Just like meeting Mr. or Mrs. "Right," or having your first child, the most opportune time to launch a new product or service can arise when you least expect it. And to fully take advantage of all that comes along with the opportunity, you must hold your breath and take the plunge!
Assuming you're like most people in this world—not born silver-spoon-in-mouth—you might feel the cards are stacked against you in starting a business. How can you turn your idea into a thriving business without much, or any, start-up capital? In this era of multi-million-dollar Series A investments, is it even possible to start-up without angel or VC funding?
Of course it is. But it's neither easy nor intuitive. Here are three tips, based on my personal experience, on how to start up without hawking all of your worldly possessions in the process:
1. Don't quit your day job. At least not yet. By staying put at a 9-to-5 as you prepare for your company's launch, your salary can support the impromptu expenses (beyond the cost of your personal time) that inadvertently pop up when starting a venture. Doing so also provides the financial peace of mind to observe and learn from other people's successes and failures before diving in. This comes in the form of networking with industry players, volunteering, and researching the entrepreneurial space to get ready for what's in store! For a head start on the latter, check out The Everyday Entrepreneur. It's a quick read with easy-to-apply lessons from entrepreneurs across a range of industries who provide the advice needed to prevent costly mistakes novices might make otherwise.
2. Exercise all options—virtually. One of the biggest (and bought) lessons I learned while founding Heritage Link Brands is that not all countries, states, or municipalities are alike where setting up the physical location of a company is concerned. And some, more than others, provide incentives or tacit benefits to startups to encourage enterprise, depending on the industry, product or service provided. Since our venture of choice was wine (one of the most heavily regulated industries in the world), we took diligent notes to understand costs (i.e. annual licensing: $5,000 in Massachusetts versus $400 in California) and made decisions accordingly. With the tremendous amount of information available through the Web, take advantage of side-by-side comparisons or business indices before making any hard-core investments. Also be sure to explore services that allow you to outsource some of the minutia that comes along with administering a business, like Elance or Talent Gurus. With the support of such firms, your business can ramp up slowly as you accelerate your bandwidth to match the venture's growth trajectory.
3. Don't be afraid to accept the kindness of strangers, friends or family! Whether tapping into an alma mater network for interns or fielding volunteers that learn how special and differentiated your offering is
through word of mouth, you can expand the capacity of your venture tremendously. The easiest way to manage this low/no cost option is to introduce a trial period for these wonderful souls to gauge fit and develop systems and processes for firm hires in the future. Also be sure to align skill sets with the demands of the business. Especially when the relationships are close, make sure whoever you bring on board is capable since the ramifications of things going sour are amplified, when family or friends are involved. If you find something's not working, don’t be afraid to let go of volunteers who add little to no value to the company’s bottom line. Lastly but not least, always be thankful and appreciative to these selfless beings for the extra help! Honestly, I'm not sure what I would do without the countless people who contributed to the success of my business.
Weekly wine pairing tip: For a wine that offers no risk of disappointing your palate, try the Tupun Torrontés out of Argentina. Filled with peach flavors and hints of lemon zest and citrus, it's just delightful.