You know how when you are writing a paper for an assignment you’ve read and re-read so many times that you’d miss the most blatant errors? That is when having someone read it with a fresh perspective and give you feedback and point out those errors you missed after the 5th revision. I don’t have the financial portion started, as I mentioned in our last post, but I do think I’m ready for some constructive criticism. Below is World Tree Circle’s revised business plan. Please feel free to email us or comment below with anything you see that needs fixed, added or changed. Thanks to all of you in advance!
Statement of Purpose/Executive Summary
The World Tree Circle website will provide users with a place to interact, learn, and have fun on a global scale. It will be a place that people can share interesting ideas, learn and expand their own ideas, and see that others around the world are doing similar things. It will target people who are curious about actual events around the world. It can also be a place for organizations to post their information in a manner that allows people to see and understand what they are all about and take an active part, if they so choose.
World Tree Circle is unique in that it will provide user-friendly tools to communicate across language and cultural barriers. The site will be open sourced in order to provide the most rapid responses to user feedback. All major decisions for setup and operations will be made through polls and surveys. The first social networking site truly run by its users.
The spread of knowledge and information is a key part of the site. As a result it is highly likely we will be aiding in educational endeavors. The growth of the site will be substantial in early stages. The goal is to have it start in the US and then spread to the major countries that will allow such a site to be used.
Right now World Tree has a team of two, Clarke and Heather Ball. We receive advice and help when needed from Andrew Reed of Endlyss Art, Wendy Cagle of Western Carolina University (WCU), Dr. Yue Cai Hillon Associate Professor at WCU, and a team of four seniors from WCU to be named in September of 2014.
BUSINESS PLAN NARRATIVE
World Tree Circle, aka WTC, is the inspiration of Clarke Ball. It began as a website for people to come together and chat with others around the world, regardless of linguistic abilities or prior associations. Unlike other social media websites, the purpose of this site is to enable internet users to communicate across language and social boundaries. The user will be less restricted in regards to “making friends” since the object is global correspondence. This is currently a sole proprietorship until it is clear if it should become a non-profit, LLC or Corporation of another qualification.
We had put together a team of web designers, program managers, and marketers to help create the site since we have very little computer programming or web design knowledge. This new team enabled us to consolidate the details of the plan as well as give more detail. The site became much more complex. The site would not only include translation software but would also be a place for artists of all media to show and sell their wares, be a place for organizations to expound on their activities around the planet, and a virtual window into classrooms around the world implementing the most accurate lessons in current global events, lessons in other cultures, arts, etc.
Users would have a central hub to create their personal profile and post about events and personal points of interest. WTC calls these pages “leaves”. If you are familiar with social networking, “leaves” will be similar to a profile page.
Due to the scope of our goals, and lack of funding for such a complex site, the progress stalled and some of the team members left to pursue endeavors of their own. We parted friends and still help one another whenever we can.
The current team is made up of Heather and Clarke Ball, along with occasional assistance from Andrew Reed. They are still trying to get the idea out there. WorldTreeCircle.com will provide people the opportunity to ask questions and gather information from places anywhere around the world that has internet access. It will provide a place that information can be shared, commented on and discussed globally. Link like events, interests, concerns, and opinions from around the world in an effort to demonstrate how similar we all are as well as celebrate what makes us different.
A place where the user need not have any familiarity with a region in order to gain knowledge from individuals who reside in the region(s) of interest. Create their own confidential account and choose to post things publicly or have the option of creating a private account for themselves or family and close friends.
The site is designed to give people free access to regions and the living history that is created every day. A way to get firsthand knowledge about whatever sparks the user’s curiosity from the region’s residents. An outlet for people to share and expand their knowledge and have access to a world’s worth of expertise – literally.
As the company develops it will maintain its ability to shift and change because it will be open sourced. The people who are the driving force of the company will keep it growing and expanding to meet the needs of the users. It will maintain an interaction that will enable us to learn from our users how we can best grow with them.
Two features that we plan to add to the site when it has developed some inertia is the ability for users to advertise and/or distribute their own music regardless of the sponsorship that they may or may not be or may not be receiving. In turn, this will allow people to access a vast pool of music from grassroots to mainstream, worldwide.
