Seed funding is a hot button for women who want to launch their own ventures, and for good reason: It’s often hard to come by. And, in today’s tight economy, this may become even more of an issue. As a result, bootstrapping, not bank borrowing, will be your most likely path to success. That’s the bad news. Fortunately, it’s also the good news, because women are amazingly good at a critical start-up skill: substituting brains for bucks. Using ingenuity, you can turn your tight budget from a liability into an asset -- and provide a strong springboard for growth.
Based on advice from successful entrepreneurs interviewed for my new book, Birthing the Elephant: A Woman's Go-for-it! Guide to Overcoming the Big Challenges of Launching a Business, here are some ideas for making the cash-creativity connection:
Come up with a financial framework: Map out a budget that you feel comfortable with, and then make a decision to work within it. Tap your ingenuity -- figure out how to create the image you want within your budget. You don’t have to spend a fortune to project polish and professionalism. Don’t let outside suppliers persuade you to take on too much debt or more risk than you feel you can handle.
Stay focused on the core value you offer: Don’t get carried away with bells and whistles when you’re first launching your product or service. Keep your eye on delivering high quality and real value -- and don’t be overly concerned with packaging or slick, expensive brochures and state-of-the-art Web sites. Remember, clients want service and results; they don’t really care about how you provide it.
Don’t outsource prematurely: Hiring other people to do work that you can do yourself too early can create a serious cash drain. Opt for “guerilla marketing” and take a hands-on approach to this critical aspect of your business. Learn to do it yourself: Whether it’s creating stationery, fixing a copy machine, or figuring out how to send an email blast, with a little time and attention, you’ll be amazed at what you can master. Your creativity will soar, but your budget won’t.
Tell your own story: One of the biggest mistakes launchers make is to feel that they have to opt for costly advertising or hire a professional public relations firm to make a splash in the media. Costly outlays for these kinds of services probably aren’t your best investment upfront. Nobody is more passionate or better equipped than you are to tell your story and promote your product. But make sure your pitch is newsworthy and has visual appeal. Talk to other entrepreneurs and find out how they got the word out in their start-up days.
Barter early and often: Trading products and services to get expertise you need is one of the smartest start-up moves you can make. One entrepreneur traded fitness workouts for legal advice, another traded gift baskets for professional photos for her Web site, another traded copywriting for graphic design services, yet another traded furniture for secretarial help! The possibilities are endless and the money-saving potential is huge.