From the April 2002 issue of Startups

(YoungBiz.com) - Sure, starting your own business would be a dream come true. But that takes money, and, when it comes to greenbacks, you're a little thin in the wallet. So much for that idea, right? Not so fast. Being the big cheese doesn't have to cost big bucks. Here are five low-cost biz ideas to get you started.

1. Party animals. A book, a pump and a bag of balloons were all 13-year-old Bethany Martin needed to start her business. Martin, now 17, of Richardson, Texas, twists long, skinny balloons into crazy shapes that make children laugh--like frogs, dogs, horses and bears.

Bethany found out she could do free performances in restaurants, give away her creations and make about $45 to $50 in tips for a four-hour evening. Not too shabby for a business with start-up costs as low as $7 for that first bag of balloons!

2. Down on the farm. Siblings Evan and Elise Macmillan of Englewood, Colorado, take care of the farm animals--chocolate farm animals, that is. The pair makes candies and markets them using a farm theme. Their barnyard lineup includes such specialties as Brown Cows (chocolate, cow-shaped lollipops), Pigs in Mud (large marshmallows rolled in caramel and walnuts, then dipped in chocolate) and Pecan Turtles (caramel and pecans dipped in chocolate).

Start-up expenses were minimal--a few molds, candies and chocolate. And there's no candy store overhead, either. Evan and Elise, now 16 and 14, respectively, sell their sweet confections via their Web site, www.chocolatefarm.com.

3. Singing her own tune. Marlena Cooper, 19, of Jefferson, Texas, has been singing the sweet song of success ever since she made her professional singing debut at age 13. "We live in a tourist town, and people come here to get married," Cooper explains. "I keep in touch with bed and breakfasts and wedding coordinators. When they need entertainment, they call me."

Cooper's voice, of course, is the key to her success. As her business expanded, though, she did have to invest in some equipment, such as soundtracks, a sound system and her own microphone.

4. Seeds of success. An avid gardener from a family of green thumbs, Deanna Thies of Glasgow, Missouri, discovered an untapped business opportunity in her community: gardening. Touring her neighborhood, Thies found two senior citizens with overgrown plots of land. She convinced them to let her grow a garden in exchange for upkeep of the lots and a portion of her crops. By striking those deals, Thies was able to keep her start-up costs low--just seeds and plant sprays.

Deanna, 19, and her sister Jana, 16, co-owners of The Veggie Patch, grow 80 varieties of fruits and veggies--including specialty items like cut flowers and gourds--then sell them at two nearby farmer's markets. The pair net an average of $300 to $400 a week, but a good week can bring in $1,000.

5. Have your cake. Seventeen-year-old Rudy Montoya has cooked up a heck of a good low-cost business idea: He bakes custom cakes for special occasions, running his business, The Cakery, right from his home kitchen in Mora, New Mexico. Montoya's start-up costs were minimal--a cake decorating kit and ingredients. Because The Cakery is so small, he doesn't have a lot of government rules and regulations. "I don't sell any foods besides my cakes, so I only have to have a certificate to sell baked goods," Montoya explains. "If my kitchen were bigger, or I sold other food, I'd have to get a license."

So you see, you don't have to break the bank to start a business. In some cases, all it takes is $25 to $50. And if you want to give your new business a quick boost, reinvest the money from your first few jobs into more advertising. You'll soon gain even more customers, and you'll be on your way up!

NEXT STEP

Ready to find your own low-cost path to success? Here are some ideas to get you started: