Creating and sustaining your own business isn’t just a way to wealth – it’s a way to pursue your life’s dreams and find personal fulfillment.
Starting a business will always cost you money, but there are ways of doing it that could prevent you from having to come up with a lump sum. The trick here is to start off very slowly, developing your ideas and your products in your spare time, doing your own research, selling a few products to test the market, getting feedback from customers, etc.
Here are 6 simple guidelines to start a business when you have little to no money,
1. Don’t quit your day job
If you are fortunate enough to be employed, use your current income to experiment with your business idea. Work on your products at the weekend, and talk to people who already are in the industry you plan to enter. Talk to prospective customers about what they think of your idea, and give them samples to look at or try out. Also talk to the suppliers of the equipment and materials you will need. This will pave the way for you to make some sales of your product, so that you can be sure that there is a market. It will also hopefully give you some cash to start putting aside.
2. Design a business plan
How will you make money? If you can’t answer this question, you shouldn’t start your own business. The purpose of any for-profit institution is to make money – have a detailed plan for how to do this before you embark on your business venture. Try to answer the following questions – these are fairly fundamental and by no means exhaustive:
How much will it cost you to provide your product or service to the customer?
How much will you charge the customer for your product or service?
How will you increase the volume of your business?
In what ways will your business offer a better deal than your competitors?
What kinds of people will you need to hire? Can the work be done without these people?
3. Get some suppliers on your side
One of the cheapest forms of ‘credit’ can be your suppliers. While you should never drag your heels when it comes to paying your debts, you might be able to find some material suppliers who will agree to give you a few months to pay while you are starting up. This could benefit your business enormously, as you could get supplies without having to go to a lender for the money; and from the suppliers’ point of view, you could become a good customer for them.
4. Get as much paperwork out of the way as possible
Attend to all the regulatory requirements (such as trading licences) early, so that it doesn’t waste your valuable selling time once your business is launched. Register your company or CC, get your tax requirements sorted out, register for VAT if necessary, find out what insurance you will need, open your business bank account, etc.
5. Research and test your ideas.
Preparation and planning is vital before setting out on any business venture. If you can, look for opportunities to perform “test runs.” For instance, if you’re thinking of opening a restaurant, first try cooking for a church or school fundraiser to see if you can handle the hectic atmosphere of a busy kitchen and to judge whether your food is well-received. You may also want to try conducting a survey among potential customers to judge whether they would frequent your hypothetical business.
Business plans are evolving documents. If the results of your research or testing contradict your current plans, don’t be afraid to change your business plan or even start from scratch. Doing so can be frustrating, but it’s far smarter than risking the failure of your business on an idea that won’t fly.
6. Make the most of your existing assets.
When you’re starting a new business from nothing, you should use the resources you already have at your disposal as much as you can. For instance, make your everyday car your company car. Turn your garage into a workshop. Some of today’s biggest companies (most famously, Apple and Facebook) began in humble places – garages, basements, and dorm rooms, for instance. Don’t be afraid to make the most of what you’ve got!