Additionally, to further aid in the creation of a fun place to go and make new friends we will offer interactive activities, i.e. scavenger hunt with prizes, which encourage communication across borders. A seamless connection to other social networking sites will help us contribute to streamlining ways to connect and communicate. Working symbiotically with our peers. Our niche is the ease with which international communication will be made available. The heart of the site is the translation software no longer making prior knowledge of areas of interest a factor in the pursuit of information. The ease of communication with real people in various regions and organizations being the focus of the initial site and the fact that it is an open source social network will be what sets it apart from other social networks.
MARKET INFORMATION AND STRATEGY
Review of Services:
World Tree will provide a social network that includes translation software, video and typed chat, and messaging center or “Q & A” board. A key goal of this area is to create a situation that enables people to interact with confidence without having any connections or prior knowledge of the area of interest. Basic layout for users will be the creation of their own account with a profile, also known as your leaf. The leaf can be as public or private as the leaf holder chooses. It will provide space for the users to personalize the information that they collect and/or choose to distribute as well as its appearance. Ideally we’d like for the user to be able to choose from several layouts for their feeds as well.
We will be a conduit for people to be able to promote through contributions to any idea, event, organization or person that is willing to accept said funds. The purpose is to allow people the opportunity to make informed decisions on the entities that they wish to support and to be able to do this in a secure location with very little hassle. This is a way that people can follow, access, and asks questions about entities that they may want to support so that they may feel that their contribution is having the greatest impact.
As the site matures we will enable users to use their leaf to launch their music for a small fee. Ideal range of musicians would be from well-known artists to more obscure talented artists. This gives musicians a way to sell their products directly from World Tree, rather than linking to a separate existing site that they would have to pay to set up and maintain. This has the possibility of branching into other areas of artistry and craftsmanship. On the flip-side of this it becomes a place for people to expose themselves and have access to an incredible amount of creativity.
It could also be a place for idea exchange and learning – a “virtual brainstorming session without the constraints of time and place.”
We will provide a worldwide scavenger hunt in which you will need to communicate with people from other countries to get the correct answers. We will provide a forum for people to be able to ask questions and post answers. It will be possible for people to pose questions to specific countries, regions, or groups of people. The search engine on the site will be able to search people, places, questions and answers, and events. You should be able to search by area if the knowledge that you are seeking is specific to a region. The search engine will be linking the public posts that have similarities.
Another service we will provide for a nominal fee is to provide lists of appropriate connections to make events successful. A similar service is provided by LinkedIn where they use the titles you hold and have posted on your site or you listed skills and such. Ours will be a requested service. This service will be enabled via the search engine’s proclivity to sort, link, and analyze the information provided to show our similarities as previously mentioned.
World Tree’s market segments will be:
Curious individuals: People that are looking to find out about areas or groups of people from the people themselves, rather than third party information. People who just have a simple question that they want answered. Or, they could be looking to develop relationships with an international community.
Education Facilities: World Tree can become a place for schools to interact with other schools around the world for cultural education and research. As well as sharing ideas. It can be advertised on sites like PBS, Scholastic, and National Geographic.
Charitable, Human Rights, and Environmental Organizations: This can include any group or organization that is seeking to improve a situation or overall quality of life for the planet and all its occupants. This will be achieved through direct contacts via the marketing/human resources department.
Additional Possibilities for Charitable Groups:
We can provide a place for customers to make donations to anyone or any group that they feel deserves the contribution. We can facilitate in tracking and/or researching the causes they feel deserve their contribution. In other words, they are not limited to large organizations, but have the ability to pick and choose from any individual or group that is trying to make a positive difference.
Artistic Individuals and Groups: These will be any individuals that desire to display their creations for a large audience to see. This portion of our market will develop through the already existing site and will be generated via emails and on site advertising to existing users.
Gamers: This target group will be teens to adults who are interested in an intriguing and interactive game that provides entertainment as well as knowledge. This will initially be marketed through the existing World Tree site via ads on the site. The initial free version will be available for download as an application.
Promotion – Starting spring or summer of 2015 Clarke will start a series of long distance runs. Each destination was chosen for its cultural roots to represent each of the top internet using countries. Ideally we would like to meet up with an individual, family or group to ask a few questions and be able to digitally pass a baton to a runner in the country each particular run represents.
The run will be tracked on the website for people to follow Clarke and the runners around the globe in their progress. A limited number of T-shirts with the World Tree Circle logo will be passed out by Clarke and the other runners who participate.
