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Bootstrapping – Starting a business with no capital

Posted in: Business funding, How to start a business
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Thinking of starting a business during an economic crisis can seem an ambitious and risky idea for many people. Doing it without having much capital to support you is even more ambitious. However this is what Sage Business Expert Melanie Mackie did when starting Scarletta Media.

The recession started to take hold and having reached a crossroads in my career, I left my former job without another one lined up. It was a bold move and somehow I found myself in the position of being my own boss. I created my own micro business specialising in social media marketing for small businesses initially around my blog.

Melanie MackieThe reluctant business owner

Beforehand, I never had much of an intention to create and launch my own business. It was completely unchartered territory for me. Yes, I had the marketing and social media experience thanks to my previous role, but I had little idea about how to launch or the day-to-today running and sustaining a business. There wasn’t a robust business plan, I was unprepared setting off with extremely limited funds to get going.

This is what’s known as bootstrapping – starting a business without external help or funding. Totally bonkers, maybe. But I knew I wanted to have the flexibility and freedom to work anywhere in the world, as I love to travel, and as I didn’t have big bold ideas of expanding my business empire to include swanky premises or take on employees it didn’t take me long to get up and running.

Overheads kept to a minimum

I deliberately kept my overheads to an absolute minimum and maximised on-line tools available, particularly with social media. My home office was fixed up, I bought a new laptop, invested in a new website and integrated my blog, and spent a silly amount of money on creative business cards. My accountant picked up on how much these had cost, however they were absolutely worth every penny as they were my only off-line marketing collateral. Apart from me.

The challenges included learning everything I could about running a business as well as keeping up with the social revolution, as social media for businesses wasn’t as mainstream in the UK in 2009 as it is now.

Social media marketing boomed

It was a huge risk initially to make social media services my niche. But I had an inkling things were set to change on-line and fortunately being in the right place at exactly the right time proved successful, as social media marketing for business boomed.

Now this may not be the ideal way to start a business and goes against pretty much all the advice out there. But four years on my micro business is still just as lean and positively profitable with 15% growth year on year. Which in these economic times is remarkable.

It definitely hasn’t been an easy ride, not having a regular pay cheque each month takes some getting used to. You have to learn to take responsibility and make use of the information and tools available to you. But all that aside it has totally changed me and my life for the better.

Bootstrapping business is booming

Another perk is meeting plenty of other solopreneurs who may have found themselves out of work by redundancy, disillusioned with corporate life or had an overwhelming desire to work for themselves.

Which, I believe, means bootstrapping business is a massive area of growth in the UK and globally. The internet has enabled us to work pretty much anywhere and if you are savvy about what you’re selling and use some creativity you can set up and start your business immediately.

My top five tips

  1. Learn to trust your instincts
  2. Think about taking on a part time job whilst you get going, it will help with your cash flow and reduce stress levels
  3. Make use of online tools and social media to help raise awareness and visibility
  4. Build your network of trusted supporters: my husband and family help keep me going when times are tough
  5. Go for it. Life’s too short to sit back and wait for the perfect time to start

The best of luck with your bootstrapping business.

Melanie Mackie

Melanie is the founder of Scarletta Media and her specialty is on-line marketing and social media for solopreneurs, small businesses and sociable people. You can read Melanie’s insights, expertise and knowledge about social media marketing for small businesses on Scarletta’s Blog and in her eBook The Real Meaning of Socialism, and you’ll usually find her online tweeting @scarlettamedia.

Posted in: Business funding, How to start a business
1,768 comment

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