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The Broke Entrepreneur: How 20 People Started Successful Businesses For $500 or Less

The Broke Entrepreneur: How 20 People Started Successful Businesses For $500 or Less

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The Broke Entrepreneur: How 20 People Started Successful Businesses For $500 or Less

95 pagine
1 ora
Aug 23, 2013


A lot of people think the only way to start a business is to gamble big: mortgage your home, take a huge loan, cash on your 401(k)… And because the payoff is so uncertain and the risk so large, many opt to put off their dream and abandon their potentially amazing business idea.

You don't have to do the same.

In their own words, 20 entrepreneurs will tell you how they found the path to success. How their business idea was born, what it took to start the business and how they made it work on just $500.

From pet products to website design to bottled water, these entrepreneurs have two things in common: they had a very tight budget and they were passionate about their ideas.

Plus: An exclusive interview/profile of 1-800-Got-Junk, the multi-million dollar company that was started with just $700.

Aug 23, 2013

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The Broke Entrepreneur - Diana Bocco


#1: Pet Supplies

Name of your company: Whiner and Diner


What’s your business all about: Whiner and Diner has been handcrafting unique pet accessories since 1996: Elevated dog feeders, raised cat bowls, pet toy boxes, small dog beds, cat beds and dog breed leash holders – all custom-made from authentic reclaimed wooden wine crates. Each pet product is individually created. Our elevated pet feeders are healthy for all dogs and cats, promoting better posture and digestion in a stylish manner. We also sell wine crate serving trays for the pet parents.

When did you start the company: We started the company in 1996 and brought it online in 2007, when it really took off.

Your job before you started your own business: We’ve always been self-employed. My husband Stephen is a carpenter/remodeler and I am an artist/website designer.

How much did it cost you to start the business: I don't remember exactly how much we spent to start the business, but it was not a lot as we already has the power tools, materials, etc. The main expense was a laptop ($400).

What did you use the money for: Working from home we do not have rental expenses. And we get our wine crates for free from local liquor and wine stores. We also use recycled shipping boxes.

What sparked the idea for the business? The idea came from Stephen, who came home with an old, beat-up wine crate one day and told me that he was going to make an elevated dog feeder for our black Labrador (Nigel). I said: Sure, honey, but I was a little skeptical. When I saw the finished product I told him how beautiful it was and that he had to sell them. Before we knew it, we were selling them in local pet and liquor stores.

In 2007, I read in the New York Times that Microsoft was going to offer a free website design and hosting service (Microsoft Office Live then; called Office 365 now). The day the service came out, I signed up for it and started to learn about website design and created our site, not knowing the first thing about all this. After weeks of reading and working on it, we launched the website. We also signed up for PayPal to be able to have an e-commerce site ($30/month).

Did you know anything about this particular field before you started your business? At the beginning, we were like many—we thought that if you had a website customers will find you. Well, there is no such thing. I started reading about website marketing and optimization and became obsessed with it. Before I knew it, I was listing our site everywhere, writing pet related articles and pitching our product line to anyone who would listen. All for free. We have been featured in many magazines and Microsoft even came to our house to film us (and promote their own product).

Since your budget was so limited, how did you get the word out and found clients/customers?  We printed business cards, brochures and flyers ourselves and handed them out to anyone who would take them.

First and last year’s revenues: From making about $500 a month in 1996, depending on the economy we make around $25,000 a year now. It is still a second income, but it helped a lot when the economy went down.

What’s your normal work schedule? I spend about four hours a day on the computer for marketing purposes.

What’s the best thing about running your own business? Freedom.

What’s the worst thing? That the revenue is always uncertain.

What are the challenges of starting a business with little money? I think if you are smart, hardworking, competitive and creative, the money comes in second.

#2: Writing and Editing

Name of your company: Sarah Kolb-Williams Writing and Editing


What’s your business all about: Words! I’m a book editor and editorial consultant, and I help small businesses with website copy, blogs, and other content.

When did you start the company: In February of 2013, I quit my full-time job to bring my nights-and-weekends writing and editing front and center.

Your job before you started your own business: I was a business and copyright specialist with an incorporation company, then a blogger and content editor for the same company. I’d also been a freelance book editor with a local self-publishing company for about five years (my one long-term client, right up until I put in my notice).

How much did it cost you to start the business: $466

What did you use the money for:  Website: $150; Desk chair: $150;  Chicago Manual of Style online: $60; other books and media: $50; Business cards: $30; Filing cabinet: $6; Office supplies (calendar, pens, etc.): $20

What did you do without in order to make the startup cheaper? Initially, I used the three-year-old computer I already had. I knew I needed a new chair, but my old desk had been treating me just fine. A nice filing cabinet was out of my price range, but a secondhand two-drawer unit at the thrift shop cost next to nothing. (A little sea foam green never hurt anyone.) My husband and I moved out of our two-bedroom apartment and into a smaller loft apartment—but because it’s a loft, it feels a lot bigger than it really is, and I’m actually much more motivated to get up and work than I was in our previous apartment.

What sparked the idea for the business? I was dissatisfied with the growth opportunities at my current position, but I never expected to go out on my own. I’d banked a few years of experience with that single long-term client, and I had the idea to leverage that experience and find a position in the editorial department of a traditional publisher—I thought that was my dream. But as I learned more and more about the state of the publishing industry, I started to change my attitudes toward traditional publishing.

Amid sending resumes and cover letters out into the ether, waiting for that promotion that always seemed to be just out of reach, and learning so much more about self-publishing, I began to realize I had it all backwards. Not only did I no longer want a job in a traditional publishing house—I no longer wanted a traditional job, period.

As I became involved with the indie author movement, I also became aware of the indie worker movement. When I first discovered that nearly one third of the workforce is independent/freelance, the statistic hit me like a ton of bricks: that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to be in charge of my own destiny, and I wanted to help authors who were in charge of theirs produce the high-quality, market-worthy books they wanted to create.

What came first, the budget or the business idea? I’m lucky —all an editor really needs in order

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