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48 original tips to start your own business for less

“Some negative nellies claim that using bootstrap methods to start on a low budget equates to ‘nibbling at the edge’ and distracts the entrepreneur from more important matters. This is not true. Our studies show that this approach really does help a business grow.” Sophie Manigart, Vlerick Business School, top European business school

This is a practical, compact book for budding entrepreneurs by Hans Hermans. Published by Compact Publishing VOF Kortestraat 23, 2930 Brasschaat, Belgium (+32) 485 72 74 02 Copyright Š Compact Publishing First edition, November 2013 Original title: Start in je garage Publisher: Compact Publishing Design: M-idea, ISBN 978 94 91803 xxx All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a digital database or published, in print, as a copy, on microfilm or by any other means, without the publisher’s prior written consent.



Set up your entrepreneurial success... without spending a dollar Do you know where Steve Jobs and his pal Steve Wozniak assembled their first Apple computers? Do you know where to find the birthplace of Silicon Valley? Do you know where Walt Disney drew the first cartoon featuring Mickey Mouse? In a garage. For these successful entrepreneurs, their garage was the ideal place to develop their first ideas. It was a place where they could be creative without incurring office or other start-up costs and where they could work alone in their familiar environment. Hewlett and Packard founded HP with only 538 dollars ... in their garage, which today is recognized as both a tourist attraction and the birthplace of Silicon Valley. After a while, the two Steves had to call on their neighborhood friends to keep up with increasing demand for the new Apple, back then available for 666.66 dollar. And even though Micky Mouse crashed in his first cartoon while attempting to kiss a girl, Walt Disney did anything but crash. I myself started from my garage with only 1000 euro to spend. As a victim of the economic crisis, I was dismissed by my employer from one day to the next. Fighting for my wife and three kids and with a mortgage to pay, I decided not to hang around waiting for my next job.

The low budget advice I gathered during those first few months from start-ups, experienced entrepreneurs, academics, bankers and start-up coaches has saved me a lot of money. This allowed me to develop slowly, invest, manage my business... and internationalize, on a small scale but with big ambitions. Today, I pass these tips on to you. I hope they will inspire and motivate you. Try them out and adapt them to your own situation, product, service, personality and values. This will significantly increase your chances of developing your own successful business. Wishing you a lot of entrepreneurial fun, Hans

Don’t just think, “Oh, I’ve already heard this tip”. Think, “Am I good at it? Do I apply this advice to my own start-up?”

Start from the ­beginning

tip 01

You don’t need to have a full-fledged business from day one. This is something I had to discover for myself. Whenever I was rushing to get through the endless to-do list, wanted to throw in the towel because ‘being an entrepreneur was not my thing’ or got scared that the positive reactions would not be converted into orders, my wife would remind me how one of our friends set himself up as a florist. It took months of silent work behind the scenes before he could open the doors to his store and hold a nice opening reception. Even the tables he built himself. Another entrepreneur told me he remained unemployed for months after he was laid off, until he had finalized the entire project.

Start-up coaches advise you to prepare everything in advance. Where and how do I register? What materials do I need? Which accountant should I hire? Which insurance policies do I need to take out? … Once you set up your business for real, you can work through this start-up list in no time.

Screen your business plan 

tip 02

Screen your ­business plan

A healthy start requires a solid business and financial plan. A lot of advice and templates can be found online. The first step is to write everything down. It is, however, even more important to get your business plan screened by any start-up coach, start-up consultancy service and experienced entrepreneur that crosses your path. Ask them to analyze, critique and improve your business plans. Where do you want to be in 5 years’ time? One entrepreneur explains: “Our advertising agency had only been going for 2 years when a Business Angel asked us about our exit strategy. Being relative beginners, we thought this was a very weird question. ‘Hey, we’re not going to sell up!’ But soon it became clear that an exit strategy is vital, even for startups or when repositioning a business. The question is where you want to be in 5 or 10 years’ time. Should value, revenue or profit be your main goal? Is it necessary to protect intellectual property? Can others join your business? Can the product survive without you or will you remain synonymous with the product?”

 Start from the beginning

Start with one ­initial customer

tip 03

I wanted to go pretty far with my low budget start-up. I was determined not to spend any more money than I could invoice my first customers for – and I succeeded. I developed my business from one customer’s request. At the same time, I was able to invoice him for my services in milestones. Even when it comes to this publication I took the plunge. I invested time, rather than money, in developing solid content and managed to use it to pique the interest of a couple of big partners. One Belgian-French bank, for instance, mainly offered interesting start-up expertise aimed at content. Slowly but surely, they started backing this little publication. The two vital prerequisites are mutual trust and working towards the same goal. I know not every start-up will be able to find a paying customer straightaway. What every start-up can do is start looking for one or develop partnerships as soon as possible. Get other companies involved even before you have fully developed your product or service. This will not only help you gather very useful and free advice – your openness will inspire confidence in others and help you expand your network … which may eventually lead to your first real customer.

Buy used stuff 

Buy used stuff

tip 04

“Especially when starting up your first business, it is recommended to buy used furniture and equipment. We snapped up our first desks at Sabena’s clearance sale. We also bought a used photocopier and fax machine. By doing this, we were able to stretch our limited budget a lot further. We didn’t buy a used car, however, because this is more expensive than leasing. Only the real important stuff, such as good advice, should cost a lot of money.”

Gert Martens, Advice from a serial entrepreneur

Start with one initial customer  I ♥ cheap 

Do you have money to spare when starting your own business? Of course not. To help you start your own business for less, this book offers original tips from 26 experienced entrepreneurs, start-up coaches and experts. Not only will you feel like heading to your garage right now to start building your desk, as Apple, HP and Walt Disney did before us, this publication will also support you in taking this amazing step… In other words, it provides the entrepreneurial advice you need in times of economic crisis. “You can put these tips into practice straightaway and, what’s even more important, by systematically adopting this way of thinking, you will develop a certain mentality that will not only benefit you during the start-up phase, but also later on as your business grows and develops.” Vlerick Business School, top European business school

Hans Hermans, journalist and founder of Compact Publishing ISBN 978 94 91803 xxx - 14,50 euro

Starting from your garage  
Starting from your garage  

Do you have money to spare when starting your own business? Of course not. To help you start your own business for less, this book offers or...