Startup On A Shoestring E-Book

The Startup on a Shoestring E-Book

A young entrepreneur’s firsthand advice on bootstrapping your business

The entirety of Nic China's Startup on a Shoestring Series is now available as a FREE E-Book. 


The Startup Scene is the New Wild West. Be a gunslinger.

The Art Of Bartering While Bootstrapping

Nicolas China Baltimore Startup Founder

The Art of Bartering While Bootstrapping: Startup On A Shoestring - Part 6 of 6

Be A Gunslinger.

When you’re building a business, especially bootstrapping and doing it for the first time, plan to fly by the seat of your pants every once in a while. Things move fast, agility is key, and the one who masters his or her resources most efficiently perseveres.

About three years ago, I co-founded a company called Pixilated. Pixilated provides photo booth services for events; weddings, corporate, bar/bat mitzvahs, birthday parties, trade shows, conferences, etc. We built and configured our own equipment to create the most refined, efficient photo booth services company on the east coast.

Without diving too deep into the technical side of the business, allow me to divulge the situation in which Pixilated was launched. We were attempting to build and systemize a highly technical, labor-intensive, trend-driven business with intentions to grow nationally by way of franchise or some other similar turn-key format.

We launched at the end of 2011, while the economy floundered. We were not a necessity at any event; at least not as essential as a caterer, DJ or band, venue…you get the point. We were simply an add-on, an accessory...a photo booth. People weren’t spending money.

Startup Soiree Pixilated Photo Booth

But guess what!? We killed it. We killed it because we made the decision to not work for money, but for value. It was a new angle. A necessity.

Sure, our initial plan has changed course several times since day one, but we continually assess, and thus, continually grow.

Side note: Did I mention my wife was 5 months pregnant when we started the business? Or that my first son was a two month old when I quit my 9 to 5? Or that I had to sell my house to make ends meet when we had our second son only 15 months after the first? We were cash strapped and had a short runway.

It was during this period that I honed one of my greatest skills: the ability to barter.

Barter like it’s the fuckin’ Wild West

What value do you bring to the table? Do people want your services? Do they need your product?

Trading products or services, in some ways is actually better than buying and selling, especially in the early days of a cash-strapped startup. Here are the four reasons why:

  1. Exposure – When you barter, it’s a two-way transaction. It’s a buy and a sale at the same time, assuring your product is alive on the street, or that your service is in action and on display.
  2. Practice – When people are trading, the agreement tends to be a lot more loose than when people are buying or selling. This lax nature lends itself well to trying out new methods, new technology, training employees, etc.
  3. Testing – What a great opportunity for proof of concept, right? Rather than have someone pay for the next big “flop”, a barter agreement for something of lesser value (or even a donation) will relieve the pressure and let you fail quick and move on.
  4. Value – You might have something that people are willing to trade big ticket items for. Test the waters…figure out what your true value is. It may be more than you think.

Assess What You Have. Assess What You Need. But most of All…

Know your COST!

Is it a product? Is it a service? What pain points do you relieve? What’s your value?

There are a lot of factors that play a part in bartering. Most of all, you need to know what your cost is. How much does your product cost to produce & deliver? Be sure to factor in the labor and materials necessary for your service.

What about your time? At the early stages, when you’re broke YOUR TIME is your proverbial “Ace in the hole.” As your business matures, the value of your time as founder/partner/CEO/what-have-you skyrockets and your time must be a factor.

In it’s infancy, your business needs you to add value without cost – so roll up your sleeves, Boss-man.


At Pixilated, we focused on trading with big brands for exposure at large events. We traded for ad space with publications both online and offline. We continue to donate our services to large charity events, and often are rewarded with sponsorship status and all that comes with it. We’ve bartered with small bars and restaurants to test new photo booth software and equipment because it guaranteed us a sample audience on an “off-night”.

Interested in bartering with Pixilated? Get in touch!

