E-commerce Internet Business Plan
Popular culture is no longer regional. The advent of cable television, syndicated radio programs, and the Internet has created a world where a fashion statement in New York will be on the streets in a small midwestern town in a matter days. The speed of our telecommunication system has increased young customers’ expectations and demands for products that represent their own cultural statement.
FireStarters will offer young customers, in small towns and communities around United States, the youth-oriented products and clothing that are popular nationwide but not available locally.
The difference between FireStarters and other youth-oriented e-commerce websites is that FireStarters is focused only on its small-town America customers. The target customer is a young person, age 11-18, who listens to alternative music and participates in youth sports like skateboarding and snowboarding. Our target customer will look toward alternative clothing trends in large urban areas as their inspiration. FireStarters will exclusively advertise in small communities with populations between 100,000 and 150,000 residents. Communities of this size already have small youth-oriented businesses, like skateboard shops and alternative CD stores, that FireStarters can utilize to promote its product line.
The mission of FireStarters is to offer distinctive youth-oriented fashion and products to small-town America.
1.2 Keys to Success
- Accessible website that is entertaining to surf. Like a trip to your favorite store where you always find something new that you want.
- Excellent vendor relationship that will facilitate quick shipment of orders.
- Establish an effective strategy for advertising in the communities’ youth-oriented businesses.
- Create a store image that our target customers sees as both attractive and trendy.
FireStarters will offer youth-oriented products and clothing, online, that are popular nationwide but not available locally. Jill Stranton and Bobbi Hanson, co-owners of FireStarters, will create a cost-effective operation that will quickly ship clothing and product purchases to the customer.
FireStarters will focus on marketing products to its target customers in small cities with populations between 100,000 and 150,000 residents. The key to marketing strategy will be staging events that will increase the visibility of the online store with the target customer base. We will use existing local businesses that serve the same target customer base to co-sponsor these events.
2.1 Company Ownership
Jill Stranton and Bobbi Hanson are the co-owners of FireStarters.
2.2 Start-up Summary
The start-up costs of FireStarters consists of product inventory, creating a promotion campaign and establishing its website. FireStarters is funding start up with owner investments and a long-term business loan.
FireStarters will offer young customers the following youth-oriented products and clothing:
- Dresses and skirts.
- Time pieces.
Market Analysis Summary
According to the U.S. Census Bureau the population of teens (age 12-17), in 1999 was 23.4 million, which represents 8.6% of the total U.S. population. Teenagers influence $324 billion in spending annually, have $151 billion in disposable income, spend $24 billion annually, and will spend $1.2 billion online by 2002. Teens spend an average of $82 per week on entertainment, fashion, food, and technology. These young people dubbed “Generation Y” dominate almost all facets of popular culture and are the fastest-growing demographic under age 65.
Specialty youth clothing and products has grown into a billion dollar niche in the clothing industry. The popularity of the Internet with young people has been well documented and has generated the launching of a number of online stores by companies selling to that market segment. Most of these stores have retail outlets in large urban areas that serve as the promotional vehicles for online shopping.
The Internet is an accessible shopping tool for our target population. 64% of teens nationwide use the Net at home. The majority of teens, 55%, consider using the Internet better than watching TV. Families with teens are more likely to have Internet access than other households.
Online shopping by teenagers between 13 to 18 years in age is expected to total about $300 million this year (2000) and is accelerating at about twice the rate of online shopping by adults. By 2003, teenagers are expected to spend $2 billion annually online. By 2004, a clear majority of young consumers will shop online. The top five purchases made by teens [online], based on sales volume, are CDs/cassette tapes, clothing, books, computer software, toys and clothing.
4.1 Market Segmentation
Over the past ten years, there has been a profound change in population dynamics in the U.S. The non-metropolitan population has been growing at almost the same rate as the urban population. The West Coast, Midwest, and the Northeast have the largest growth rate. Today, there are millions of young people who don’t live near a large urban center that offers the diversity in clothing products that the youth culture demands. This has created a small market niche for businesses to sell clothing and products to young people who live outside the urban areas. This is particularly true in communities with a major college located in the community.
Currently, only regional malls offer access to the fashion and styles that young people want. Unfortunately, the focus of these mall stores is only on the mainstream of the youth market. Alternative clothing and products are rarely available outside the urban area. This is true because the companies that create the clothing and products are small and sell primarily through urban specialty shops.
FireStarters will capitalize on the following characteristics of Generation Y:
- Subculture Affiliation: Though rebellious, teens also want to blend in and be accepted by peers. They seek a community of peers to welcome them in, as well as help them stand out.
- Attitude: Teenagers wear attitude like a uniform to give definition to their identity. This extends to clothing, hair style and the type of music listened to in public. They also react to humor, silliness, and irreverence more easily than to other styles.
It is FireStarters’ plan to bring alternative fashion and products to small-town America via the Internet. We will create a business identity that will capitalize on the subculture affiliation and attitude of our target customers.
FireStarters will focus marketing on two type of non-metropolitan communities:
- Non-metropolitan communities with populations between 100,000 and 150,000 residents.
- Non-metropolitan communities with a major college and population of at least 80,000.
Computer Repair Business Plan
This sample business plan will guide you with regards to successfully starting your own computer repair business.
Computer Repair Business Plan
PC Repair will provide computer and technical consulting (repairs, training, networking and upgrade service) to local small businesses as well as home PC users. The company will focus on marketing, responsiveness, quality, and creating and retaining customer relations.
PC Repair was initially formed as a sole proprietorship, but was reconfigured as an S Corporation in December of 2004. PC Repair will at first be a home office start-up, utilizing one studio room in the owner’s home and serving customers in the local Ramsford-on-Bitstream area.
In the third month of our plan, we will move into a leased office space and hire a second technician. As sales increase, we will hire additional personnel.
