Successful startup business owners have one thing in common: they’re committed to their business success. “Don’t give up, don’t take anything personally, and don’t take no for an answer,” says Sophia Amuroso, founder of Nasty Gal clothing.
Sophia started Nasty Gal in 2006 with no money. Based in her bedroom, she opened an Etsy shop selling vintage clothing from thrift shops and estate sales. Nasty Gal grew to become a multi-million business, and Sophia became a bestselling author and fashion icon.
Then in 2017, Nasty Gal filed for bankruptcy.
A disaster, right? How can this sad story help you? Sophia says that Nasty Gal’s financial troubles began when a business venture capital firm gave her company $40 million.
The investors expected massive, unrealistic international sales within a couple of years. Unable to fulfill the unrealistic expectations, Nasty Gal was forced to file for bankruptcy in the middle of a TV show based on Sophia’s story, Girlboss.
Sophia didn’t allow this failure to stop her. Now she owns a media company, Girlboss, that advises other women on starting and growing their businesses.
Getting a lot of money doesn’t automatically mean success. If you’re still developing your business and learning what it, and you, do best, letting your business grow on its own without major outside investment and pressure can make a stronger, more stable business.
Get Your Business off the Ground by Asking Questions
All successful businesses start with good ideas. The idea should be a good fit for your skill sets.
Take the time to brainstorm business ideas. The type of business you choose will influence whether you need to invest some money upfront or you can get the business off the ground with little to no money.
A Major Question to Ask and Answer: “Stuff” vs. “Services.”
Are you going to sell a product or a service? That’s the ultimate question here.
A “stuff” business makes and/or sells things. Will you be making something to sell? Or will you have a retail business? You’ve probably noticed many stores closing: this is part of the “Retail Apocalypse.”
So, whatever kind of retail business you want, it’s worth asking questions about what kind of storefront you’ll have, or if you’ll have an online shop and sell using social media.
What about starting a service business? A business that offers services has a different business model from one that sells goods. You’ll need to investigate staffing plans, consider how many you will need to start, and learn how to manage employees. It’s difficult to grow a service business with only one person providing the services.
Work on a Business Plan
Even if you don’t plan to raise any money to start, the time you invest in a business plan will pay off. This is something that all businesses require in order to be successful.
You’ll ask yourself and answer questions you need to know about running your business by completing a business plan. The Small Business Administration has resources for traditional and “lean” or slimmed-down business plans on its website.
Most start-up business plans include three years of financial projections. Cash flow projections should show how much money you anticipate having in the bank at the end of each financial period, usually each quarter, throughout your projections. If you’re running a cash-based business, cash flow projections are a must. Even with $40 million in investment, Nasty Gal was unable to meet its financial obligations because it expanded too fast.
Getting a Small Business Loan or Funds from Friends and Family
Once you know your business basics and have completed a business plan, you can consider using crowdfunding platforms to raise the money you need. A business plan is essential if you’re planning to get business loans and startup capital.
If you ask for money from friends and family, be specific in your requests. Starting a business with no money isn’t easy, but it is possible. Hundreds of thousands of people have done it. The key is starting small, knowing what you want to do, and not taking “no” for an answer when you’re building a successful business.
Additionally, there are some amazing grant opportunities available for female business owners. We highly encourage that you consider grants as a possible funding source as well.
Resources To Help You Start A Business With No Money
We’ve put together some resources below that are either free, close to free, or offer free trials. We hope these can help get you started – even if you don’t have a lot of funds to work with.
- Canva: Create stunning visuals for your business for free with pre-made templates, images, graphics, and more (or create your own).
- IndieGoGo: A crowdfunding site where you can solicit funds for your ideas, a charity, or start-up business.
- Slack: A cloud-based platform for instant messaging with separate, organized channels that can also integrate other platforms you may already use.
- Google Suite: This is a set of cloud-based services such as Documents, Slides, Sheets, and so much more that you can use in real-time with others. Everything you need can be shared and accessed from anywhere with a login or shareable link.
- WordPress: This is a free and open-source content management system where you can build beautiful websites from hundreds of templates – or even create your own.
- Time Doctor: This is a productivity tool to track the time of employees. You can see reports on time tracking, web usage, and even do payroll through the service.
- Skype: A telecommunications app that provides video chat, messaging, and voice chat through a multitude of devices, no matter where you or another person is in the world.
- Sage: This is an app that tracks all of your business’ expenses and transactions in real-time. It is designed specifically for small businesses, but has another program for when your business gets big!
- Square: Free point of sales mobile app to help you accept all payments and keep your business running.
- Genius Scan: Free app where you can take a photo of anything you need to “scan” and the app automatically converts it to a .jpeg or PDF.
Start an Online Business First
Looking to start small without spending money? Our best advice to small business owners would be to start a website and start building an audience and a following before leaving your 9 to 5. It adds additional security for you financially, and then when you see you’ve built up enough traffic or revenue to successfully replace your full-time job – make the switch!
It’s a scary jump to make, but ultimately you’re making the most important investment you can make. You’re investing in yourself, your future, and your happiness.
If you’re wondering how to start a business with no money, we hope this advice can help push you in the right direction! Even if you’re stuck, don’t have the funds, or simply don’t know where to get started. Starting and growing a business is definitely still possible – even on a limited budget.
Let us know if you are on the verge of creating your own business. Or if you’ve already done so, let us know what steps you took! We’d love to hear from you.