5 Awesome Entrepreneurs Who Bootstrapped Their Startups : Under30CEO 5 Awesome Entrepreneurs Who Bootstrapped Their Startups : Under30CEO
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5 Awesome Entrepreneurs Who Bootstrapped Their Startups

| July 13, 2013 | 9 Comments

While the media may saturate the startup world talking about which startups raised the most venture capital over the weekend, the vast majority of successful startup founders are busy building their businesses, not trying to raise capital.

We call these entrepreneurs “Bootstrappers”.  According to Wikipedia, Bootstrapping refers to a self-sustaining process that proceeds without external help.  In other words, Bootstrappers build successful businesses without raising venture capital or outside funding.

Bootstrappers often don’t get the media attention they deserve because they don’t make “worth while” news until they have a successful sale of their business or otherwise become too big to ignore.

The 5 entrepreneurs below overcame extreme adversity and defied the odds to entrepreneurship success.  Their stories should convince you that they are no different than you or I and they are living proof that “if they can do it, you can do it too.”

5. Brendan Synnott and Kelly Flatley

Image Credit: www.nytimes.com

Image Credit: www.nytimes.com

The founders of Bear Naked Granola staked their claim to the health food market with their all-natural and great tasting granola well before the health food market took off. This young duo, fresh out of college, sacrificed their post-college years to live with their parents and stayed up throughout the nights during their early days to make granola.  Their efforts paid off when Bear Naked was acquired by Kellogg for $60 Million.

4. Mark Otero

Image Credit: gsm.ucdavis.edu

Image Credit: gsm.ucdavis.edu

Apparently starting one successful company wasn’t enough when Mark graduated from business school at UC Davis.  While developing his online gaming company, Klick Nation, Mark realized he needed more cash to fund his game development company.  So Mark founded a frozen yogurt company, Mochii, in downtown Sacramento and used it as a front and cash cow to build out his social gaming company.  With his back against the wall and facing hundreds of thousands in debt, Mark it hit big by selling to EA.

3. Sara Blakely

Image Credit: forbes.com

Image Credit: forbes.com

Working as a sales trainer by day and performing stand-up comedy at night, the founder of  Spanx  didn’t know the first thing about the pantyhose industry—except that she dreaded wearing most pantyhose! But it wasn’t until she couldn’t find a thing to wear under a pair of white pants for a party that she took scissors, cut off the feet of those hose…and a new product was born.  Starting with just $5,000, Spanx has gone on to cross the $1 billion mark.

2. Drew Munster

Image Credit: www.racquetsportsindustry.com

Image Credit: www.racquetsportsindustry.com

The founder of the leading tennis e-commerce website, Tennis Warehouse, Drew started with a bare bones 2-page catalog business that has now grown to be the one-stop destination for the majority of tennis enthusiasts.  Drew’s story began in a tiny 500-square-foot tennis shop in the college town of San Luis Obispo, CA, where Drew Munster founded Tennis Warehouse.   With the growth of the internet, Drew decided to take his catalog business online.  Even in the face of immense competition from the giant etailers like Amazon, Tennis Warehouse has maintained its dominance and leadership in the tennis commerce industry.

1. Nate Grahek

Image Credit: Google Plus

Image Credit: Google Plus

This founder of StickyAlbums, a mobile app for professional photographers, will prove to you that your excuses for not starting your own startup just aren’t valid.  As a new father of one child, expecting a second child, and holding a full-time job, Nate built and grew StickyAlbums using some of the most creative hacks possible.  Finding ways to get customers to pay for his software before the software was even built provided Nate the cushion he needed to get StickyAlbums off the ground.  While Nate hasn’t sold his startup yet, he’s well on his way to successfully scaling his first business and leaving behind his corporate job to run his own startup.

James Garvin is the author of Bootstrapped: How 75 Entrepreneurs Successfully Bootstrapped Their Startups and How You Can Too.

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Category: Entrepreneurship, Startup Advice

  • http://RayRenk.org/ Ray Renk

    Great article. So often it seems the hype is around raising money. After raising money for a company and also bootstrapping a company, the latter is way undervalued. Thanks for the article.

  • cesar romero

    Great inspiration here and it’s proof that anyone can build their dreams with hard work, dedication, and persistence. This is something I remind myself everyday, especially with all distractions out there. Talents, skills, and education are good, but what matters most is your attitude to keep moving forward despite the odds. Another important factor in determining success is picking one thing and sticking with it. I often see people doing many things at one time, and while they claim it’s all multitasking I call this multi-distracting….it’s critical to pick one thing and focus on it until it’s finished

  • Mike Darche

    James thank you for compiling these stories! I hadn’t heard of any of these entrepreneurs, but I’m really impressed by their perseverance and ability to identify great opportunities. If you can bootstrap or streamline your business from the start, you will learn lessons that can take the big dogs years of iterations to figure out.

  • Michael Luchies

    Awesome! Thanks for putting this together, very nice.

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  • Melissa Krivachek

    Love this article. It goes to show it isn’t having money that solves problems it’s the ability to get creative that really takes businesses to the next level. Not to mention having your back up against the wall is slightly a huge motivator as well. Looking forward to more awesome articles like this! Cheers.

  • http://www.bizkonects.net/ KMG

    Creativity goes with the mind set…. some have money but can’t sustained business. Developing the mind of a leader helps in pursuing one’s goal and implementing it. nice article….

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