10 Bootstrapping Businesses Share Their Knowledge (Part One)

To run a business you need to go to a bank and borrow lots of money, sign your house, dog and granny away, right?

Wrong!

Here are 10 business owners who share their information on how they bootstrap their business, how to get free stuff and what the challenges are (these are in no particular order):

1. Jamie Yahne, owner of online dinnerware store Glitzee Glee:

…if you want free advertising you need to establish a presence in places on the internet that are trending and get a lot of traffic.The best way to find out the hottest place to advertise is to join social networks because people talk about everything including the latest coolest websites.

Here’s an example – Pinterest is very popular right now so that’s where you need to be plus it’s free.

The market is always changing and you’ve got to keep up with it. What’s cool right now might not be tomorrow. Networking is very important and it gives you the upper hand because you will get information through word of mouth and discover free advertising opportunities.

2. Carrie Nardine of I Made It! Market

She had the following great advice:

We first built this business on social media with our first website presence only through MySpace (2007) then an early adopter to Facebook.

We use social media ads, connect to bloggers and cultivate relationships with organizations in-line with our customers for unique partnerships for promotion.

What do you do to save money, get things including services for free, enhance your cash-flow, etc.

INTERNS! There are so many talented young people out there right now who are out of a job and looking to create an impact or use their skills to make something good happen as they job search. We are happy to have them and use them for writing, promotions, one the ground event planning, outreach, viral marketing work and graphic design.

What are the challenges?

If you trade or have someone doing work for you pro bono you are at the mercy of their schedule and priorities. As they say, you get what you pay for, and while that may not completely ring true (our interns have consistently been incredible workers and very talented) you cannot rely on them as you would someone you pay to do a service for you.

3. Marjorie R. Asturias, president and CEO of Blue Volcano Media.

Blue Volcano Media

The Dallas-based digital marketing agency that specializes in B2B social media consulting was founded in January 2010 and has grown into a small boutique agency with 2 full-time and 4 part-time staff. She has been able to grow her business very quickly using business bootstrapping.

Marjorie uses the following bootstrapping tactics:

– Bartering services to support my business, whether it’s taking on a dog daycare as a social media client in exchange for free daycare for my dogs during the week so that I can focus on my work without having to worry about them;
– Using open source software programs instead of purchasing commercial software;
– Using free business software services;
– Using very low-cost tools to use for the back-end operations side of my business;
– Eschewing an office and operating a fully virtual company, which we continue to do to this day;
– Hiring staff initially as contractors on a per-project basis;
– Using online job marketplaces to find quality talent at reasonable rates;
– Seeking out free or low-cost networking groups and events, e.g., many Chambers of Commerce allow non-members to attend one or two events at no charge before asking them to pay or become a member;
– Doing a lot of things myself, including learning how to build websites, perform basic film editing tasks, designing brochures, etc.

4. Stacey Corbett of One Tiny Suitcase.
One Tiny Suitcase

This Canadian business specializes in Baby Equipment Rentals. Stacey says:

With a non-existent advertising budget in the early days I quickly learned that local publications were hungry for content. I started writing family travel articles for magazines in exchange for print ads. I would write one article every two months for a local Baby Magazine and in exchange they would run a full color 1/3 page ad for me. The relationship worked so well, I ended up being a regular columnist. Not only did my articles relate to the niche my business was in, customers also saw my ads in the magazine.

The biggest challenge I faced was that I wasn’t a writer before becoming a business owner. I think the last piece of creative writing I completed was back in university. In the end though, I’m passionate about my business and that came through as I wrote about Family Travel.

The exposure I got from my writing felt like free advertising to me. I had more time than money when I started so it was a great way to put some ‘sweat equity’ into my business!

5. Ian Ippolito of vWorker.
VWorker

Ian has turned his company from a tiny venture with just one person to a big organization employing 15 people with $11.1 million revenue last year. How did he do it?

I did this by weaving the boot-strapping mentality into the DNA of the company. It permeates everything we do. Before we do anything we always ask: Will this make more profit than we spend? And we don’t do it unless the answer is “yes”. It seems like a simple question but 99% of companies don’t ask themselves this and get themselves into all sorts of trouble. Some more example: I’m the CEO, but when there’s a new employee, I’m the one setting up their new office and computer before they come in. Why pay an installer unnecessary overhead? There are no $3,000 office chairs, when the $150 chairs are just as comfortable and functional.

Come back tomorrow for Part Two of this feature!

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