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Consulting Insider

How Others Got Started In Business With Nothing And How You Can Too

It might be hard to understand in a world of fintech and multi-million dollar app startups that setting up your own business doesn’t have to come with a pre-written cheque for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Take some inspiration from these people who created their own big money businesses with little or no funding, because there’s more than one way to make a million.

According to the Bureau of Statistics about 50% of all small business fail in the first four years and the number of seed-funded ones fail at a similar rate as well. A successful business doesn’t need millions in fund and it doesn’t matter if you are starting a business selling food to the airlines or trading foreign exchange you must know exactly what you are doing and how it’s going to work, because sometimes money isn’t everything.

Atlassian – Good ‘ol fashioned bootstrapping

Building a tech startup in Australia is about as far away from the venture capital market in Silicon Valley as possible, but that can be a good thing. Bootstrapped by its founders Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes using a credit card and spending carefully. For a collaborative software maker, providing enterprises with access to a low-cost work process software through the web, they multitasked the work between them and managed to stay profitable by keeping costs low, including building customers through word-of-mouth marketing.

Tough Mudder – Funded by pre-sales

Co-founders Will Dean and Guy Livingstone turned a few thousand dollars into a $100 million dollar business by designing the toughest assault courses and encouraging group participation in an area of the fitness market that is almost devoid of technology. It worked by getting the pre-registration sales to fund the construction of the electrified obstacle courses. Over 3 million people have entered a tough mudder and it employs over 150 people.

RationalFX – Hustle and hard work

Before turning their company into a £1.3 billion entity Paresh Davdra and business partner Rajesh Agrawal started with just a laptop and phone from their UK seaside office. A combination of hustle and hard work (and just a little word-of-mouth) have seen their business grow into the hulk it is today. This all happened in 2005, before the FCA started to regulate it in 2009, when getting into the foreign exchange market might have seemed pretty easy compared to now. As with other financial investment options, foreign exchange is a very competitive area with new brokers and trading platforms entering the market on a regular basis.

George Soros – Ploughing the profits back in

Arriving in England from Hungary in 1947 he graduated from the London School of Economics with a bachelors before working for various merchant banks. By 1969 he founded his first hedge fund, the Soros Fund Management. By the 1990s he had acquired enough financial leverage to short sell the UK pound by £10 million and nearly break the Bank of England. Today he is worth over $8 billion, that even after donating $18 billion to his philanthropic foundation, and is still hedging bets on the direction of the stock market.

RXBar – Spot a developing market

If you can spot a market that is opening up to wider public appeal (as was the health and protein bar market) and you have an idea in that market, then it’s probably time to get your skates on. Peter Rahal and Jared Smith did just that, building protein bars by day and selling them in cafes and shops by night. Within a few years, they had sold their business to Kelloggs for $600 million. Combining vision, their savings (less than $5,000 each) and sheer hard work – with an energy-fuelled dose of determination – helped get their product to the very competitive health food market. What can you learn from these guys and those examples above when you start your next business?


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Anna Papadopoulos

Anna Papadopoulos

Senior Editor at CEOWORLD magazine
Editor, writer, teacher, consultant. Advocate for plain language, journalism, free speech, and tolerance. Feminist. Based in Sydney, Australia.
Anna Papadopoulos

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