Top tips for starting a business with no money

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By Chris Smith

What’s stopping you from pursuing your dream of starting a business? More often than not, the answer will be a lack of capital. Building a business from nothing can be an incredibly daunting prospect, but the good news is there’s a lot of help and support out there. If you have a strong business idea and determination, then there should be nothing stopping you from making your dream of being a business owner a reality.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Your dream to work for yourself might in part be inspired by the fact you hate your day job, but don’t be too quick to quit. Having a steady and reliable income when you are first starting out in business will be a great help when profits are non-existent or minimal. Try to dedicate as much time outside of work as possible to building a business plan and testing your idea to see if it will work.  Being practical and continuing as an employee while building up your company will make the transition to becoming your own boss much less stressful.

Find Mentors

Finding entrepreneurs who are already established in the industry – or one similar – to the industry you wish to go into will prove to be invaluable; go to networking events and business workshops and see if you can find anyone willing to mentor you and guide you through the ups and downs of starting a business. Having someone to guide you through the start-up process will help you avoid the pitfalls many businesses encounter when starting out. A mentor will also be able to help you create a strong business plan which should include realistic financial projections; these financial projections should help you calculate how much capital you will need to get the business up and running and at what point your company will be profitable.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding platforms have transformed the fund-raising process for entrepreneurs; in 2016 it was estimated that an incredible US$739 million was raised via crowdfunding alone. Using crowdfunding sites can be a great way to raise capital and interest in your business idea quickly. Many crowdfunding platforms work on a reward-based model where those choosing to invest in a project are often promised a reward related to the business idea if the fundraising target is reached. If you choose to go down this route, it is a good idea to find a creative way to stand out as these platforms tend to be competitive.

Grants

One of the best ways to raise initial capital for your business – if you are eligible – is via grants. There are often many government-funded schemes offering grants available to start-ups– a grant being a form of funding which includes no interest and which often doesn’t require any repayment. There are often a lot of requirements you must meet to be eligible for a grant so make sure your business meets these before sending off applications to avoid wasting valuable time.

Small Business Loans

Securing a small business loan can be one of the harder ways to raise funding to start a business. One of the best ways to set yourself up for success when applying for a small business loan is by building a strong credit rating. Making sure you have built a strong history of paying your bills on time and borrowing sensibly will help make sure your credit rating is strong; along with a strong credit rating, have a solid business plan, know exactly what you will do with the loaned money and have the correct documents lenders will need to hand, such as bank statements. It is important that you include any business loans and associated interest in your financial projections for your business.

Investors

If you wish to grow big and do it fast, one of the best ways to do it is through giving up shares in your business in return for investment. Investors are often very wealthy individuals from a variety of backgrounds looking to support and fund growing companies, with the aim of making a profit from their investment. There are many ways to find investors such as through incubators and accelerator programs as well as networking events or simply searching on LinkedIn. Investors tend to invest in people as well as products and ideas so make sure you prepare properly before going forward for this kind of funding. Create a strong pitch, do extensive research into your product and the market place, present yourself with confidence and know your figures well. Also have a clear idea about what percentage of your business you would be willing to give away before meeting with investors.

Be Creative

When building a company on a limited budget, it is incredibly important to think creatively – especially when it comes to marketing. There are many stories out there of small companies with small budgets growing incredibly quickly by finding clever ways to market themselves on a limited budget. One such example is the Orabrush – a brush for your tongue to help minimise bad breath. Struggling to find a way to market the brush and get people interested, the owner – Dr Bob Wagstaff – decided to create a video on YouTube, spending only $500, after a student suggested the idea. The video went viral, attracting 14 million views and led to the brand Orabrush exploding in popularity and selling hundreds of thousands of units. A limited budget doesn’t always mean limited growth if you know what you’re doing.