The very nature of the computing industry, with its extraordinary rate of technological development, creates a constant need for businesses skilled in updating and advising customers on computer-related issues.
In town, the majority of potential customers are dissatisfied with existing options, creating an attractive niche for an innovative start-up. Small business PC users will provide the majority of our business revenue.
Business Week expects the computing industry to grow at a rate of 12% and the processor speeds to continue to expand for years to come, providing a rich resource for sales.
PC Repair has decided to focus mainly on the small business market, as these customers typically don’t have a full-time IT person, but have full-time IT needs.
PC Repair will offer an affordable, on-demand service for these customers. We can also offer maintenance agreements that generate additional monthly income.
For our residential customers, we will offer a very affordable and helpful service with a very flexible schedule to meet their needs. Our target market will focus on Ramsford-on-Bitstream and the surrounding areas. Market research indicates there is an abundance of business for a small company such as PC Repair.
Start-up Funding and Financials
To get PC Repair started the owner is providing cash and assets. We are also seeking a short-term loan, to be secured with the owner’s home equity, and repaid within three years.
Our conservative sales forecasts, based on industry research within the local area, project hefty sales in year one, steadily increasing through year three. To reach these goals, we will use an aggressive advertising campaign to exploit our competitors’ weaknesses.
With good cost control, we will see a modest, yet comfortable, net profit the first year, even after moving into a leased space and hiring additional technicians.
- To provide the best service available to the community at an affordable price.
- To generate substantial market share so that PC Repair is a common name.
- Constant growth in sales from start up through year three.
- To generate customer satisfaction so that at least 40% of our customer base is repeat business.
Our goal is to set the standard for on-site computer solutions through fast, on-site service and response. Our customers will always receive one-on-one personal attention at a very affordable price.
Our customers will receive the highest quality of customer service available. Our employees will receive extensive training, a great place to work, fair pay and benefits, and incentives to use their own good judgement to solve customers’ problems.
1.3 Keys to Success
- Establishing a brand identity and generating brand recognition through marketing.
- Responsiveness: being an on-call computer paramedic with fast response time.
- Quality: getting the job done right the first time, offering 100% guarantee.
- Relationships: developing loyal repeat customers–retainers.
PC Repair is an S Corporation located in Ramsford-on-Bitstream, owned by Jack Hacker. With a small 3-year loan, PC Repair will grow in one year from a one-man, home-office based repair shop to a profitable, 3-person business in a leased location.
We will build the necessary infrastructure to quickly and efficiently respond to customers’ computer needs, guaranteeing speedy, friendly, competent, and cost-effective technical support.
2.1 Company Ownership
PC Repair was initially envisioned as a sole proprietorship in the owner’s home. However, recent feedback from our marketing outreach has suggested a much higher sales potential than originally imagined, and PC Repair has been reformed as an S Corporation.
This change will provide additional legal protection for the owner, and will also streamline the financial operations of the company as we expand the personnel to 5 within the next three years, lease a separate space for offices, and purchase company vehicles and cell phones.
The owner, Jack Hacker, has 10 years of experience in the fields of technical support, networking, and computer training and repair. Jack has also spent the last three years as the manager of a custom computer building and repair store, and understands the computer needs of small businesses.
2.2 Start-up Summary
Total start-up expenses include initial expenses for establishing our website, setting up the business, and doing our pre-opening advertising. Exact allocations are shown in the table.
The bulk of our start-up requirements are asset needs: we need diagnostic and repair equipment, half of which will be contributed to the business by the owner from his own materials.
We are treating this equipment as assets because we expect it to last at least three years, and to have some resale value when we are through with it; we will buy additional expensed equipment in years two and three. We also need start-up inventory which includes RAM, spare hard drives, cables, and cases.
Related: 21 Steps To Start-Up
Although we will keep expenses to a minimum for the first three months, before we move, we will also need cash at start-up, to see us through the next several months with a positive cash balance.
PC Repair will offer computer repairs, training, networking and upgrade service to clients in two major categories: home PC users and small business users. As PC Repair and the client demands grow, we will offer software development to our business clients.
From the very first day, we will offer on-site repair and consulting services, so that our clients don’t need to take time out of their busy days to haul a computer in to our workshop. This is the single biggest frustration Jack has seen among small business owners needing computer help.
Much of our diagnostic equipment is portable, and we will remove a PC to our workshop only when the problem requires more detailed diagnosis or repair. We will also offer free pick-up and delivery of PCs needing repair. To meet the growing demand for this service, we will purchase a company vehicle in the third month.
We will also offer extended maintenance contracts, so that business clients can deal with technical support and repair needs as a single line-item expense, rather than having to plan for unexpected crashes and problems with a rainy-day fund they may never use. Maintenance contracts yield a high gross margin for us, and provide peace of mind for the customer.
We will offer limited software support (installation and compatibility issues), and focus on hardware and networking support – this is a vital distinction, since software is evolving much more rapidly than hardware, and our clients will have such diverse software needs that we couldn’t possibly keep up with all of them.
We will encourage clients to register their software and use the software’s own support options to their full potential. We will, however, keep up to date with multiple operating systems and networking developments, working with clients to make sure they have the most appropriate combinations of hardware, OS, networking, backup systems, and software.
Backup and security are becoming higher priorities for all our potential customers, as internet usage (and its pitfalls) becomes more common, and as more and more daily records are stored electronically.
Market Analysis Summary
PC Repair will provide computer support in both a consulting and technical capacity to small business owners as well as home PC users. Since PC Repair is currently a one man operation, its growth in the first three months will be limited by the owner’s capacity to complete work.
However, these first three months are critical for establishing our credibility and a reputation for getting the job done quickly and well. We will focus on delivering excellent service, and using the good word of mouth from this initial period to network with other potential clients.
