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Create an A-1 Business Plan
Writing a business plan will force you to consider the what-ifs (what if you get sick, need a trademark, need worker's comp insurance) and the tiny costs that you might overlook: "Like the cost of a cup of coffee—the cup, the java jacket, the lid, the napkin, the stirrer, the sugar," says Liat Cohen, co-owner of Cocoa Bar in Brooklyn. "A business plan forced me to figure out exactly what I would have to charge to make money."

Get professional help: Two groups operating under the umbrella of the Small Business Administration can provide guidance. The Women's Business Center program (SBA.gov/womeninbusiness) provides training and counseling, usually at very low fees (or free). For example, the Central Alabama Women's Business Center offers a course, Writing Your Business Plan: Your Business Roadmap, for $15.

SCORE (SCORE.org) is a network of working and retired executives who freely share their expertise. They try to match their members' specialties with the needs of a new entrepreneur—like pairing an artist who wanted to open her own gallery with a finance executive. If you can't get to a SCORE chapter, one of their members will work with you via e-mail.

Review the plan: "A few months down the road, compare what actually happened to what you projected," says Pinson. Use this time to modify your forecasts and tweak your strategy.


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