The Forgotten Art of Bootstrapping

Introductory Entrepreneurship classes have entire lectures devoted to discussing bootstrapping. Bootstrapping, for those of us who do not know, merely represents finding unique and innovative ways to save or raise money for a new venture. The following list presents some good advice – found browsing popular entrepreneurship pages from websites such as Inc.com and Forbes.com – for those of us who may have forgotten about this ‘art’. Yes, bootstrapping is an art!

1. Right Background – Often times as an entrepreneur and owner of your own business you will have to be a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ (at least until you can afford the right talent). As such, being able to do the critical things required for your business such as code, design, or sell/run marketing campaigns will be invaluable. Having the right background also means using personal traits to find money saving opportunities.

2. Consult – Providing consulting services for customers provides a way to support yourself while staying close to the customer and learning their problems. By doing this you also provide yourself with a means of identifying what product/service you need to create based on a better understanding of your customers.

3. Hire the Right People – This is a given. We all know how costly it is to hire the right people, and as a start-up there is no need to waste money on people who are not in tune with you or your start-up’s goals. Essentially you want to hire people that will help generate revenue in some way, and, if possible, someone with multiple skillsets. For most new ventures this means hiring (1) someone who knows how to make products/services match needs (Product People), and (2) those who know how to make a customer aware of a new product/service (Marketing People).

4. Travel Cheaply – given the amount of networking and travelling required to build a presence in the market, it is easy to see how this is an important cost factor for new ventures. Recent articles suggest keeping travel dates flexible and building as much loyalty miles as possible to keep travel costs down. Also, don’t be afraid to crash on the couch of a close friend, relative, or fellow entrepreneur in the cities you have to visit. Seriously, hotel room costs can add up pretty quickly!

5. Find The Free Lunches – According to the Inc.com article found here. “Bootstrappers have to build parsimoniousness into their products. Need an industrial designer? Go offshore for a fraction of the price. Need a website? Try open-source software. Need targeted marketing? Use search-engine optimization. “Now you can get standardized work done at a price that competes with companies many times your size.” Couldn’t have said it better ourself.

6. Ask for Help! – Notice the exclamation mark? It’s because time and time again asking for help can be the most cost effective way of getting the information or guidance you need in launching a new venture. It also lends itself nicely to the last point of finding the free lunches. We know you are not always going to get good advice and information freely, but when you can – from professors, mentors, and family friends – use it to the fullest!

It should be noted that bootstrapping isn’t all fun and games as there are some downsides. For more in-depth information on bootstrapping you can check out the book Bootstrap to Billions, or a host of others that can be found on Amazon for under $20. Also feel free to share your bootstrapping tips, tricks, and successes below.

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