Bootstrapping your way to success!
I was recently featured by Forbes.com – talking about how I bootstrapped Marketing Vision Consultancy in the early days when budgets were tight. Journalist Alison Coleman wrote:
For Paula Hutchings, bootstrapping her new business, Marketing Vision Consultancy, was a necessity since she had resigned from her job whilst on maternity leave and didn’t have an income.
“There was also a personal satisfaction element of wanting to build a successful business up from complete scratch,” she says.
Her only financial outlay was for her business cards and a company logo. The rest she funded by trading skills. She says: “I skills-traded my marketing services for a website, and offered some free consultancy work in exchange for testimonials in the early days. Once I built up the testimonials, I gained paying clients and I really started to grow.”
Five years on Hutchings is working with a range of clients, including e-commerces, retail brands and independents, and her turnover combined with childcare cost savings, has made her financially secure, and established a strong foundation for future business growth.
Marketing Vision has come a really long way in five years (including a physical relocation from Sydney, Australia to the UK!). Working with small businesses and start-ups on a daily basis, we understand the challenges they face – not least tight budgets!
So, in this blog I am sharing my top dos and don’ts of bootstrapping a business:
1. Be creative with what you have
You will need at least a small amount to invest in your marketing activities (even if it is just for business cards and a low-cost website). Shop around for the best deals and seek supplier recommendations if possible to avoid costly mistakes.
2. Be proactive and seek advice in the areas where you most need it
Speaking to successful entrepreneurs in the early days really helped me to focus the business and to be confident in my growth plan. Entrepreneurs are generally incredibly generous with their time and like to be helpful.
3. Seek out partnerships
Forming partnerships with other (ideally more established) businesses can be a great way to raise your profile on a budget. Strong partnerships can be hugely beneficial to fledging businesses – marketing costs can be shared, customer bases broadened and projects are often more enjoyable to work on as a team.
1. Be a cheapskate!
There is a big difference between bootstrapping and expecting (or worse, demanding) to get things for free because you’re a start-up. The first I greatly respect, the latter I detest. Respect people’s time and the products or services that you require. Be willing to invest in what you need, and be careful not to damage your reputation by being overly frugal. You want people to invest in your brand (buy from you), so you should too.
2. Cut corners
Whilst budgets might be tight, there are certain areas that might be compromised if you are tempted to do things on the cheap. For example, an amateur logo or a batch of low-cost business cards might be good for your budget, but what do they say about your brand? You need to think about long-term investment when it comes to branding.
3. Forget to say thank you
It is really important to thank people for their time and support. So whether a journalist has included you in their feature, an entrepreneur has shared some advice with you or a supplier has given you a discount – remember to thank them. Good manners cost nothing as they say!