Cover story

Forget venture capital. By dint of ingenuity, doggedness, and chutzpah, it's still possible to bootstrap a company -- and thrive

What can you do with a thousand bucks? Fly round-trip from New York to Los Angeles? Replace the transmission in your car? Buy a love seat for the living room? Yes to all three.

Or, could you start a company? Well, yes to that, too. At least that's what the entrepreneurs profiled here did. Each expended start-up capital of $1,000 or less and bootstrapped their companies past the $1-million barrier. They compensated for their lack of money with ingenuity, doggedness, and most of all chutzpah. Some spotted an edge in an underutilized resource. Some seized on advances in technology. Others simply let their personal passions guide them.

Reading the business pages in the age of the Internet might lead you to imagine that creating a business with little more than sweat equity is an archaic notion. It is, and it isn't. No one should think it's easy. Yet it's wrong to suppose that in the so-called new economy no start-up can succeed without an injection of high-octane venture capital. Actually, venture capitalists invested in fewer than 4,000 companies in the United States last year. In fact, the great majority of emerging businesses resemble the seven companies described here. These are their stories.

Emily Barker is a senior staff writer at Inc. For a hit parade of 45 bootstrapping tips, visit Great Bootstrapping Secrets.

Great Companies Started for $1,000 or Less