Personal market research by the owner indicates an attractive market niche for our services, of which PC Repair will take full advantage.
The very nature of the computing industry, with its extraordinary rate of technological development, creates a constant need for businesses skilled in updating and advising customers on computer-related issues.
National chains, such as “Geeks on Call,” and Best Buy’s “Geek Squad” have seen rapid growth in demand for these services in the last few years. Customers are seeking skilled help with everything from installation of software and hardware components, to networking, to transferring files from an old computer to a new one.
Those who can often enlist their tech-savvy children’s help, but others are not so fortunate, and small-business owners need reliable and quick help with all their computer needs, since every hour down may mean an hour or more of lost revenue, especially for any business with a website or those doing e-commerce.
4.1 Market Segmentation
The existing computer service market is so extensive that categorizing it is rather difficult. We have broken our potential market down into two groups, based on their needs: home PC users and small business clients.
Home PC User
Our home PC user market includes non-tech-savvy residents of the local area (15 mile radius), generally between the ages of 30 and 70, with at least one home computer.
We are not expecting income from users below 30, who tend to be more comfortable with technology and willing to attempt repairs and upgrades on their own, without seeking professional assistance.
Such home users generally own a computer to do email, play games, write letters, scan and print photos, and occasionally to do bookkeeping or taxes. Home PC users with more sophisticated applications generally have enough tech savvy, from tech experience at work, to do their own repairs and upgrades.
Their hardware needs will include the computer itself, monitors, keyboards, mouse, printer, and scanner.
This group is growing slightly faster than the overall population growth in our area, in part due to the increasing demand for computers among retired people and young families, about 7% a year.
Small Business Users
Small business users will provide the majority of our business revenue. The small business market will be defined as customers within a 15 mile radius, with 2 or more computers or a network which they use for business purposes at least 25% of the time.
Their business use may include minor usage, such as updating a business website for a brick-and-mortar store, keeping the books, designing graphics or ad campaigns, and writing copy for press releases. It may also be more extensive, incorporating inventory tracking, POS systems, customer databases, online product/service delivery, or product development.
The more intensive their computer usage for business, the more critical it is to them that their technology work well and reliably, and that quality repairs and support are available in a crisis. Their hardware needs will include the same items as home users, plus servers, backup systems, data storage, and wireless networking.
4.2 Target Market Segment Strategy
Although there are more potential customers among home PC users, we expect the majority of our revenue to come from small business clients, since their need for our services is more urgent, and they are willing to invest in technology as part of their business plan.
The majority of our marketing efforts will thus be focused on small business owners. These customers typically don’t have a full-time IT person, but have full-time IT needs. Home PCs are often used by multiple people, and serve multiple purposes.
Our home PC users need help with managing their settings to integrate the different needs of all household members as much as they need technical assistance.
ComputingNet magazine recently reported on the substantial need for timely and cost-effective computer upgrades and repairs in this region; Jack Hacker has seen this market need in person, as frustrated clients waited for days or weeks for their critical components to be returned to full capacity, with no inexpensive alternative to the existing computer repair shops.
All of our clients need technical assistance, but we are also selling peace of mind: our clients will know that friendly, efficient help is just a phone call away.
As more and more companies switch their support services to automated call centers or touch-tone menus, the simple reassurance of hearing another human voice on the phone within a few rings is immeasurable. Even better is knowing that within a few hours, someone will show up and take care of their problem.
Both the software and hardware side of the computer industry continue to turn out new and revised computer components at alarming rates.
For PC Repair this means job security well into the future. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, there seems to be no end to the development of the computer market.
Business Week expects the computing industry to grow at a rate of 12% and the processor speeds to continue to expand for years to come.
4.3 Service Business Analysis
Secondary market research shows computer service customers tend to be very loyal to providers that do good work and satisfy their needs. An analysis of PC Repair’s main competitors shows no overwhelming strengths that would be significant barriers to entry into the market, as our local competitors have serious weaknesses.
The computer maintenance and repair industry is fragmented, with a few large, national players and hundreds of small, local stores.
While most computers are actually repaired in-store, near the customer, parts for the repair come from major manufacturers and distributors; delays in receiving necessary parts can significantly slow down the repair process.
Large chains have solved this problem by keeping vast amounts of inventory in stock at all times, while local stores offer customers the trade-off of personal interaction and trust that may make up for some delay.
PC Repair has established a relationship with a local distributor to do rapid special-ordering; although this capability is more expensive than normal channels, it will enable us to quickly establish a reputation as efficient and responsive to customer needs, particularly for our small business users.
We will leverage this customer loyalty into great word of mouth marketing and steady growth.
4.3.1 Competition and Buying Patterns
Customers choose computer repair and assistance services based on reputation, previous experience, and price. They may choose to return to a mediocre provider with whom they’re familiar, rather than try out a new unknown company about whom they’ve heard nothing.
Large stores, especially the service departments of national chains, have a great advantage simply in their affiliation with an established brand.
Establishing our brand identity and a great reputation in the first few months is critical to our success. Once we have broken in to the local market, our great service will turn new clients into permanent clients.
Our services will be second to no one and our prices will be very reasonable for the high quality service we offer. By providing superior service, word of mouth alone will bring in many new clients. The satisfaction our consumers find will keep them coming back. There are two main competitors for the computer upgrade and repair business in this area:
They are a well established provider of computer upgrades and services, and do quick work. However, they have a high staff turnover, a young and inexperienced staff, and are more interested in selling new components than in maintaining existing machines or finding custom solutions.
They do not offer any kind of pick-up and drop-off service, and do not offer on-site help. They really only offer hardware support.
Smaller and less known then A, B provides many services for residents living in east and south parts of town. They are more willing to spend time with a client, figuring out exactly what his or her needs are, and suggesting new options than competitor A.