Bartering Tip, Tricks, “Dos & Don’ts”

  • Know your worth, find the synergy, and equate value. Make sure the trade is fair, but also make sure the other party vibes with you. If you aren’t on the same page from the jump, this isn’t the right trade partner for you.
  • Don’t be cheap!
  • Close the loop. Be very clear about what you are giving and getting. Gray area leaves you vulnerable to be taken advantage of.
  • Let people know you are open to bartering. If you don’t ask, or put it out there, you may be missing opportunities!
  • Convert your trade partners to customers. What better way to demo a product or service? Make it so good that they keep coming back even after they’ve got nothing left to trade (except for $$$!)
  • Only barter with the real decision makers. Typically sales people and account execs are not good trade partners because it doesn’t directly affect their commission. Make sure they can “walk the walk” and deliver on their promises.


Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks! 

This article, The Startup Scene Is The New Wild West. Be A Gunslinger is the final part of my six part Startup On A Shoestring series. 

Part one, 5 Tips To Starting A Business On A Shoestring Budget can be found HERE.

Part two, Blood, Sweat and Tears can be found HERE.

Part three, Lean, Mean Cash Flow Machine can be found HERE.

Part four, Master Social FREE-dia can be found HERE.

Part five, Lean Startup Founders: The MacGyvers of Business can be found HERE.

For more tips, follow Nicolas China on Twitter @Nico_C7.

Nicolas China is co-founder and owner of Pixilated (@PixilatedPhoto) & Startup Soiree (@StartupSoiree).

Events: Why They Are Important For Your Company's Growth

The WHAT, WHY, & WHERE surrounding your company’s event marketing strategy 


As an Event Planner, I see various companies struggle year in and year out over this question. The question as to whether or not their company should include events as part of their yearly marketing plan.

Having been on the corporate side of things as an in house marketing/event professional and now being on the business owner side running an event management company, if there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that events should ALWAYS be a part of your company’s marketing strategy.


Bringing it back to Marketing 101, we all know a company’s marketing strategy always includes product, price, place, and promotion. But what these strategy plans often lack is a major “P” – PEOPLE.

Marketing is all about the people, whether it’s your employees, your executives, or your customers. These people are the ones who drive the other 4 P’s of a marketing strategy. Therefore, it should never be a question as to whether or not events should take place, let alone be a critical part of your marketing strategy.


Meetings and events create value to stakeholders. This is accomplished by influencing the behavior of your event participants. If the event doesn’t make participants do something they would otherwise not have done, there is no value.

Hosting events is the best way for your business to engage your clients, motivate your employees, connect with prospects, get your brand in front of the right people, and ultimately create strategic relationships that lead to increased growth.

Even if you don’t have a strategic events strategy built into your current marketing plan, it’s never too late to start small, host events the right way by hiring a professional, and work with that professional to measure the ROI surrounding your events.


Outlined below are key questions to consider before implementing an events strategy, no matter what the purpose, size or budget. I’ve also included a simplified breakdown of event types, the goals/purpose of each event type, and some of my company’s, Intrinsic Events,  top locations to host these events.

Before you develop your strategic event plan, you must ask yourself these critical questions:

1.     What goals does our company want to achieve this year?  

2.     What events will assist our company in achieving these goals?

3.     What is the purpose of each event?

4.     What are the determining success factors for each event and how will they be measured?

5.     What professional resources does our company have in place to execute these events and measure their ROI? 


Contact Intrinsic Events at




Master Social FREE-dia

Nic China

Master Social FREE-dia: Startup On A Shoestring - Part 4 of 6 

Build a reputation. Create a following. Influence.

In a technologically driven, social media addicted age, exposure for broke, young business owners is easier to get than ever before. Think about it…every thought in your overflowing brain can easily be out there in the universe with the click of a mouse or tap of a finger.

The beauty of it all!? IT’S FREE!

Or is it?

My fourth tip in 5 Tips To Starting A Business On A Shoestring Budget is:  “Become a master of social free-dia.”

So before Facebook or Twitter ever existed, if someone would have told you that you could expose your brand to thousands or even millions of people without spending an exorbitant amount of dough, you would’ve probably never believed it.

Say Whaaat

Social media makes that entirely possible, and it gives bootstrapped startups the ability to market brand culture and awareness with little capital. It gives you the power to create a fan base which will ultimately influence your client base.


Without further ado, I’m going to do a quick dive into each of the major social media platforms. I’ll briefly describe one aspect of each social site that I like and one aspect that I hate. I’ll also give you a single tip; some tidbit that we implement on my companies’ social pages regularly. I’ve also included a quick “cheat sheet” graphic to help you optimize your social media photos across all platforms. 

