How do you start a multi-million dollar business with only lint in your pocket?
Bijoy Goswami can tell you. Goswami has been working and researching for years in the areas of bootstrapping businesses and working with other collaborators for the greatest good. He has since been profiled in BusinessWeek, US News, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Information Week, and has some pretty “big deal” clients and speaking engagements that keep him plenty busy. He recently sat down with me (Benjy, The SmallBizElevator “Operator”) to chat about the secret to getting a business off the ground, and the serendipitous process of actually creating that business along the journey.
In our conversation, Bijoy and I cover:
- The differences among “craft” businesses, angel-funded startups, and bootstrapping…and which one is right for each personality.
- How Southwest Airlines probably wouldn’t be one of the #1 airlines in the world today if they hadn’t bootstrapped through lawsuits, plane acquisition, and passenger handling.
- How your business can see short and long-term benefits by being open to what you didn’t originally anticipate.
- What the heck “bootstrapping” actually means, and where the term originated.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 1:09:50 min — 67.1 MB)
Resources and Follow-Up
Bijoy Goswami’s Website:
or try Googling Bijoy Goswami
Ready to talk about the business of being an independent artist?
In the first 20 minutes of this 50-minute interview, Melita Noël Cantú and I discuss the multi-city project that she and her husband have developed called Art on the Roof, a unique, one-night gallery event to highlight and show the work of high-tier artists. We talk about the strategies they’re using to promote the event, as well as some of the business and creative collaborations she has built with galleries, artists, and even government officials in different cities to help promote the event.
Then, I conference in my good friend Starla Halfmann. Starla is an emerging artist who has already built a strong foundation for success, but hasn’t cracked the code to quit her full-time job and live out her artist career full-time.
The three of us discuss:
- How to create gallery and print sales opportunities for yourself by developing a network of other artists and fans, even if you’re a shoe-gazing introvert who hates leaving your studio
- Why having a professional-looking website is absolutely essential and can mean the difference between success and failure
- How leveraging online resources like Pinterest can boost your print sales and introduce you to thousands of new followers and fans
- Some little-known secrets to putting on your own shows and getting tons of people through the door
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 52:43 min — 50.7MB)
Resources and Follow-Up
Melita (and Javier) Noël Cantú:
Starla Michelle Halfmann
Additional Resources Mentioned:
I just interviewed my friend Bijoy Goswami for a podcast episode about bootstrapping that will aire early next week. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, I wanted to highlight one of the concepts we covered; one that’s pretty close to B’s heart.
Over the last decade, Bijoy’s life and work has centered around bootstrapping businesses.
And that means what to you?
What is Bootstrapping?
Let’s start with what bootstrapping isn’t.
You’re not starting a franchise. You’re not using an existing model.
You’re also not using venture capital or major 3rd party investments.
Bootstrapping is about starting with little money and (relatively) infinite time, and then starting on the journey of building your business. You begin with a seed of an idea, but remain open to and embrace the notion that your business will come to fruition through the process of figuring out HOW it will come to fruition.
In other words, you’re okay with not having the answers right from the beginning. In fact, you appreciate the fact that “the journey” is what will create the business and all its parts.
For example, Southwest Airlines (profiled in our interview) started as a small, puddle-jumping airline. By the time it was ready to begin operations, it had no planes, and no money to buy them.
By looking around, talking to people, and eventually going to Boeing and telling them their situation, they were able to get what turned out to be their trademark 737s for cheap, and Boeing was willing to finance them.
The idea of being open to “whatever shows up” is tough for those of us who mold, craft, and fantasize about every little detail of our impending vision. But the notion of bootstrapping a business is about a willingness to relinquish the “how” and just let the world shape it as you go along.
A little scary, but so is life.
What aspect of your business have you bootstrapped? What else could you do to get further along by finding answers along the journey?
Jeremy Nulik is the editor and Creative Energy Officer of St. Louis Small Business Monthly.
He seeks out the passion that drives entrepreneurs and business owners to create something new. He has written countless articles on entrepreneurship and is the co-author of “Business Breakthroughs: St. Louis Style.”
