Starting a business the old fashioned way: one customer at a time

Latest posts by Joel Welsh (see all)

One of the most popular questions we get at StartupNation is about start up business financing: how to raise money to start a small business. We even have an entertaining and instructive exercise on StartupNation Radio called the elevator pitch where an entrepreneur pretends she is in an elevator for a 60 second ride with their dream financier. Complete with “elevator music” in the background a brave soul gives their pitch to a nationwide audience and then the Sloan brothers provide valuable critique.

But as I was stuffing, pasting on Greta Garbo postage stamps and licking 100 envelopes this past weekend (the Save the Date cards finally have gone out in the mail for our 1930’s art deco themed August wedding!!) I was reminded of all things old fashioned. Like postage stamps and blue mailboxes by the side of the road.

We tend to get so caught up in the latest & greatest technology as we start and grow a small business, that we lose sight of the basics sometimes. I was 24 years old when I started my small business, a recruiting practice. I used $5,000 in personal savings and another $5,000 I received from my grandparents’ estate to move to Michigan from Pennsylvania and start my dream business.

Within 30 days I had my first client and that’s how I paid the bills until I got my next client, and so on. That bootstrapping money raising strategy lasted 19 years until I joined the StartupNation team in 2004. I was definitely a poor risk for a bank loan, friends & family or angel investors. Venture capital? Forget about it – I wasn’t interested in building the next Google and wasn’t opening a capital intensive business like a restaurant. I just wanted to be self employed and be directly responsible for my own successes and failures.

All I’m saying is that you don’t have to necessarily let something like money stand in the way of starting a business. Grab a customer and get started.

There’s no better time than right now to start it up.

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