Another promotional activity will be “WTC Leaves Around the World.” We will have short videos and pictures of users holding their World Tree Circle leaf different places around the world to advertise the site.
SALES METHODS, PRICING POLICY
Initial Site Release
Scalable Site: We will start with a smaller, concise version of the larger site to come.
Collaboration: When the site is first launched it will make use of technology and programs we can either create or integrate through marketing deals. We will create an understanding of the mutual benefit of allowing our site to utilize software and creating a beneficial buzz that their product is what enables our site to do the amazing things that is does. This is to not only enable the relatively small group of people to launch this ambitious site but also to utilize the side benefit of tried, true and impressive software already created.
Universality: This version will include translation software, video and typed chat, messaging center, search engine, and question and answer forum for the various release areas. Part of the question and answer forum will be a place for users to post video questions and answers. Videos will be translated into subtitles on initial version of the site.
FUNDS TRANSFER: generates funds for World Tree via a small transaction fee of $2.00 USD per transaction. The reason that people will feel good about paying for this service is that they have the freedom to pick and choose where the contribution goes and the knowledge that it is a secure transaction.
ADVERTISEMENTS: A section of the users’ hub will have an ad space that is organized by categories that the user can choose from when browsing the ads for relevant material. Fees for the companies wanting to be included in the ad section will be discounted based on practicing fair trade and environmentally friendly methods. Also a sliding scale dependent upon company size and range of distribution (placement in the feed).
Once Site is Stable
Expansion: Initial traffic will also be aided by questions that are researched and posted on the question board to and about major countries and/or groups of interest so as to create interesting information and an urge to participate amongst users as soon as the initial splash is created. The last portion of information that will be released will be about the specific launch date and the benefit concert that World Tree marketing will organize. All proceeds from the concert will be donated. The benefits of organizing such an event will be powerful advertising and incredible connections among yet another community of people that will provide continuing momentum on our path to a beautiful thing. The marketing department will bring artists such as Michael Franti, Matisyaho, and many others to this event by explaining what World Tree is, what it hopes to accomplish, and the purpose of the concert. As the site grows and is able to support itself as well as generating revenue, research and development will be a constant undertaking to keep the site on the leading edge of being customer friendly and universally intriguing. The site will incorporate fun activities to peak interest and generate funds. First of the activities to come will be a worldwide scavenger hunt that members can participate in. A free version will be available that is fixed facts about certain areas to generate interest for the pay-to-play version where the information is updated and will be dynamic. Players will interact and learn with and about the various areas that are included in the scavenger hunt to find the correct answers and win a prize. The research for the game will be done by the marketing/human relations department. The implementation and design part of the game will be carried out by the program and design portion of the company. Once the site and the individuals that organize and run it are able to incorporate the next aspect of the site we will enable users to use their leaves to launch music of their own making. For a small fee they can sell their music right from their leaf, rather than having to have a link to a separate website. We will maintain good communication with our customers through a messaging center meant specifically for that purpose. The users of the site will help us to make it a place that does offer what they are looking for. A percentage of all profits will go to various charitable and beneficial organizations. Connections will be sought out and maintained throughout the world community via the marketing department to enable and accumulate relationships and credibility amongst our users. We will enable users to donate to any idea, event, organization or person that is willing to accept said funds.
SCAVENGER HUNT: A free version will peak interest for the pay-to-play version in which you can win prizes. The motivation for pay-to-play is to learn, interact and maybe win a prize. Game will be $5.00 USD per scavenger hunt.
ARTIST AND CRAFTSMEN LEAVES: musicians, artists, and craftsmen can post their wares directly from their leaf for a fee of $14.99/month USD.
MUSIC CLUB: leaf holders can purchase a membership to this club in order to receive notification of best-selling music on World Tree and receive a free song once a month.
TRANSLATION SOFTWARE: after this software has been developed an app for translating languages without needing to know origin of the language. App will cost $1.99 USD.
