Accountants CPA Hartford, LLC: William Brighenti
Free Market Data for Your Business Plan

Certfied Public Accountant                                                        Small Business Consultant
Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor                                   Sage Master Builder Consultant

46 Mildrum Road, Berlin, CT 06037                Telephone: (860) 828-3269                Email:  [email protected]

Are you contemplating starting your own business, now that you have been laid off, or quit your job for an unappreciative, abusive boss, or feel that it is just the right time to take that consuming passion of a "hobby" into a full-time, lucrative business?  Whatever the reason for starting your own business, you will need enough money to launch the business and sustain you and your family until the sheckles start rolling in; and that means you will probably consider obtaining a loan through the SBA loan guarantee program.  However, you just cannot walk into your local SBA office and ask for money; you will need to prepare a business plan.  And this may not be an easy task for you to undertake since its preparation involves specific and general detailed information of the industry, target market, competitors, etc.

Everything in your plan hinges on credible sales projections.  And to project your sales, you will require market data for your geographic area, unless you have been pursuing the line of work as a sideline for a number of years and already have accumulated a lot of information about the market and your competitors, and are now contemplating a full-time expansion of the business as your principal line of work.  Market data compiled by professional research firms is not cheap:  a study for a particular segment or geographic area may cost thousands of dollars, and if you are applying for a small business loan, you probably do not have $3,000 available for a market research study in order to prepare a business plan.  Dun & Bradstreet is an excellent source of information on existing competitors in your industry without necessitating the spending of thousands of dollars on a market research industry report.  Furthermore, you can customize your report on D&B's website by using various filters, such as by zip, area, NAICS, SIC codes, etc.  However, much of its sales data, and some of its demographic information as number of employees, names of the owners, etc., is available for free on the Manta website:  http://www.manta.com.   In fact, you may even find information on Manta that is not included in a Dun & Bradstreet's report.  All you need to do is register at the site to obtain access to its information.

For example, let us assume that you are contemplating the opening of a barber shop in Hartford, Connecticut, and you need market data on the competing barber shops in Hartford for your business plan.  On Manta's homepage, you would scroll down to the caption, "Find U.S. Companies by Categories", and select "Consumer Services" under the category, "Consumer Products & Services".  On the new window that would open, you would scroll down to the section entitled "Current Services" and select "Barber Shops".  When we undertook this search, we found 47,426 barber shops listed in the United States; included in this total were barber schools (203), barber shops selling wigs (38), men hair stylists (1,639), as well as barbers (45,546).  If you only desire data for barbers, you would select that subcategory.  On the next appearing page you would select Connecticut under "Current Locations", then "Hartford"
at the bottom of the succeeding page.  After completing this series of steps, we arrived at a listing showing 63 barbers in Hartford, Connecticut.  For the individual barber shops also listed in Dun & Bradstreet (34 of them appeared in D&B when we conducted our search on Manta), you would find those same D&B values for annual sales, number of employees, and names of company contacts (owners, partners, or officers of the company) as well as the companies addresses, telephone numbers, and website addresses, if any.

If you desire, you are able to narrow your search results further on Manta.  For example, under "Refine Your Results", you can select companies in your search results by company revenues, number of employees, ownership (public or private), or by location type (i.e., headquarters, single location, branch).  And you can use Manta's search box to refine your selecton by company/alternate business name, city, state, zip codes, business category, or in various combinations of these search criteria.  For instance, if you only desired a listing of barber shops in the central downtown district of Hartford, you would enter the relevant zip code in Manta's search box, and check the box, "Search within Barbers Companies in Hartford, CT".  When we had done this, our findings were reduced to seven barbers.
Individual company profiles in Manta may provide additional information as well if the owners of the businesses volunteered it, included financial reports, or answered questions submitted by visitors to their profiles.  Since the additional profile information is an opportunity for free advertising for companies, although informative, it may be biased, and should never be accepted at face value.  (As a small business always desirous of promoting our practice for free, we provided some additional information in our Manta profile, which may be viewed at William Brighenti, CPA.)  In addition, a map tab exists, providing location and driving directions to the profiled company.

If you are retrieving this information for a business plan, after entering it into an Excel spreadsheet, it easily can be presented in various formats:  a complete listing of competitors for a specific geographic location; decomposition of companies by zip codes for market segmentation; number of companies falling within annual sales intervals (providing an opportunity to graph the relationship of mean and/or median to the distribution's skewness); size of barber shops by employees; etc.  All of this data is free and can be a wealth of information for your analysis of competitors required in a business plan.  Moreover, the data would assist your preparation of sales projections, three years of which are normally required in your business plan, including monthly breakdowns of revenues in the first year's operating results.

If you need additional assistance with your business plan, please contact Accountants CPA Hartford, LLC.

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