When Chris Harris received a Mr. Beer kit as a gift, he was excited to start a new hobby. He never imagined it would lead to him becoming an entrepreneur. Yet today the Toledo native is blazing a trail as one of the only African American brewers of craft beer in the country.
"Once I started making beer it became my passion," explains Harris. "There's an old adage that says time flies when you're having fun. That applies to me when I'm making beer. I just really, really love it."
Working in his garage, Harris evolved from the Mr. Beer kit to better equipment. He experimented with different techniques and recipes, devising a honey malt that has become his secret ingredient. The rave reviews he received from family and friends made him wonder if he could sell his beer to the public.
Success or failure. Which path will your business venture take? Having a solid business plan in place can put you on the right path. "Everyone has a dream," says Stephen Niswander, business banking market manager for Huntington Bank in Northwest Ohio. "The challenge is sitting down with paper and pencil and figuring out what it's going to take to make that dream happen."
Don't underestimate the power of a business plan, adds Ray Graves, lender relations specialist for the U.S. Small Business Administration. Even the process of writing a business plan can help you focus your strategy and solve problems. "Think of it as your guidebook," he explains. "First and foremost, it's a document meant to help you."
How important is it to have a process for maintaining business records? Absolutely incredibly important! Many business owners find this out the hard way when they apply for a loan or receive a call from a government entity.
Northwest Ohio MBAC Director
Where did we put our Articles of Incorporation? Have you seen our original operating agreement? Do you know where I can find our payroll taxes from 2010? Believe me, you don't want to be asking these questions when you need these documents for a loan application, a certification process, or to prove to the government that you've paid your payroll taxes.
If you are just starting your business, now is the time to set up a record keeping system. If you have been in business for a while, it is never too late to get your house in order. Make sure you understand the record keeping requirements for your type of business. Figure out a records management process. Find a safe place to store all your original documents and licenses.