However, they have an inefficient ordering system and an unkempt shop, which deters potential customers and can turn existing customers to the competition. They also do not offer on-site services, although they are considering instituting a trial pick-up/drop-off service.
They are in the best position to copy our innovations and steal customers, but their management is complacent and may not respond to competition.
Both of these companies charge rates in excess of PC Repair; we will be able to attract the price-sensitive market without much work.
WiFi Kiosks Sample Business Plan
Opening up a WiFi kiosk will require a detailed business plan similar to this.
WiFi Kiosks Business Plan
Stroll Net will provide a unique forum for communication and entertainment through the medium of public Internet access. In the first year, we will set up 16 Internet-enabled pay-kiosks in public spaces throughout Tech City, in locations frequented by business travelers and students, but with no nearby internet cafes or other similar competition. Our flagship location will be next to the downtown bus and train station, where, for less than a dollar, travelers can check email, locate phone numbers, and look up directions on any of the multiple online-mapping sites. They can also simply surf the net, as their time and budget allows. By accepting both real money (coins and dollar bills) and credit cards, we can catch both the casual browser and the traveler with money to burn.
Stroll Net is the answer to an increasing demand. Americans want access to the methods of communication and volumes of information now available on the Internet, at a cost they can afford, and in such a way that they aren’t confined to a bedroom or office desk. Stroll Net’s goal is to provide the community with a convenient and affordable way to access the Internet away from home and the office. This business plan is prepared to obtain financing in the amount of $299,671. The supplemental financing is required to begin the purchase of public Internet terminals, the purchase of an office warehouse, office equipment and supplies and company vehicles, and to cover expenses in the first year of operations. Additional financing has already been secured in the form of $10,500 of personal savings from owners Cam Piotr and Bob Green, and a long-term loan of $100,000.
Stroll Net will be incorporated as a Limited Liability Corporation. This will shield the owners, Cam Piotr and Bob Green, from issues of personal liability and double taxation. The investors will be treated as shareholders and therefore will not be liable for more than their individual personal investment of $5,250 each. The financing, in addition to the capital contributions from the owners, will allow Stroll Net to successfully open and maintain operations through year one. The large initial capital investment will allow Stroll Net to provide its clients and customers with the most innovative public Internet terminal available. A unique and innovative product is required to provide the customers with a service that is insurmountable by any competition. Successful operation in year one will provide Stroll Net a customer base that will allow it to be self-sufficient in year two.
For an investment of $299,671, we project dividends of $100,000 in year two, and $200,000 in year three, depending on cash flows. These projections are based on actual business revenues from similar start-up customers of our internet kiosk supplier in other states. In the first year, with a break-even point of $42,599 per month, we expect revenues of $727,072 and net profit of 18.5%, or $134,305. By year three, revenues will increase to $1,136,067, and the net worth of Stroll Net will increase to $610,320. Dividends thereafter will depend on cash flows; in year five, investors will have the option of being bought out by the company owners.
As the popularity of the Internet continues to grow at an exponential rate, easy and affordable access is quickly becoming a necessity of life. Stroll Net will provide internet users and business travelers alike the ability to access the Internet, via our public Internet terminals or a wireless WiFi connection away from home and the office. For a minimal fee, internet users, young and old, will be able to access the internet while they stay in hotels, wait at airports, shop in shopping malls and so on.
We look to be the leader in introducing an innovative and quality public Internet terminal to our current market. We will add value to our community by maintaining a quality product and providing a valuable service. Our terminals will utilize the most advance technologies and our staff will possess the utmost in customer service experience.
1.2 Keys to Success
As a start-up company, new to the industry, we must be focused and work hard to create an acceptance for ourselves and our products and services within the marketplace. The keys to our success are:
- The placement of an innovative product and quality service that is able to both expand existing markets and create new ones.
- A steady, disciplined pattern of growth.
- The development of a good relationship with clients and customers.
Stroll Net’s objectives for the first year of operation include:
- The introduction of an innovative product that offers an affordable and convenient way for Internet users to access the Internet away from home.
- The creation of a unique environment that allows traveling business people access to their own files and programs.
- The placement of 100 public Internet terminals operating throughout the North MyState area.
For the following two years our growth objectives includes:
- A growth in public Internet terminals placed by 20% each year.
- A growth in revenues by 25% per year.
The risks involved with starting Stroll Net are:
- Will there be a demand for the services offered by Stroll Net in Tech City?
- Will the popularity of the Internet continue to grow, or is the Internet a fad?
- Will individuals be willing to pay for the service Stroll Net offers?
- Will the cost of accessing the Internet from home drop so significantly that there will not be a market for public Internet terminals?
Stroll Net, soon to be located on the south side of Tech City, MyState, will offer the community convenient and affordable way to access the Internet away from home and the office. Stroll Net’s public Internet terminals will provide full access to email, video email, the Web and other applications, such as a prepaid storefront. Stroll Net will provide clients and customers with a unique and innovative product and service. Stroll Net’s public Internet terminals will appeal to individuals of all ages and backgrounds. The ease-of-use and instructional menu will appeal to the audience that does not associate themselves with the computer age. Great locations, such as hotel lobbies and coffee shops, will provide business people with a convenient way to access the Internet and office files away from the office.
2.1 Company Ownership
Stroll Net is a privately-held Limited Liability Corporation. Cam Piotr and Bob Green, co-founders of Stroll Net, hold equal stock positions of 26% each as majority owners. Investors will receive one share of Stroll Net stock for every $6,244 of investment, up to 48%.
2.2 Start-up Summary
Stroll Net’s start-up costs will cover the purchase of public Internet terminals (our long-term assets), the purchase of an office warehouse, office equipment and supplies, company vehicles, capital to cover losses in the first year, and capital to cover any and all expenses required to operate business on a daily basis for the first year.
