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Starting A Business On A Shoestring

by Alison Bradford

starting a business on a shoestring

I had a letter from my daughter’s school at the end of last week informing me that to celebrate world book day and ‘national sing up’?? day this Friday, my daughter would need to go to school dressed as a character from a nursery rhyme.¬† Do any other mum’s hearts sink when they read these words? Why couldn’t it just be a character from a book and then we could have used any one of her large collection of Disney Princess dresses??

Maybe you love the challenge of coming up with a costume at short notice and have a special box of bits and pieces just for occasions such as this. The first thing I did was get searching online and discovered that finding nursery rhyme character costumes is pretty tricky if you don’t want spend a lot of money or get something shipped in from the US. When I searched ‘Little Miss Muffet’ I really wasn’t prepared for the results that came back either – definitely nothing suitable there for my daughter to wear at any age!

Anyway, it’s just one day and I don’t want to waste money so at the moment she will be going as either the cat from ‘hey diddle diddle’ (old Halloween costume) or wearing a dress and taking a dolly as ‘Miss Polly’. Maybe Nanny can come up with something better when I ask her….

What’s all this got to do with starting a business on a shoestring I hear you ask? Well, it just got me to thinking of how we can be creative when forced to be and do things on a small budget.

When you’re starting a business, there is often limited funds and this is mostly financed through personal savings versus any type of business loan. You want to get clients and make money but aren’t always sure how to do this without spending lots of money in the first place on advertising, marketing material, website design etc.

There are ways to do this and here are some of my top tips;

  • Who is your client? Rather than trying to market your business to everyone get really clear about who your client is. Think about them as 1 person – male or female? age? occupation? hobbies / interests? salary? where do they live? Get really clear on this and then focus your marketing accordingly. For example if you know that your ‘client’ is likely to go to the gym, get some flyers at all your local gyms.
  • Actively seek recommendations and referrals – let everyone in your network know about your business and ask them to send recommendations and referrals to you. You can incentivise this to make it more attractive e.g. introduce a friend and get a 15% discount.
  • Use PR – When Michelle Mone launched Ultimo she had hardly any money to spend on launching the products. She hired some models to model the underwear and some to dress up as plastic surgeons ,who were staging a mock demonstration against the underwear in central London. The police were called as it created a disturbance and the resulting press coverage she got was priceless. I’m not suggesting you go to these extremes but at least write a press release and get it to your local press. Local papers are always on the lookout for interesting stories with a local angle.
  • Set a Marketing & Advertising budget upfront and stick to it! – you will get contacted from different publications interested in parting you from some cash for placing ads. Be clear about what your target places for advertising are (consider your client from point 1 if you’re not sure) and stick to spending what you can afford. The same goes for Marketing materials – consider what will really make a different and attract clients. You don’t really need the luxury business card holder and branded pens that your printing company are trying upsell you. Always ask the question – what different will this make to my business?
  • Look for free / low cost website designs – now I have mixed feelings here as some of the free / low cost packages look just that. If you can’t afford a web designer¬† and don’t fancy having a go yourself look at some of the free blogsites (WordPress are great). There is also a move towards companies using a Facebook business page as their web presence too – and of course this always helps with ranking in the search engines. Be clear about what you want your website to do for you – if you’re not selling anything directly on there and you want it to give information and build a relationship with your clients then seriously consider using Facebook or as blog site.

Hope this helps!

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Alison Bradford

Alison Bradford is a business coach who works with smart, ambitious business owners to get clarity about how they can grow their business and increase profit. Sign up here to learn 6 easy ways you can boost profit in your business today.

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