Nulik feels his role in this life, personally and professionally, is to add levity and help others to find their story. In our fairly quick interview, we wax philosophical and throw in as much self-effacing humor as the other can stand in order to establish:
- The one undeniable, irrefutable thing that 100% of successful people do, and without it, you’re doomed to absolute failure
- What drives entrepreneurs — an external need for acceptance, or a deeper internal struggle
- Is there a difference between being a “small businessperson” and an “entrepreneur,” and is that important?
- The different opportunities available to small business people and how to take advantage of them
- Why conceding defeat to your biggest competitor might lead to the job of a lifetime
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 32:25 — 30.1MB)
Resources and Follow-Up
St. Louis Small Business Monthly’s Website:
Maruxa Murphy is the founder and CEO of Instant Expert Media, the resource created for authors, speakers, coaches and consultants to amplify their brilliance through various online media venues.
She has been called “The Queen of Interviewing,” hosting over 500 interviews with Best-Selling Authors, Internationally Renowned Speakers, Business Trainers, Thought Leaders and Entrepreneurs with a powerful message.
Maruxa specializes in creating and putting on Telesummits (mega-teleseminars with multiple guests over a week or more), and we spent a lot of our interview discussing how to create and use Telesummits for any industry.
As Maruxa eats her way through almost an entire bag of dark chocolate chips, listen to us prove beyond a shadow of a doubt:
- How Telesummits can help add thousands of names to your email list and five to six-figures to your bank account
- The powerful tools you should be using to put on your Telesummits (hint: most are available for free or close to it)
- One secret trick to establishing rapport with your interview subject
- The common threads among some of the world’s most successful people
- How to stay positive in the face of overwhelming adversity, even if your interview guest eats through all your chocolate chips.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 56:00 — 51.3MB)
Resources and Follow-Up
The other day I met the owner of a local camera store. And calling it just a “local camera store” is grossly undermining its local significance and rich history.
Precision Camera in Austin has been around since owner Jerry Sullivan started it in his spare bedroom in 1976. It was there until his wife told him he needed to find new space to make room for their upcoming baby.
He’s since grown the business into Austin’s premiere camera specialty store; literally a “mom and pop” that made it big.
Jerry was telling me that, even though they’ve enjoyed consistent growth for three and a half decades and have adapted as camera fancies have turned digital, they are currently up against some of their biggest challenges yet…the monster Internet retailers.
Companies like Amazon.com are the online version of the big box retailer (i.e. WalMart, Best Buy, Home Depot, etc.). You can buy literally EVERYTHING on Amazon. And in most cases, you can buy that everything for cheaper than most other places.
If it’s not Amazon, there’s some other online store that makes it nearly impossible for the local specialty retailer to keep pace. Not only are those stores’ prices as low as they can go, but they’re better equipped to handle issues like credit card fraud and returns.
Stores like Precision Camera are having a tough time competing. But don’t count them out yet.
Aside from having the personal, “everyone knows your name” feel that only local retailers can have, stores like Jerry’s have an advantage over the big online monsters in that they can try new things faster, and get creative with customer interactions without corporate red tape and lengthy approval processes.
Jerry and I talked about several different options.
Building Local Social Networks.
A business can leverage new digital tools like BuddyPress (a WordPress plugin) to build on an online social networking forum, complete with profiles, picture-sharing spaces, contests, meetings, and more. Combine that with event administration through Meetup.com and EventBrite ticketing services, there are all kinds of options to get the community involved and to participate with your brand.
Creating Information Products.
People turn to the Internet now more than ever to learn how to do stuff. And creating e-learning material has never been easier. Jerry could build some in-person classes on how to use a new model camera, film it, and then put it online and sell it for $19.95. Or, he could even give it away. He could then build it into an entire sales funnel that leads to a much higher-priced (or recurring billing) product on the back end.
Demos & Clinics.
This piggybacks onto the local social networking idea, but they could be holding (and recording to put online) even more in-store events that show people how to use their products, AND bringing in national photographers to sign books and talk shop with local customers.
Some of these are long-standing techniques from various industries. But the key through all of them is the notion that you always have options to save a struggling business or career by reinventing its purpose and focus.
You have more tools at your disposal than ever, and I encourage you to explore those as much as possible to better serve your customer base, and beat the big box-ers at their own game.