No Money Down

Ross Menke

AS SHARK TANK STAR Lori Greiner once said, “Entrepreneurs are the only people who will work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.”

Got the entrepreneurial itch? When I hear people say they have a great business idea, but don’t have the money to launch their business or quit their day job, my heart sinks. They’re missing the point: In today’s world, there are countless opportunities to start a business without any initial investment. My favorite book on the topic, Side Hustle by Chris Guillebeau, shows you step by step how to create your own business with little to no money and while still keeping your day job.

Consider a great example: Students at Stanford University were asked, “What would you do to earn money if all you had were $5 and two hours?” The students were allowed to spend as much time as they wanted planning their business idea. But once they opened the envelope containing the $5, they only had two hours to make as much money as they could. At their next class, students were expected to give a three-minute, one-slide presentation describing what they’d done.

Think about how you would approach this situation. Would you take the $5 and buy a lottery ticket? Would you use the money to buy materials to start a lemonade stand? Could you start a real business with so little money and time?

The most successful teams quickly realized that the $5 was simply a distraction from the bigger task at hand. They used their planning time to think of a problem in their community and used their talents to provide a service.

One of the teams set up a stand at their student union offering to measure bike tire pressure for free. If the tires needed to be filled up, they would do so for $1. They provided a solution to a problem at an affordable price and in a convenient location. The team ended up making a few hundred dollars in just two hours.

What about the winning team? They brought home a whopping $650. How did they do it? They took the project one step further, not paying attention to either the $5 available or the two-hour time frame. They realized their most valuable asset was the one-slide presentation they were to give to a class of Stanford students. The team sold the one-page slide, as well as their three minutes of presentation time, as an advertisement to a local business looking to recruit Stanford students.

Have you always dreamed of starting your own business or side hustle? The lesson from the Stanford students: Forget the financial obstacles—and think creatively about how to get started.

Ross Menke is a Certified Financial Planner. He strives to provide clear and concise advice, so his clients can achieve their life goals. Ross’s previous articles include Cut It Out, Too Familiar and Hole-in-One. Follow Ross on Twitter @RossVMenke.

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