How to Grow Your Business on a Small Budget

Have you ever heard, “You have to have money to make money?” I suppose it’s true. But you don’t have to have much. We started in 2003 with $500.00, haven’t incurred a single dollar of debt since, and grew it organically. How did we do it? Persistence, patience, and a lot of frugality.

In America today, patience isn’t a virtue. Getting things done now is, regardless of the risk. Unfortunately, that type of thinking has led us into the economic mess we face today.

Since the last post on our move from a home based business into a showroom/warehouse operation, we’ve made some changes.

Some things we needed to get off the ground.

  • Shelving in the warehouse
  • Equip and furnish the office
  • Get the internet operation running profitably
  • Build out the showroom.
  • Host weekend, discount liquidation sales

Warehouse shelving – $1000

Buy pallet racking – After checking some suppliers on Craigslist, we discovered the pallet racking would cost $1000s, would be too bulky, and wouldn’t be appropriate for our products (books, DVDs, CDs, and games).

Build shelves ourselves – I started down this path, but quickly discovered I didn’t have the time and the quality wasn’t high enough.

Contract someone to build custom shelves – After careful planning, we estimated this would cost us between $10-20K, and it didn’t make sense for a company our size

What we did:

I built some shelves from kits – about $300.

It took time, but we found a couple dozen commercial grade shelf units for $700 at a local private school. They decided to downsize their library.

Here’s what the warehouse looks like now:

Furnishing and equipping the offices -$570

  • Desks – Free from a out of business karate school
  • Office Chairs – Free – see above
  • Shelves – Free – see above
  • Computers – Free – We moved one from home, and I built the other from recycled parts.
  • Computer Monitor – $140
  • Powered Computer Cart – $250 – Scratch and Dent (Original price $2000)
  • Wireless Router – $70
  • Play area for the kids – $10 – Play Station, Older CRT TV, Coloring Books, Crayons

When we began, we discovered we could easily have spent tens of thousands of dollars equipping the warehouse and office, but we found a way to do it on less the 2K.

In upcoming posts we will talk about:

  • Getting the internet operation running profitably
  • Building out the showroom.
  • Hosting weekend, discount liquidation sales
  • Our new brand for the business

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, I needed to prioritize some things in life – too much on the plate. But we plan to post more frequently in the coming weeks and months. Thanks for reading!

14 thoughts on “How to Grow Your Business on a Small Budget”

  1. normally i’m on board with your posts and sentiments, but I this one seems off.

    “Getting things done now is, regardless of the risk. Unfortunately, that type of thinking has led us into the economic mess we face today.”

    That statement just wouldn’t hold up under scrutiny. It wasn’t the lack of patience or the velocity that caused the real estate bubble.

    Moreover, especially online, I think patience is not a virtue but a crutch for failure. Getting things done now is far more important than getting them done exactly right.

    The personal example you site don’t display your patience, but rather your perseverance and resourcefulness.

  2. I have found that if you have the lead time to check out business auctions. The shelving and other related items can be had for pennies on the dollar. A friend just went to a business auction and bought a fork lift for 250.00. With the way the business climate is there was no one there to bid. Always watch at the end of the year as people will be getting out before the end of the year for tax savings. Check out sites like Auction 24/7 and the like. Great post and articles. Best of luck.

  3. Good post Steve. Gotta disagree with Quadszilla though. I think your patience was displayed when you refused to get it done “now” by refusing to load up the credit cards and bank loans so everything could have been in place within a short time as opposed to the time you spent “patiently” using your perseverance and resourcefulness to accomplish your goal.

    You do us a great service by recording and publishing your journey. Very inspiring for those of us struggling to make “it” happen.

  4. Steve,
    I love this post and the fact that you haven’t posted in a while is not a problem as I’m sure it is a sign of even greater things to come.

    I appreciate the fact that you guys are starting your business without the huge burdens of debt hanging over your head. I to am in the same position and love the direction you give.

    Someone told me I should borrow the money to fund my non-profit, but that makes no sense to me…doing what you can with what you have!!! Excellent!

    Thanks for the great article! You guys are keeping it real, and I like that!

  5. Steve,
    I havent read too many of your posts but the things you said here do make lots of sense. There are always two sides to a coin and I always get to learn something from the other side of the coin as well, as I did today from quadszilla’s comment.
    I too am venturing out after working for someone else for more than 18 years and this makes perfect sense to me to be patient, resourceful and to persevere. Its a tough ask, doing all this all at once but must do it this way.

  6. quadszilla,
    Maybe I could have been clearer. Negotiation takes patience. You have to be willing to walk away from a high price. The quick easy way is frequently the most expensive. I realize a bunch of things led to the housing bubble, mostly poor government and monetary policy, however all the buyers played a part as well. They didn’t ‘hem and haw’ about the price, they just paid it. That’s no way to do business. I had ‘loan guys’ and real estate agents trying to sell me million dollar properties in 2006 saying ‘don’t worry about it, it’s only going up. If you don’t do it now it’ll just cost you more later.”

    So in our case, I could have spent 10X what we did and got it done in a week. Instead it took us five weeks and a lot more personal labor. They say time is money. I suppose it’s true. In our case, those few weeks weren’t worth the price.

  7. Good post! No matter if you have an “bricks and mortar” business or you are a blogger you need to spend some money to make money.I could not be without a hosting account or an auto responder for instance.The investments online are a fraction of what it would be with an offline business.

  8. hey, Good luck !

    I know this feeling…I have myself started a business right from scratch
    And with little money, but with a huge heart and patience
    and yes, with a smiling face and persistence

    I agree with you that these skills are musts!
    Are you working on the presence of your new business in internet as well?
    It will definitely improve the sales nicely

    yours in success

  9. I am happy that ChristinesBooks is moving, this means you must be EXPANDING! You are right, persistence and not patience, is a virtue. If you really value what you do and work smart, you will see that all your efforts will gradually be paid off. I hope to see more of your posts soon because all of them simply keep on inspiring me.

  10. “Persistence, patience, and a lot of frugality.” I like those three words. I see myself in you guys. I also try to find ways how to cut costs without ending up with super low quality stuff. I agree that it makes no sense to spend more than you have to. In times like this, resourcefulness is really the way to go.

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