No matter what, starting a business requires some investment of capital - whether that's to buy equipment, prototype a product, or hire people to help you. I'm guessing you mean starting a business without outside investment or outside funding. That is called bootstrapping, and that is actually what the majority of business owners do. According to Small Business Trends, 82% of startups are bootstrapped and 77% of small businesses are initially funded by personal savings. There are many free resources available, however, to help new business owners get started.
The first resource I recommend is your local government. In the US, many cities have an office of small business development or an office of economic development. These offices can often provide free classes, workshops, or training programs to help you develop your business, learn about financing, and learn about the business rules and regulations in your city. This is the office you will likely visit to register your business and get your business license.
The next resource I recommend is the federal government. In the US, the SBA - the Small Business Administration - is in fact tasked with supporting American small businesses by connecting entrepreneurs with lenders and funding to help them plan, start, and grow their business.
From there, depending on what sector your business idea covers, there are other public programs that you can consult.
There are public-private partnerships and nonprofit organizations dedicated to supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs. Look into community investment funds, city or area foundations, or organizations like the Kauffman Foundation or the Case Foundation, which provide education and sometimes funding. If you are a woman entrepreneur or founder in DC, check out .
The next stage of resources are with larger businesses themselves. Google has several programs, for example, designed to help small businesses grow. Google has a with coaches in cities across the United States to provide equal opportunity for all business owners and entrepreneurs, in-market with a live website, to grow and thrive online. Two other initiatives are which offers free training and tools to help you grow your skills, career, or business, and , which brings Google's products, connections, and best practices together to enable startups to thrive.
When seeking any resources to support your business, be open-ended and broad in the way in which you seek to present yourself. In working with creative professionals, for example, I found that artists such as musicians and writers often did not see themselves as small business owners, and therefore did not seek out resources designed for small business but instead looked for artist grants or contests. And vice versa, graphic designers and event planners did not see themselves as creatives and did not seek out resources targeted to artists and creatives. Don't close yourself off from funding and resource opportunities based on categories. In order for your business to grow, it is important to have a big vision for yourself no matter how small your business.
This question originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions: