One of the biggest elements to starting a new business is getting your funding together. If you haven’t made a sale yet, how are you going to pay for materials, marketing, a website? Some entrepreneurs turn to crowdfunding, while others borrow from family or friends or a bank, and still others go the bootstrapping route until the cash starts flowing.
In their own words, members from the QB Community (and a couple famous entrepreneurs thrown into the mix for extra inspiration) tell how they launched their companies. Celebrity or not, these business owners all prove that with a great idea, a lot of passion and any amount of money you can get your business started!
$0: Julie Ball, Founder of Sparkle Hustle Grow subscription boxes
“I did a pre-launch a couple months before I sent out the first boxes. I held a contest through social media to give away a one-year box subscription, and as a result, I was able to grow an email list. From there, I did a pre-sale, selling about 45 boxes, which provided me with the capital to buy the products for the first box.
I started with a budget of $0, and that first month, I ended up shipping 65 boxes I’d had custom made. I knew they needed to be beautiful because female entrepreneurs are drawn to well designed things. I initially purchased 250 boxes, and my goal was to sell all of them. It took me three months, but I did it. Today, we are over the 1000-subscriber mark!”
“In 1984, I met Burt. He was selling honey on the side of the road. I stopped to buy some on my way to my waitress job. We became romantically involved, and I started helping him with the bees. I put honey up in cute little beehive-shaped jars. I made pretty handmade labels and started making candles out of the beeswax. Then I took them to the little craft fairs in the little towns. I'd make $200 a day. It gave me such a sense of accomplishment. Nobody told me what to do, when to be there, and how long I had to stay. That wonderful sense of independence was just intoxicating. And I thought, This is for me. By 1993, we reached $3 million in sales.”
“In 1984, I started EILEEN FISHER for a very personal reason: I was having trouble getting dressed. At the time I was working as an interior and graphic designer. In my mind I kept seeing these simple shapes for clothes. I knew they had to be beautiful colors, great fabrics and have certain shapes and proportions that worked together. This was my "aha" moment: a system of dressing that I'd been looking for ever since I abandoned my Catholic school uniform back in Des Plaines, Illinois.
Although I couldn't sew and only had $350 in the bank, I believed in these simple shapes. I had four shapes made up and took them to The Boutique Show in New York. Encouraged by $3000 in orders, I expanded my "line" to eight pieces. The second show brought in $40,000 in orders. Suddenly I wasn't just Eileen Fisher. I was EILEEN FISHER, INC.”
$10,000: Adam Wegener, Founder of Trash Amps
“I started my business with a friend who had built an amp. He built another one and showed it to our friends who said, "Hey, we'd like to buy one!" So we built ten, and then we built 50 and then we built 100. Then we built another 100. It was after my business partner and I parted ways when I said, "I think I want to build 500.” That meant investing in an injection mold and a kiosk at the mall.
I needed some money for that. I had a little saved up, but I had college friends who are engineers and very frugal. They had money, and two of them each loaned me $5,000. I paid them back a year later. Now I have friends who will loan me $10,000 and $20,000 dollars because we've built up trust.”
“I took a course about improving my approach to time management and goal setting. Since then, I’ve been helping friends figure out their goals. I decided to write a book about what I’ve learned, and I hooked up with a friend who is a publisher. Since I'm an unknown author, we decided a Kickstarter campaign could help me build credibility and show there’s a viable audience for my book. We ended up with nearly 300 backers and raised almost 300% of our goal (or, $13,000). It was an amazing experience and a great platform builder. As a result of some targeted marketing, I established relationships with people who have never heard of me before. The end result? My book,You-Nicorn, will be published this spring, and I’ve got funds to put toward marketing.”
“At Farmgirl Flowers, we're 100% bootstrapped. I started my business with $49,000 and my whole goal was to never run out of money. I got down to $411 at one point, so I understand the struggle very well. My biggest suggestion for any small business owner is to get a line of credit when you *don't* need it, and sit on it.”
“I wrote the business plan for Curvy Girlz over a period of two and a half months when I was unemployed, had overdrafts on four accounts and had been evicted from my apartment. When I finished my business plan, I entered 14 pitch competitions for investment and won 13, securing $150,000 to start my company with. No matter how I feel offstage, when it comes to the pitch — I always kill it.”
Check out these articles for more on funding your business:
Before you go
QB Community members, what was your start-up budget when you began your business?
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