Let’s start with…


What I like.

There is a very broad demographic, so the sheer volume alone makes it attractive for exposure. If a post's engagement picks up traction, it will be shown to a wider and wider network of users and can go viral.

What I hate.

The same algorithms that Facebook uses to help your posts take off can kill them just as fast…especially with Facebook for business. Personal pages are given preferential treatment over business pages. It sucks that you can have 10,000 people following your biz page, yet maybe only 500 are shown your posts. BS, right!?

Also, clutter. Facebook is just littered with crap, ads, and lots of morons.

Tip: Upload video directly to Facebook.

It will perform much stronger than shared video links. Facebook is trying to compete with the likes of YouTube and Vimeo, so they are favoring their direct video content over the others'. They also give analytics on video performance and allow you to customize CTA’s (calls-to-action) at the video conclusion.


What I like.

The ability to tailor your news and information is a HUGE benefit to Twitter. You only have to follow who you want to follow, and your followers have to choose to follow you. My entire Twitter feed is filled with things that I want to see. And when I tweet, my followers are interested in what I have to say (at least I hope so!) or why would they follow me?

What I hate.

The learning curve. It can take some time to get accustomed to the Twitter-verse, and I think a lot of users quit before they figure it out.

Oh, and also The Kardashians. 

Tip: Check out Hashtagify.

Hashtagify is a really cool web tool that helps you choose how to #Hashtag your post. You just enter the main theme or topic of your post and it populates other relevant hashtags to use that will help your post get the most targeted exposure.



What I like.

Instagram is my absolute favorite social media platform. Simple and easy to post and peruse your feed. Strictly photos and captions with minimal advertising give it a pure feel. It also has the Twitter-esque tailored feed, only showing those users who you want to see, and vice-versa.

What I hate.

There isn’t much to hate…but one of my biggest frustrations with Instagram is that you can’t put links in your captions. (It took me a while to think of this.)

Tip: Use Iconosquare to grow your fan base fast.

Iconosquare is a third party tool that kicks back analytics on your Instagram account. It reports your total number of likes received, your most liked photos ever, your average number of likes and comments per photo, your follower growth charts, and more. With these simple analytics, it makes it easy to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

If it doesn’t perform well, stop doing it. Duh!


What I like.

I’ll be honest…there isn’t much that I like about this platform. I hate to say it, and now Google will probably bury this blog post so deep that it will be unsearchable…LOL.

What I hate.

This platform has been force-fed to us as the apparent alternative to Facebook. For whatever reason it hasn’t caught on, and I think it’s because people aren’t looking for an alternative to Facebook, they are looking for something different altogether. Facebook, although still very relevant, is going out of style as fast as it came in, so why is Google+ trying to imitate? 

Tip: Suck it up and exist on Google+ anyway.

The truth of it is, as long as Google pretty much has control of the internet, you might as well appease and feed their social platform. Why? Because it carries weight with your Google ranking. Maintaining a G+ page is a small price to pay for the boost it’ll give your SEO.


What I like.

Pinterest is amazing for niche businesses. It’s an awesome way to display expertise within a field, and to showcase products and ideas. Not only are pin boards a great tool for display, but Pinterest is an incredible inspiration resource.

What I hate.

Sometimes there can almost be too much. The over-saturation can sometimes make it hard to navigate what you’re really looking for and, in effect can make it difficult for others to find you.

Tip: Pin other people’s products…especially things that accompany or accessorize your own product.

Create pin boards for each of your products or services so you can routinely be updating and re-framing to show that your business is active and alive. You also want to create inspiration pin boards of other cool products that parallel your own. It can help bring attention to you within your industry and can get others to discover you when they aren't really sure yet what they might be looking for.



What I like.

Legitimacy. LinkedIn has done a great job of getting its users to fully build out their profiles and has done so from a “professional” perspective. This makes it very easy to get a quick snapshot of who does what, and what their goals are.

What I hate.

The down side of the LinkedIn profile is that, much like a resume, there are a lot of legitimate people with horrible profiles (or none at all) and a lot of phonies with smoke-and-mirror filled profile descriptions.

