Startup Toolkit

The Entrepreneur’s Journey

There are a lot of steps in the journey of an entrepreneur. Maybe you already have an idea and you're well on your way to developing your business plan. Maybe you know you want to create something or have interest in entrepreneurship, but you don't have an idea just yet. That's okay! We are here to walk you through this journey, no matter what step you are in. 

The first step in creating a business is establishing the idea. Look into these resources for inspiration and validation that your idea is worth pursuing.

A desire for social or environmental change may be a driving factor for your business. The Social Business Model Canvas is a great tool for creating a business model and helps convey effective communication about different business models. Ingrid Burkett delves into this in her “Using the Business Model Canvas for Social Enterprise Design,” complete with graphics. 

Business Model Toolbox also has a Social Business Model Canvas template with thirteen building blocks that is especially helpful for social businesses and nonprofits.

Ensuring that your business idea is valid is a crucial step to take before investing further resources. 

“Validate Your Business Idea” breaks down this process in five steps, to prevent you from stalling your idea and encourage you to act on it.

“9 Questions to Ask When Assessing a Market” helps you assess the market you want to enter with nine meaningful questions. Consider the market size, compatibility, customers, and competitors, among other factors.

“Your Perfect Customer: Creating Your Target Market Profile” helps you identify key characteristics of your ideal customer to aid in marketing efforts, including a Target Market Profile Sheet you can download for free. Profiling Your Target Market helps you to identify who your target market is and what  your target market wants or needs that your business can provide. From this you can then develop your marketing strategy.

A business consists of many different elements. These resources can help break down a business into simpler, more tangible steps.

Strategyzer is a useful asset for corporate innovation strategy and training. You can use their Business Model Canvas to map out your business model in nine building blocks.

The Social Business Model Canvas is also a helpful tool for creating a business model, geared towards social enterprises. Ingrid Burkett delves into this in her “Using the Business Model Canvas for Social Enterprise Design,” complete with graphics.

To avoid costly mistakes and hone in on user experience, consider testing your product or service idea early on by developing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). MVP is a development technique that allows you to collect validated learnings about customers in order to further develop your product.

Strategyzer is a useful asset for corporate innovation strategy and training and their Value Proposition Design Book, complete with graphics, helps you to shape the value proposition of your business idea and create compelling products.

Just having a viable product isn’t enough, getting it to market is crucial. Improve your marketing and sales plan with these resources.

  • Pardot explains the buyer’s journey thoroughly in this interactive infographic that discusses all of the stages of the buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration, and decision, to help you understand your audience's behavior.
  • “How to Create a Social Media Strategy in 8 Easy Steps” guides entrepreneurs in creating a marketing strategy, complete with a free template.
  • The visual representation of your company is crucial and the branding agency The Team put together this helpful guide. “Visual Identities: How to build yours” explores the components of building an identity, each element’s importance, supplemented by examples from major brands.

Pitching your idea is a crucial way to attract potential funders, co-founders, customers and other key stakeholders.

Y Combinator has a great walkthrough template for Building a Pitch Deck. A great Forbes article, “How To Create A Pitch Deck,” also highlights nine slides for every presentation, including in-depth explanations for each. Bplans has a similar resource: “The 11 Slides You Need to Have in Your Pitch Deck” and even has a downloadable Pitch Deck Template Kit.

Every business needs funding to accelerate growth and build momentum. Explore your funding options on our Funding Network page

“Fundraising 101: How to Become Investor-Ready” walks you through five steps of investor preparedness to ensure a convincing and knowledgeable presentation for potential investors.

Possible sources of funding include angel investors, who use personal finances to help startups take their first steps. Consider looking at the Angel Capital Association website for more information.

Tax and legal structures can be tricky to navigate. Use these resources to better understand your tax obligations, options and responsibilities.

The US government has web pages dedicated to steps for starting a business and tax information for corporations as well. 

Jackson Hewitt also provides this easy-to-use self-employment tax calculator.

Managing your finances and maintaining records are crucial for your business’ wellbeing. StartupStash has a variety of finance tools that assist you with invoices, insurance, and payroll, among other things.

Financial forecasting is necessary to help you plan your budget, set benchmarks, and predict your business’ potential. For more than half a century, SCORE has helped more than 11 million entrepreneurs with its free business mentoring and education resources, including a downloadable Financial Projections Template.  

With the “gig economy” growing and the creative sector comprising mostly small businesses, self-employed individuals, and freelancers, entrepreneurs are required to hone business skills for such settings.
The US Small Business Association provides useful information for people who are self-employed or independent contractors.

Consider getting a copyright, trademark, and/or patent for your intellectual property (IP), especially if your business idea is based on innovative ideas that have inspired the development of other products or services.

It may be worth looking into the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website, especially its page dedicated to “Inventor and entrepreneur resources.” 

CWRU’s IP Venture Clinic has been described as a "new economic force" and is a valuable resource that pairs law students with start-up companies, providing representation for start-ups to develop plans to commercialize their technology. 

Watch a series of video introductions to Intellectual Property.

Networking is a crucial, often underutilized skill that can help you secure funding, partners, and business, sales, and learning opportunities.

CWRU has a dozen student organizations that fall under the Weatherhead School of Management, including Innovation / Design / Entrepreneurial Association (IDEA), and Northeast Ohio Student Venture Fund, and Entrepreneurship Club.

When you are ready to grow your business exponentially and need learning, investment, co-working space and market opportunities to scale your business, you may want to start applying to incubators and accelerator programs.

Sears think[box] has an incubator located on floor 7 that is open to all CWRU affiliates. In addition to its convenient campus location, the incubator offers mentoring and use of its business address.

The BioEnterprise Incubator is a critical resource for biopharmaceutical and medical device startups. In addition to its proximity to campus, the incubator hosts a wet and dry lab space and office space and provides assistance from and access to BioEnterprise Executives-in-Residence and analysts. 

MAGNET’s Iterator assists startups in their product development stage, with advice from an extensive network of experts, including engineers, designers, marketers, and intellectual property specialists.

CWRU LaunchNet’s free and confidential resources make it an ideal starting point for CWRU, CIA, and CIM students and alumni. Since 2012, LaunchNet has helped more than 500 students and alumni and LaunchNet-supported ventures have raised millions of dollars.

Through JumpStart’s Burton D. Morgan Mentoring Program and Encore Mentoring Program, mentors have devoted more than 10,000 hours to help entrepreneurs. The Encore Mentoring Program strives for 90% of its mentors to be African American, Latinx, or female.

Although entrepreneur Steve Blank believes he would have been voted the “least likely to succeed” of his high school class, his career spans 21 years, in 8 different high technology companies and Forbes listed him as one of the 30 most influential people in Tech. His recommended startup tools can be found here.

The Startup Checklist lists everything you need to do to launch a startup, categorized as Idea, Legal, Financial, Product, Technology, or Team.

F6S is a platform used by more than 3.7 million founders and startups. Entrepreneurs meet startups, apply for programs, pitch for investments, and post or apply for jobs.

A good work environment is essential to productivity. Consider renting office space from MidTown Tech Hive or Limelight. You can also use Floor 6 of think[box] for free!