Bootstrapping Your Start-Up Business with Little or No Money
Jan 26 2011

The following is a guest post by Bill Hazelton, Managing Director of Credit Card Assist, a leading credit card resource site for consumers and small business owners and Sell It! On The Web, an e-commerce and online marketing blog. For other local bootstrapping resources here in Austin, check out the Bootstrap Austin site.

In periods of high unemployment, many of those having a hard time finding a job consider starting their own business as an alternative.  The thought of being your own boss could never be more appealing when you’ve been unemployed for awhile.

Typically, the biggest challenge for most new business start-ups is capital, or more specifically, the lack of capital.  The reality is that traditional sources of financing a new business are a long shot at best, especially in the new economy.

That’s the bad news.  The good news, however, is that many new start-ups are launched with very little money at all.  Michael Dell started his company, Dell Computer, out of his college dorm room for less than $1,000.

There are a countless number of creative ways that you can finance a start-up.  Here are just a few tips on bootstrapping your new startup that I have found particularly beneficial from my own experience:


Many start-ups don’t have the financial means to hire full-time employees early on so business owners are left no choice but to bootstrap their operations by outsourcing.  Three primary areas in any business that you can effectively outsource are computer programming, web design and software development.  Eventually, my business grew to the point where I needed to hire several full-time employees, but outsourcing was the keystone that provided that opportunity.

Barter and Trade

Instead of paying cash for products and services, bartering can be an extremely effective bootstrapping tool.  Bartering involves trading products and services between complimentary businesses, which is probably more suitable for service-oriented businesses but if you are selling tangible products, there are still opportunities to barter creatively as well.

Partnering with a Complimentary Business

Another effective bootstrapping technique you can use is partnering with a complementary business. Any business in a non-competitive but complementary industry would qualify where you can share costs on facilities, equipment, employees, rent, and advertising.


Local colleges in your area are a great place to find internship programs that are loaded with students looking for opportunities to earn school credit and gain experience in their field of choice.  Interns are highly motivated laborers and they’re willing to work for next to nothing but they can do more than just save you money.  Internship programs have started to play a much bigger role in transforming smaller businesses.

SCORE Business Counseling

SCORE, also known as “Counselors to America’s Small Business” is a nonprofit association partnered with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) whose mission is to educate entrepreneurs and small business owners, helping them start and grow their companies.

SCORE has 350 offices nationwide that are staffed with more than 13,000 mentor volunteers with extensive business experience and a wide range of business skills.  The mentors are retired business owners and corporate leaders who share their experience and lessons they have learned in their careers.  The advice offered by SCORE’s mentors is free and confidential and has provided guidance for more than 8.5 million small businesses.  You can choose your own mentor, attend free online workshops and get advice online or in-person.

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