The goals of this week’s Beginning Women Farmer Whole Farm Planning workshop were to:
—Learn about the Business Planning Process & Tools to help write a plan
—Use Holistic Management in the Business Planning process “Planning A Whole Within A Whole”

—Share Business Planning Experiences and Build Connections within  Mentee Working Group

—Review topics from previous sessions on Holistic Goals, Testing Decisions, Financial Planning, Marketing concepts and answer lingering Questions
A slideshow with basic outline for the day:

Business Planning Basics +++ and a useful market research report from CISA:

CISALocalHeroMarketResearchReport2006

This week, I had the challenge of pulling together an overview of the Business Planning Process.  Below are a few resources I agreed to post and share with the women in the CISA/HMI Beginning Women Farmers Holistic Management Course, they are from the session that was held in MA last weekend.

Just the previous class, I had been thinking to myself, “Boy am I glad I don’t have to teach this group.”  So when I was asked to pinch-hit for this business planning session, I was a little worried.  This assignment was a great challenge, because the course participants are very articulate, accomplished and savvy business women who already know a lot about business planning.  Some of them are experienced consultants who have taught these concepts themselves, or worked as consultants helping others with business planning.  To calm my nerves a a bit,  I decided to simply see my role as more of a facilitator who could help the lively group stay on track and all get a chance to share their various experiences among themselves, rather than try to approach the session as a teacher.  My goal was to help them share their knowledge while also providing a basic framework that would help those who haven’t yet written a business plan, better understand the process and introduce them to some useful resources that they could access at a later date when they decide to write a plan of their own, or refine aspects of their marketing plan.

Overall, I think the session was great.  Time went by quickly.  There was a lot of exchange between all the participants.  I was happy that some were very satisfied, and also acknowledge that others with higher levels of business planning acumen were less so, and wished there were more of a chance to discuss particular specific challenges they face day to day in managing their own farms, but all in all, lots of great ideas and experiences were discussed and connections between the participants were strengthened within their mentee groups.  Hopefully these bonds will endure, and some of the women will go on to help each other with their businesses in the years to come.  Already there is much collaborative exchange coming out of these sessions.  Working with an all woman group is really great.

Some of the helpful links that were shared by the women in the class will be uploaded to our yahoo groups listserve  by those who shared them http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/beginningwomenfarmers/.

The resource’s I shared during the session included:

An online business planning workshop

http://app1.sba.gov/training/sbabp/index.htm

SCORE   – mentors

-templates

Small Business TV – internet marketing

Mass.gov market research tools

Emyth Worldwide

http://www.e-myth.com/pub/htdocs/emr_ch1

Ag marketing

New England Food Entrepreneurs

http://www.umass.edu/nefe/state_specific/state_ma.html

MA Specialty Foods Association

http://www.msfa.net/

Meat science

New Entry Sustainable Farming Project

http://nesfp.nutrition.tufts.edu/resources/plainlanguage.html

Polyfacefarm

—http://www.polyfaceyum.com/shop/

We also had a very helpful sharing session on experiences with Internet Direct Marketing Tools, and other traditional communication tools like press releases, newsletters and direct mailings and coupons.  Some of the participants had really innovative tools that had worked for them, and they shared their systems with pride and generosity.

Trying to help each other upgrade into the recent internet innovations, we explored the following trendy tools:

YouTube

WordPress

Slide

Twitter

Facebook

The Homework due by our next class in April is:

1. Use the HM Decision Testing questions and your Holistic Goal/Financial Plan To Decide on Three New Business Planning/Marketing Tools you would like to try this year

2. Identify the Weak Link they help you address.

3. Decide when you will complete implementation of these 3 New Ideas.

4. Report your ideas and implementation Date d to Your Mentor, (they will check in with you on your progress as your date approaches)

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