How many times have you heard aspiring entrepreneurs lament that, if only they had money, they would have been able to set up their own businesses and even expanded it? It is a generally accepted fact that, in order to start a money-making venture, you have to have money to kick things off. But what if you do not have money? Is it still possible to start a business?

Surprisingly, the answer is yes. And that is what we will look into in the succeeding discussion.

How You Can Start A Business With No Money

© | Jinga

In this article, I will explore 1) the tips and methods on how you can start a business with no money, 2) success stories, and 3) start today.


Here are some useful tips or methods that you can follow if you want to start a business, but you do not have money as starting capital.

A.   Create what you can

This is common sense, really, and a principle that all aspiring entrepreneurs should follow. Start a business in an area that you know, or are familiar with. Keep in mind that you already lack in financial resources; add a very steep learning curve about your target business, and you will have more difficulty getting started.

So how should you get started? The first step to take is to find out what you are familiar with, and what you are good at. List them down, no matter how personal they are. Are you skilled in construction? Are you the artistic type? Perhaps you are good in dealing with various types of people and personalities. Maybe you are skilled in computers.

Listing them down will help in making things more concrete for you. From there, you can assess whether the business idea currently brewing in your head will pan out, considering your strengths and know-how.

Once you have cleared that stage, it is time to decide the options available to you, and they include some of the following:

1.   Make something with the intention of selling it

If you are good with your hands, this will be no trouble at all. Of course, considering the fact that you do not have money, you won’t be able to hire workers to create the product for you. That means you only have yourself to rely on. Therefore, it is up to you to make the product that you will sell.

Granted, making something will still entail a bit of cash outlay, considering you need to purchase some supplies. But that is just the initial cost, and if you play your cards right, you will be able to sell the product for an amount that is significantly more than the initial cost you paid for the supplies or raw materials.

But making the product is not all there is to it. You also have to consider the platforms where you will sell your goods. Say, for example, that you are very good in baking pastries. You have the baked products, but where will you sell them? You could probably go door to door, personally bringing your products to places where your target customers are, such as offices and schools. Some even go as far as bringing their samples to already established bakeries, coffee shops, and stores. The more tech-savvy individuals will make use of the internet, advertising their baked creations to their social circles.

Let us take a look at some of the more popular platforms available to budding entrepreneurs.

  • Etsy is now a household name, having established itself as one of the largest online markets for handmade goods. Etsy demonstrates a classic case of making something with what little resources you have and selling it at a premium. Here, you will find vintage and handmade items, ranging from jewelry to household items, toys, and educational items.
  • eBay is also another of the most recognizable names when it comes to buying and selling online. In fact, you will often hear people say that if you have something to sell, post it up on eBay. Through the years, eBay has evolved and came to introduce various features that simplify the selling and the buying process, from ordering to payment.
  • Bonanza is yet another online marketplace where entrepreneurs can sell their goods and wares. List your items for free, sell them to buyers expressing their interest, and get the sales, giving a small percentage to the website for acting as an intermediary.

2.   Provide your services to those that need it.

You cannot make anything, but you can probably perform an action for someone. This means you will be providing a service for others, in exchange for a fee. Delivery and courier services may have started this way, too.

Just like when you create a product for selling, it is also important to identify the platforms for selling your services.

3.   Resell something.

Do you have items that are still in good condition that you no longer have use for, but will still have value for others? They may be interested to purchase them once you resell them. If you don’t own any, why not look for items that you can resell? Try scouring thrift stores and garage sales, and you will be surprised at the gems that you will stumble upon. Some may be sold as they are while others may require some rework or modification. Still, you can still fetch a handsome price for them where you will make more than a decent profit.

Reselling is not limited to used goods alone, since you can also get into the act of buying something to resell it at a higher price. But what if you don’t have money to buy the items that you will be reselling? Another alternative is consignment. This is an arrangement between a consignor and a consignee. A consignor leaves his products or goods in the possession of the consignee, who is tasked to sell them. A large percentage of the sale will go to the consignor, and a lesser percentage will be left with the consignee, who did the actual selling.

There are many advantages to building your business around what you know instead of veering off outside your comfort zone.

  • You don’t have to waste time and money in learning a new skill that is related to the idea you are planning to launch as a business, because you already have firsthand knowledge about it.
  • Since you are already an expert in that area, you no longer have to bring in consultants or other experts to help you out. It is your business, and you know best.

There is another thing that you should take into consideration aside from your knowledge and skill set: your interest. You must have an interest or passion for that idea. Otherwise, you will not have enough motivation to see it into fruition. Besides, it is more fun to be doing something that you actually enjoy, rather than something that you have to do in order to earn money.

B.   Pivoting

This method essentially involves providing services in order to generate cash flow that, in turn, will be used to fund the manufacture of products. That is to say that the main goal of the business from the beginning was to sell a product, and not to sell a service. Being a service provider is just a means to an end; in this case: funding a products-based company. Hence, the term, “pivot”.

Some software companies start in this manner. Since they do not have enough money to fund their product development projects, they are willing to work for other, bigger, software companies, performing services such as software integration or testing services. The cash that they are paid from performing these services will then be used to fund their own product development.

