Yaneek Page | Starting a business that targets North American markets
QUESTION: I’m a recent university graduate and I eventually plan on starting up a corporate company that can expand across North America. My goal is to live my best life, and to do that I need financial freedom and the freedom to use my time...
QUESTION: I’m a recent university graduate and I eventually plan on starting up a corporate company that can expand across North America. My goal is to live my best life, and to do that I need financial freedom and the freedom to use my time building what I love. I did entrepreneurship courses, and regional markets are too small to practically achieve this. Currently, I have been applying for jobs to cover the cost of living in the meantime, but big picture, I’ll create the business plan simultaneously with the goals of finding partnerships and venture capital funding. My question to you is this: How should I approach writing the business plan for this, keeping in mind that I don’t have money to pay anyone to do it right now?
BUSINESSWISE: Congratulations on your graduation and the pragmatic way you’ve gone about planning for your best life. I would expect that based on your preliminary research, you would have discovered that breaking into the North American market, which is not homogenous, is notoriously difficult and that you would need vast resources and an incredible value proposition to have a good chance of achieving your objectives.
If you look at the relatively short list of international companies that have successfully penetrated those markets, such as Samsung, Unilever, Toyota, Nestlé, Hyundai, ALDI, L’Oréal, and IKEA, to name a few, you will note that those companies were highly successful in their own markets before launching to the Unites States, Canada. and Mexico amid their global expansion.
You don’t need to follow that precise path, especially if your company is technology focused, however, it is helpful to understand the trajectory of those who have achieved what you are aiming for.
I don’t know whether you have tied down the industry and type of business that will allow you to enjoy the freedoms you desire, however, the best starting place is to be very targeted in your approach and to determine which country will be your initial focus and what is the awesome value proposition that will underpin the lucrative business model.
International business plan
Once you have decided on a specific market, the best approach for writing the business plan is to use the resources available in that market to build your capacity, knowledge, and skills to do so.
Let’s take the United States as an example. There are several free or low cost resources that you can take advantage of such as the US Small Business Association’s Learning Center, which is available online for free at https://learn.sba.gov/learning-center-plan. There are over 100 course modules that comprehensively cover the earliest stages of your business life cycle, including how to write a business plan, how to launch a business, win contracts, attract partners and funding, and many more. What will be most helpful for you is that these modules have been prepared by experts in the market you intend to serve and that the content is specific to helping start-up businesses compete in that space. Just going through the content will provide incredible insights.
I strongly suggest that rather than jumping straight into the courses and resources on business plan writing, you start at the beginning in understanding the legal and regulatory frameworks that exist and the market dynamics you’ll contend with.
The US, in particular, is a challenging market even for homegrown businesses, with over 20 per cent of start-ups failing in the first year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
It is reasonable to anticipate that the failure rate is even higher for businesses domiciled in other countries and attempting to expand across the US. Therefore, I recommend that you supplement the training you receive from the SBA with guided courses from Udemy or Alison and mentorship where possible.
Udemy has a course titled ‘The Complete Business Plan Course’ priced at US$17.99 while the website Alison has a highly rated and free course titled ‘How to Write Business Plans’.
If Canada or Mexico is your launching pad, then you’ll need to explore the resources there. Most importantly, travelling to the country, spending time understanding the culture and how they do business will be essential on your journey to achieving your very ambitious goals.
Once you have settled on a concept and have a robust business model that supports the success of the company, you will need to aggressively pursue proof of concept. This simply means creating your offering and finding customers in those markets who are fanatical about it. For investors and experienced partners, proof is about customer acquisition, retention, and profitability.
As I have shared in previous columns, venture capitalists are usually savvy investors who favour strategic investments in high potential companies at the early growth stage, which have successfully demonstrated the capacity for significant growth and high returns on investments.
Therefore, your threshold before you start pitching to anyone has to be a proven business model that is highly profitable with substantial evidence of expansive opportunities. It will not be easy, but I can tell from your determination and passion that you are prepared to accomplish hard things.
Good luck and one love!
Yaneek Page is the programme lead for Market Entry USA, and a certified trainer in entrepreneurship.Email: firstname.lastname@example.org