What to do if You’re Not Donald Trump


Two weeks ago, I wrote about ‘The Things I’d Do Differently…’ and confessed that if I were starting the business again, I’d put more capital into it.

I introduced it with a story about recruitment entrepreneur David Spencer-Perceval selling everything he owned to start his business.

But maybe we’ve both been ‘Trumped’ – literally. Speaking at the town hall in Atkinson, New Hampshire the current second favourite to be the next President of the United States told a few of the 6,751 population – and hundreds of the world’s media:

My whole life really has been a ‘no’ and I fought through it. It has not been easy for me. And you know, I started off in Brooklyn, my father gave me a small loan of a million dollars.

(A short note on inflation here: Donald Trump graduated from college in 1968. $1m then is worth $6.8m now. And an equally short note to my sons if they might be contemplating starting their own business with a $1m loan from their Dad. No.)

Trump-Funding-640x312

But supposing you’re not Mr Spencer-Perceval with a mansion to sell or young Master Trump having a chat with his Dad? How do you start a business with virtually no money at all? Because that’s what a lot of people want to do.

Here are five ideas that could help if you’re in that position: or if you’re one of my sons…

Crowdfunding: I wrote a whole post on Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms earlier this year. No question at all, this is an idea whose time has come – and we’re not just talking about raising small amounts either: Pebble Time recently became the most successful Kickstarter project ever, raising more than $20m. Closer to home, many of you will be aware of Pact Coffee: right now they’re looking to raise £20,000 via Kickstarter for ‘Pact in a Pod.’

Peer to Peer Lending is becoming more and more popular in the UK: initially loans to business were focused on those business with a credit history (but perhaps with a proposition that mainstream lenders judged too risky or didn’t understand). Lending Crowd is one of the best known examples, and will give you a good idea of how peer-to-peer lending could work for you.

Grants: The Government may be looking to make savings everywhere it can, but there are still grants and government-backed loans available. Here’s the Government’s website – and don’t forget bodies like local councils, LEPs and the Arts Council. Just to encourage you, I know of one business based in Scarborough that has secured an Arts Council grant of £50,000 over the next two years. You may need to invest some time doing your research and making an application – but that investment could pay off spectacularly.

Sell your product – or sell your idea: One of the most basic ‘incentives’ on Kickstarter is the product. You’ll be one of the first people in the world to own one. So use your imagination: see if there’s any way you can make sales of your product or service while it’s still on the drawing board.

And don’t be afraid to invite others to invest in your idea. There’s an ever-increasing link between universities and start-up businesses. Get academia on your side. Even if they don’t have any money, they’ll certainly have insight and expertise.

Competitions: ‘you’ve got to be in it to win it’ as the saying goes. It’s not just writers, artists and the X-Factor. There are a surprisingly high number of competitions where start-ups and small businesses can win significant amounts of funding and/or other help. These range from the local – Venturefest for example – to the national. And the national competitions are not simply the preserve of the banks: check out the Nectar Small Business Awards and The Pitch, just for starters.

This is by no means an exhaustive list – and I know many readers of the blog will have their own ideas to add. We’re living in an age of real opportunity for the entrepreneur – even the entrepreneur who may think he doesn’t have enough initial capital.

Don’t wait. Go out there and seize the moment. The best time to start your business isn’t in a boom or a recession or anything in between. It’s when you’re ready. If that’s now, good luck.

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