Products and Services
Stroll Net’s public Internet terminals will provide customers full access to email, video email, WWW and other applications such as a prepaid storefront. Stroll Net will provide clients and customers with a unique and innovative product and service.
3.1 Product and Service Description
- Walk-up Internet Access: Customers pay with either cash or credit card and receive a specific amount of time on the terminal in exchange for their payment. Customers can surf the Internet, check email and send video email.
- Wireless Internet Access: Away from the home, WiFi users can access the Internet through our Wireless Hotspots.
- Prepaid Storefront: An application that allows customers to purchase products such as Prepaid Calling Cards, Prepaid Wireless Top-up, and Prepaid Mobile Content (games, graphics, ring tones, etc.).
- Multimedia Advertising: Local, regional, or national companies can advertise using multimedia on-screen advertisements. Advertisements consist of full motion video “commercials,” picture files, or twelve advertising buttons.
- Wheelchair Accessible
- Front access for easy service and maintenance
- 15.1 inch touch screen LCD monitor
- Industrial spill and vandal proof keyboard
- Web Camera with integrated microphone
- Bill Acceptor and Credit Card Reader
- Stereo Speakers
- Wireless Router
- Surfnet Premier
- 2.4GHz Celeron Processor
- 40GB hard Drive
- 256MB DDR-RAM
- 52X CD-ROM
- Floppy Drive
- Windows XP Professional
- 3-Year Hotswap
3.2 Competitive Comparison
Stroll Net will be first to place public Internet Terminals in Tech City. Stroll Net will differentiate itself from other ISPs in Tech City by providing its customers with the ability to access the Internet even when they are away from their own computer. We do not expect to replace standard internet access options (home, school, and work-based computers), but to supplement them; similar ventures, such as Internet cafes, have seen great success.
Stroll Net will obtain its public Internet terminals from Supplier One, Inc. located in Vancouver, BC. Supplier One, Inc. will provide the locating service and the hardware required to run Stroll Net. Internet access and networking will be provided through Supplier Two.
Stroll Net will invest in terminals with high-speed computers to provide its customers with a fast and efficient connection to the Internet. The computers will be reliable and fun to work with. Stroll Net will continue to upgrade and modify the systems to stay current with communications technology. One of the main attractions associated with public Internet terminals is the state of the art equipment available for use. Not everyone has a Pentium PC in their home or office.
3.5 Future Products and Services
To enhance our initial product line, we will look at a newer model of Supplier One terminal that offers a greater variety of technologies. As we increase our presence in the public Internet access business, we will continue to seek out applications that will allow us to offer a greater variety of services. A key component of this will be customer feedback.
Market Analysis Summary
Stroll Net is faced with the exciting opportunity of being the first-mover in the Tech City public Internet market. The attractiveness of convenience, combined with the growing interest in the Internet, has been proven to be a winning concept in other markets and will produce the same results in Tech City.
The explosion of the Internet has been well documented. The International Data Corporation predicts that by 2004 there will be 210 million Internet users in the U.S. alone. Our increasingly mobile society manes that a large percentage of these users will access the Internet through public Internet terminals. Research has confirmed that the demand for public Internet terminals is growing exponentially and that the number of terminals in operation worldwide will reach 434,000 by 2006. By 2007 the number of wireless Hotspots in the U.S. is expected to grow to 41,000 and generate in excess of $3 billion in revenue.
4.1 Market Segmentation
Stroll Net’s clients can be described as individual business owners and medium to large companies that provide a services to tourist and business travelers alike as well as students and everyday Internet users. Such clients include, but are not limited to; airports, hotels, truck stops and coffee shops. Our customers can be divided into two groups. The first group is familiar with the Internet and desires a convenient and affordable way to access the Internet away from home and their offices. The second group is not familiar with the Internet, yet, and is just waiting for the right opportunity to enter the online community. Stroll Net’s target market includes people between the ages of 18 and 65. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Tech County has roughly 490,693 residents between the ages of 18 and 65. Of these, many are already internet-savvy.
Within this group, we will target two groups in particular:
- Traveling Business People
4.2 Service Business Analysis
The explosion of the Internet has been well documented. Our increasingly mobile society means that a large percentage of these users will access the Internet through public Internet terminals. To be proactive and remain competitive it is imperative for business travelers to have reliable high-speed access to e-mail, the Internet and corporate networks. As such, it is becoming a standard for business travelers to stay only at hotels with high-speed Internet access and public Internet terminals.
Internet terminals with integrated Wi-Fi hotspots allow users to jump onto the Internet as easily as they would use an ATM. Our Internet terminals allow the public to experience rich multimedia content, that cannot be viewed on PDAs. Internet kiosks will very quickly become a standard feature of all hotels. The growth of Internet kiosks has very closely paralleled that of ATMs and payphones. The fact that there are no public Internet terminals operating in Tech City, presents Stroll Net with a chance to seize this window of opportunity and enter into a profitable niche.
4.2.1 Competition and Buying Patterns
The main competitors in the public Internet terminal segment are ATT and BellSouth. However, these businesses have yet to establish a presence in Tech City and the immediate surrounding areas. Competition from online service providers comes from locally-owned businesses as well as national firms. Due to the nature of the Internet, there are no geographical boundaries restricting competition. However, none of these online service providers have public Internet terminals available for placement.
4.3 Target Market Segment Strategy
Stroll Net’s public Internet terminals will be a magnet for local and traveling professionals who desire to work or check their email messages away from the office. These professionals will either use Stroll Net’s terminals, or connect their notebooks to our wireless WiFi Internet connection. Stroll Net’s target market covers a wide range of ages: from members of Generation X who grew up surrounded by computers, to Baby Boomers who have come to the realization that people today cannot afford to ignore computers.
Industry Specific Software Sample Business Plan
Using this sample plan will ensure a good start to your industry specific software business.
