Pretty much every single business plan has an industry and market overview section. But how do you go about getting that info?

If you’re loaded, then you can buy industry research reports such as the ones produced at They go for several hundred dollars and cover the industry for the entire US. So unless you have a business with nation-wide reach, it will not be cost effective.

A good and free place to start is at the Economic Census page. From there, you pick an industry that you’re interested in. It gives you a snapshot of the industry on a national scale. If you want more detail or focus, click on the American FactFinder link. Navigating the American FactFinder page is somewhat difficult but with practice becomes…well, it’s still a pain but less of a pain. Kind of like driving stick-shift in traffic. From there, you search for the elements you’re looking for (e.g. number of hair salons in Alabama).