Your five-step guide to starting your business on a shoestring budget

Sylvia Pennington

Got a killer business concept, but less cash to get it off the ground than some folk spend on a big night out?

Scores of business people have overcome the challenges of a less-than-bulging bank account and founded successful enterprises with very little backing.

They include Steve Jobs, who sold his Volkswagen to raise the capital to get Apple Computer off the ground, and online electrical merchant Ruslan Kogan who maxed out his credit card to pay for his first shipment of LCD televisions.

Here are some tips to help you get going on shoestring funding.

Beg, borrow and make do

Does part of the startup dream include seeing your company name on a shingle outside a schmick new office suite? As Robert de Niro might put it – “Fuhgeddaboudit”. Focus on minimal overheads – think space in the spare room and second hand equipment – until your enterprise shows signs it’s going to be a goer.

Talk yourself up

Social media is a powerful friend for new businesses with no budget for advertising and promotion. Make the most of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to build your profile and bring business through the door. Media call-out site Sourcebottle also offers a myriad of opportunities for small business owners to connect with journalists and promote themselves and their wares online and in print.

The rise of the sharing economy offers opportunities for small business founders to bring in additional revenue when times are tight.

Do it yourself

Hiring experts can mean jobs are done fast and well but they may be a luxury you can ill afford when your venture is in its infancy.  Wherever possible, DIY should be the order of the day, whether it’s updating your web site, doing deliveries or getting out the sandpaper and paintbrushes to get your premises in order.

Keep working

“Don’t give up your day job” isn’t just the standard let-down for unsuccessful talent show contestants; it can be sage advice for startup founders with slender pockets. Yes, it can be tiring and stressful clocking on at home after you’ve clocked off at work – but so is trying to make rent and bills when the bank account is bare and new business is coming slower than you’d hoped.

A bit on the side

If remaining in full-time work isn’t feasible, earning a bit on the side may be. The rise of the sharing economy offers opportunities for small business founders to bring in additional revenue when times are tight. Think hosting occasional overnight guests via Airbnb, renting surplus car parking space if you live centrally, or jumping behind the wheel for the odd Uber shift.

Sylvia Pennington

Sylvia Pennington is a Brisbane-based freelance journalist who writes about small business, information technology and personal finance.