What is the Business Model Canvas, and how do I use it?

This simple yet transformative tool can help anyone—from the garage-bound inventor to the corporate innovator—visualize and strategise their business idea. Let's break it down.
Written by
Sean Riordan
Published on
February 22, 2023
What is the Business Model Canvas, and how do I use it?

What is the Business Model Canvas?

The Business Model Canvas is a visual chart with nine segments that provide a coherent framework to develop, describe, and analyse a business model.

It was devised by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, aiming to offer a more intuitive and flexible alternative to traditional business plans.

Image of Business Model Canvas
Image courtesy of https://www.strategyzer.com/
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Download a PDF copy here: https://www.strategyzer.com/library/the-business-model-canvas-instruction-manual

Why Bother with It?

  1. Simple: Forget the 50-page business plans. Everything’s right there in front of you.
  2. Super Flexible: Change your mind about something? No sweat. Just tweak and move on.
  3. Team Game: Designed for group work, allowing for collective brainstorming. Two heads (or more) are better than one!

The Nine Building Blocks of the Canvas

  1. Key Partnerships: Who are your allies? Collaborators, suppliers, or even competitors can fit here.
  2. Key Activities: What crucial tasks keep your business ticking? This could be anything from software development to handcrafting artisanal chocolates.
  3. Key Resources: What assets are vital for your success? Think of physical goods, intellectual properties, or even your staff.
  4. Value Propositions: What sets you apart? This is the unique flavour of value you bring to your customers.
  5. Customer Relationships: How will you interact with your clients? Via personalized service? Automated systems?
  6. Channels: Think of the journey your product takes from you to your customer. Is it sold online, in a physical store, or both?
  7. Customer Segments: Who are you serving? Knowing your audience is critical: are they corporations, consumers, or niche communities?
  8. Cost Structure: Lay out your major costs. Consider materials, salaries, rent, and more.
  9. Revenue Streams: How does your business earn? Through sales, subscriptions, or affiliate marketing?

How to Use the Business Model Canvas

  1. Start Blank: Begin with an empty canvas. You might think it's easier to start with someone else's', but that will probably cloud your responses.
  2. Brainstorm: Use sticky notes to jot down ideas for each segment. This keeps the process fluid and adaptable.
  3. Work Collaboratively: Invite team members, mentors, or stakeholders to contribute. Different perspectives can enhance the model.
  4. Iterate: Your first draft won't be perfect. Revise and adjust as you gather more information or as conditions change.
  5. Stay Visual: Use drawings, diagrams, or colour codes. The canvas is a visual tool—make the most of it!


The Business Model Canvas encourages clarity, adaptability, and collaboration. Whether you're a budding entrepreneur or an established business looking to pivot, the canvas is a powerful ally to have in your toolkit.

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