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Walk This Way

Lessons in the fine art of bootstrapping

This story appears in the October 1998 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Most entrepreneurs would love to start their businesses with winnings from a lottery jackpot, a million-dollar inheritance from Great Aunt Martha or a large gift from investors who will give you all the time in the world to turn a profit and expect no share of the business in return. Now, that really is a dream. The tough reality is that to survive the early stages, most entrepreneurs have to finance their own way, by cutting corners and putting all their earnings back into the business--a process known as bootstrapping.

"Only a small number of companies have venture capital or angel funding," contends Sandy Weinberg, professor of entrepreneurship at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. "Obviously, it's a lot harder starting a company when you don't have a lot of money."

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