Saturday, August 6, 2011

"You're Our Big Winner"

by: Layne Freedline

Yes, I did jump up and down squealing in delight when I got the good news. Actually, Erica, my production assistant was there and we were hugging and jumping up and down together. She had seen the hours that I was putting into the grant proposal. She even put in a few editing hours as well.

If you are curious about this award, I'll give you a little background: Halstead Bead Inc was formed in 1973. It is based in Prescott, Arizona, and has always been owned by the Halstead family. The operation has shifted from jewelry selling to bead wholesaling. Eventually the business grew to a major jewelry supply operation. The Halstead's have such a big heart for artisans making the plunge into a start-up jewelry business that they began sponsoring this annual grant to jewelry start-ups in 2006.

It feels so good to have a well established company tell you that you have a great business plan. My family and friends can tell me that I'm doing great and I'll always appreciate it, but it feels different coming from industry professionals. It cures some of the doubts that I have about myself and my ability to reach my goals.

How did I win the Grant? I tried, and failed, and tried again. My first attempt at the grant was last year. It earned me a finalist title, which came with a snazzy plaque. Most importantly, I was given a very thoughtful feedback report from the grant committee. I realized then, that the valuable suggestions for the future of my business offered by a 40 year old company in the same industry was worth every minute that I spent working on the grant proposal.

The grant application includes a list of short and long answer questions , one of which asks the applicant to present a three year business plan. If you are in the first three years of your company, it would behoove you to write a business plan regardless. The plan that I set about making last year fell short of focus, but in the feedback report, there were some sparkling suggestions of areas on which to spend my focus.

Even though the report was a hefty 26 pages long, I asked some of my friends to take a look and offer suggestions. Seeking out remarks from several people with different perspectives helped me to create a focused plan that could be understood by many.

One of my friends brilliantly suggested a summary or overview of the business plan. This thought hadn't crossed my mind, and I immediately went to work on it. It was now possible to touch on my many ideas quickly referenced on one page rather leafing through the following 10 pages of details.

The summary is an incredible tool for me to organize my business plans as well. I have given the summary to all of the people who work with me, and color coded projects based on what department (marketing, website construction, design, production) is handling it. Of course, at this early stage in the company's life, I am most departments :)

In closing, I'll say that this grant program helped me to focus my company by asking me tough questions and offering quite an incentive for well thought out answers. My plans evolved through their insightful feeback.