Part Two: Writing the Business Plan

header191-cropAt right: bracelets in exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI)
in New York entitled ““Glittering World: the Navajo Jewelry of the Yazzie Family”
For a video of the show, click here.

The N.A.T.I.V.E. Project will provide assistance with creating a business plan. We are able to help you in drafting it, and in checking to see if you are specific enough, if your vision is sound and your objectives attainable.

Few artist entrepreneurs just starting out or even those in business for a long time have properly planned for their success. The idea of making a business plan is daunting. For many artist entrepreneurs, having a plan may feel too calculating, or too rigid, or may be viewed as yet another confusing and unnecessary formality on the path to forming a business. Some may think it is of no practical use other than to secure a loan from a bank or convince investors to put cash into your business, and when that is done, the plan is put aside and forgotten. You might think that events in reality do not follow set plans. You might feel too constrained by a written plan from growing your business instinctually and creatively under a belief that success will unfold, that as word of your product gets out there success will follow, lucky contacts will be made, or pieces you never expected will fall into place for you over time as the business matures, like a journey full of surprises.

However, success is very rarely accidental. We may get lucky sometimes, but real and stable success can only come through hard work and good planning. Additionally, an arts business is more often less a journey than maintaining a family and a way of life.

The life of an artist entrepreneur is a lifestyle and cultural choice. In reality, when you start an arts business, you must first choose a business structure. Essentially, you are moving into a house that has already been built and that already has a structure of rooms and floors in which you must now personalize, live in, maintain for yourself and others, and in which, as in any house, there will be expansion and growth. Homes require stability, and your business is no exception. The business plan provides that stability not only to you, but to others.

The business plan presents a skilled approach to attaining prosperity while being focused on the value of being completely present among those who depend on you at any given time, not always looking far off. The fundamental Diné teaching of t’áá hwó ájít’éego t’éiyá teaches that the community relies on the learned skills, proper attitude, and economic sufficiency of individuals in order for all the Diné to continue to exist as a cohesive people. The Navajo translation of “economic self-sufficiency” is t’áá nihí ák’ineildzil dóó adiká’ adiilwoł—to learn all the skills that you can to fulfill your fundamental responsibility to prosper.


Your business plan should address all of the constituent parts of your business needed to keep your house in good order, starting from your vision of the business to the smallest operational issues. You may want to start with outlining the topics that cover your entire business, then jotting down thoughts that you have for each topic. Once you get these topics down, you can revisit each of the topics in more detail later on.


For example, let’s look at a list of possible topics for a home-based jewelry business: e.g. tools and materials — what you have, what you need, who to get them from, how much, how often you need them, and who supplies them; debts — what debts your business has, how much you must pay every month, how long before the debts are paid off, which debts should be paid off before other debts; workspace — what is good about it, what it needs and the costs of improvement. E.g., making jewelry at a cluttered desk in your bedroom might work for a local fair but not if your vision is to supply a larger market. The desk may have storage for supplies e.g. beads and wires, but organized storage is also needed for finished products. Additionally, jewelry metalwork will create fumes that are dangerous for a home or bedroom studio; storage space — is storage for your product adequate and in an environment that will preserve your product; budget — are you operating within your budget, if not why are you over-extended, how long have you been over-extended, do you have a vision to turn things around; target market — who do you want to buy your work, who to attract, what they want or need to buy, what ends up often unsold; where to sell — venues that will reach your target market, present contacts, contacts you want to make; partners/team — who are the experts and supports whom you need to assemble.

Above: Navajo silversmith Wilson Jim

Once you have outlined these basic topics, you should flesh out each one, answer questions you have and insert ideas until you are ready to write the business plan.

Organizing the Plan

You can take your brainstorm topics and plug them into your business plan, which is normally is organized like this:

  1. Executive Summary. This summarizes your whole plan and is normally written after you have finished all other sections. It only needs to be a few paragraphs long.
  2. Vision and Objectives. In this section, you explain why you set up your business, what market need you have identified that you are trying to fill, which customers you are targeting and why. The more specific you can be, the better. You are telling your story. Remember: the person reading your plan may not know you, and is relying on your plan to understand how you run your business “house” so they can support you. You need to show that you have thought about your business “house,” so they know exactly what you need. They also need to know that you understand your buyers and will address their exact needs. Finally, they need to know how you manage your business “house” and how you are promoting your work.market2
  3. The Competitive Marketplace. This section describes the market you plan to operate in and other businesses like yours in the market. Is it local, regional, internet-based? Do you travel to shows, festivals and fairs? Is the market growing? How many other businesses are like yours competing with you? Can all of you make a living in it? What do your competitors do to stand out, to make ends meet and are you all going after the same market? Are you in a special category without too many competitors, a niche market? Is there governmental support or infrastructure in this area?
  4. Implementation. This section clearly describes all of the resources you will need to make your business successful. How many staff will you need in which roles? What else will you need in order to operate smoothly, e.g. work space, storage space? Think very clearly about the various roles and responsibilities that need to be filled.
  5. Financials. This section is absolutely critical to your plan. This is what “financials” normally contain–
    • Income Statement. This is used to project profits and losses, therefore is a measure of your business growth.
    • Cash Flow Statement. This shows a monthly account of cash coming in and cash going out so that funding needed can be identified. You are better off knowing your funding needs in advance as opposed to finding out later when your bank account is empty and suppliers are asking for payment before they release your goods.

Other articles in the series:

Choosing an Arts Business Way of Life

Making the Artist Statement