Industry Specific Software Business Plan
Insurance Solutions LLC (ISL) will become the premier provider of Web-based property and contents valuation software to consumers, insurance companies and their affiliated organizations/partners, mortgage and small business lenders and their customers. ISL offers two products:
IV Software. Our Web-based “Insurance Valuer” (IV) software will provide insurers with the ability to far more accurately assess risks they are insuring, allowing them to price those risks accordingly and provide enhanced services and solutions to their customers. In addition, our mortgage and small business lending clients will be able to ensure that the collateral they are using to secure their loans is properly valued and insured to minimize their financial risk should the collateral property be damaged, lost or stolen. For direct-to-consumer sales, the IV software offers an accurate and independent valuation of property, and links to insurance agencies and replacement property websites for immediate response.
Documents Plus. Provides consumers with electronic storage and retrieval of vital insurance, legal and financial documents and other information, accessible online from anywhere in the world. Our solutions will provide consumers with the peace of mind that the value of their property and contents insurance are fully covered and that their vital insurance, legal and financial documents and information is up-to-date and is safely stored and fully accessible. The IV software has been sold to, and successfully implemented by, a number of the major insurance providers in the Australian market, providing the ISL the ability to showcase proven operations and capabilities.
The Management Team
ISL’s management has proven entrepreneurial and management skills to succeed with a rare combination of consulting and direct operational experience within the insurance and broader financial services marketplace. ISL is a privately-held Limited Liability Corporation (LLC), jointly owned by its three chief officers and an advisor, Michael Bartlett, the founder of ISL’s Australian affiliate, International Cost Research (ICR). The three managing partners are president and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Hugh Lloyd-Thomas, Chief Operating Officer (COO) Mark Purowitz, and Chief Information and Technical Officer (CIO) Mark Metcalf. A minority stock is reserved for a fifth investor who can provide us with the additional $92,500 needed for start-up costs.
Potential customers with whom we have spoken are disappointed in our competitors’ products and have, without exception, shown significant interest in our solutions. Industry estimates, significant research, and interest on the part of potential customers have led to our projections of reaching a strong net profit in the first year. These are conservative projections, and reflect our products’ ability to assist the insurance industry to increase their premium revenues by approximately $4.7 billion per year.
1.1 Keys to Success
The keys to our success will be our unique and complementary online data-retrieval systems, which fill a substantial void in the insurance market today. We will utilize our state of the art technology to:
- Closely meet the needs of each customer;
- Clearly differentiate our solutions from competitors;
- Offer superior service.
ISL will create high product visibility and consumer awareness of our solutions by a consistent and carefully targeted marketing strategy. We will establish a brand identity and leverage good client relationships to enhance credibility and encourage growth.
- Successfully and profitably market our property and contents valuation software and additional solutions to insurance companies and consumers.
- Solutions marketed to insurance company clients to achieve $3.0 million in sales by Year 3.
- Web-based consumer solutions to achieve $1.5 million in sales also by Year 3.
- Provide insurers the ability to far more accurately assess risks, allowing them to price those risks accordingly and provide enhanced services and solutions to their customers.
- Give mortgage and small business lending clients the means to ensure that the collateral they are using to secure their loans is properly insured, to minimize their risk of loss should the collateral property be damaged, lost or stolen.
- Deliver peace of mind to consumers, with the assurance that the value of their property and contents insurance is fully covered and that their vital insurance, legal and financial documents and information are up-to-date, safely stored and fully accessible.
ISL will become the premier provider of Web-based property and contents valuation software and additional information solutions. Our products utilize an online data-retrieval system to offer up-to-date risk assessment cost data to insurers, property valuation to mortgage and lender groups, and secure insurance and valuation documents storage to consumers.
ISL is a privately-owned Limited Liability Corporation, currently located in the “Executive Suite” facilities at 50 Washington Avenue in South Norwalk, Connecticut. These facilities are centrally located, with easy access and travel to our potential major clients, partners and affiliates.
2.1 Start-up Summary
As outlined in the following table, our start-up costs come to $292,250. These requirements include expenses for the cost of data, IV software models and licensing fees, and first month’s salaries. Additional large start-up items include marketing and branding consulting services and costs for the initially outsourced server hosting. Information systems will eventually be brought in-house, dependent upon future development needs and cost analysis. Other usual start-up costs include legal, stationary, and expenses associated with opening our first office. We are in the process of confirming the sourcing of $200,000 from the company founders and key executives. Based on ongoing discussions, there is also a potential for the sharing of expenses with partner and affiliate organizations.
We require additional funds of $92,250 to sustain our cash reserves during the critical first year. We are seeking investment in that amount in exchange for a non-managing interest in the business. Based on market research and data from our Australian affiliate, we project that the company will be profitable in its first year. By the end of the third year, investors will be bought out by the founding partners.
2.2 Company Ownership
ISL is a privately-held Limited Liability Corporation (LLC), jointly owned by its three chief officers and an advisor, Michael Bartlett, the founder of ISL’s Australian affiliate, International Cost Research (ICR). The three managing partners are president and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Hugh Lloyd-Thomas, Chief Operating Officer (COO) Mark Purowitz, and Chief Information and Technical Officer (CIO) Mark Metcalf. Additional minority stock has been set aside for outside directors which will include insurance industry, legal, marketing and retail resources and expertise.
Products and Services
Insurance Valuer (IV) Software
ISL’s Web-based “Insurance Valuer” (IV) software lets our customers determine insurance coverage needs for both property and contents insurance far more accurately than our competitors’ paper-based valuation methods. By offering the data retrieval system online, we can keep our risk assessment costs and valuation estimates up-to-date and accurate without costly distribution of printed materials. IV is designed to be used by insurance companies, mortgage providers, small business lenders, consumers and ancillary industries associated with the property and casualty insurance industry.
