Build a Lean Canvas

Learn how to craft a simplified business plan that helps you break down your business idea. 

The trickiest parts of starting a business can be data and direction. How are you organizing your ideas? What problem are you trying to solve, and how will you solve it? Are you even asking the right questions? And how are you communicating all of this?

Lean canvas helps entrepreneurs break down their business ideas. It’s a simple document that’s designed to replace elaborate business plans.

What is lean canvas?

Lean canvas is a business plan on one piece of paper. The template is broken into nine boxes:

Problem: Your customers’ top three problems, plus how these problems are solved today

Solution: Your new way of addressing the problem

Key metrics: Numbers that tell you how your business is doing

Unique value proposition: The compelling message that will get people interested

Unfair advantage: Something that can’t be easily copied or bought

Channels: How you reach customers

Customer segments: Target customers and users

Cost structure: Your fixed and variable costs

Revenue streams: Sources of income

These sections seem pretty simple, but they each do a lot of heavy lifting. Each box forces entrepreneurs to distill the who, what, where, when, why and how of their businesses. Look at it this way: It’s not that hard to explain something in 1,000 words. But it takes an expert with clear vision to explain it in only 10.

Who can use lean canvas?

Lean canvas is for any entrepreneur at any point of business development. But the sooner you create a lean canvas, the better. It can help clarify the problem you’re trying to solve and give you new insight on how to work toward a resolution. Plus, referring to a one-page business snapshot is easier than rifling through a multi-page business plan.

What do I need to create my lean canvas?

Many books and online resources can guide entrepreneurs on how to create a lean canvas. While it’s possible to complete the plan in just an afternoon, getting outside input gives the plan breadth and depth – and improves the chances of business success.

Some courses ask entrepreneurs to record their assumptions about their businesses and then turn those assumptions into questions. Then, the entrepreneurs ask potential customers the questions. These interactions can provide surprising feedback and help shape a business’s future.

Working through lean canvas creation with another entrepreneur can be valuable as well. An accountability partner can help you make the most of the process and challenge concepts you might take for granted.

Be prepared: Not every lean canvas leads to business success. Instead, some lean canvases point entrepreneurs in other directions.

If a business plan has too many holes in it or doesn’t seem to be a good fit for the market, you may be better off redirecting your efforts. But lean canvas can help you figure that out sooner rather than later.

What are the next steps once I’ve created my lean canvas?

Once you’ve talked to people, processed their feedback and completed your lean canvas, you’re all set, right?

Not quite.

The lean canvas is a living document that can change as your business does. Think of it as an interactive tool, not a static, complete picture. Many entrepreneurs use Post-Its or pencil to keep changing their lean canvases. Others just keep making copies. No matter how it works best for you, your lean canvas should reflect how your ideas about your business – and how you meet the needs of your customers – shift.

Even as a lean canvas evolves, it remains a one-page road map that’s powerful in its simplicity. It focuses on the customer’s problem, the entrepreneur’s solution, financing the business and meeting those needs.

Where can I get help with my lean canvas?

Many of KCSourceLink’s Resource Partners use lean canvas. Reach out to one of our Network Navigators, 816-235-6500, to find the best resources to help you. We’ll create your free Personal Action Plan and help you connect with the services that are right for you.

You can also turn to to further explain the principles of the lean canvas. And provides useful background on lean canvas and how Ash Maurya adapted the lean canvas from the business model canvas.


Determination, Incorporated

Determination, Incorporated is a nonprofit based in the Kansas City metro that creates a pathway to opportunity for formerly incarcerated people through entrepreneurship.

Specializes in: Business Plan Consulting, Development and Review

Kansas Small Business Development Center at KU (SBDC)

The Kansas Small Business Development Center at the University of Kansas provides free and confidential individual advising to small business owners, managers and prospective owners. The center can work with any company that fits into the Small Business Administration's definition of a "small business."

Specializes in: Business Plan Consulting, Development and Review

San Luis Marketing Agency

A video and marketing agency. We offer a complete range of marketing and sales services to businesses of all sizes, individuals, and nonprofits. So you can focus on working, creating, and dreaming.

Specializes in: Business Plan Consulting, Development and Review

The Black MasterMind Group Charitable Foundation

The Black MasterMind Group Charitable Foundation is designed to create strategies to help the Black entrepreneurial community start, stabilize, sustain and scale businesses. It educates, trains, coaches, mentors, develops and provides funding initiatives

Specializes in: Business Plan Consulting, Development and Review

The Entrepreneur's Source

I provide no cost education, awareness and discovery services to people who are in career transition and have an interest in exploring entrepreneurship as a potential career path or adding passive streams of income to their existing investment or bus

Specializes in: Business Plan Consulting, Development and Review

The Toolbox: Small Business Resource Center

The Toolbox: Small Business Resource Center is the go-to resource for everything small business in Wyandotte County, Kansas. All services are offered at no cost to local residents and businesses. The Toolbox provides support with planning, registering, funding, operating and growing your business through private one-on-one small business coaching.

Specializes in: Business Plan Consulting, Development and Review

Better Business Bureau of Greater Kansas City

Better Business Bureau of Greater Kansas City's mission to promote trust in the marketplace has made the organization a business leader since 1916. BBB sets standards for marketplace trust, celebrates business role models, calls out substandard marketplace behavior and creates a community of trustworthy businesses and charities

Bloch Consulting Lab at UMKC

The Bloch Consulting Lab offers pro-bono consulting to new ventures and small businesses led by founders from underserved Kansas City communities.

