One of the questions I’m asked most often is, “Where do I get money to start my business?” These questions often come with tidbits of other information like reports of bad credit, former bankruptcies, or empty wallets. The truth is it’s difficult to find startup funding. Heck, these days it’s hard for established, successful business owners to find expansion capital.
That said, I don’t want that fact to discourage you from starting (or expanding) your business. All too often aspiring entrepreneurs think you need a lot of money to start a business. And if you don’t have the bucks, you simply can’t get started.
That’s wrong. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying money is irrelevant to starting and growing a business. True, it is easier to start a business if you have money to spare, though that hardly guarantees success. But you can start a business without having a big bank account, which, since most of us aren’t related to Bill Gates, is good news.
Want to get started without spending? One smart way to do that is start a part-time business. This way you don’t have to quit your day job. Starting part-time helps you maintain the steady income from your regular job, while waiting for sales to kick in from your entrepreneurial venture. It’s also a good way to build up a solid customer or client base, to work the kinks out of your new business, and to gain a better understanding of your industry.
If the part-time route is not for you, there are still ways to keep an eye on your startup expenditures. Try bartering goods or services with other business owners. For instance, if you are a graphic designer and you need an accountant, try finding one willing to swap an equal dollar amount of accounting services in return for your work on their brochures, ads, and other marketing materials. (Be careful here and make sure you keep complete records of any barter arrangement. The IRS demands you report barter on your tax return.)
If you’re not planning on going it alone, hiring interns or even temps instead of full-time workers can cut down on expenses. Contact your local college or university to see if they offer a formal internship program. In any case, make sure you give the interns real work and not menial tasks. And check your state laws. In some places, interns can work for free (or for class credit), but in others, like California, they must be paid at least minimum wage.
If you’re short of startup funds, consider starting a low-cost business. Even if that’s not your dream business, you can think of this as your starter business. Look at it as a way to earn money, perhaps enough so you can start that dream business one day. There are lots of businesses that don’t take a lot of initial investment, though they take just as much work (sometimes even more). Starting an online business (even if it’s just selling stuff on eBay) can cut overhead costs and potentially earn you a lot of money.
Sometimes the money excuse is just that — an excuse. Just another reason you tell yourself you can’t start your business today. If you want to be successful, you need to rid the words “I can’t because…” from your vocabulary. Excuses are easy to come by; if you let them, there will always be a never-ending supply to keep you from getting started.
There is no such thing as the perfect time to start a business. Or the perfect conditions. Many people would be too scared to start a business in today’s horrible economy. But recessions can be a great time to start. Millions of businesses were born out of the recession of the early 1990s.
Of course, the regular rules apply. You need to do your homework, write a business plan (so you know where you’re headed), and be prepared to work harder than you ever imagined. But even then, progress may be slower than you like. So, while we’re talking about vocabularies, you need to add the word “persistence” to yours. At the end of the day, getting a business off the ground is more about the concept, the marketing, and the execution than about how much money you have at the start.
Don’t believe me? Some of the most successful entrepreneurs in history didn’t start out with a hefty bankroll. Take Fred DeLuca, founder of Subway sandwiches and one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world. Subway is the largest franchise company in America and one of the largest in the world. Did you know DeLuca started his business with $1,000 loaned to him by a family friend? Yes, $1,000. So next time you think you need tons of money to get started, think of Fred DeLuca. And remember that a thousand bucks can launch a global empire.
AllBusiness.com has just launched an “Ask the AllBusiness Expert” podcast and we want to hear from you. If you’d like Rieva to answer your questions, call the “Ask the Expert” toll-free line at 1-877-49-EXPERT and leave her a message. Or you can just e-mail Rieva directly at email@example.com. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.