The Smart Way To Bootstrap Your Business With Some Real World Examples

Submitted by Dmitri Davydov on Sun, 2007-06-24 11:26.
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In doing research for his book, Bootstrapping Your Business: Start and Grow a Successful Company With Almost No Money, Greg Gianforte found that less than 1 percent of startups raise money. A bootstrapper himself, Gianforte started RightNow Technologies in Bozeman, Montana, in 1997, went public in 2004 and had 2006 revenue of more than $110 million. He says having an open mind and experimenting are key. "Once you have scale and mass, you do things differently," Gianforte says. "In the early startup phase, you can throw things up against the wall and see what sticks."

That's what Amy James did. After selling her first company in 2000, the former teacher negotiated the right to retain a database of state learning standards that she had spent two years typing into a Microsoft Access file. In 2001, James decided to take advantage of that year's No Child Left Behind Act and put her database to work. "I made a flier saying I could align curriculum with learning standards and faxed it to publishers," she says. "Scholastic called immediately. Then LeapFrog. Then others."

For the cost of office supplies--about $100--James was in business, launching SixThings from her New York City apartment. She made $30,000 her first year, consulting with publishers, reviewing educational programs and curricula, and writing reports analyzing how these measured up to state and federal learning and testing requirements. James ramped up significantly in her second year, hiring two curriculum development employees and one computer programmer. In addition to analysis, the company now sells electronic databases of learning and testing requirements and licenses software that provides compliance reporting along state and federal guidelines.

But James was struggling to pay her rent and knew something had to give. Her mother was a retired teacher back in her hometown near Oklahoma City, and James could tap her mom's friends as workers. So she moved into the same apartment complex as her mother.

"It just made sense," says James, 40. "My mom's friends were starting to retire. My dad was a principal. They were all on state benefits and had a great work ethic." With her mother as her first Oklahoma employee and her father as a sounding board, she began to rebuild her business.

James used open source software and worked from home for the first three years of business, finally moving into a 6,000-square-foot Oklahoma City office space in 2004. She furnished that space, including the refrigerator, she says proudly, for a mere $1,900 by visiting vacated offices and offering cash for the abandoned furniture. She continues to pinch pennies, even after bringing in sales of more than $2.1 million last year. Of her 20 full-time and 43 part-time employees, the vast majority are her parents' retired friends. She has also re-established an office in New York City.

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[Via - Entrepreneur]

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