Tip: Publish long form posts on LinkedIn to drive people to your website.

Are you already preparing content for your business? Blogging? A tactic we are using with this very post that you are reading has been used on LinkedIn. Any time you write a blog post for your website, publish it as a long form post on LinkedIn. Here’s the kicker…only publish about half of it. At that point, insert a link that directs the reader to your website to finish reading. Drive the traffic to your site. Thanks LinkedIn!


Here's a cheat sheet.


This article, Master Social FREE-dia is part four of my six part Startup On A Shoestring series. 

Part one, 5 Tips To Starting A Business On A Shoestring Budget can be found HERE.

Part two, Blood, Sweat and Tears can be found HERE.

Part three, Lean, Mean Cash Flow Machine can be found HERE.

Part five, Lean Startup Founders: The MacGyvers of Business can be found HERE.

Part six, The Startup Scene Is The New Wild West. Be A Gunslinger can be found HERE.

For more tips, follow Nicolas China on Twitter @Nico_C7.

Nicolas China is co-founder and owner of Pixilated (@PixilatedPhoto) & Startup Soiree (@StartupSoiree).



Lean, Mean Cash Flow Machine

Nicolas China

Lean, Mean Cash Flow Machine: Startup On A Shoestring - Part 3 of 6


Truer words have never been spoken.  My Dad, a lifelong entrepreneur used to kick around the above phrase like it was going out of style (and my guess is that he probably still does, I just don’t see him every day to hear it!) Heck, he even had signs made with these affirmations written in big, bold letters.

Rick China and Nicolas China

As I blaze my own entrepreneurial trail, I want to slip in a quick "thanks" to my Old Man. He is my mentor and sounding board, and without him I don't think my path would have been the same.

My third tip in 5 Tips To Starting A Business On A Shoestring Budget is: “Turn your company into a lean, mean cash flow machine.”

So back to it...

Revenue is vanity. Margin is sanity. Cash is king!

Revenue, without cash flow, is simply that: vanity. Although so many people in the business world measure success in terms of revenue, you would be remiss to think simply more revenue translates to more cash. What if you sold $100 worth of straw? Sounds good right? Not if it cost you $110! Context is key!

Profit margin can be deceiving, too. Say this time you sold $100 worth of sticks, and now your cost is only $50. A 50% profit margin! Awesome, right!? Well, sort of…but what happens if your customer waits to pay you for 6 months? That means that there is still no money (read: CASH) to pay the bills!

Cash is king. Cash is king! CASH IS KING!

Cash flow is the reality of your business. On the simplest level, cash flow is the movement of money coming into your business less the money going out of your business. It is a more dynamic measurable than the other two because it factors in the timing of the movement of the money. 

This time, you sold $100 worth of bricks, with a cost of $50. You then negotiated terms with your "brick guy" to pay him in 30 days. Meanwhile, you deliver the bricks to your customer, who pays upon receipt. Now you have $100 cash in hand, with 30 days left to pay your $50 invoice. Now go sell more bricks, continue to bring in cash faster than it goes out, and create more and more runway for your business. Soon enough you'll have enough runway to take off!

Companies that cash flow positive on a regular basis have the capacity to reinvest and spark growth. Companies that don’t, can’t.

Now it’s time for you to get lean.

If you’re truly launching your startup on a shoestring budget, you need to prioritize. Big time.

What is important? Where do you make your money? What is your focus? Are you focused on the right thing?

Asking yourself these questions will help you to avoid “spinning your wheels”. If you can be clear and concise about your goals, you’ll be surprised how clear and concise your decisions, and thus, actions will become thereafter.

A lack of focus typically ends with a lack of accomplishment. Without a plan, money will get wasted on the wrong things. So spend effectively and efficiently.

It goes without saying (hopefully) that cushy leather chairs, waterfront views, and a company leased Mercedes are out of the question (for now)!

Your team needs to be lean, too.


At the early stages, find people with multiple skills who can wear various hats. Find an office manager with graphic design skills, an assistant who has a bookkeeping background, or a manager who happens to double as the office handy man. You get the point. Utilize any and all skill sets!

There is a time that this will change and specialization will be key, but agility and flexibility within your team is key in the beginning.

And don’t forget to be mean!

