Bootstrapping: How to Start a Business Without Any Money

Bootstrapping - How to Start a Business Without Any Money | Anthony Caliendo | The Sales Assassin


Pull yourself up by your bootstraps; starting a business without any money. 

It’s the American dream:

  • Own your own business
  • Set your own hours
  • And make lots of money

But how can you start a business if you don’t have any money? Or if you only have a little bit of money? I started my first business – and learned how to sell – as an 8-year-old in Chicago. A lemonade stand. And from that little business in front of my house, I became The Ultimate Sales Assassin.

Here are some businesses that were started with almost no money:

  • MailChimp: In 2000, co-founder Ben Chestnut had a design consulting business and clients who wanted email newsletters. So he decided to build a tool that would streamline the process.
  • Whole Foods: In 1978 John Mackey and Rene Lawson saved and borrowed money from friends and family to open their first store in Austin, Texas. After getting evicted from their apartment, the two lived in their first store.
  • WhatsApp: Jan Koum moved to the US from Ukraine, and learned computer skills in his spare time. Hired by Yahoo! as an infrastructure engineer, and in 2009 and started WhatsApp.
  • ShutterStock: Jon Oringer was a professional software developer and an amateur photographer. He combined this set of skills and used 30,000 photos from his personal photo library to start a stock photo service that is currently worth $2 billion dollars.
  • Apple, Mattel, Disney, Google, Harley Davidson, Hewlett-Packard, Lotus Cars, and Yankee Candle Company: All started in garages.
  • John Paul Mitchell Systems: John Paul DeJoria and Paul Mitchell worked at a hair salon, and with a $700 loan started John Paul Mitchell.
  • Spanx: Sara Blakely turned a $5,000 investment into an Oprah-approved approved garment that generates $400M in revenue annually.
  • Nike: Philip Knight and Bill Bowerman started selling athletic shoes from their car trunk.
  • Nerdwallet: The personal finance service that promises to help young people save money lived on a tight budget from the time it was founded in 2009 until it raised $64M in 2015.
  • Dell: Michael Dell started out as a dishwasher, making a $2.30 per hour. Dell started selling PCs out of his college dorm.
  • Grammarly: Grammarly made improvements to Word and Google Docs-type spell checkers and now charge over 800 universities and hundreds of thousands of writers a monthly fee to fix typos and grammar errors.
  • GoFundMe: Viral marketing integrated into a product plus Conversion Rate Optimization allowed GoFundMe founders to bootstrap a business.
  • Craigslist: With only 40 employees and no substantial updates to the site for decades, Craigslist is the #17 most visited site in the US.
  • Under Armour: Kevin Plank was broke when he started selling signature clothing under the Under Armour name, then made a sale to Georgia Tech University and 2 dozen NFL teams.
  • Walmart: Sam Walton borrowed $25,000 to open his first store in 1945.
  • Subway: 17-year-old Fred Deluca opened the first shop as Pete’s Subway in Bridgeport, Conn. using $1,000 in seed money from Dr. Peter Buck because he needed money to go to med school.

Do you have an idea for a great business – but no money to start a business? With some creativity and hard work, there are many small businesses you can start on a small budget – a very small budget! I found some expert resources on how to bootstrap a business without any money and compiled their best ideas for you.

Download my free checklist: 

How to Start a Business for Less than $500

Free Download: Save a copy of this checklist I made:
How to Start a Business for Less than $500

Over the years I’ve launched several small businesses – and closed a few that didn’t go the way I’d hoped. I’ve also worked in sales for local and international businesses, and I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to succeed in owning your own business. And a lot about why some people don’t succeed. Whatever your business, to succeed you need to be able to sell: sell your self, sell your product, or sell your services.


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