Sunday, August 23, 2009

10 Tips for Bootstrapping Your Small Business

In today’s challenging economy you might think you really can’t afford to start a business. The reality is you can - and one smart way to do that is by bootstrapping your startup. This means starting on a shoestring and putting all the money you make back into the business. Bootstrapping will keep you out of debt as long as you remember that any profit you make goes toward growing the company. This has always been a smart way to start a business with less financial risk - and in today’s economic climate, it’s smarter than ever. Here are 10 tips for bootstrapping your business:

1. Start a low-cost business.

It might be nice to open the first of a chain of retail clothing boutiques or a hamburger joint, but most brick-and-mortar businesses require lots of cash. Service businesses or e-commerce businesses, on the other hand, are typically lower-investment. Find a middle ground between your entrepreneurial dreams and the reality of startup costs.

2. Count your cash.

Look around you for money you can tap into. Do you have savings or CDs you could cash in? Do you own any collectibles you could sell for quick cash? How about a “toy” like a motorcycle or sailboat?

3. Keep your day job.

If you want to bootstrap your business, you won’t be paying yourself a salary - at least, not for a while. So if at all possible, consider keeping your day job (or at least working part-time) so you have enough to live on while you build your business.

4. Live at home.

As a young person, maybe you can persuade Mom and Dad to let you live at home for a while so you can save even more money to put toward your business. (And the desire to get out of their house will probably motivate you even more to succeed!)

5. Don’t spend more than you need to.

Buy the bare minimum you need to get your business going. Strike a balance here: You don’t want to go so cheap that you buy a computer without the power you need. But you don’t need to waste money on unnecessary bells and whistles, either. Similarly, spend what you need to make a good impression on clients. But if clients will never see your office, does it matter if your desk is secondhand?

6. Save money on what you do need.

Register to get special offers from retailers you use often. For even more deals, check out Bank of America’s Add It Up, an online shopping portal which allows small business owners to earn up to 20 percent cash back from more than 270 retailers when they shop online with their Bank of America check card through the Add it Up Web site.” The program is free for Bank of America’s Online Banking customers; for more details, go to

7. Keep on top of cash flow.

A simple accounting program combined with online business banking can give you access to daily reports that show you exactly how much is coming in and going out.

8. Watch your receivables.

Today, many customers are going longer before paying. Don’t let them. If an invoice isn’t paid on time, follow up (politely) to see what’s going on. Often, a gentle reminder is all it takes to get your money. Or offer a discount if a client pays early.

9. Barter.

Bartering means trading your products and services for someone else’s instead of paying cash. For instance, your Web design company could design a marketing company’s site in exchange for their handling your ad campaign. You can join an official barter exchange (search for them online), or use informal barter with other business owners. Just be sure you put an agreement in writing so everyone knows what they’re getting.

10. Go for the low-hanging fruit.

Get more cash in your coffers by focusing first on the projects or products that are easiest (and least expensive) for you to handle. When you’ve got more money in the bank, you can tackle those longer-term projects that require a bigger investment.
This is a guest blog by Rieva Lesonsky, CEO, Journalist and Author.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. She recently conducted an expert forum on Bank of America’s Small Business Online Community, where she answered questions about navigating a small business through the current economy. You can also ask her questions at or follow her on Twitter at

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