We now live in a very risk adverse world. Today’s startups are often caught up in the fact they need to build a bullet proof business plan, do extraordinary amounts of market research and get loads of funding. The fact of the matter is because we have access to so much information, startups can look into things loosing the fact that you can do things with little or no cash.
2 years ago when I founded OnTheGo, it was on my bedroom desk. I had $100.00 to my name and that paid for the registration of my business name. I knew nothing about my industry I was entering, and no idea about business.
I had absolutely no funding, no outside help or anything when I was starting the business. What having no funding or help taught me was how to build a real business; from bookkeeping to marketing, sales to production and everything in between, I was a one man operator and needed to know it all. I didn’t have huge marketing budgets so I had to figure the best way to get my brand out there as much as possible. I didn’t have loads of cash to run the business, so I soon had to learn how to make money to run the business as it grew.
Whatever profits we pulled from a job we’d put back into new products to sell which increased cash flow and gave us a larger customer base. This was the constant process for well over 12 months until we finally found our exact niche and then could start to expand in the retail line of our products, which is what we had always dreamt of.
I could have built a solid plan about where I wanted the business to go and I did, and still do have a lot of investors come at me wanting to throw money at me, but the things you’ll learn from turning a dollar into 10, and 10 into 100, an so on, all on your own, is priceless. No investor, no bank or no lending facility can teach you this
Here are some tips I have found very helpful with building a brand with little or no funding, I’ve narrowed it down to 3 p’s:
– Partnering (Collaborating with those greater than you)
We never had money to sponsor sports teams, events, organisations etc, but we knew it was important to get our brand out to the public. We would partner with the right organizations and look after them in the way of pricing etc, so long as they used our products. Whatever money they would save would be put through as us being a sponsor. Meaning we still had turnover, were making money and exposing our brand without reaching into our small pockets. This process I believe can be used in all industries if planned the right way. If our logo were displayed next to the likes of Westpac or PwC, It would make us look a lot bigger than we really were!
– People (Build relationships for the long term, not direct sell for the short term)
Word of mouth travels quickly and can be the hugely beneficial or hugely detrimental for your business. I have always focused on building relationships with people rather than directly selling. This is a very important factor I believe as people invest and buy most of the time off the person behind the product / service. No matter what business you are in, you’re in the business of people more than anything. You can often win out short term by not doing the right thing by someone, but to build a sustainable business, people must want to come back to your brand.
– PR (Use publicity to your advantage)
Go out and get your name out there in the public eye. This builds your profile. From speaking at events to writing articles in magazines, applying for awards or helping out where need be, PR is becoming a big part of marketing strategies and for our brand it has been brilliant. The world is full of a lot of boring stories, if you get out there and share your story or views differently it will sell. Once people are interested in your opinions it leads them to your brand. If you’re a lawyer for instance you may want to run a talk on the importance of Contracts, make it a free event so people can come and go if they wish, once they are certain they need certain contracts, you’ve secured yourself a client.
So go on, get out there and get your hands dirty. There are plenty of ways you can grow a business on a shoe string budget.
[This article was written by Mick Spencer founder of On The Go Sports for FEB Issue]