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  • Writer's pictureElaine Thompson

How I Started my Business with Very Little Money

Starting a business is tough, but you know what’s tougher? Having to deal with absolutely no income, no growth, and no legacy—that can be far more drastic. For many of us, this is not a viable option, and so we push and do whatever it takes to get past the hard times and into moments of prosperity. For me, I had very little money and was very much against going back into the workplace. The workplace was very hard for me, considering I never fit in. Sure, the pay was okay, but dealing with the toxic work environment and impossible expectations left me feeling overwhelmed, miserable, and drained. What is a single mom to do when her boss tells her she can’t pick up her two-year-old from school even after working through her lunch hour? What about, as a mom, dealing with a soaked shirt in front of customers because she needs to breastfeed or pump? I found the demands of the traditional workplace challenging and knew I couldn't progress within that environment. Out was up, and this is what I stuck to.

Here are some ways you can start your business with very little money:

Find a small side hustle you love that you can charge for.

During the moments that I had very little money, I sought out small opportunities to make just a bit more. How did I do this? I recognized a need that I could be the solution to without taking too much time out of my schedule. You may ask what my schedule was really reserved for, and we will address this a little later in this very article. The need I recognized was one within my immediate family. I noticed they purchased fast food on a daily basis. It was common among them to spend between $15-$20 on food each day. That totaled $140 per week per person! Not to mention, I delivered their food, so this was an extra $10 daily for me. Exciting, right?

I saw the opportunity and made a proposal. I charged $15 per plate with no delivery fee, and the food I served was delicious. The cost of the ingredients chosen was always low. For example, 6 lbs. of chicken cost about $6. A bag of rice totaled about $3. Two cans of corn totaled about $3. A bottle of curry power was about $3. Where are we regarding the overall total for ingredients so far? $15. I had five sure customers at $15 per plate. This meant $75 minus the $15 for the ingredients totaled a $60 profit for that day. This was hustle money. It took me two hours, at most, to prepare the meals. Purchasing the ingredients took about 15 minutes in the store. This wasn’t an extravagant business or hustle—it was a small but efficient one, and I used it to fuel my true ventures, which was my publishing company.

Use the money from this to fund the startup of your dreams.

I used this money to fund the self-publishing course I was building, the books I was writing, and any other expense related to the business I was building, better known as Authors in Action. These funds were my way of purchasing book covers, editing, formatting, etc. My true passion has always been writing. Being able to contribute to my true endeavor was liberating and made the two hours of cooking worth it. I’m not particularly fond of cooking, but if it meant I would be able to pay for the things I needed, it was fine with me

Consider authoring a book and creating a course around your talent.

I chose to pursue the cheaper ventures first—or, at least what I thought were the cheapest at the time. I finished one new book and launched a course—“How to Self-Publish Your Book”—both of which failed. Yes, failed. I don’t regret pursuing these first. Because of this failure, I was forced to dig deep and find another pursuit. This is how I discovered ghostwriting. You see, people preferred me to write their book for them rather than show them how to write and publish their book. This talent proved beyond valuable financially—well, depending on how you looked at it. One ghostwriting project was valued at $10K and took about six months. I made it worth it for my clients by landing them the best seller status and getting them into Target, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, and Amazon. It was near impossible to sell my course and make one-on-one sales; however, selling in bulk to large groups via workshops and seminars was a very promising option but one I never actively pursued simply because I loved ghostwriting.

Host seminars and workshops based on your talent.

Although I did not actively pursue this option, this may very well work for you. If you’re an expert at what you do, passing on your knowledge and skills is important and greatly appreciated. Workshops and seminars are excellent pitches for schools, colleges, universities, and churches. It’s an option that gives the clients and the following of these organizations more bang for their buck, so to speak. You’ll help these organizations make money by teaming up with them. Interesting workshops and seminars make their organization more fun and attractive. Courses are still in their infancy but they are becoming more popular. Platforms like Teachable and Udemy make it easy to create courses these days. Just record and upload, and voila! Having a book and/or course gives a great foundation when approaching organizations with a workshop proposal. It's proof that you’ve put in the work and created something that is credible. Whether you’re charging $5 per student or $99 per student, sharing your expertise is always a good move. It opens the door for future opportunities and engagements.

In conclusion, going back into the workplace can be a nightmare. The famous saying “Where there is a will, there is a way,” is true and can even be applied to you. Finding that balance between hustling and pursuing your dreams is important. Remember, what I have written above is just the beginning. Life’s opportunities can present so much more. You may not see it now, but there is so much you can do with the little you have. Don’t give up too soon. The shot you don’t take is the shot you’ll definitely miss.

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