Not Your Average Lemonade Stand

How I started my first business with no money

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Starting a business is HARD, not to mention the costs that are associated with it. As most aspiring owners, I planned on saving a large sum of cash before I quit my job and started my business. Life, on the other hand, had other plans for me. 

I was laid off from my job a little more than two years ago and, as a result, had to lay off my nanny. I made the decision that I’d have to start a business with no money (because I had no money) and the business would have to pay for itself. This was the only way that I could keep a roof over my children’s head with no job and no childcare. Luckily, I had experience with this due to the very first business that I ever started; an event planning and decorating service in Houston, Tx. I was 18 when I started this business, and like most 18-year-olds, I was broke. 

  • I started the event service business as a sole proprietorship as opposed to an LLC, to avoid the $300 fee attached to it. Instead, I paid $25 and filed a DBA with the Texas Secretary of State. Then I applied for my Employer Identification Number (EIN), which is completely free on the website. 
  • I signed up for Google My Business, which was also free. This increased my business website’s search engine optimization (SEO) and allowed me to be found in google searches for local event planners. This is still an easy and powerful method to be found on the internet and should not be overlooked, especially when working on a budget. 
  • I signed up for a website on Vistaprint. The website was free for a month and the process of building it was pretty simple. I was able to secure my domain name, design the website, and publish it live, all without paying anything for it. 
  • I used Thumbtack to find customers. Now at the time, they only charged a few cents for leads and they didn’t charge you until the customer hired you. This is no longer the case. Their cost has since increased to a couple of dollars per lead and you pay for them upfront. It is still quite an inexpensive way of obtaining leads, however, if you truly have absolutely no money, Groupon is the better path to take. Although you do have to drastically discount your prices, Groupon only charges you if you make money. 

My very first customer, found on Thumbtack, paid me $1,650 to decorate their home for a wedding. I took that first amount and donated every dollar back into my business, by purchasing supplies, insurance, and paying for my website. 

My next customer, also found on Thumbtack, paid me $950 to plan a baby shower. I used these funds to register my business as an LLC, purchase additional supplies, and finally invest in marketing.

Though my business was started with a micro-budget, it quickly grew to bring in $5k a month within three months of launching. Now, who said that you can’t make lemons out of lemonade?

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