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No Money?  Don’t Let That Stop You.

When I started my first business, my investment was $450.00 – total – that was back in 1982.  It was an interior design business.  I had a folding table, calculator, sewing machine and a lot of focus and enthusiasm.  So….what did I spend my $450 on?


It was a white postcard in plain black print with a message on it – I picked 2 affluent zip codes that had a reputation to be popular to UP and ConAgra transfers and I mailed to them.  It wasn’t fancy, but it spoke to people who were alone and in a new place and needed someone who was homegrown and trustworthy.

Going into the business, I just wanted to make sure I could stay home with my kids.  I thought if I sold one or two jobs a month it would be good extra pocket money.  The first month I had 12 new customers.  After that, my business grew 10% every year until the banking failure in 2008.

I kept reinvesting my earnings into the business.  That’s what you have to do.  I thought I would save some money and do some of the work myself.

I could sew, so I thought I’d make the first job – AND – because I had 12 people who wanted to meet with me, I could meet with them or sew the first job…so I found a woman from Germany who could sew and she agreed to fabricate everything for me.  Then I subbed out an installer.  ….then a painter and a wallpaper hanger…. then an upholsterer. After that, I started hiring – a bookkeeper, secretary, seamstress, workroom manager, installer, interior designers and sales manager.

What would have happened if I chose to sew and put off the 12 people?  I would have been overwhelmed and there would not have been a business.  I would have created a job – not a business and it would have been a CONSTANT struggle between finding customers and making the window coverings or doing the bookkeeping or managing the fabricators ….or in the end – even working with customers.  By making the decision I made – I created a thriving business that employed and created income for many more people than just myself.  The other way – nobody would have made much money – if any.  I would have burnt out and I’d be working at one of the corporations that transfer people in and out of my city.

I didn’t do everything at once.  It all started with an investment in advertising.

In 2008, the carpet was yanked with the banking crisis.  My customers were multi-generations – grandma, mom and newlyweds.  I started with the grandmas and was referred through families and friends.  The grandmas lost their investment in stocks.  Their life savings was gone and all my jobs stopped.

At this time, I got nervous.  I started studying what happened with companies during the depression.  Who survived and who didn’t.  Here’s the secret.  Advertising – the same thing that got my business going in the first place, kept my business going when all the other businesses failed and closed.  I’m not kidding, I think there were maybe 5 businesses of my type left and while, I’d stopped growing 10% – I was in good shape.  I was in good shape because I didn’t stop advertising.

Here’s the funny thing – The Health Coach Group was slated to begin in September of 2012.  March, 2012, found me with $14k worth of advertising credit from an annual auction we did with the World Herald.  The advertising rep told me I could use the money for another company.  So – The Health Coach Group started with 32x’s the investment – but it really didn’t cost anything.  It was a smart move.  It allowed me to test the waters.

The first ad got me middle aged women and doctors.  I started advertising for health coaches.  100’s of health coaches.  There was a market and there was a lot of coaches looking for work.  That’s what I learned.  I hired people to help with publications and records management.  Then I hired an IT person….by accident.  She applied for a job as my assistant.  The rest is history.  We’ve grown….like crazy.

The Health Coach Group went for 8 months where I put more money into it than I got back.  I was lucky.  Very lucky.  Most businesses go for 3-5 years before they break even.  Actually, most businesses don’t make it past the first 5 years.

Business takes an investment of time and money.  It’s a fact.

shutterstock_249358615How do you start a business with no money then?

There are a few ways.

  1. Get ingenious.  I talked to Chip Franks, who runs Joe Volunteer.  They did “Crowd Funding” and came up with $55k to begin their business.  It built an ap to connect volunteers with people or organizations that need them.
  2. In Building Abundance, we create a business plan that you can take to the bank for a loan.
  3. Generate income by providing services or selling your group programs.  We’ve created a pdf to help coaches get $$ into their business by enrolling people into the 12 Day Detox.
  4. Give up your pay to build your company.  Reinvest your earnings into your business pays off.
  5. Tell everyone you know.  Tell your friends, family and neighbors – spread the word.  Word of Mouth is the BEST advertising there is.
  6. Decide what is necessary and not so much.  If you aren’t meeting with people one on one – you don’t need business cards.  You don’t have to have an elaborate office, designer furniture.  You don’t have to have a fancy phone system or state of the art – anything.  Budget and choose what you spend your money on carefully.
  7. Work hard, put in the time and spend your time on what gives you the best return.

When you do have money – spend it on advertising.  Take advantage of any opportunity to get free advertising through referrals, social media and any other chance to spread the word.

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Build a business, not a job. There’s a difference and it’s ALL the difference in the world.


What could you do today to create revenue to grow your business?  Share in the comments below.



  1. Natalie

    Great post. It can also be very helpful to collaborate with other businesses for advertising. Offering pilot programs at very low rates and exclusives is always a good idea to get started and get the word out about your services and products.

  2. Marian

    This is seriously so helpful. I feel like I fumble around a lot trying to figure out what works. I’ve been thinking A LOT about advertising. My co-author and I want to start teaching local cooking classes and are developing a 28 day online program. Advertising has been weighing on me. Now I feel like I should definitely listen to my gut. Thanks for the reinforcement!

  3. Lynne Wadsworth

    That’s great information, Cathy with some great ideas. It’s so easy for us to think we have to spend big bucks, which I have, but in reality, it hasn’t got me any further. Thanks.


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