You don’t actually have to be “mean” like a bully, haha. Think: Tenacious and Persistent.

Make sure that your company can sustain a high level of effort and production to drive sales and execute work. But a lot of startups fail to put the same emphasis on collecting money owed. This is where cash flow comes back into play.

If you can’t collect the cash to pay your bills and reinvest for growth, you will fail.

At the end of the day, if you sell a lot, execute a lot, and put more money into your business than it spends on a regular basis, you’ll be just fine.

Don’t forget though, it’s all about timing!


Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks! 

This article, Lean, Mean Cash Flow Machine is part three of my six part Startup On A Shoestring series. 

Part one, 5 Tips To Starting A Business On A Shoestring Budget can be found HERE.

Part two, Blood, Sweat and Tears can be found HERE.

Part four, Master Social FREE-dia can be found HERE.

Part five, Lean Startup Founders: The MacGyvers of Business can be found HERE.

Part six, The Startup Scene Is The New Wild West. Be A Gunslinger can be found HERE.

For more tips, follow Nicolas China on Twitter @Nico_C7.

Nicolas China is co-founder and owner of Pixilated (@PixilatedPhoto) & Startup Soiree (@StartupSoiree).

Action vs. Inaction: Email Marketing

You’ve Got Mail. Who? You!

I’m talking about you. You’re reading the best marketing blogs you can find to ensure your business has the most up-to-date information. Time and time again the recommendation you keep hearing is about having your own “List.” It seems obvious where you should start but somehow it’s all so elusive. 

Why is it challenges like email marketing always seem to get put off for another day when we’ll have more time? I’m guilty of it no doubt. Lucky for you I’ve put together some solid first steps to getting your email marketing hustle on blast.

What’s a Mail Chimp? DaFuq?

MailChimp, Contact Monkey, Constant Contact, Aweber, huh!? I know, I know. Where to start? Who to start with? The above four companies represent some of the most popular email management platforms. I’ve used three of the four listed and while they each have their own special features they ultimately all work in a very similar fashion.

If you're new to email marketing and haven’t chosen a platform yet, I’d recommend using MailChimp. It is incredibly easy to understand for a novice who is just approaching email management software and offers a handful of stylish FREE templates. For all you pros out there, it scales easily as well.

Why Can’t I Wait Until Next Year? FAIL!

Why, why, why do I have to learn another platform for my business? I’m on Facebook and Twitter, isn’t that enough? The short answer: no fucking way. While it’s a great marketing hustle to have a robust presence on the key social media platforms, it’s even more important to not take for granted that your access to those fans doesn’t disappear. 

The reason marketers extol the virtuousness of having your own “List” is because, quite frankly, that shit is critical. You see anytime Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn see fit they can change the parameters and limit access to your fan base. Totally wrong...right!? I agree, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. 



This is the reason it is so important to optimize your social platforms with strong focused CTA’s (Calls-To-Action) and convert those Facebook fans and Twitter followers to your list. That way, when Zuck decides to start jacking your peeps again you can tell that fool to chill. Dig?


My People (Really Your People)

Ok, now you’ve picked your email management service and you’ve got you’re “Emotional On-Boarding” in place to really commit to this thing; which brings us to the “now what?” phase of our lesson. There’s a correlation to a big list and more sales but there’s an even bigger correlation between a QUALITY LIST and more sales.

While you may be tempted to buy lists for sale or use cheap tactics to artificially inflate your subscriber base, the calm and cool Email Jedi will take the time to grow their list with credibility. The first place to go is all of your past clients. These people have given your business the thumbs up in the past, now it’s time to clinch that relationship; make it a long-term thing, put a ring on it!

Segmentation Baby

Most accounting software will allow you to export a .csv file of all of your previous contacts. I’d recommend starting there. This first “segment” of your list will be critical so make sure that you keep these contacts identified as “previous clients” so you can send them appropriate emails. Nobody likes not being recognized, so take the time to segment past clients from new leads. It may also be useful to create a list that is exclusively for newsletter subscribers so you can offer opportunities for potential future clients to start learning about your company.

