In our case it was economic disasters that pushed us off our butts. In
one year we went from "sittin` pretty" to losing everything. And it
wasn`t some specific set of actions that took place. Instead, it was a
classic case of disaster by complexity.
There`s an old saying that a school of barracudas isn`t all that
troublesome, taken individually. It`s when the whole school comes after
you that you get killed. So too, each individual problem we encountered
could have been resolved. But when they all came at once, over a
continuing period, we were demolished.
Suddenly faced with no money, no prospective income, no career, and
potential homelessness, we discovered a great deal of motivation. Our
first attempt was to sell things on eBay that we picked up around the
area. That was nickel-and-dime, so we tried to invent a product.
That product was excellent, but the work involved to build each item
wasn`t cost-effective at the price we could charge and what customers
would pay. So we went back to the drawing board.
We needed a product we could make, that was very inexpensive to do in
terms of available resources. Those resources had to be available
through retail outlets, and we needed them in tiny increments since we
had no cash. The product had to be repeatable, a commodity, unique or
highly unusual, and something people would buy in quantities..
We wanted something we could sell for $5, but that people would buy in
quantities. Our hoped-for typical sale was around $40. And so we came
up with the idea of making navy signal flags, putting them into
It took us months to develop the sewing methods involved in precision
geometric patterns, then more time to learn what it was we were
selling. Not flags, but "secret messages." We needed to learn retail,
marketing, simple HTML Web design, photography, graphics editing, and
business tracking. And still we had no money.
Our startup capital was about $400. We`ve been the icons of
bootstrapping, and have barely scraped through time and time again with
the most basic, minimalistic lifestyle you can imagine. And yet, it`s
working. Going in to our third year, we`re starting to pick up volume,
introduce new product-lines, and become visible in all the search
engines. It takes time to get the word out over the Web, but when it
does get out there, the links feed on themselves, like viral marketing.
We had to learn that, too.
The single best piece of advice I can think of these days is DO IT! Get
started right now! Don`t putz around, because with the inbound
administration and the economy the way it is, and likely as it`ll be,
the window of opportunity to start a business is shrinking. Soon,
everyone and their dog will be desperate to start a business as
companies shut down, corporations leave the country, regulations increase, and so forth.
Don`t waste time. Get started, get going, and get past the mistakes all
entrepreneurs make at the start. Now`s when you can afford some of
those mistakes. In a year, all bets are off.