How To Start a Business With Little To No Money


*Updated August 2017

Many people have an idea for a viable business but more often than not, the only thing that stands in the way of actually getting their business off the ground is lack of funding. We have become conditioned to thinking that we need a lot of money to start a business but so many people have started businesses with little to no money. People like Richard Branson and Sara Blakely (the inventor of Spanx)!

If you have a dream, determination and no funding, you too can do it. I did it as well, mostly because I wanted to start small and thanks to my Mum’s influence, I didn’t like the thought of owing someone a lot of money. How about I show you how?

Start small

There’s no need to immediately jump into a large business. It is better to start small and build from the ground up. This makes sure you have a solid foundation and you learn as you grow and in time, you are able to manage a not-so-small business. The one advantage of starting small is that start-up costs are also small and if your business doesn’t do well as you hoped, you will not be losing as much as you would if you started big.

Make use of what you have

You will be amazed at how much you can do with what you already have. Make a list of the resources (including people who can help you) you currently have that you can use towards your business and draft a plan of action on how you can consolidate them to reach your start-up goals. Perhaps you know someone you went to college with who knows a thing or two about designing websites or maybe your uncle is best friends with a successful local business owner who can give you several tips on business? Or how about the computer or phone you currently have? How could you use those in your business?

Out of college, I had a desktop computer (which I still use to this day), a camera, several painting and drawing supplies and business cards I made for a college self-promotion project. All of those went towards running Allebasi Design. I still needed internet (WiFi router and data) though, which brings us to the next solution:

Get a temporary job and save

After graduation, I knew that I wanted to go ahead and run my own business but I couldn’t sit at home without any projects coming in. I took a job for 7 months interning as a graphic artist at a big media company. Because I was an intern, I wasn’t paid much and my rent cost half of my salary! I had to be extremely frugal and save up which means no shopping for new clothes or eating out but by the end of my internship I had enough to fund my business and enough left over to keep me going for three months after my internship ended.

Collaborate with other business owners and exchange services

If you are struggling to find a job, you could work on a barter basis; find someone who has what you need and offer to exchange services or products. There are a lot of people who are just starting out or want to grow their businesses and will not mind bartering. To find a few, join Facebook groups for business owners or even your local entrepreneur Facebook group and actively look for collaboration opportunities.

Facebook groups are also a great way to grow your business as you’ll be networking with tons of other business owners and getting some name and brand recognition going. By the time you are up and running, you would have been armed with a lot of knowledge and contacts!

RELATED: 4 Extremely Important Things Newbie Business Owners Should Know

Make something and sell it

Use whatever creative skills or talent you may possess to make something to sell. Are you good with woodwork? Drawing? Knitting? You can make something and sell it on Etsy. When I had just started out with Allebasi Design’s rebrand into providing a brand and website design service, I had no clients just yet and I needed to keep the business going. I started selling the posters I illustrated as a personal project and sold them on Etsy. It wasn’t much, but it was enough for me to pay for my internet.

Make use of free online resources

Want a logo and website but do not have the necessary means to invest in a designer for now? There are many free templates for the platforms that you can customise to suit your tastes. After all, you are only starting out. When you have generated enough money you can choose to invest in a brand identity designer. You can also download free templates to create your own business cards.

To help you out, I have compiled an ultimate list of free business resources that will actually be useful to your business. You may notice that I didn’t include several website builders like Wix in the resources list and that’s mainly because they are terrible with SEO and as someone who’s just starting out, you need SEO on your side. Click here to download the list!

Don’t be afraid to ask for favours

Allow me to get more into this and explain this fully. Chances are you might know someone who has what you need and for so many of us, we are to afraid to ask for favours because we don’t want to seem like users but there is really nothing wrong with asking as long as you don’t ask for outrageous things.

Here are a few examples: if you intend to sell a service or product, you can ask to exchange what you can for what you need. Let’s say you are a clothing designer in need of PR. You can ask a publicist for PR services in exchange of a free item of clothing. Another option is to look towards family and friends you trust. Need to buy something but really don’t have the money? Ask a parent to get it for you and offer to pay them back.

Earlier this year I had a really crappy Blackberry that had a 3 hour battery life and would only work if I placed it in my freezer for a few minutes. I struggled to send emails and browse the internet and I finally asked my mother to purchase a new phone for me with the offer to pay her back when I can. She agreed (best Mum, right?) and it was well worth it. I’m able to conduct business from this phone and I don’t even need to place it in the freezer! Yay! My point is, there will always be people out there who will be willing to do you a favour as long as you don’t take advantage of them by always offering to give something in return.

Now I would like to hear from you. Was funding a big part of why you did not start a business earlier? Which awesome and free resources do you know about? Feel free to share in the comments so other people can find them!

Don't forget to download the list! I wish I knew about some of those resources when I first started!