Sometimes a dream and ambition are all you have. If you’re delaying a small business launch because your bank account is a little slim, it’s time to change your thinking. You can make progress toward launching a business with limited business resources.
When I opened my photography studio in 2008, I only had a few hundred dollars set aside to make my vision a reality. The cash was invested in first month’s rent for a public space, remodeling a meager office and new canvas backdrops. Hours of sweat equity transformed my new working space within a few days. When it came to behind-the-scenes prep, a little self-motivated hustle to attend local small business training seminars helped me iron out the legal and paperwork end of my adventure.
1. Absorb Free Information
You don’t have to go to college for a business degree to earn the title of small business owner. Instead, start taking advantage of the free educational resources that are available to you. Look to colleges, business start-up groups, the Internal Revenue Service, city growth organizations and financial institutions for guidance. Quick Google and Facebook searches should turn up plenty of ideas in your community or nearby cities.
In the years leading up to being self-employed, I spent nearly every weekend learning. I attended free tax preparation seminars at the local community college, visited with small business support groups and downloaded dozens of free e-books from online small business coaches and professionals in my industry.
The key is to actually work through all this free information and put it into practice. Analysis paralysis is a real thing. Don’t get bogged down by the sheer quantity of free information online and in larger, start-up driven communities. Pick and choose what you have time to read and implement, then do it!
2. Tackle an Internship
If you have ample time on your hands, it’s worth considering an internship, job shadow experience or an apprenticeship to learn more about your future business. I know you’re thinking that you already have a solid foundation and this seems elementary, but being submerged in the work environment will open your eyes to aspects, situations and issues you haven’t encountered yet.
Learn about these opportunities on job boards and by browsing websites of the businesses you admire. Reach out to a human resources director and ask what learning-based partnerships the company can offer.
In college, I interned at International Highlights, a publication focused on foreign exchange student programs and campus visitors from overseas. Being in the trenches of writing, taking photos, working with editors, interviewing professors and doing it all on deadline made me better understand the business end of the writing world. Being a writer isn’t just about expressing creativity and putting together flowing sentences. Be open to a hands-on experience to learn more about the reality side of being a small business owner.
3. Consider a Partnership
Some businesses definitely require start-up capital, especially if you have a brick-and-mortar business front or a production facility. This is when it’s time to expand your thinking and consider partnering with a financial investor. These behind-the-scenes partners put the money in, while you focus on product and service development.
Before seeking an investor, understand what they want from you. In exchange for some start-up cash, they’ll likely request a percentage of your sales for a specific period of time. Or, they might initially offer a loan and ask that you pay it back once the business hits a specific milestone or age. There are various possibilities to explore. Visit with your local bank or credit union to get started.
4. Use Start-up Technology
You can use the internet to grow your business before you even launch. In true Shark Tank style, you can build a prototype (not an inventory), start a (free) website and promote it on (free) social media outlets. It’s possible to grow a fan base and potential customers before you’ve even formally launched.
If you haven’t yet, explore Kickstarter, Indiegogo and GigFunder. There are multiple business funding organizations out there that allow wannabe entrepreneurs with limited business resources to raise funds that will further their business progress.
For some, the dream of becoming a business owner ends when they realize the initial financial and time investments it takes to get started. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Leverage the free resources in your community and be willing to explore alternate paths and approaches to reach your business goals.