Sometimes the idea of starting a business is doused by doubt and depression. Well, how can you start a business if you have no money? Many ideas go down the drain on this question. Which is sad, because in fact, there are a host of things you can consider if you want to get going on something small that you can manage either while you’re still working, or have the patience and time to nurture to something bigger. So don’t discard ideas – take steps to make your dream a reality.

No idea? There are ways to create ideas

An idea invariably starts with a problem. Many business ideas often start with irritation. People are annoyed by a lack and decide to fill a gap themselves. Start by thinking about what significant problems you could solve and how. Ask the question: what do people want, or what would they prefer? What would make life easier? There may be good products out there, but can you do better with regard to efficiency, innovation or cost?

Many companies ride too long on reputation and brand, and begin to outprice the market. Be aware of what can be done to undercut without destroying quality. And think of ways to be different but still offer the service. Very often a business may be too comfortable in its product and too slow to innovate. If you look around, you’ll spot a host of those. Be bold.

Rules to start and stay on track

Know yourself
Take a look at your strengths, weaknesses and skills. Even if you have a good business idea, you might not have the skills or personality traits to make it into a successful business. You want to come up with business ideas where you are best suited to be successful. The crucial point is to understand yourself and your team. This understanding will help you come up with the ideas that are more feasible.

Know your motivation
Be sure you know what you are trying to achieve. Look beyond the money here. Before you start a business, you should be absolutely clear about why you are doing it. The clearer you are about your goals, the better your chances of success. Business operational success should feature high.

Research your market
Know who you are aiming at and why. Ideas are often moulded by knowing the target market, the competition, the gaps, and how people may respond. Study your market. Research the internet, talk to experts, talk to advisors, get a mentor. Is the market big enough to support your goals? How much marketing will you need to make an impact? What products do your audience need? Create something that fills that space.

Have a marketing strategy
Following on your research into your target market and your product or service’s viability, you will need to develop a good marketing strategy. Knowing how to reach potential clients and grow your market share is critical to success. You need to understand exactly which marketing and sales channels plans you will need to pursue.

Start as soon as you can
There will never be a perfect time, so start, and improve as you go. Don’t waste too much time on getting things exactly right before you begin. Worrying about a website, a logo, and how things are worded, can hold you up for months. Launch and streamline as you go.

How are you going to fund your business?

The major key question that often prevents business ideas from launching. But there are solutions to investigate: small business loans; business grants; investor angels; venture capitalists; family help; bank business support.

What can you get for free?
First up, look at what’s freely available. You can build your own website, you can set up social media: Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram – all for free. There are many opportunities right in front of you. Or what about a shop site like Etsy or Shopify? You can design your own marketing materials for free on Canva.

Build up savings for expenses
It’s wise to have some savings behind you, although not essential. When designing your business plan, calculate how much you’re spending and how much revenue you’ll likely bring in. Then, be realistic about how long it will take before you see a profit. Usually, it takes at least six months before you start seeing any cash flowing in.

Try bootstrapping first
When first getting started, many entrepreneurs use ‘bootstrapping’, which means financing your company by scraping together any personal funds you can find, and which you can afford to put into starting your business. Using money you have instead of borrowing or trying to raise starter amounts is a useful way to begin. And if you can bootstrap until your business turns a small profit, even better.

Apply for a small business loan
If you have been operating on a shoestring budget and find yourself needing more capital, consider applying for a small business loan. There are organisations especially focused on this, and many banks offer reasonable terms to small businesses. But beware: business credit can charge higher interest rates than personal credit, so monitor your spending.

Angel investors
If you’ve got a good start to your business and a sound map of potential growth, you can contact an Angel Investor. These are usually established business professionals with high net worth. If convinced of the value of your business, they will invest their personal funds. They are also the best mentors because they are usually former entrepreneurs themselves. Angel investors sometimes form groups who host competitions or events to find bright new minds and businesses. Check your local community for these groups.

Venture capitalists
For serious funding of larger amounts, you could look to Venture Capitalists. They would want to see a solid track record and an air-tight business plan. Venture Capitalists often invest in a few different companies for their clients, and hope that these ventures will make good money to pay back on their clients’ investments. They see many businesses, so make sure yours will stand out. You can access a detailed list of venture capital and private equity firms on the South African Venture Capital Association (SAVCA) website. Some funders will provide funds specifically for research and development while others will help you finance your business so that your product is ready to take to market.

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