C.   Grinding

As a business owner, especially one with not enough money, you would have to be willing to go into the trenches, so to speak. Do the menial and manual labor, if you have to. Since you cannot afford to pay people to do the hard work for you, you have to do it yourself. Meet up with potential customers and suppliers and negotiate with them face to face. Knock on doors, pound the streets, and do all the work. Yes, you have to grind and sweat it out.

Be present at ground zero. You still cannot afford to launch a marketing campaign or pay for ad spaces. That is not a problem; you can be your advertiser. Tell everyone what you are doing or what you are up to. Let your family, friends, acquaintances and other contacts about your new business and what you are offering. Ask them to spread the word and let this be the beginning of your business being introduced to more customers.

D.   Differentiation

Make yourself stand out. When applying for a loan, for example, how can you convince your potential creditors that you are a good bet? If you have a letter of commitment from an investor with a good reputation with the creditor you are applying to, this would definitely help a great deal. It will also be in your favor if you are able to present a contract for future revenue, showing your potential creditors that you will be able to have revenue coming in.

E.   Seek financing

There are funding sources everywhere, and there is bound to be one that is perfect for you, if only you know where to look. And only if you do try to look.

As much as you want to start your own business on your own steam, it is still an inescapable fact that, sometimes, you cannot do it alone and you need help. If you are averse to applying for a loan from banks and other financial lending institutions, there are still some ways that you can finance your business.

1.   Get a line of credit.

Fortunately, there are now a lot of banks or institutions that offer credit lines specifically designed for startups, so that they can grow, especially during the early stages of operation. This is especially useful for working capital purposes.

Many startups make the mistake of incurring too much debt that they get buried in it. Avoid amassing too much debt when you are still in the early stages of the business. Do not pay all your expenses using your credit card, especially when you already have some revenue that you can use. You will find that you may end up paying more in finance charges and interest.

2.   Consider using a business incubator sponsored by colleges, universities, and local economic development agencies or organizations.

Incubators are programs that provide funding specifically meant as financial assistance to startups. One of the most common types includes offering office or business space, so the startups do not have to spend too much on overhead. Even shared administrative services are also offered.

3.   Look into the possibility of using crowdfunding platforms.

In crowdfunding, a business idea is pitched to the public, with the intention of seeking funding. The public will then invest a small percentage of money to fund the product development project, with the understanding that they will have priority for buy-ins in the future when the product has been fully developed. Raising the money is done typically via the internet. The entrepreneur will initiate the project by making the proposal; groups or individuals that are interested in the project will come forward and show their support through giving monetary contributions; and a platform acts as a moderating organization, serving as a bridge between the two parties.

The most popular crowdfunding platforms today are Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and IndieGoGo.

4.   Seek out an accelerator.

The concept of accelerators is similar to that of business incubators. The only difference is that an accelerator expects a faster response to its investment, hence its name. Business incubators relatively take a longer time.


Now let us take a look at some success stories where the founders of the businesses were able to grow their businesses that they have started with little to no money. If we’re going to start naming examples, a classic scenario would be of Disney.

Walt Disney grew up in a farm, but he had exceptional talent in drawing. He first started earning money by drawing pictures for his neighbors, and moving on to making advertisements, using his skills as a cartoonist. Soon, he was known to be one of the pioneers of animation, founding one of the most enduring companies in film, media and entertainment.

But here are a couple of more recent examples.

Nasty Gal is now one of the most recognizable names in fashion retail aimed at young women. But did you know that Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso started out in 2006 by selling old pieces of clothing? She started by opening a store on eBay, where she put old clothes that she purchased for cheap at thrift shops and secondhand stores. Soon enough, she was able to establish her store as a reliable source of vintage fashion.

In one article, Amoruso disclosed that, on one of her forays in a Salvation Army store, she was able to score a Chanel jacket for only $8. When she sold it at her shop, she was able to get more than $1,000 for it.

Amoruso did all the hard work herself from the beginning. She personally scoured the secondhand stores and hunted for vintage pieces. She also served as the product manager, styling the pieces, taking photographs of them, and writing product descriptions for each item. When orders came in, she was the one who personally packed and shipped them to the buyers. Aside from using eBay, she also connected to customers through her MySpace account.

Today, Nasty Gal now has its own website and domain, and employs more than 200 people. It has also launched its own apparel and accessories lines and collections, such as Shoe Cult, Nasty Gal Denim Collection, Nasty Gal Lingerie, and Nasty Gal Swimwear. In December 2014, it also branched out in the cosmetics field by partnering with MAC Cosmetics.

Did you know that Mattel (yes, the company responsible for young girls everywhere wanting to live vicariously through Barbie and her beau, Ken) started out making and selling picture frames? Married couple Elliot and Ruth Handler started making picture frames from their garage in South California. From the scraps of the picture frames, they started making dollhouse furniture. This became a hit, and so they left picture frame making altogether and concentrated on toy-making instead, taking advantage of the baby boom at the time.

They came up with a string of toys that met moderate success. It wasn’t until they released Barbie that they finally hit the jackpot. It certainly has come a long way from that small business that started operating from a garage.


Do not make having no money as an excuse not to start your business today. If you think you have a good business idea, and now is the perfect time to get it off the ground, and then do so. Strike while the iron is hot – yes, even if you have no money. There are ways to start your business even if you are financially strapped.

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