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Let’s face it – starting any business is tough. The difficulty of this opportunity is compounded when you’re faced with limited resources and going it alone. “Bootstrapping” is generally used to refer to businesses running lean with only the owner’s capital and new customers to fuel the growth.
On June 25th, Startup Stir sat down with Stephanie Kaplan Lewis of HerCampus.com and Erica Zidel of SittingAround.com to talk about how they’ve scaled their bootstrapped ventures. Here are some takeaways if you’re considering a bootstrapping –
1. Good Design Matters
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And there’s no excuse for bad design. In the digital era, good design, branding and social media can make your tiny startup look mighty. Clever marketing launched Dollar Shave Club to overnight success and Startup Stir’s own re-branding from “Beer & Learn” to our snazzy new image took us to the next level. If you’ve got a limited marketing budget, the first impression someone has of your brand, product or offering really counts. Check out resources like Elance.com and Fiverr for low cost, high quality graphic design work.
2. Start Small, Fail Fast
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Don’t get in over your head. Consider creating a minimum viable product and biting off small chunks as you scale up. If something isn’t working, test a few iterations and go with your gut, but don’t be afraid to change courses. Failure isn’t failure until the game’s over.
3. Productize & Systematize
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When you can, look for the chance to replicate routine tasks and turn your service offerings in to products. This allows you to scale faster and produce predictable outcomes. Remember – your time is the most precious resource your fledgling venture has. So use it wisely.
4. Control Fixed Costs
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In fact, control all costs. You’re working with limited resource here and every dollar counts. Specifically, however, you should look for ways to buy just what you need and ask your suppliers to help with terms that let you pay for consumption rather than fixed overhead. Turn first to coworking office space or shared servers before making large investments in a venture that might not work out. Use freelancers and vendors before committing to hiring a big staff. Dot your I’s and cross your T’s.
5. Surround Yourself with Good People
We developed Startup Stir for that very purpose! Not only so you all could meet one another, but so we could meet you too. Having smart people in your corner, mentors, supportive friends and family, and a strong network of peers who are facing similar challenges eases the burden of bootstrapping.
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Just hustle. Every day. You’ve got to believe in your business, your model, your product more than anyone else you know or it’ll never come together. Start the day off with a workout and getting your head in the game. It’s going to be a long grind, but you can do it and bootstrapped startup success will be yours!
Boston’s home to some great bootstrapped success stories including Grasshopper virtual phone service, Wayfair (pre-IPO), Her Campus, SittingAround.com and many others. Is yours next? Let us know at the next Startup Stir event!