Unfortunately, this is not an unfunny riddle, but more often than not, a cold, hard fact. Rather than being able to invest his heart, soul, and time into his new business, the average entrepreneur must suffice with his heart and soul and whatever spare time he can find…often burning the midnight oil long past midnight.
According to a The Wall Street Journal article on funding a startup1, “your first financial resource for starting a business will always be your personal stash”. For some, this may sound obvious – if you won’t invest in your own enterprising adventure, then why should anyone else dig into their pockets? But for the young, just-starting-out entrepreneur who doesn’t have tens of thousands of dollars stashed away in the bank, this means working another job not only to pay the bills, but also to fund the startup.
Forbes recommends using your own personal savings as an insurance to future investors that you truly believe in the potential of your startup22. The Wall Street Journal takes a more realistic approach: “[Here] comes the tricky part: getting your hands on the cash. Keep in mind, lenders such as traditional banks don’t find start-up ventures with minimal cash flow and unproven track records to be attractive clients” 1. Basically, the real reason you’re funding yourself is that no one else will!
And it’s not because you don’t have a good idea. You might have a great idea. You might have the best idea this side of the 21st century. After all, Google was a startup and now pulls in over $8.36 billion yearly. Groupon and Twitter were also startups.
The reason entrepreneurs are required to not only bring the brains, but also the spare change, stems from a number of different factors:
- Investors are hit with thousands of requests a year for funding.According to the Missouri-based Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation research center, over 54% of young adults ages 18-34 are looking to blaze their own path with some kind of new business. All of these will need funding.
- Startups, by definition, are usually brand-new…which means unproven. All of the research in the world demonstrating why your idea should work cannot compare to a successful track record of times your ideas did work.
- Lastly, the growth factor. Startups carry potential for huge payouts – they are expected to take off and grow quickly, turning its lucky investors into millionaires overnight, at best. But on the flip side, they also carry more risk than a typical investment.
Still looking to launch a startup? It’s not totally dismal out there. There are ways to overcome the obstacles and find yourself on the Google side of the fence, but most have to do with those dreaded four-letter words called hard work. Aside from that, there are few other practical steps you can take to get your dream off the ground:
Downsize your costs.
Cut any expenses that are not completely necessary. Remember the less funding you need, the quicker you can launch your startup. This can range from finding cheaper suppliers to staying up later to get the job done yourself, rather than outsourcing.
Turn to family and friends.
Now this tip should be taken with a (big) grain of salt because no one wants to be that annoying relative who’s always looking for money so you can get rich quick. If you really feel that your idea has potential, you’ve done the proper research and have the plans written up and you don’t usually approach them for money, this might be the time to ask your nearest and dearest for a personal investment. Caution! Make it clear as day that this money might be lost…hey, it’s called “love money” for a reason.
Research possible grants or contests in your chosen startup field.
Someone has to win the money and it might as well be you.
Use available lines of credit such as home refinancing, credit cards or a bank loan, but keep in mind that if your idea fails, you’ll still have to pay this back.
Above all, keep saving those pennies! Remember, a penny saved is a penny invested in your startup.
After graduating college, Donny Zanger began his first business All Week Walls, that erects temporary pressurized walls in the NY metro area. His company has been featured in numerous publications including the NY Times. He is also active in the development of mobile software technology.
1 Debaise, Colleen. “How to Fund a Start-Up.” Wall Street Journal, October 11, 2009.
2 Landes, Luke. “How to Fund Your Start-Up Business.” Forbes, December 12, 2011.
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