The IV software is an easily implementable tool that will significantly increase our corporate customers’ premium income revenues, while enhancing their ability to improve customer service and retention. For direct-to-consumer sales, we will initially focus on consumers in high-risk areas: Southern California’s wildfire districts, Florida’s hurricane zones, and areas prone to flooding.
This software is currently unique in the insurance assessment industry, and allows us a short window of time (2-4 years) to become the “first-mover,” gaining a brand identity and customer loyalty before competitors can reverse-engineer our products.
Additional Links and Updates
Through our links to contents and services providers, insurance companies will be able to provide their customers with rapid replacement of their lost / stolen / damaged property and/or contents at significantly reduced cost, further enhancing customer service, loyalty and retention.
The direct-to-consumer version of IV will include additional, individually-selected information, reminders and updates to alert them to market and/or regulatory changes that may impact their insurance, financial and legal affairs.
Documents Plus is a Web-based system for direct sale to consumers. It allows for secure electronic storage and retrieval of important documents and information to support consumers’ insurance and security document needs. As a portable, access-anywhere database, Documents Plus allows consumers to download or print their digital images for insurance value verification, insurance policies and documentation, legal and security documents (wills, mortgage documents, investment securities and statements), and more, with the peace of mind that a secure, encrypted, and certified system allows.
Despite warnings from the insurance industry, many customers continue to store important documents and proof of ownership or policies in unsecured locations. If their house burns down, their documents burn. If their jewelry is stolen, they have no recent pictures to assist police in locating it. Documents Plus will be sold direct to consumers and through affiliated insurance companies as a secure storage for all of their document access needs. No need to go all the way to the bank to open a safe-deposit box; simply open your Documents Plus online account when you establish your insurance account, and upload pictures and documents from any convenient location.
Market Analysis Summary
Since 1972, Home Owner Multi Peril Premiums have grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10% per annum. Home Owner Multi Peril Premiums (HOMPP) are estimated to have reached $43.7 Billion dollars in 2003. However, there is currently a chronic level of under-insurance in both property and home contents insurance in the U.S. home market. This problem is bad for consumers, who are usually unaware that they are not fully covered; it is bad for insurers, who lose out on the additional premiums they could recoup for full coverage; and it is bad for lenders, whose collateral may be at risk.
A survey of over 5 million policies determined that between 70% and 80% of homeowners are under-insured and the increase needed to provide adequate coverage is 35%. Additional research has shown that a 17% increase in premiums would be required to realign those policies with the required level of coverage. Furthermore, in an additional survey, 94% of respondents indicated they would be willing to pay additional premiums in order to be properly insured.
ISL’s success will be further supported by the growing pressure on insurance companies to assist consumers in accurately estimating the replacement cost of their homes and other valuables. A number of recent legislative efforts have addressed this concern, and ISL is well-positioned to take advantage of this weakness in the insurance industry. The following article in reference to the California wildfires illustrates dramatically the significant need in the marketplace for ISL’s solutions and services.
- HEADLINE: Wildfire victims say insurance companies misled them on coverage
- BYLINE: By ELLIOT SPAGAT, Associated Press Writer
- DATELINE: SAN DIEGO
Many Southern California homeowners who thought they were fully insured against natural disasters have discovered after last year’s wildfires that their policies left them in the lurch – in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars short of what they need to rebuild.
Dozens of homeowners told California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi during public forums over the last week that insurers wrote policies based on their calculations of a home’s “replacement cost,” only to learn that the insurers’ estimates were grossly inadequate.
Consider Don Halte, 64, who said the replacement cost listed on his Farmers Insurance policy was $200,000 below the actual cost of rebuilding his home in Crest, a mountain community east of San Diego, which was destroyed last October. “I thought replacement meant replacement,” he said to applause from an audience of about 300 people Monday night at Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, a San Diego suburb. “A gentleman here has a dictionary. Maybe I should look at it.”
The communities east of San Diego were among the worst hit by the October wildfires, which destroyed more than 3,600 homes across Southern California. Lynda Martin, 46, said she called State Farm Insurance only two weeks before her home burned in Alpine, also east of San Diego. She asked if her coverage was adequate, noting that the assessed value of her home had more than doubled since she bought the policy about eight years earlier.
Martin said she was told that she had “excellent coverage” and was discouraged from buying more. As it turns out, she says it will cost $485,000 to replace her home, well above her policy’s listed replacement cost of $209,950. After three forums in San Diego County and one in San Bernardino County, Garamendi said he was launching a special team to investigate complaints, promising a “complete, thorough audit.” If investigators uncover patterns of wrongdoing, insurers could be barred from doing business in California or be ordered to pay heavy fines, he said.
“I’m giving (the insurance companies) bad marks,” said Garamendi, who only two months ago praised the industry for its response to the fires. “I’ve gone through four of these hearings and these problems are serious, they’re pervasive, and the biggest insurance companies in this nation are not properly handling claims. … Clearly, they have disobeyed the law.” Some homeowners told Garamendi they have been assigned five or more adjusters, creating long delays as each one got up to speed. Others criticized insurers for haggling over itemized lists of personal belongings lost in the fires.
But most complaints concerned allegations that insurers misled homeowners into believing they were fully covered. Four law firms recently teamed up to sue carriers on behalf of wildfire victims who say they were wrongfully left unprotected. Garamendi said insurance companies may have “low-balled” the estimated cost of replacing homes in an effort to sell more policies.
Insurance company officials who attended the forums declined to discuss individual cases but denied widespread wrongdoing. A State Farm spokesman, Bill Sirola, said it made no sense to low-ball the replacement cost because the company would effectively be denying a chance to collect higher premiums.
4.2 Market Segmentation
As stated above, our basic target market segments are consumers, insurers, mortgage and small business lenders, and ancillary industries associated with the casualty and property insurance industry.
