The internet is a beautiful thing. It opens new entrepreneurial possibilities up to anyone with a good idea and the drive to follow through. Historically, it has been difficult to start a business. An aspiring entrepreneur would have to often either save up a great deal of money or go to the bank to try to get a business loan in order to get the startup capital they needed to just get started. Don't get me wrong, there are still business models that require a great deal of capital to get started, but the internet and globalized economy we live in have created possibilities for savvy entrepreneurs to start a company up from their bootstraps.
In this post, I will detail some of my personal experience in bootstrapping companies. I will also provide resources and ideas for those looking to start a company with few resources, and though I cannot speak to every bootstrapping entrepreneur's experience, I will also provide some of the advice and lessons I have learned along the way.
This is by no means a comprehensive guide and doesn't apply entirely to traditional businesses needing extensive amounts of startup capital. This is primarily intended for technology and content production companies, though my hope is that everyone can get something from this.
Get started yesterday
There are a million different excuses we can make for delaying starting a company, but they all stem from fear in one way or another. Fear can be paralyzing, and often times the only way to overcome that fear is to just get started. Just take those first steps and feel the excitement of starting something bigger than yourself. Many people are ready for their first steps, but don't know what to do first. Here are some ideas.
At this point, you already have a business idea in mind and you think it will be feasible. Do some market research, identify gaps between the needs of your customers and existing solutions, and figure out how you will provide more value to your customers than your competitors will. You could spend a great deal of time writing up a detailed business plan and making projections of what could happen, but in the end of the day, it just makes more sense to me to take tangible steps toward getting your company's product to market.
Incorporate with the Secretary of State
I like to take care of the upfront legal work and domain name registration next. For many small businesses, it is beneficial to register your business with the Secretary of State in the state they will primarily operate within. Many public and larger private companies are registered in Delaware, Nevada, and Wyoming, however, due to favorable tax and business laws in those jurisdictions. You will also need to consider the best type of legal entity to register your business as. Many small businesses register as Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs) because they protect owners from being held personally liable for the business to an extent. Sole-proprietorships generally work well for freelancers intending to use their own name. There are plenty of resources readily available online to help you choose which legal structure would best fit your company as well. The point of this section is to just say: "You can do it." Get your business registered with your local government so you can get the administrative tasks out of the way and focus on your product.
You should register a domain name and setup email addresses (email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, etc.) for your company as soon as possible too. Domainr is a great resource for finding a good domain name for your company.
Get SOMETHING Online Quickly
Once your business is officially a legal entity, you need to get something on the web as quickly as possible. Setup the relevant social media accounts for your business, get local listings if you have a physical location for clients to visit, and get a website up. If your website isn't done yet, get a pre-launch page up to begin collecting email addresses to send marketing newsletters to down the road.
Get Your Minimum Viable Product Out
Once you're an established legal entity with a pre-launch page, it's time to go full-steam ahead on developing a minimum viable product. The "perpetual beta" or "banana principle" is gaining a lot of traction with startups, as development is never truly finished. Once you get a minimum viable product complete that you feel comfortable selling to customers, you can start creating revenue streams to increase your ability to reinvest in product development. You can continue to add features and capabilities to your product post-launch. It is crucial to get your product out there, start making sales, and collect data to increase efficiency and effectiveness down the road. By no means am I saying to launch a junky, untested product; I am simply saying your product doesn't need all the bells and whistles from the beginning unless that is your sole value proposition.
It is so easy to make excuses, but in this day and age, you can learn to code entirely from free, online resources. You can learn from free e-books, business courses, and blog posts from subject matter experts with the click of a button. You can engage thought leaders and ask questions via social media or a quick phone call. You can even leave a comment on our blog and we will help you to the best of our ability. The whole point of this article is that you do not have to take out a second mortgage on your home to start a new business. You just have to get creative, take advantage of free and cheap resources, and get started.
Get out there and start your business today.