X: “Tayo, I have a massive idea that can make me millions from the first month”
Tayo: “Okay that’s nice, have you started work on it?”
X: “No, I haven’t. I am waiting to gather enough money, and then I will start.”
This is the type of conversation I have every day with wantapreneuers (people who aspire to be entrepreneurs but haven’t started yet). I have come across many people with substantial ideas who haven’t started building their businesses because they believe they need to raise money before starting out. It is true that you cannot start a business without money. Even if you want to start a blog, you will need a laptop and internet connection to do it. This post is to point out ways to start your business without that perceived money you think you need. For the strategies I’m about to propose to work, some crucial steps must be taken.
Step 1: The first and most important step is to Break down Your Start-Up Expenses. Get a sheet of paper and biro, and list out everything you will need to start your business. This would typically include; a website, staffing, office locations, a telephone, machines, furniture etc. depending on the type of business. After making this list, take a critical look at the list and reduce those items by 75%. Remove anything that is not crucial/necessary for your business to start. For example, some businesses can start without a website; do you need to buy a telephone for your business? Why not use your own phone number; do you need an office at this point? Note here that the emphasis is on NEED, the only things left on your list should be those things without which it is impossible for your business to start. When you have done this, you can move to step 2.
Step 2: Break down your idea into a minimum viable product. This is how you do it: write down the 3 core things your business will do for people. So let’s assume you want to start a poultry business; the 3 core things may be (a) To raise chicken for sale in December (b) To produce eggs for sale every day (c) To provide manure for farm use. Now, take one of these 3 and start with that, leaving the other 2 for now. For the example above; you can start with only raising chickens for sale in December. This will significantly reduce your start-up cost as now you will only need money for the purchase and maintenance of say 50 chicks.
After these 2 steps, you can then explore all or one of these strategies for starting your business without money:
1. Ask for help from family and friends: This help can range from financial help to physical help. You will need to explain to them what you want to do in detail and what it would benefit them if you do it (nobody wants to do anything that won’t benefit them in any way, even if the benefit is that you get to stop being dependent on them or you are happier). You can ask your friend who knows graphic design to help design your logo, or your friend who studied computer science to help design a website or build an app. This is why you need to build solid and valuable networks as an entrepreneur.
2. Offer services before products: People generally pay upfront for a service than a product; you can take advantage of this. Let’s assume you want to start a catering service, begin by freelancing your skills. Without the razzmatazz of a website, office, employees or a shiny business card, keep your ear on the ground for an event; once you get wind of an event your friend or neighbour is organizing, offer your services at a minimal price. Don’t be shy, sell yourself at every event you cover; go round the tables and ask what people thought about the food, recommend yourself to them in case they need your services later.
3. Do things by yourself: Many things involved in starting a business can be done by yourself or they are skills you can quickly learn and deploy on your business. This is the information age, there is information everywhere about everything, just ask Google! You can build your own website, design your own logo, create your own social media accounts, draw up document templates, and do your own accounting. You can learn to do anything if you dedicate your time to it; there are numerous free online courses you can take. It may take more time and it may not be perfect but you would have gotten it done and learnt a new skill in the process.
4. Use social capital: Social capital is a term I first heard used by Pastor Sam Adeyemi in one of his audio messages. Social capital is simply the goodwill or trust that others have of you. This social capital is what allows someone give you money to start a business or gives you goods on credit. What is that good thing you are known for? Call it to action now.
5. Get into strategic partnerships: If you have the skill or idea and you know someone who has money and is willing to put it in a business, sell your idea to them and get them to partner with you. They bring the money and you bring the know-how. A serious mistake entrepreneurs make is to get greedy with equity. If you know someone who has the money you need, offer them equity even if it’s just 5%.
6. Apply for funding programs: There are a lot of programs going on now that give entrepreneurs and small business owners money to start and grow their businesses such as YOUWIN, TEEP and the ignite ideas that is currently open. Prepare a business plan, pitch your ideas and stand in line to win start-up funds. Although, I must warn you that even if you don’t win in any of these programs, it doesn’t mean your idea isn’t worth pursuing, so employ other means of starting a business without money as outlined in this article.
The marks of true entrepreneurs include: grit, tenacity and the ability to create opportunities for themselves. True entrepreneurs allow nothing to stop them, they know they must build their ideas for the common good and they are willing to go all out for it. They create the world as we know it and this is what makes them special!
Are you an entrepreneur or a wantapreneur?
About the Writer: Omotayo B. Adeoye is the founder of The Wumbb, a Startup and SME consulting firm. She is passionate about improving the standard of living of people through the nurturing of business ideas into viable business ventures. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org