battle if you ask me.
Why even charge if you are only going to review 2 plans per week? Why not just offer a free service?
Note that SCORE does this kind of service for free.
If you are for real and do have something to offer, what I would do in your position is continue participating (with full transparency) in the startup community and use a softer sell. Blog on your site and provide other valuable information. You establish your credibility that way. Then as your content is noticed you will get business.
But again, I have to wonder - if you are so busy that you can only take on two business plans per week, you probably don't have time to do the community and brand building. If this is just a hobby for you why are you doing it? What is the motivation? Something just doesn't fit here and that is disconcerting (to me at least).
Your best bet is to work with some VCs and angel investors, perhaps, and go through your network to see who can use your service.
But, if your basic approach is as you did here then you may as well find a new hobby, as your approach here has been done poorly.
As Tim mentioned, what can you really offer? So you can help give suggestions as to presentations, big whoop. You can network with other startups and they can also give advice for free.
If I pay you, what can you offer that I can't get anywhere else?
You may want to start with reading "How to make friends and influence people", by Dale Carnegie. I think it is a book that anyone that is going to do sales should read. In your case, if you start with expressing what other similar companies do, and what they do well, and what you offer beyond them, without putting them down, then you express your familiarity with other options, in a fair way, and then you explain what you do, which will help get past the fact that there are other options, as you have covered that well.
The business plan and elevator pitch review portion of your business is not a bad idea, and I think some entrepreneurs may benefit. However, if it were me I'd only consider paying for business plan review if I knew you guys had some connection to VCs or angels, and you could provide some inside information as to what these guys look for on plans (and pitfalls to avoid).
As far as the idea review, I don't get it. I have asked my friends, family, and collegues to review my idea and they happily do it from FREE. On top of that, they've all had widly varying opinions. It seems the best idea review comes best from a pool or reviewed not one or two. Also, shouldn't a idea review be a fixed price instead of paying by the hour? Do some ideas take longer to review than others?
Just kicking a dead horse but two key problems already mentioned:
1) you don't communicate any credibility at all on your site. Why would I think that you're going to give me any advice of any value without knowing your credentials, past successes, references, etc?
2) your pricing belies any credibility. $60/hour for strategic counseling? That's nuts. A marcom consultant would charge more than that.
As said above, it appears this message is intended as a sales pitch.
I do believe there is value in this. I've been involved with a somewhat similar entity as an advisor (I won't give the name because I'm not trying to drum up business) and they've created an enterpreneurs meetup group that's fantastically successful with significant exposure, huge turnouts to meetups, etc.