#NewYearSeries: How to Start With Nothing

By Tomilola Aiyepola

At some point in their lives, many business leaders had to answer this question: ‘how do I start without money?’, before they started their companies; but they started all the same. If Nike started with sales from a car trunk and Michael Dell as a dishwasher making $2.30 per hour before growing their visions to the current size and impact; the answer to this popular question is simply to just start!

There is no other way to attempt anything in life. Here are some suggestions that will be useful to ensure you spend less and make more when starting a business with little or no money.


If you already have a job and are interested in starting a business, be sure to keep your current job. Entrepreneurship does not always include the drama of quitting without a sound plan and test of your idea(s). Don’t just go ahead and quit because you think you’ve found a viable business idea. Keep your present job till your business can thrive and you are able to meet your needs from the income of the business.


What is your business idea? Is it unique enough? Will it succeed? You have to honestly answer these questions to ensure that your business idea is sound enough to interest investors when you pitch it to them. Even when you excite investors, there are more hurdles to cross before taking the plunge. Do not be in a hurry. Also, it’s important to stick to an area that you know – by experience, training, educational discipline etc. Let your business idea be built something you know and if possible, hinged on your passion. It will cost more for you to start learning new skills if it is something you don’t really know about.


Analyse your market and your potential competitors in that market painstakingly. Do not just analyse but consider empirical data, past, current and future trends too. What will you do differently from your competitors? What will you offer the market that your competitors don’t offer? These analysis will help you ensure that your product has a unique selling proposition that gives it the edge over that of your competitors.


How much do you really need and how do you plan to use the money? Can any of those budget items be obtained at no cost, much less than the average market price, in exchange for something else or undertaken by you? Ask yourself these questions carefully and plan estimates wisely. This will help you to be articulate when pitching to potential investors because they not only want to know what you will use money for but how well you can keep costs low.


It is very important to have a strong network. In fact, some networks are more valuable than seed capital. This is how important networking is. Search for free seminars, events, conferences, etc. to grow your network. You can build your network from friends, family members, acquaintances, school mates, relatives and even neighbours. It also costs little or nothing to network online through social media platforms and email groups. Reach out to people not just with the aim of building valuable networks but to genuinely learn and offer value. This way you might even find a willing co-founder that has the money.


Don’t pitch your idea to just anybody but seek out investors that are most likely to invest in your kind of business. Conduct a proper research on them, investment history, preferences as well as market trends, indices to ensure that your pitch is not just convincing but irresistible. Make sure you show them exactly how you would use the money and how they would get it back, even if the potential is not very rewarding.


No one can succeed alone. Ask for help and be willing to exchange goods for services or services for goods and vice versa. You might get a free office space, a computer or anything else you really need to start but what can you offer in return? You can also barter something you have and someone else needs for something you need or can give.

  1. WORK

Try to do almost all or all of the work yourself or ask people that can do it for you for free. This would prevent unnecessary spending. Anything you can do yourself, do it. Even if it will take more time, try to improve your speed. With more work, your mind is stretched and more creative to churn out value.

  1. START

Do not wait to do everything on this list before you start. The big lesson is to start anyway and start small. You can start with offering a service in line with what your product is so as to get enough money to start making your own products. Microsoft started by doing sporadic software development gigs till the funding to start the company was raised.


This may mean lot of commitment and effort, but it is a good idea when it works because you get capital without having to give up any share of your business.

In essence, not having money or anything is not the end of a business dream. It is possible to start immediately, with a firm belief in a dream.  All you need is a business idea that can be tested coupled with the drive and dedication to make it happen. The most important element however, is to get started immediately.

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The New Year Series will provide you with articles, resources and information to motivate you to smash all your goals. Please let us know those you will be implementing and how well they have worked for you. Feel free to share using the hash tag, #234FinanceNewYearSeries.

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