There’s been no better time to start a business in history than today. The possibilities are endless, with new opportunities for startups being created all the time. It’s easier to access more customers than ever before (i.e. the entire wired world). And, it costs so little to create a new business.
Chris Guillebeau released his new book The $100 Startup on Tuesday that’s all about this topic. I received an advanced copy, and, after diving in, it’s truly a great read.
What I like most of this book is the range of real-life ideas and stories of others that it contains. It’s not just from the author’s viewpoint, and it’s not so preachy because of that. There’s literally 50 stories of real, low-capital entrepreneurs.
Some of the more interesting notes about the book is just how ridiculous some of the startup ideas really are, like one entrepreneur that started selling liquidated mattresses out of a vacant auto dealership. Who would’ve thought something like that would turn into a success?
Despite the numerous successes listed in the book, how realistic is it to create a $100 startup?
Can you really create a startup for $100?
Unless you’re five years old, $100 isn’t a lot of money. It’s a few meals at a restaurant or a fraction of your monthly rent. And it’s a tiny percentage of what it would cost to create many traditional brick-and-mortar businesses.
But even if it’s not a lot of cash, is it enough to create a viable business? Yes, it is.
Okay, so you’re not going to become the next Groupon right away if you’ve only got $100. But there’s a lot you can do with $100 now.
For example, Money Spruce was started for way less than 100 bucks. All it takes is a $7/month website hosting account and a domain name that costs about $12. A few hours later, Bam! You have your website and potential business.
You don’t even need to spend money on a website (there’s tons of free options). All you need is a decent, low-cost business idea.
Cheap doesn’t mean it’s great
There are a lot of startup ideas that can get going for really cheap but aren’t necessarily a viable business. A classic example is blogging. Many people start a blog (for just a few dollars, as I detailed above) with the intention of making fortune. But they have no real business strategy and goals when they start. I’ve certainly been guilty of this in the past, and I certainly don’t make a full-time income from blogging now.
The idea of a $100 startup isn’t just that it’s cheap. It has to be more than that.
Concentrating on what’s really important
Money isn’t only what matters. Far from it. Will investing more in a business up front give you a better chance of creating a viable business? I don’t have statistics on that (and I doubt they exist), but I’d bet that the answer is “no.”
Why? Because there’s so much you can do and should do that will cost very little money before you should even consider throwing a bunch of cash into your biz.
Why invest lots of money up front before you know if you have a viable business? If ordering business cards is your first move in your new startup, you’re in trouble (and it’s total BS if you don’t think you can make a sale before you have business cards).
If you’re set on spending only $100 to create a startup, there’s absolutely no room for frills. This really forces you to drill down and focus only on what’s necessary. Sure, you could create a fancy website (for either your online or offline business) by hiring a designer who will create logo and give your new “brand” an awesome appearance. There’s no way to do this for less than $100, though, so you’re better off on concentrating on actions that generate revenue by selling something.
Clearly, there are many startups you can create with $0. If you own a computer, you’ve got the only tool you need and don’t need to spend any more cash. If you have access to software or other tools, you’re in even better shape.
Let’s look at my SEO consulting business, for example. There is literally nothing I’m required to buy to get started and for clients to begin paying me. With free SEO tools, free tools from Google, plus all the free information in the form of SEO blogs and websites that I could ever ask for, I can do a lot with zero business expenses. Sure, I could go out and buy premium SEO tools, a nicer computer, and SEO textbooks, but none of that is necessarily needed.
The same is true for freelance writing. All I really need is access to the internet to find positions. Need an online portfolio? Whip up a blog, which could even be on a free site like Tumblr or WordPress.com.
If you have technical skills, such as programming or developing websites, you can get going for $0, too.
It takes time, and lots of it
Let’s not forget: the major investment will always be time. There’s really no way around it, money or not. You’re going to have to put in the time to make your business a success, whether it’s a $100 or $10,000,000 startup. This really shouldn’t be any sort of a new revelation as anything that doesn’t take time is probably worthless or a scheme.
I hope to launch more of my own “$100 startups” this year. What about you?
Do you have a $100 startup idea? How’s it coming along?
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photo by: Alex Champagne (via Amazon)