Global Expansion: The site will be made available to the United States to start off with. Cell phones have spread like wild fire in under-developed countries because they have allowed people to skip a cycle in the development of communication (land lines which no one could afford to build) and now use satellites to facilitate communication. Therefore we will be able to expand to other countries in a relatively short amount of time as the word spreads. A strong possibility is to make this an app for portable devices and change the strategy of getting it out to other countries. It might be a good idea to release this in smaller or third world countries first, or at the same time to cut down on competition. We are going to have previously researched and posted questions as interactive examples for users to add to and comment on. We will also network organizations and/or individuals and make it accommodating for them to create their own leaves a short while before the larger launch to come, aka “The Splash”. Once the site is up and running the traffic on the site will be generated through strategic releases of information starting a few months before the actual release of the site. The avenues of information released will be Crowd-Funding, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, Linked In and other international social networks. The chatter that will ensue will be directed and focused through small amounts of information released about the site so as to create a build-up of anticipation. A key component to the success of the site is at the time of release and for a period of time after, if not indefinitely we will create a seamless connection to Facebook and possibly other social networking sites. Our endeavor in the onset of release is to remain as non-threatening as possible. Before release networking through organizations that back independent thinking, equality, community, and preservation of a beneficial human existence will be done to create connections. The connections to these organizations will develop as a result of the networking phase of our operation. This will lend to the credibility of the site in its smaller stages. The benefit of this service is not only the ability to monitor, track and analyze larger organizations but to be able to give to anyone that may, or may not, be seeking aid. It is entirely up to that individual who they choose to support in this manner.
- Member Salaries
- Donations WTC will make
- Web hosting fees
Competition may not be quite the right word for our peers. We hope to be alongside other social networking sites like:
- Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Twitter in the USA
- Sino Weibo and Renren in China
o Sino Weibo is similar to Twitter in that it is a microblogging site but is highly used by Celebrities and popular individuals and/or businesses.
o Renren in more akin to Facebook but users earn points for activities like logging in, posting, and comments on their site.
- Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki in Russia
o Vkontakte is used mostly for posting music or movies. 54% of Russia’s web users spend an average of 20 min a day here.
o Odnoklassniki means “classmates” and is used primarily by men under the age of 35.
- Orkut and Sonico in Latin America
o Orkut is largely used in Brazil
o Sonico has some of the features we will expound on. You can add friends, manage a profile, share photos and videos, organize events and play games.
- Taringa in Argentina
o This site promotes users in rank by their contribution of links to the site. The more likes you get, the higher your rank and the more likes you can give.
- Netlog in Europe
o This is a personal networking site. It uses algorithms to connect you with locals in your approximate age range.
These sites all have a theme or genre about them that sets them apart from one another. World Tree Circle will have similar traits, as all social networks tend to. However, World Tree Circle will be open source, run by the users as much as possible. Combined with having multiple venues for communication and games it allows the user to stay in one place for all their social needs.
Business Facilities and Operations
Being on the internet there is the flexibility to set up headquarters just about anywhere. It will continue to run out of our home to begin with and then as the site grows there will be satellite offices in the various countries using it. As we the need for servers increases we will know where we need to expand operations to.
Right now this location is very advantageous due to our proximity to Western Carolina University and Asheville, NC. The college is working with us through their Business College and Asheville is home to very creative and diverse business population.
MANAGEMENT AND PERSONNEL
Founder, Clarke Ball
He will act as the organizer for the initial plan and the conduit between the two departments of the company. He will also be developing connections and building the strategy for our growth. Provide motivation and encouragement and be of any assistance to any department. After seven years he would like to hand things over but will maintain connections for the company and give any help that can be lent to the success of the company. A student of life, he is always looking to learn new skills and is unafraid to take on new roles when called upon to do so.
Co-Founder & Human Relations, Heather Ball
She is in charge of public relations and human resources. This includes communicating the needs and goals of WTC to potential investors and working with the various contributors. Due to her background in customer service and as a personal assistant her current tasks are the blog, maintaining communications with Western Carolina University, and all the administrative duties like billing, stocking and scheduling. Heather also enjoys learning new skills and rarely has any challenge with proficiency in a relatively short amount of time.
When necessary, Andrew Reed, owner of Endlyss Art, is called upon for information and assistance with web design and technical education.
To be more successful World Tree Circle could use:
Team Leader: At least one person with technical knowledge to ensure productivity
Web Designers: 1-2
As the site grows, the goal is to have the majority of the maintenance done through open sourcing and using the current team to monitor and maintain the stability of the site. It may be necessary to hire additional team members if the load becomes too much for a team of 2-4 professionals. This will be up to the lead programmer, designer and marketing director along with the team leader.
FINANCIAL SECTION – TO BE COMPLETED