Breaking out the plastic is one way new entrepreneurs launch fledgling businesses, as Bobbie Gossage discusses in "Charging Ahead," in January 2004 issue of Inc. But it's not the only way cash-strapped entrepreneurs realize their dreams of starting new businesses. Here, scoured the Inc. archives for tips, strategies, and success stories of starting up on a shoestring.

Success Stories

These successful entrepreneurs tell their stories of launching businesses with little or no cash at all.

Start with Nothing
Greg Gianforte thinks he knows the single best way to launch a business. Here's his secret: "Bootstrap it."
The Pita Principle
Just how low can you go when bootstrapping your start-up? The founders of Stacy's Pita Chip Co. can tell you.
Great Companies Started for $1,000 or Less
An Inc. classic: Profiles of seven entrepreneurs who transformed start-up capital of $1,000 or less into companies with revenues of $1 million or more.
Net Flix
Jeff Rix, founder of DVD Empire, discovered that it is possible to bootstrap your way to dot-com success.
Startup Springboards
No cash? No customers? That didn't stop the founders of these 2000 Inc. 500 winners.
The Classic Bootstrapper
One candle maker turned a borrowed $20 into a $30-million powerhouse. Here he waxes eloquent on his seven time-tested rules of bootstrapping.

Charge It!

Plastic can jump-start any business, but use it wisely.

It's Not Just for Credit Cards Anymore
American Express's business program, Open, offers promising financing options to start-ups and smaller businesses.
House of Cards
Ten tips for keeping your credit in check.

The Bank of Family and Friends

Family and friends loans can be easy to secure, but they shouldn't be taken lightly.

Borrowing: Avoiding Problems with Family and Friends
When entrepreneurs borrow start-up capital from family members or friends, it's best to prepare for the worst -- before it happens.
Borrowing Money for Your Business
Whether you borrow money from a bank or someone you know, you should sign a promissory note--a legally binding contract in which you promise to repay the money.
Three Steps to Borrowing from Family or Friends
Keeping the relationship professional is the key to successful borrowing from close acquaintances.

Get Creative

Banks and investors aren't the only ways to fund a fledgling business. Check out these unconventional resources that some business owners have used.

Capital Customer
This entrepreneur's first customer offered to act as a business incubator to get his company off the ground.
Hot Tip: Tap Vendors for Credit
A vendor can be a great source of credit, and cost savings, as this entrepreneur discovered.
From Steak Holders to Stakeholders
The story of how an entrepreneur turned to his community to raise funds to open a supermarket.