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It's Never Too Early to Start a Business

Mark Shortz had a business, but no business plan. So while a student at Purdue University, he remedied that situation by doing his homework.

Purdue Extension horticulturist and agricultural economist Jennifer Dennis stresses the importance of writing business plans to her horticulture business students.

Student Entrepreneurs

A growing number of students become entrepreneurs before they graduate. To help students develop their entrepreneurial skills and encourage economic development in the state, Purdue offers various resources and classes.

On the first day of Shortz's horticulture business class, his instructor, Jennifer Dennis, had students fill out a survey to find out how much they knew about managing a business. She also asked if any would like to start a business of their own once they graduated.

"I found out that several of the students already had a business," said Dennis, Purdue Extension horticulturist and agricultural economist. "Some students grew and sold flowers for wholesale, started farm markets, or worked in family-owned greenhouses."

10 Fatal Business Planning Assumptions

Here are 10 dangerous business assumptions often made by entrepreneurs.

Knowing them may help you avoid some common—and dangerous—mistakes. The publication listed at the end tells you more.

  1. We have no competition.
  2. All we need is two percent of the market.
  3. Our product will sell itself.
  4. My financial projections are realistic.
  5. I can manage the business myself.
  6. We can save money if we do it ourselves.
  7. Our patents will protect our business.
  8. That weakness won't matter later on.
  9. We can easily make enough sales to make a profit.
  10. We'll have plenty of cash available if the income statement shows a profit at the end of the year.

Shortz was one of those student-business owners. He was able to apply concepts from the class, such as financial balance sheets, target marketing, and advertising, to his landscape business in Zionsville, which started as a summer job and grew to a full-scale business.

"I started out mowing lawns for neighbors as a kid," said Shortz, president of Mark Shortz, Inc. "I eventually had more and more clients and expanded to a full landscape design, construction, and maintenance business."

Crucial Business Plans

In class, he and the other students developed a business plan and completed an executive summary for an Indiana business as part of the course.

"For many of the students who had businesses, this was the first time they had written a business plan," said Dennis. "Because approximately 80 percent of all small businesses fail within the first five years, business plans are crucial to know and understand. Business plans are a systematic way to make sure proper research has been done before committing to a business idea or investing personal money. Most banks require a written business plan before giving financial resources."

Shortz's business provides landscaping for upscale residential and commercial properties as well as snow removal. In business for more than five years, he employs up to eight seasonal workers and now works full-time at his business after graduating from the Purdue College of Agriculture last May.

Shortz advises any student considering starting a business to enroll in finance and management courses.

"I already had a lot of first-hand experience, which really reinforced what I learned in class. Learning how to write a business plan was something I could directly apply to my business," said Shortz.