Blog | Entrepreneurship

How to Start a Business Without Money (Part 1)

Are you looking to start a business without money? Follow these steps and you’ll be out of the Rat Race before you know it.

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Are you looking to start a business without money? Follow these steps and you’ll be out of the Rat Race before you know it.

The biggest excuse I hear when someone talks about why they haven’t started a business is, “I don’t have any money. How can I start a business without money?!”

The reason I use the word “excuse” is because that is exactly what it is...an excuse.

Plenty of successful businesses were born out of little-to-no start-up capital. In fact, here’s a list of 50 of them, including Lynda.com, Shopify, Shutterstock, Craigslist, and more.

So, all you really need is some help, and this plan is that help. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking to start a business to run full-time or develop a side hustle you can do after hours. Rich Dad developed this plan that will help you build a business without any money.

The good news is that no matter how limited your budget might be, you always have some options in starting a business.

How to start a business without money (steps 1 through 8)

So far we’ve talked about the importance of mission and some of the base systems you’ll need to get into place in order to get your business up and running with little-to-no money. Most of these things you can accomplish within a week. So, my challenge to you is to start them up today so that you can be ready for action on next week’s post, part two of this plan, where we’ll cover how to establish your product, market, and grow your business, including raising capital when you get to that point.

In part one of this plan on how to start a business with little or no money, I introduced the concept of the B-I Triangle and covered the importance of establishing your mission, establishing yourself as an expert, and building basic systems you need in place in order to be successful.

If you want a refresher on what we covered, you can read all of part one here. I’d especially suggest this if you aren’t familiar with the B-I Triangle.

This post will cover the important steps needed to understand what product to sell, how to market that product, grow your team, and scale your business.

  1. Do you have what it takes?

    First, you need to be honest with yourself. The truth is that not everyone has what it takes to be a successful business owner.

    To help you decide, I wrote this post with a list of characteristics that successful entrepreneurs possess. Read through the list. If you feel being an entrepreneur is right for you, congratulations! Move on to step two.

  2. Why do you want to start a business?

    My rich dad, my best friend’s dad, taught me everything I know about money and business. The B-I Triangle was one of the greatest lessons he gave me regarding business.

    The B-I Triangle shows eight integrities every entrepreneur needs to be successful.

    The B-I Triangle shows eight integrities every entrepreneur needs in order to be successful.

    The B-I Triangle as a whole represents a strong system of systems, supported by a team with a leader, all working towards a common mission. I would like to highlight three important points about why the B-I Triangle is important.

    You’ll notice that product is the smallest part of the pyramid. Most people think the product is the most important thing to a successful business, but really it is the last thing you need. If you don’t have the other integrities, it won’t matter how good your product is...you’ll fail.

    And the foundation of the B-I Triangle? Mission. A business without a mission is like a person without a soul. If you start a business without a mission, you’ll bail when the going gets tough. The most successful entrepreneurs start a business because they want to make a difference in the world. Starting a business without money makes staying at it even harder. You’ll need to know your why when it comes to starting a business. You need to establish your mission.

    Starting a business can’t only be about making money because there are plenty of joyless ways to make money. It needs to be something that keeps pushing you until your business becomes successful.

  3. Keep your day job

    Even though this plan is about starting a business without money, you will still need money to survive while you get your business up and running.

    One of the key integrities of the B-I Triangle is cash flow. Until your business provides enough cash flow to live, which might take months if not years, having a steady source of income will not only boost your self-confidence but also inspire you to accomplish greater things.

    Once you get a job, make a point of saving as much as you can for investing it later. Kim and I did this in the early days of starting The Rich Dad Company. We practiced a philosophy called Pay Yourself First (which drove our bookkeeper, Betty, bonkers!). Read about Rich Dad’s Pay Yourself First philosophy here.

    If you’re already employed; don’t quit your job just yet. We understand the desire to “be your own boss,” but think twice before you make any major decisions. Only leave your job once you’ve made enough savings that you can use to get your own venture off the ground.

  4. What type of business do you want to own?

    Back in the 1980s, when I began my journey into entrepreneurship, businesses required lots of start up capital to get off the ground. A product could fail before it even hit the market.

    Then came the internet and with it lightening speed access to vendors, consumers, and results. It’s no longer uncommon to get a business running within a day. But what type of business do you want to build?

    Once you understand why you want to start a business--your mission--the most important thing you can do is determine what kind of business you want to own.

    As I mentioned, the B-I Triangle is about building and investing in systems, not a product. Different types of businesses require different types of systems, unique teams, and different approaches to leadership.

    Though the internet changed how businesses start, there are still two main types of business: products and services.

    A product business sells a good of some kind that can be sold without using your own time. For instance, Nordstrom sells clothes.

    A service business provides a service of some kind that generally means selling time. For instance, a business coach sells consulting.

    Eventually, some businesses evolve into a combination of both products and services. At The Rich Dad Company, our mission is to help elevate the financial well-being of humanity. We are primarily a product company, selling education products, but we also provide services like coaching.

  5. Market research

    Once you know what type of product or service you want to create, you need to determine whether or not there’s a market for it.

    One of the biggest mistakes people make is creating a product or service that no one wants.

