Written by: Diana Goodwin
I grew my first start-up, AquaMobile, the largest “Uber for Swim Lessons” across Canada and the US, on a shoestring budget. Because I bootstrapped and chose not to take money from investors, I had to be resourceful and look for creative ways to grow my business.
The principles I learned and practiced are still helpful today, especially during recessionary times. If you’re an entrepreneur looking to start a new business, or if you’re a founder who wants to figure out how to grow your business with limited resources, check out my tips below.
1. Figure out how you can add value and get clear on your vision
Get very clear on how you can add value and what your vision is for your business. This might take some soul searching and can evolve over time. Some good questions to ask yourself while you brainstorm on this include: What are you passionate about? What skills, abilities or knowledge do you have that can add value? Take some time to think through these things and bounce your ideas off of others to further develop them. Figuring out how to add value to a certain segment of consumers, will guide you towards generating revenue.
2. Don’t Build Your Start-Up from Scratch
There’s no need to build from scratch these days. Many tools are available to get your business off the ground quickly and cheaply. Here are a just a few examples:
If you’re looking to build a website, you can do it yourself using WordPress, Wix, SquareSpace or WebFlow. These are very cost effective when you leverage their existing templates. You can also hire a freelancer for a few hundred dollars to complete the set up for you.
If you want to sell products online, Shopify’s platform will let you launch your e-commerce business with plans starting at $29/month.
If you want to launch a business that involves travelling service providers, my latest tech start-up MarketBox, has designed a platform to let you quickly launch your sales platform online and manage the logistics and schedules of each of your mobile workers. We’ve helped launch and grow businesses ranging from mobile beauty service companies, to in-home medical appointments, to at-home music lessons.
If you’re looking for a logo, try crowdsourcing on a site like CrowdSpring where you can have dozens of designers submit a logo for your company. You then award the best design with a cash prize.
Instead of hiring full time employees early on when money is tight, you can find experts who you can bring on as contractors for any projects you might need to build out your small business. Leverage sites like Freelancer or Upwork that have thousands of freelancers with skills ranging from writing to web development to admin or research support.
3. Spread the Word
Building your network is a lifelong endeavour and something that you should be doing on an ongoing basis. When you are ready to launch or amplify your business, let your network know what you are doing. See if they know people that could benefit from your product or service. Word of mouth is one of my favourite methods to spread the word. It’s free and can be very powerful as consumers are more likely to buy a product or service if someone they know recommended it, due to the built-in trust factor. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. It takes time to develop a strong network, but the good news is it’s never too late to start.
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Diana Goodwin is Founder & CEO of MarketBox, a B2B SaaS product which enables service-based marketplaces and businesses to grow and scale their businesses. Diana initially founded AquaMobile, an on-demand swim lesson provider which is now the largest of its kind in North America and Australia. The AquaMobile software gave her the opportunity to start and spin out MarketBox.
Diana is considered a tech innovator and thought-leader in marketplace businesses, the gig economy and scaling businesses internationally and can regularly be seen speaking at events, sharing her knowledge with both corporate and entrepreneurial audiences.
Diana has been profiled in Forbes, Inc., Huffington Post, Techvibes and Dragons' Den to name a few. She has won numerous business awards including Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year, and the Telus $100,000 Small Business Challenge.