Starting a Business on a Budget
I was chatting with an old friend last week at one of our local coffee shops and the subject of being in business came up in our usual banter. Basically, my friend told me that he had long dreamed of working for himself but had always lacked the resources to get started. When I posed the question of how much he thought someone needed to start a small business, he admitted, although he had no real idea of costs, he estimated somewhere in the range of $10-25K just to get rolling.
How had he arrived at such a firm amount? His answer was that’s just what he had added up in his head. Taken aback slightly by his answer I suggested that maybe you didn’t need quite that much. When asked if he would be interested in learning how to go about starting a business on a budget, perhaps even for less than $1K he answered with a resounding, flat-out Yes!
I pressed a little further to gauge how long the idea of running a business had been playing on his mind only to be told at least the last decade!
So, just to clarify that last point, for more than ten years, this fellow had worked in jobs he disliked under the presumption that he would most likely never make enough money to go into business for himself. Adding insult to injury he had actually worked in a number of successful businesses where he watched the staff do all the work while the “part-time” owner simply came and went as he pleased and took all the money.
One caveat here, the owner of a successful business does primarily just that, they own the business. The smart owner hires the right people to run the day-to-day and help grow the business. The really smart owners focus is on growing the business. Not every owner spends 100 hours a week running that business – if they do, they’re doing something wrong.
The most interesting thing to me from our conversation was the simple fact that while my friend clearly possessed a burning desire to go it alone, because of a preconceived notion he never allowed himself the opportunity to try. In truth and unfortunately, he really was his own worst enemy.
These preconceived notions can literally stop us in our tracks. Often, in the idea & planning stages, they prevent us from starting altogether.
Do you really need $10-$25K to start a business? Not always, no.
Can you start a business for less than $1K? Yes, actually you can and history proves it!
Henry Ford made one car – not a line of luxury automobiles.
Starbucks opened a little coffee shop in a public market – Not one on every street corner.
Apple started in a spare bedroom then scaled into the garage!
Walt Disney was turned down 302 times before finally securing the financing to build Disney World.
KFC founder Colonel Sanders was rejected 1009 times before finding a taker for his chicken recipe.
“Fall down 7 times, Get up 8″ ~Japanese proverb
Starting a Business on a Budget – Quid Pro Quo
So, if you’re wondering what kind of business can be started for a small or micro investment, read on my friend because one of these little gems may be the perfect fit for you.
- Mowing and Yard Maintenance. Fewer people than ever want to do this themselves and the category has seen significant growth over the last few years. Depending on where you live, this primarily seasonal business could easily be expanded into a year-round operation by offering snow removal & road / parking lot salting services too.
- Local Tour provider. Tourism and all of its associated add-ons, like eco-tourism can bring big business! Depending on your locale, you might offer nature tours such as guided hikes and kayak tours, wine tastings, horse and carriage tours – or something entirely unique like ghost tours, walking tours, the best live music venues etc.
- Seasonal Sports Instructor, such as a ski or kayak instructor.
- Cleaning Services – Both Residential and Commercial – you might be surprised how many offices and even homeowners will leap at the chance for a reasonably priced ongoing cleaning contract. Make no mistake here, cleaning companies can be very profitable and are, by far, one of the most underrated and undervalued business models out there for the micro budget.
- Pet Sitting / Dog Walking – These services are almost always on the rise, especially if you can establish a loyal clientele and word of mouth recommendations. Hey, you even get a little exercise thrown into the bargain too, so really, what’s not to like? Of course, being a dog person may help a little – just sayin’…
- Hauling & Delivery services. – Everyone has junk and stuff to get moved or delivered, even more so once spring has sprung. Even a simple pickup truck or trailer can easily deliver a load of bark mulch or topsoil and placing a small classified ad in the local paper or the used sites can easily bring a windfall.
- Window & Gutter Cleaning / Pressure Washing With windows and gutters, all you need is a bucket, a ladder, some gloves and a few rags. Granted, the pressure washing side of things will require a moderate investment but you would be surprised at how in demand these local odd-job or handyman services are. Also, with pressure washing, you may even be able to strike up a deal with a local painting or construction company for reliable mutual job prep.
- Gourmet Meals Delivery – Much like the old meals on wheels programs of yesteryear, it’s becoming more and more popular (not to mention fashionable?) to have fresh, home cooked meals delivered to your home once in a while. Many people now work crazy schedules and when that’s coupled with social activities and children there just never seems to be enough time left in the day. Many seniors understandably rely heavily on these services and by creating some home-made, healthy family recipes you could easily corner your local market on this one.
Do things others will not or simply cannot & Provide Value
Starting a Business on a Budget – Takeaways
Okay, so devils advocate time – being in business is not all flowers and puppies, it truth, it’s damn hard work. In closing it should be noted, obviously that none of these ideas will make you rich overnight, and if you’re looking for one of those, well, we wish you luck! The value these businesses offer to the right person that is really prepared to work at them is a good living – and of course, the satisfaction of being your own boss.
Starting a business on a budget is a very real possibility, even if it’s a shoestring budget. I also believe that right now is one of the best times we’ve ever had to do so. Entrepreneurs are truly amazing people and I am so blessed to be able to work with them every day, they truly amaze me even after all these years.
I read an article in Entrepreneur just yesterday about a 15 year old babysitter in New York who has managed to turn her part-time babysitting / nanny service micro business into what is now a solid 6 figure a year business with over 50 employees – at fifteen, seriously! I will venture a guess that almost nobody reading this blog post even considered this one to be a starter right?
There are so many clients I consult with who’s business models stem from doing things that others will not or simply cannot. That service you offer provides a value to the client and that value translates directly into money in your pocket. So I pose two final questions, why not you? If you have ever thought about starting a business on a budget, what are you waiting for?
PS: I just have to add that Colonel Sanders is the man! He could so easily have given up anywhere along that road but he stuck to his guns, if Websters ever needed a poster boy for terms like perseverance or tenacity, Colonel Sanders is the man!
Thanks for reading, I’d love to hear your thoughts…