Recently, I got into a debate where some people argued that you can't start a business without a serious capital. My personal business journey, as well as, many of the people I know who are successful in their ventures, show exactly the opposite. And because I don't like making statements without being able to support them with facts, I interviewed several entrepreneurs who started their businesses with less than £100.
Eco Products Home Factory with £50
Green living is becoming more and more popular as people become more environmentally conscious. They recognise the benefits of using natural products for their beauty and health routines. But usually, organic products are very expensive. That would mean you need quite a large capital if you want to start an eco product-based business, right? Nope. Meet Galina Hristozova, the name behind Galina's Naturals as she tells us her entrepreneurial story.
Galina: I had a very complicated second pregnancy, which led me to re-thinking my daily habits and how I lived my life. It was at that time, when I realised that the mainstream cosmetic products are full of toxins and unhealthy ingredients, slowly killing us. I made a choice for myself and my family to look for better, more natural substitutes. I spent a lot of time in research and started making soaps at home. It quickly turned into my passion. Some of my friends saw my soaps and other products when they visited and thought I should really start selling my homemade creations. At first, I wasn't sure this could turn into a business, but I gave it a go. I spent about £50 for raw materials and opened an Etsy shop. It's been 3 years of a constant learning curve, adding new products and bettering my brand. I now offer a wide variety of eco-friendly, zero-waste and 100% natural products, just a few orders away from celebrating my 1,000 sales milestone.
Content Creation Services with £25
Well, that's MBC's story. In March 2015, I was feeling bored at work and started looking for opportunities to earn extra money and fill in my time. I knew I was quite crafty with words and I discovered freelancing! My initial investment on a platform, called Freelancer.com, was $30, which included a deposit and 2 of their English tests to boost the credibility of my account. A couple of days later, I got my first project, which paid exactly the same as my investment. Within the period of 9 months, I had completed 25 projects, one of which was editing of a book! My clients were coming from different parts of the world and usually worked with me continuously. That's what prompted me to create my first website and start promoting my services independently. My business has now grown to a digital marketing consultancy, offering a rich array of digital services any small business may need.
Letting Agency with £10
Daniel Latto is a successful serial entrepreneur who started his first business, a letting agency that is, with just £10! Yes, you read that right. But let him tell you more about it.
Daniel: They say you can't start a successful business on a tiny budget. But that's exactly what I did. Going back to 2003, I had my own rental properties which were being managed by a Leeds city centre management company, and they were terrible. So bad, that I reckoned I could do a better job. So with literally £10 to buy a domain name and pay monthly for the hosting, I was able to start my lettings agency. I did all the website work myself and create a terrible looking website (by todays standards!). At it's peak, that website drew in 35,000 visitors a month to it and we had offices in 5 cities. In fact, I sold the business 8 years later for a nice sum of money and used that to help me move to the Mediterranean coastline where I now run my digital agency. I still have all my properties let and manage them from afar. But I laugh when I hear people say that you need money to start a business. It’s even easier now due to social media – you don’t even need a website to get started these days.
Creative Craft with £7
Gergana Sirkarova is a young creative woman, who turned her passion for hand crafts into a successful business - Bubolini. She got most of her materials for free and the rest didn't cost her more than £7.
Gergana: I never saw my crafts as a way of making money when I first started. I was making phone cases and jewellery for family and friends. One of those friends, however, pushed me into selling my creations on Facebook and participating in pop up shop events around the country. The materials I used cost no more than £7 at the time. I also made leather jewellery, which would have been expensive to source, but I was lucky because my neighbour owned an upholstery business and gave me the leftover leather for free. Today, Bubolini is an international business. I create many handcrafted items with embroidery, sterling silver, denim and gemstones. Personalised items are my favourite to make. What really matters to me is making people feel happy and special.
Digital Design Agency with £0
Guess what, you don't need any money at all to start a business! That's the case of Bo Beaumont, who started his digital design agency with literally £0. He'll take you through the steps himself.
Bo: I started OriginalNutter Design with zero money. How?
1. Don’t quit the day job – you still need income to live. Zero money start up requires extra graft. Be ready to sacrifice spare time.
2. Pick a service-based business – your spare time is your commodity here. It doesn’t cost you.
3. Sell your service on freelance websites – you will be competing with established freelancers, so you need to have a USP and low ‘introductory’ pricing. This is all about building up portfolio and testimonials, not about making money. If you can do both, great.
4. Ratchet up pricing – you’ve got a few good portfolio pieces and testimonials. You can back up your proposition with evidence so begin setting higher prices.
5. Income should be reinvested into building up demand. Adverts on freelance sites, building up your own brand e.g. your own logo and website, gaining web traffic. The more you reinvest the quicker you can quit that day job. You really do reap what you sow at this stage.
So, as you see, it's not only me who thinks it's possible to start a business with extremely low capital. You need a talent or a skill, strong determination, time and a desire to work hard until you make it.
In November, MBC's blog gave you ideas and tools how to get started in business without having to pay for professional services if you can't afford them. We covered topics like how to write your business plan, DIY branding and how to design your own website. Go back to these and crack on from there. As for marketing of your stuff, just subscribe to this blog. There's a new piece of wisdom every Monday coming straight to your mailbox!