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Big dreams, small wallet: How to start a business with little or no money

“Arrrggghhh!!! I told you so!” my husband told me in frustration. I murmured something about “not having enough money to pursue” and felt a rush of guilt, self-pity and frustration. This is a typical conversation we have every few months. The reason for my guilt and frustration – Between my husband and me, we have come up with more than 100 business ideas in the last few years.

How many did we actually act on? 1. Yep. Exactly 1! Every time we came up with an idea, we didn’t do anything about it because we didn’t have enough money nor enough drive to start a business. Then, a few months later, we would see someone else had a similar idea and the product was a smashing hit. We would have the above mentioned conversation all over again. I mean, what else could we do? We really don’t have spare cash lying around to start a business and we didn’t believe we had the time and energy to pursue it either. So we are destined for living with the frustration for ever, right? Up until a few months ago, I would have answered that question with an astounding “YES!”

No more.

The more I dig into learning about starting a business and making more income on the side, the more confident I have become to say – No, we do not need money to start a business or at least a majority of business ideas don’t require any capital to get started (some, like starting a franchise do require money, I will talk about how to get money for starting those kind of businesses in a separate post).

This year we are determined to act on some of our ideas. Did we come across a windfall? Nope. We are planning to start a business with no money or very little that we can cash-flow in our already tight budget.

As an accountability step, I’m going to map out each step on this blog , so you can see what we’re up to and give us feedback.

The first milestone for our experiment is – Find one business idea that will make us money.

As I mentioned earlier, we are very good at coming up with ideas. Do I think every one of them will make us money? Absolutely not. It is part of our groundwork to figure out which idea of ours will be profitable.

I am going about it by making a worksheet based on this chart I made in January


Like I mentioned, one of the reasons we never acted on any of our ideas before was the lack of money.  But the pie graph above helps illustrate other reasons for our lack of initiative.  Some ideas had a market, but we lacked the skills to bring the idea to market in a reasonable time frame, others we were good at but we weren’t passionate about so we didn’t act fast enough to capture the market, and soon, you get the idea.  So to prevent stumbling at the first step, this time we are going to start with an idea that comes out of an analysis like the one below:


Skills Possible business idea out of that skill Is there a market for that? Who do I think will buy from us? Are we passionate about it enough to do it day after day?
Carpentry Make Pottery Barn style furniture [Doing the market analysis and also analyzing the competition] People who want real wood furniture for Ikea prices Yes
Sewing Make cloth diapers [Doing the market analysis and also analyzing the competition] For people who are interested in cloth diapering but the initial cost is a barrier Not really.
Cooking Start a fusion restaurant Yes, currently there are no such restaurants in this area. But I have to find out whether people here are interested in such a cuisine. People who enjoy exotic cuisines, I have to niche it down further. Yes
Example #4


What did we expect from this step? At least one idea, completely planned out with market analysis (if there is a market, how much will people pay, who are the competitors, etc.)

Lessons learned in this step:

  • Give people what they want, not what you “think” they should have
  • Decide what we shouldn’t be doing.
  • Come up with some goals that are measurable.
  • Find a mentor or someone to keep us accountable

Cost for this step so far: None, just sweat equity.

I will be blogging about our journey – our success, failures, stumbling blocks, plans and results. After I complete the market analysis, I will write a detailed case study on what went into finding our winning idea. You can follow along to see if our idea will be a boom or bust. If you have any ideas you are kicking around and just procrastinating, please shoot me an email. I can share the approach I am taking and we can bounce ideas off each other. If not, you can wait to see how we come up with a profitable idea.

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