"Hooray, another multi-billion dollar acquisition!"
I’m sure most entrepreneurs didn’t wake up exclaiming that when they found out WhatsApp was purchased by Facebook. While the news is great, and we’re bound to see a few more Lamborghinis driving around Palo Alto because of the acquisition, it doesn’t really have that big of an impact on the small business and entrepreneur world.
Most of us won’t get tens of millions of dollars in seed money from some of the biggest VC firms. The vast majority of us also won’t reach a $16 billion buyout from the big guns like Apple, Facebook or Microsoft. But we can achieve some pretty awesome levels of success nonetheless. And for the most part, we’ll do it with investments from friends and family and good old fashion bootstrapping.
So, what are some of the best tips for bootstrapping your new company? Here are a few below.
Shared workspace. One of the biggest mistakes a new company makes is getting into a lease they can’t afford. They anticipate a certain amount of growth and when that growth doesn’t occur, they’re left with too much office space and a four or five year lease.
Instead of renting an entire office, find your nearest co-working location. They have them in almost every city. Most offer small offices anywhere from $100 to $500 per month. This usually comes with internet and access to fax machines, copiers and conference rooms, among other office essentials. Plus, many of them offer month-to-month leases. So, if your dreams don’t materialize as quickly as you’d like, you’re not stuck with a huge lease.
Established business tools. Like many modern startups, if you’re focused on building an app or some other piece of software, you’l need good tools to help save you time and money on your projects.
One route is to use open source softward thta is typically is free or carries a low price tag. There are pros and cons to this approach, but the general goal is to use a foundation that will give you a head start on your project.There are many options to choose from. SourceForge is a marketplace where you can search for these free resources. There is also GitHub.
If the open source route isn't for you, and you would rather use a more secure and supported solution to kick start your projects you can clook at the classic set of development tools from companies like Microsoft. For a general development platform and workflow-automation solution there is Decisions. While not open source, this can provide you with some really robust tools.
Related: When to Say No to Venture Capital
Networking events. Sales teams are expensive. They require commissions, phones, computers, workspace and much more. But what’s not expensive is a ticket to your local chamber event or another business networking event. These tickets usually run between $25 to $50 and usually come with a meal.
Networking events are opportunities for you to stand belly to belly with other business owners and pitch them your products or services. You can usually develop some really great relationships at these events. And people are more likely to buy from someone they know and trust.
Outsourcing. Outsourcing isn’t just for large multi-national corporations. Small businesses can take part in it as well. By using sites like Odesk or Elance, a small-business owner is able to outsource tasks that they can’t afford to contract out domestically. These tasks can range from graphic design, web design, coding, research and even personal assisting. The hourly costs can range from $2 to $50 depending on the quality you require.
Media outreach. A PR firm can be expensive. Likewise, so can a marketing consultant. But most startups have the opportunity to generate their own buzz if they’re willing to roll up their sleeves and start contacting media outlets. Spend a few hours collecting contact information for reporters that cover the industry you’re in. Next, write up a custom pitch for each of them and email them asking for coverage on your startup. It’s always nice to have something newsworthy for them to cover. But sometimes you can get lucky and the media outlet might just want to do a personal interest story on your startup.
Bootstrapping takes hard work and dedication. Venture capital and angel money can make growth easier. But there are definite benefits to growing your startup with innovation and a small budget.