City of Excelsior Springs, MO - Community Development Department

The City of Excelsior Springs’ Community Development Department assists businesses in locating, expanding and moving to the community. Find more information, visit or email Melinda Mehaffy, economic development director, at [email protected].

City of Richmond, MO - Economic Development Department

The mission of the Richmond Department of Economic Development is to promote and support business and economic development within the community of Richmond, Missouri.


DreamSpring is a nonprofit community lender providing small business loans and lines of credit, resources and guidance.

Gardner Chamber of Commerce

The Gardner Chamber of Commerce provides business assistance, networking opportunities and other services for businesses operating or wishing to operate in the Kansas towns of Gardner, Edgerton or New Century.

Grain Valley Partnership

The Grain Valley Chamber Partnership is dedicated to being the primary advocate for businesses in the Grain Valley, Missouri, area by promoting economic development, providing educational resources and partnering with our members to improve the business environment and community image.


GUILDit spurs Kansas City artists and entrepreneurs. The organization’s mission is to create communities around best business practices in the way of forums, panels, lectures and alike programming.

Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City

The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City is dedicated to the creation, advancement, promotion and development of economic opportunities within the Hispanic market and business community.

Hispanic Economic Development Corporation of Greater Kansas City

The Hispanic Economic Development Corporation (HEDC) is dedicated to improving the lives of Latinos within the greater Kansas City. HEDC achieves this through business development and economic and community wealth creation initiatives.

Independence Economic Development Council

The Independence, Missouri Economic Development Council is a nonprofit, public/private partnership, which was established in 1983 for the purpose of supporting and enhancing the economic growth of Independence.

Johnson County Missouri Economic Development Corporation (JCEDC)

The Johnson County, Missouri, Economic Development Corporation (JCEDC) provides confidential one-on-one business assistance, microloan funds, financing options and incentives for new and existing businesses, small to large, for all Johnson County, Missouri.

K-State Technology Development Institute (TDI)

The Technology Development Institute provides a variety of resources and services through collaborative engineering and business development partnerships to advance technologies, people and companies.

Kansas City Area Transportation Authority

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority connects people to opportunities through safe, reliable public transportation. KCATA is a bi-state agency charged with serving the transportation and development needs of the Kansas City region.

Kansas Small Business Development Center at JCCC (SBDC)

The Kansas Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Johnson County Community College provides business assistance to aspiring and existing small business owners in Johnson, Miami and Wyandotte counties in Kansas through low cost training events and no-charge one-on-one business counseling.

KU Innovation Park

KU Innovation Park, with locations at both the University of Kansas Lawrence Campus and Kansas University Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas, is the largest incubator system in the state. It is comprised of three separate facilities totaling approximately 90,000 square feet of wet lab, office space and shared work spaces.

Mid-America Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (TAAC)

The Mid-America Trade Adjustment Assistance Center assists domestic manufacturers negatively impacted by import competition by providing cost share funding to implement improvement projects to make a business more globally competitive.

Mid-Continent Public Library Culinary Center

The Mid-Continent Public Library Culinary Center is a destination and resource for anyone interested in learning more about food and culinary entrepreneurship. Housed in the Green Hills Library Center, the Culinary Center features a teaching and demonstration kitchen and two shared commercial kitchens for use by startup food businesses.

Missouri Enterprise, Kansas City and Northwest Missouri

Missouri Enterprise is a dedicated manufacturing expert and your partner to strengthen and grow your company. The organization assists manufacturers with workforce development, technology, lean principles, exporting, quality, food safety and more.

Missouri SBDC at Northwest Missouri State University - St. Joseph

The SBTDC offers confidential, one-on-one counseling, coaching and training to existing businesses and emerging business owners.

Missouri SBDC at University of Missouri Kansas City

Missouri SBDC at UMKC is OPEN for business; both virtually and in-person for our trainings and counseling. Contact us at [email protected] to talk how we can help you SOAR with your entrepreneurial journey

Mo-Kan Regional Council

MO-KAN Development Inc. provides loan programs to small businesses in Kansas and Missouri.

Northland CAPS

Northland CAPS students use business standard software, equipment and employer mentorship to solve real world problems for entrepreneurs and business owners.

Piper School District

We're looking to produce client projects for area businesses through our various academies.
If your organization has a problem, or a project that’s No. 10 on your “to do” list, give it to our students. They're ready for real world learning.

Prospect Business Association

Prospect Business Association's Business Development Services Program provides hands-on assistance and back-office support services to start, scale and sustain companies based on their unique needs.


The Kansas City SCORE Chapter is comprised of more than 70 volunteers who provide free mentoring and workshops to entrepreneurs. Volunteers are professionals with time-tested knowledge and experience in almost every industry.


VetBiz is dedicated to helping U.S. veterans and military families achieve their dream of owning a business by transitioning military skills to business success through training, counseling and mentorship.

Well Well Marketing

Our vision is to make the world healthier by promoting health and wellness businesses. We provide holistic marketing to holistic brands.


Whiteboard2Boardroom connects entrepreneurs and established businesses to technologies available for licensing at institutions of higher education, hospitals and corporations in the bi-state region to stimulate applied research, leverage innovation i

Women's Business Center of Kansas City

The Women’s Business Center provides training, mentoring, networking opportunities and business consulting to help women start and grow their businesses.


Subscribe to our newsletter.

Get insights, inspiration and events to help you start, grow and accelerate your KC business or side hustle delivered to your inbox.

Find business help.

Connect with experts at 230+ business-building nonprofits in Kansas City.