Custom Business Plans

The best way to build something is to start with a plan.

Would you build a house without a blueprint? And make it up as you go along, hoping it will all work out?

Over the last 20 years I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to launch a successful business, and what investors look for in a startup.

In my experience, most founders don’t devote enough attention to creating a business plan that will set them up for success.

They launch their business, hit the ground running and before they know it they’re fighting fires without a working extinguisher, reacting to the nonstop, day-to-day challenges of running their business. There’s little or no time to step back, look at the big picture and think strategically.

Immersed in the daily pressures, they don’t have time to stop and ask themselves:

  • Is this business model working?
  • Am I selling what people really want?
  • Am I attracting enough customers? And turning them into repeat customers?

They don’t have time for those questions because they didn’t do their homework. In other words, they didn’t take the time to think things through ahead of time. And so they struggle. Or worse yet, they become one of the 50% whose business fails within five years (or 70% within 10 years)1.

You, on the other hand, want to prevent mistakes and make smart decisions so that you’re one of the successful 30%.

“We couldn’t figure out why VC’s weren’t understanding our business model. Diane helped us refine it so that now we thoroughly understand our business — and it shows in our business plan.”

George Mallett


A business plan is your golden opportunity to think ahead.

A business plan offers you a golden opportunity to think through the big picture and the details before you open your doors. The time you spend up front will save you significant time, money and heartache down the road.

Once your business opens, you’ll inevitably shift into “firefighter mode,” but you’ll be ahead of the game because you’re prepared.

That said, when it comes to writing an effective plan, there are a lot of parts you need to get right. Most entrepreneurs find it difficult to do on their own because they don’t have the experience that comes from writing scores of business plans year after year.

But you can always lean on the expertise of someone else to help you do it right, and prevent the mistakes that happen when you open your doors unprepared.

I can craft the plan you need to start your business on the right foot.

At Startup Distillery you get more than a business plan. You get one-on-one strategic advice that becomes your personal startup bootcamp. I guide. I explain. I critique. Together we develop your vision into a roadmap for launching a growing business.

As part of my process, I take on several roles: trusted advisor, business coach, devil’s advocate and cheerleader… but my most important role is as your toughest critic (you’ll thank me later).

Our work together is personal and collaborative — since I don’t use a “canned” approach, my work is always tailored to your specific business. Our conversations work as a mind-meld of sorts, so that I’m able to understand your vision and what’s important to you. From there I’ll know what needs to happen to get you where you want to go.

“The business plan process helped us to fully understand our business/brand/products in a way that we didn’t when we started. Diane takes the time to really think about the problems you might not think of yourself, and helps you resolve them ahead of time.”

Max Robbins

Robin Road Cocktails

What it’s like working with me.

Some business plan writers ask you 20 questions and serve up your business plan 10 days later. I take a very different approach…

I use a collaborative approach from start to finish.

At Startup Distillery I don’t do it for you, I do it with you — combining your vision and my expertise to help you achieve your goals. Working closely together, I help you through the “tough stuff.” Sticky issues? Difficult dilemmas? We’ll tackle them together, with me leading the way.

I'm unapologetically candid.

I wouldn’t be helping if we only focused on the bright side, so I’ll always give it to you straight. If the numbers don’t add up or the market potential isn’t there, I’ll say so and help you make a course correction so you don’t waste time (or money). When it comes to your success, there’s no room for fairy tales.

I rely on my decades of experience and proven expertise.

More than 20 years of proven startup expertise (plus a Wharton degree) informs all of the strategies and guidance I share with you. I won’t be giving you advice based on fads or popular opinion or because I got lucky founding a single startup. With me, you’re getting advice from someone who’s been in the game through booms and busts and everything in-between, helping entrepreneurs like you build businesses intended for the real world.

I'm surprisingly accessible.

When you contact Startup Distillery, you won’t reach a receptionist or an assistant. You’ll speak directly with me. I’ll work closely with you to get to know you and your business, and I’ll be there with you every step of the way.

Clients know they can come to me any time, with any question, in any circumstance. When you work with me, you’ll have my decades of experience at your complete disposal.

When working with clients, I use four key skills concurrently:

  1. Listening. To everything. I don’t give advice without understanding everything you’re thinking, considering and dreaming about.
  2. Organizing what you need into a step-by-step action plan.
  3. Synthesizing (my particular strength) the connections I see between thoughts and ideas that may, at first glance, seem unrelated. This is how I find the hidden opportunities and strategies for you that others may not notice.
  4. Creative problem solving to help you navigate any roadblocks or obstacles you encounter.

I absolutely love my work.

Nothing gives me more joy than helping someone bring their dream to life. I can understand if all of this feels a bit daunting. That’s why I break down the process into manageable steps, explaining each one along the way. Fun is also very high on my priority list.

“Diane made the business plan process easy and fun without losing any attention to detail. She helped us think outside the box, and worked to help build not just a business plan, but a company that we are proud of. Not coming from a business background, it was really helpful having her guidance and perspective.”

Alexa Bancel

B. Wise Rehabilitation

Who do I work with?

I’m what they call “industry agnostic.”

Because of the breadth of my experience (plus dual talents as wordsmith and number cruncher), I’m able to work with any type of business in any kind of industry, and have done so for over 20 years — from scientists to creatives to moms to movie producers to inventors as well as bankers, lawyers, engineers… you name it.

I’ve worked with startups of all sizes too. Some were designed to remain small, while others laid the groundwork for growth. Some chose to bootstrap, while others secured outside investors. Still others opted for bank loans or more creative financing options.

Never started a business before? I also work with those who are new to building a business. Rest assured, there are no “stupid questions” in my world. I’ll meet you where you are — from absolute beginner to serial entrepreneur — and help you move forward with confidence.

And yes, I also work with clients outside the US. Even though I’m based in the United States, my clients don’t have to be. I work with entrepreneurs all over the world.

Your business plan benefits will include:

Your compelling story.

Facts tell, but it’s the stories that sell. Your narrative will tell a compelling story that clearly explains the market opportunity, your offerings and why customers will buy what you’re selling.

Your roadmap to profitability.

Your financial projections will provide a roadmap to profitability, giving you the facts and figures you need to develop a profitable business. They will also serve as your budgeting and benchmarking tools.

Your operating blueprint.

Your business plan It’s a dynamic blueprint for what you want to do and how you’re going to do it. I use the word ‘dynamic’ because a business plan is not a rigid document. Done right, it’s a flexible tool — it’s your foundation, not a prison!

Your foundation for growth.

Your business plan will serve as your baseline, your reality check. It will be your North Star when it comes to what helps your bottom line (and what doesn’t). You will be able to refer back to the work we do together again and again or your business grows and evolves.

By working with me, when things change (as they naturally do) you will be ready to adapt quickly and take advantage of opportunities because you’ll be prepared as a result of the work we do together.


Custom business plan pricing starts at $8,500, and includes narrative, financial projections and executive summary.

To get an exact quote on a plan for your business, let’s talk so I can find out more about your specific business concept.

If you’ve got a tight budget, check out Distilling Your Dream, my step-by-step Business Plan Kit (with templates!) — affordably priced.

Diane Tarshis, founder of Startup Distillery, an advisory firm for entrepreneurs.

If you’re interested in learning more, let’s talk.

Call me directly at (773) 871-0110 or click here to book a time using my online calendar.

If you’re outside the US, you can email me for additional options that work with your time zone.

Talk soon,

Let’s do this!
It’s time for the rubber to hit the road.


Chicago, Illinois