Coffee connoisseur and Kansas City resident Danny O'Neill had big plans: Open a coffee shop and a roastery with a glass wall separating the two. Café customers could sit and drink coffee while they watched the roasting process.

Estimated startup costs: $300,000.

Then he met with a volunteer from the small business counseling organization SCORE. "Who would run the café?" the volunteer asked. "Who would roast the beans? Who would sell the coffee?"

"It soon became obvious that there was no way I could handle everything I wanted to do," O'Neill said.

So what next?

O'Neill's story is a common one among entrepreneurs. That's why Hello Fearless founder Sara Davidson advocated a ruthless reality check — long before you ever apply for a loan, ask for money, or pour your life savings into a pit of good intentions.

Here's how she put it: Don't force a budget. If you've got $10,000 to work with, don't build your business-plan budget around that. Take a realistic look at the amount of money your plan, as it stands, requires — down to the micro-expenses, such as utilities or tech maintenance.

And if those costs far exceed that $10,000, then it's time to refine your concept. Because trying to force it without the funds you'll realistically need means you've got a much higher chance of failure.

That's what O'Neill did — once he realized he needed to scale back his business dream to reduce startup costs, risk and collateral.


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