    I’ve seen many businesses fold because there wasn’t a market. Before you do the same, here’s a short list of questions to ask yourself:

    1. Is your business idea unlike anything else on the market or is it similar to other products or services available?
    2. If there are already products or services like it, how will you make it better? Can it be made cheaper? Can it be repurposed from its current use? Is there a different market you can sell to?
    3. Do you think you can pursue this for the long haul?
     

    Thankfully, the internet makes this type of research easy to do. Some simple searches can give you a good idea of the originality of your idea in a couple hours. Some more searches can help you try to find ways to create differentiation, such as searching for a cheaper distributor or reading reviews of a competing product to see ideas for improving it straight from the voice of the customer.

    At the end of the day, if you have negative answers to the questions above, it might be best to reconsider your product or service choice relative to your mission.

  6. Do a SWOT analysis

    SWOT analysis is a vital technique that can help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your business idea.

    SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

    Strengths = what you and your business do really well.

    Weaknesses = what you and your business need improvement in

    Opportunities = areas in the market that you can exploit or are best prepared to exploit for growth and achieving your mission

    Threats = areas in the market or in your business that are a threat to growth and achieving your mission

    Running a proper SWOT analysis will give you an honest 360 degree view of your business and where you are best suited for success—and where you are not. Often knowing where you can’t succeed is just as valuable as knowing where you can.

    For instance, if you’re starting a business without money, a weakness might be the inability to invest in advertising. It would do no good to try and compete with other brands on the same ad platforms. But a strength could be moving faster and being willing to take more risks, so perhaps a guerilla marketing campaign would be an opportunity.

  7. Become an industry expert

    Once you have chosen your market and have an idea in mind, it’s important to begin placing yourself in the market as an industry leader. Another way of putting it: you should position yourself as a subject matter expert or SME.

    In steps five and six above, it should have become apparent what people’s needs are in your market. Websites like Amazon and Yelp offer great opinions on what’s working and lacking from various products and services.

    What can you improve upon? Are there digital products available that aren’t getting rave reviews? Is there a physical product in the market that lacks a personal touch that only you can solve?

    It doesn’t matter what type of product (or service) you’re offering, if you want your business to be different from your competition you’ll need to get your voice heard.

    The quickest way to do that is by joining online communities that discuss your chosen industry. There are online forums like Reddit and Facebook groups that offer a bevy of topics to choose from, many of them for free. In most cases, you don’t even have to join them.

    Simply scroll through them looking for solutions to people’s problems.

    By now, you should have a solid understanding of your industry and, more importantly, your own voice within it. Now it’s time to let your voice be heard.

  8. Own some digital real estate

    Two of the B-I Triangle integrities are communication and systems.

    Again, it doesn’t matter if you want to sell physical or digital products, or offer one-on-one coaching, eventually you’re going to need somewhere for people to learn about what you offer. You’re going to need a system to communicate about your business to the world—in other words, a website.

    Having a website will not only put you in front of thousands of potential customers and investors, but will also attract the opinions of others. This way, you’ll be able to gauge the potential of your business idea.

    Here are a few steps to get you started with your online presence:

    • Choose a website platform

      For beginners and people who don’t consider themselves to be very tech-savvy, there are several free (or free trial) options available. For more advanced functionality, there are platforms with low-cost monthly plans.

    • Create content

      Once your site is ready, put some valuable content online that shows signs you are an authority in your niche. Simple text and attractive images are enough to get the ball rolling.

      However, attracting customers is not sufficient; you will need to learn how to keep them engaged as well. Most businesses choose to provide content using a blog.

      The industry you are building a business within will dictate the type of content that you should provide. Remember that market research you did in step five, here’s where it can really come in handy. The content should be written about solutions to problems you’ve identified in your market.

    • Give them something to talk about

      While you conducted your market research, you should have gained an in depth understanding of your market. And though you aren’t ready to release your product or service, you should have enough knowledge to provide a solution to their problem.

      Not many people know this about the history of my best-selling book, Rich Dad Poor Dad, but I originally wrote that book as a manual for our board game, CASHFLOW® 101—retitled, CASHFLOW.

      We chose to edit the 700-page manual down to under 300 pages. It was self-published, but not because no one would publish it for us!

      If we had the internet, Rich Dad Poor Dad may not have become the world-wide phenomenon that it has become.

      I’m not recommending you write a 200-page book with the intent of selling it on bookshelves. Rather, I suggest you take the knowledge you’ve acquired doing your product and market research and develop something your visitors will exchange for their email. We call this a lead capture.

    • Seek and they will find (you!)

      You could have the best product or service in the world, the most easy-to-use website ever made, with the most intriguing lead capture available but if no one knows about it, no one will give you their email in exchange for it.

      There are two primary ways people will discover your business online, searching for the type of product or service you offer or through paid advertising.

    • Send regular emails

      Once you have the email addresses from your lead capture and are building your list, it’s time to stay in contact with them.

      Before you send the daily emails, however, make sure that they provide lots of value to the recipients. Your goal is to keep your potential customers drooling for your offering.

    Your first steps towards business ownership

    So far we’ve talked about the importance of mission and some of the base systems you’ll need to get into place in order to get your business up and running with little-to-no money. Most of these things you can accomplish within a week. So, my challenge to you is to start them up today so that you can be ready for action on next week’s post, part two of this plan, where we’ll cover how to establish your product, market, and grow your business, including raising capital when you get to that point.

Original publish date: July 23, 2019

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