Michelle Huie’s legs launched a business.
After moving to Missoula, Montana, from New York to start her career, the business school graduate found that long hours sitting at the office left her legs achy and sore.
But when a physical therapist recommended compression socks, Michelle found the pickings slim ― a couple of pairs for athletic and medical use but with few color or style options.
“It dawned on me that there was a market and a need for people just like me who don’t want to wear something that’s ultra-tight and not very comfortable or some weird color,” Michelle says.
Michelle’s solution to fulfill the need she saw? Vim & Vigr®, a new line of compression sockwear. In just over a year, the business has grown from an idea to eight employees at its fulfillment center in Missoula. The company has sold more than 40,000 pairs of the socks and established strong relationships with retailers, Michelle says.
The value in a business plan
Michelle credits her early success to a Small Business Administration loan from Wells Fargo and to her written business plan.
According to the January Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index survey, only 33 percent of business owners reported having a business plan ― which is why Wells Fargo is introducing the new Business Plan Center with business plan and competitive intelligence tools on April 29 at Wells Fargo Works for Small BusinessSM.
The new complimentary online tool allows small business owners to develop a business plan, get detailed financial statements, and run a competitive analysis for marketing products and services. A webinar on business plan basics will go up on the site in May.
“Every business – big or small – needs a plan,” says Lisa Stevens, Wells Fargo’s head of Regional Banking Sales and Marketing and Small Business, and Regional Bank executive for the Pacific Midwest Region. “While many small business owners have a plan, for most, it’s in their heads and not in writing. We know from research and our direct experience working with business owners that a formal, written business plan is an essential guide to help business owners stay focused on company goals and objectives, as well as to track their progress.”
The same Small Business Index survey that showed a dearth of business plans also suggested that those who had created them and used them to guide their businesses are much more optimistic about business prospects in 2015. They report “future expectations” for business growth 14 points higher than businesses without a business plan.
Business plan was priority
Michelle says writing a business plan was what she did first after getting the idea for Vim & Vigr. “It took about a weekend to write the bulk of it, and I kept going back to it as I thought of more ideas,” she says. “After that, there were three main things I needed in order to turn my idea into reality: a textile designer, a manufacturer, and money.”
Jessica Beck of the Wells Fargo SBA Lending team says that Michelle’s plan helped her secure an SBA loan for start-up financing, although a plan isn’t required for all SBA loans.
Michelle says entrepreneurs who haven’t taken the time to create a plan do so at their peril.
“I often hear the excuses: ‘I haven’t had time for it’ or ‘My business is so straightforward that I don’t have a need for it,’ ” she says.
She adds that tools like Wells Fargo’s free business planning tool make the process easier.
“You can figure out relatively quickly if your idea could be an actual business if you put it down on paper,” Michelle says. “Don’t procrastinate — write your plan today!”