Before starting the intimidating business plan, I found it really helpful to throw every current thought and idea into a single location: a vision board. This process is similar to writing a concept paper, but allows you to be more specific and visionary into an interactive format you can continue adding to and shaping as time goes on. Having a vision board will help in not only developing the details of your business plan, but can inspire your name and strengthen your brand as well.
Gather Thoughts & Ideas
You can start and create a vision board in different ways. Pin ideas to a Pinterest board or an old-fashioned bulletin board, or save pictures and notes into a computer folder or a hard-copy binder — whatever keeps you organized best.
I had started with a coffee shop pinboard on Pinterest where I collected ideas for a few months, pinning a variety of broad ideas and pictures that stuck out to me. Pinterest is great for getting your creative vision and thoughts flowing, and after a couple months I noticed my pictures changing as my vision was clearing up and heading in a more specific direction.
Define Who You Are
Before you focus on imagery and pictures to make your official vision board, it may help to take some time to define who you are in words. Although these will be deeper developed in the business plan, it doesn’t hurt to now start shaping these foundational ideas to solidify your business vision, since all ideas and pictures will flow from this. It’s up to you whether or not to include some of these into your vision board:
- vision– a broad end-state of what you envision to achieve through the coffee shop in one phrase
- mission statement-an action and outcome-oriented statement that encompasses what you’re trying to do to achieve your vision in a few sentences to a paragraph
- values and/or philosophy– foundational thoughts and beliefs that drive your passion and concept
- competitive advantage– things that set you apart and differentiates you from other coffee shops
- brand image– start thinking what you want to represent and stand for through your branding
Create A Vision Board
Once I had a clearer and more concise direction for what I wanted our shop to be, I went back through that pinboard and took specific pictures, ideas, and articles that supported our vision to use. I also added pictures I took myself from our coffee shop visits in Northern Europe. You can continue your actual vision board in a new folder, binder, or board (electronic or not), but I found everything condensed nicely and neatly into a single Keynote presentation. Having everything in Keynote (or PowerPoint) made it easy to collectively present my ideas to our team and branding consultant, and is also helping inspire and outline my business plan and other marketing and branding tasks.
Here are things to add to your vision board as you’re getting your ideas together for the business plan. Add anything that will frame the core vision of your concept in order to hone in on the heart of your business and what will set it apart (competitive advantage). Use pictures and phrases to describe these elements to start envisioning your coffee shop:
- Atmosphere- mood, look and feel you’re going for
- Colors- color palettes
- Walls & Floor- raw materials, design, colors
- Decor Details- any final touches and accents from artwork, centerpieces, etc.
- Lighting- type, fixtures, set-up, design
- Bar Design- backwall menu and shelving, countertop set-up, design, raw materials
- Presentation Details- drinkware, plateware, etc.
- Drink & Food Menu Ideas
- Seating/Furniture- type, colors, design
- Layout Design- floorplan arrangement
Don’t be afraid to include a variety of ideas, even if you’ll have to choose between them in the future. Your vision board will start with broad ideas, and you’ll make edits, additions and subtractions over time. As you play with these ideas, hopefully they’ll adapt to better support “who you are” in your vision statement and brand identity. Either way, dream big! Since the vision board is an extension of the concept paper, you’ll then be using the business plan to purpose how these ideas will be executed and if they’re even feasible.