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Bootstrapping: Building Your Business from Scratch

Bootstrapping: Building Your Business from Scratch

Beyond • February 22, 2013

I’m an avid DIYer. People often ask “Why do you do it yourself?” Well, there are lots of reasons. For me, it’s a hobby, something to escape to and an outlet for my stress and creativity. Reasons why I choose a project: I know I can do it better, cheaper or quickly. Or I simply can’t afford to pay someone to do the project for me. Unfortunately, in business, and especially blogging, we usually fall into that last category. We’re left trying to learn as we go. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve thought that I’ve had something down pat, and nope! Try again! I learned to bootstrap my projects early on. What is bootstrapping? It’s the process of starting a business with little to no capital. When I was a young pup, I decided to start a business. Being from a family of serial entrepreneurs, this wasn’t that unusual of a prospect. Once I decided on a business idea, I set off trying to figure out how to make it work. My first stop was a local store in my tiny town. They said they’d try the product and give it a test run. A few days later, they called me up and asked if I could bring them more product. It seems that they had put the items up on this new-fangled contraption called the world wide web. Now, this was in the late 1990s or early 2000s, when you basically had the choice of Compuserve or AOL and a 56K connection was ballin’. Hmmm…if the item does this good in our tiny town, I bet other people would want to see this, too. So, not having a clue, we ventured into the big cities, blindly knocking on doors. As pure, dumb luck would have it, one of these doors led to international distribution. This opportunity meant serious changes. The packaging was going to have to get better. More professional. Thankfully, my mom had some design capabilities and a copy of Microsoft Publisher. She designed new packaging, but we couldn’t afford to have these mass produced. What do you do? You find the best photocopier in your area, and design everything in black and white. It’s not done on the cheap, it’s stark and edgy! At one point, we were showing at major trade shows where we needed to print catalogs. This was an unplanned, last minute opportunity that was not budgeted for. Thankfully, the paper warehouses were clearancing several lines of writing and text weight paper. Except they were all different papers. What does an enterprising young girl do? She mixes the papers all up. Taking a stack from this one and a pinch from that one until they’re all combined. And I printed the catalogs on my laser printer in my home office. Even when bootstrapping your company, there are places to scrimp and places to splurge. One of the places that I like to splurge is on letterhead and business cards. Remember the packaging above? We invested in a better quality paper stock that didn’t feel like “oh, this is straight from the copy center.” These are pieces that have your company’s name on them, and that people will handle. Impress them. True story: I was looking for a car, and a salesman handed me a business card that had been printed, poorly, on an inkjet printer. If you can’t bother to have business cards printed, why should I trust that you’re going to take care of me in a fairly large business transaction? Needless to say, they did not get my business. Nowadays, we’re a lot luckier. Most of us have some graphic design skills, and if not, there are decent programs out there. You don’t need a catalog, as nearly everyone has a web presence. There’s a ton of information on the internet to guide us. We can barter with our friends. While it’s easy to get things done, don’t lose that DIY spirit! That spirit is what leads to innovation.


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