The market segmentation plan for insurance companies reflects industry standard definitions for Large, Medium and Small insurers based on analysis by AM Best & Company, National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), and the Insurance Information Institute (III), the major information collation and reporting organizations for the insurance industry. In the 1997 U.S. Census, there were 20,903 property and casualty insurance carriers, doing $299 Billion worth of business within the United States. In the last seven years, the industry has seen significant growth.
The individual policy holder segment includes individuals with internet access and home owner policies / insured properties currently underwritten in the United States. Our estimates are based on NAIC and III statistics, which estimate that there are currently 77 million homeowner insurance policies in force in the United States. According to a recent Nielsen//NetRatings survey, nearly 75% of U.S. households have Internet access at home. Our initial potential consumer market is nearly 58 million households, with high growth.
4.3 Target Market Segment Strategy
All of our prospective customers share the need for reliable, accurate, and current information about property valuation and risk assessment. Our extensive market research reveals that existing insurance industry sources for property replacement and construction data cannot update their information regularly enough, nor keep a broad-enough range of data available, to accurately assess insurance coverage needs. Additionally, consumers have been all but ignored in the current policy origination and underwriting process.
Our strategy is to focus on large insurers that carry the significant percentage of the home property and contents market. Based on Insurance Information Institute statistics, the top 10 insurers account for 60% to 65% of the total premium dollars collected each year. These insurers, due to their large policy numbers and resulting larger premium base will benefit in greater dollar terms in premium increase through the utilization of the Insurance Valuer Software. These insurers also attract the majority of consumers to their websites and account for a significant percentage of Web-driven enquires.
The medium and small sized insurer segments have yet to adopt aggressive Web-based distribution strategies and rely on agent-driven referrals for business. However, as they have been a neglected segment of the market, we will aggressively pursue opportunities to allow us to increase market and consumer “top of mind” awareness. Our largest potential market segment, and the most neglected by current industry groups, is the end-user – the insurance consumer. The general populace needs to know the value of insurance, the dangers of under-insurance, and the best ways to accurately assess their property’s value. In addition, they often need secure storage of their insurance documents and proof of ownership for important items. Our software solutions will meet their needs.
4.4 Service Business Analysis
As previously outlined, there are currently no web-based valuation applications available in the North American market today, while there is a chronic level of under-insurance in both building and home contents insurance in the U.S. home market. ISL will be the first Web-based organization to provide solutions and services to the insurance market and deliver them in an integrated and far more customer focused fashion.
After reviewing the current marketplace, customer needs, and the competitive situation, we identified significant market opportunity which is driven by a number of factors:
- Consumers have not been made aware of the under-insurance risk that they face and have been significantly underserviced by the existing solutions, services and providers.
- Ancillary service providers within the insurance process e.g., general agencies and independent agents are not able to access customer focused solutions.
- Small business and mortgage lenders have been similarly ignored by the current market providers.
Additionally, our research has shown a significant degree of customer dissatisfaction and resentment toward our most likely competition in terms of pricing, service and provision of additional products and services.
The insurance industry currently gets data from in-house review and from a few large research agencies. Depending on the size of the business, the data may be more or less current and comprehensive. Franchise insurance agents often store such data centrally with online data retrieval for individual agents. This kind of data provision has paved the way for our products, but cannot compete with our prices, customer service, or additional solutions.
4.4.1 Competition and Buying Patterns
The market for building material and construction cost information utilized in the insurance industry underwriting and claims management processes is dominated by Marshall & Swift/Boeck (MSB). MSB has a number of product offerings including paper, telephone and PC based products. They also provide customized consultancy products and Web-based access to the underlying product (s) and information. However, MSB does not provide web-based access for consumers to determine their insurance needs.
In addition, unlike the IV software, the MSB costing database is not based on a Dynamic Elemental Modeling process (DEM) which uses real time building cost information, but rather on a factoring approach, which inherently is not as accurate as the DEM approach.
MSB does not provide its insurance industry clients with contents value calculation capabilities, a service that will allow ISL to immediately differentiate our solutions from our competitors. MSB’s efforts have largely focused on the claims and underwriting process and have ignored the consumer facing opportunities and services. Only a few new features are added on an ad-hoc basis, and development of their existing solutions has been significantly constrained. Additionally, MSB has not broadened their scope to include services to small business lenders, mortgage lenders or additional service and/or solution providers.
As previously mentioned, the provision of an alternative source for information and/or services would be welcomed by the industry. MSB is perceived in the marketplace as utilizing its dominant position to its sole advantage and to the significant disadvantage of its customers.
We will take advantage of our position as a new and innovative player in the marketplace. The IV software has been developed to be “data agnostic”. Existing MSB customers, even if they are locked into longer term contracts, can still use the IV software while maintaining their current MSB contractual relationships.
Insurance industry executives are by nature conservative, and tend to put a great deal of weight on the vendor’s reputation, rather than just on the particular merits of the product or service being offered. While this tends to favor more established companies, it can work to the advantage of a newer company that carefully crafts a very specific and favorable image for itself.
Other financial services organizations, including small business and mortgage lenders, are less conservative in their approach and appear to be more willing to move to new and more innovative solutions. However, they can also be restricted by constrained decision-making processes and time-frames. However, buyers are increasingly expecting additional and integrated solutions. As more innovative solutions are offered, buyers are taking advantage of them.
In addition to providing added value and integrated solutions, we will be able to take advantage of our existing customer base and implementations in Australia. Reference to existing customers will speed the evaluation and analysis process demonstrating the capabilities of our solutions in a live environment. This will allow us to mitigate any concerns that US customers may have that our solutions are not fully developed and/or operational.
As previously mentioned, additional points of differentiation for ISL in the marketplace which will allow us to positively influence buying behavior will include the distribution and technical partnerships with existing industry leading automated application, decisioning and policy management providers and consultants.
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