List Building for the Social Set

The second place to start optimizing Email List Conversions is on your social media platforms. Do you Tweet? Now you have one less Tweet to come up with every single day! It reads like this: "Sign-Up here for the @StartupSoiree Newsletter! We’re gonna hook You Up!" These same list-build efforts can be put into place on your Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn profiles as well. A good rule of thumb is to have an email signup in place on every platform your business is active on.

One for the road. Pro Turn-Up Tip

Really wanna get slick with that list-build? Create an offer your ideal lead can’t refuse and then trade it to them, free of charge, for one little email address. This is a technique called “Content Gating” and it works really well. For all of you out there running your website on Wordpress this should be a cinch using one of their plug-ins. We’re using Squarespace at Pixilated and Startup Soiree so our functionality is a little trickier since these features aren't built into the Squarespace platform so we’re using Hubspot.

That’s All Folks!

Now you have the fundamentals in place to start getting your email marketing program in place. Apply these techniques and ideas now and start reaping the benefits of owning your very first “List.” I’ll be back soon with the next part of this series which will go further into what types of content you can fill your email marketing campaigns with.

Until then…….work hard, play harder and take action!


For other great Tips, Tricks & Ideas Follow Me @PatrickRife 


Have No Shame

“You can cry, ain’t no shame in it.” –

            Will Smith, Actor

As entrepreneurs, business leaders & innovators, we are often looked up to as fearless, intelligent, & inspirational to the community around us. If you’re anything like me, you probably often look in the mirror & think “What am I doing?” We are our own worst critics & it’s in our nature to find the fault before the good in everything we do.

It’s OK. We are allowed to think this way & we are allowed to shed a tear every now & then… “ain’t no shame in it”.

Because that’s where we are different than the rest of the world. As entrepreneurs, we allow ourselves to feel this way for a split second, then we look back in that same mirror & tell ourselves, “Oh well, lesson learned, keep hustling, get out there, & keep learning”.


We all have these fierce conversations with ourselves. Entrepreneurship is a never-ending mud run.  We’re going to face great risks, make mistakes, succeed tremendously, fall down, get up & have fierce conversations with ourselves. However, if you’re going to be successful as a business owner, you need to know when to have no shame.  Each of us are different in our strengths, weaknesses, successes & failures, but there are certain times that all of us need to know when to never have shame in our actions:

1. Asking for EXACTLY what you want.

Be clear, be concise, be demanding, be honest, & keep it simple. There were many times in my professional life where I hesitated in asking for what I wanted because of fear of embarrassment, rejection, or shame. 

Let It Go! As an entrepreneur, you cannot be afraid to ask for exactly what you want. Whether it be your fees, your website design, or your strategic partnerships- you will never get where you want to be in your business if you aren’t letting people know what you want. And believe me, most of the time, you will get what you’re asking for – or really close to it.  

2.Talking about your business at all times.

You never know who is listening, who needs what you are offering, or who is looking for an opportunity like you were once upon a time. There is no better person to talk about your company or product than YOU. Your team will never learn to sell your service or product with passion & excitement if YOU don’t do it first. So start talking & have no shame in doing so.  Some people will roll their eyes, some will walk away immediately, some will interrupt you, but who cares. You are on a mission towards greatness.

3. Taking time for yourself, your family, and your friends.

Entrepreneurs must work hard, it’s inevitable. Often times, we feel if we aren’t working, we are being lazy or unproductive & ultimately, feel shame. Here’s a thought- You are where you are today because of your family, your friends, & yourself.  This support system is what has shaped your personality, your work ethic, your creativity, & your values. Think of the time you spend with these people as WORKING on being your best self.

Is this not that hardest work of all?


4. Having a beer at lunch.

As Jimmy Buffet would say, it’s 5:00 somewhere. We are entrepreneurs, we make our own rules, & we answer to ourselves. If a beer makes you feel better, be nicer or foster creativity, then go for it. Trust me, my business partner & I have acquired HUGE Clients, brainstormed the best ideas, & signed contracts over beers at lunch. One tip - just make sure it’s good beer.

5. Demanding what you, your service, and your product are worth.

Enough said. You are worth something, you are valuable, & you set those parameters. It is no one’s place to tell you you’re wrong or ridiculous but yours.

6. Rocking your personal style.

Whether it be a suit & tie, leggings, jeans or a t-shirt with a hole in it… if it represents who you are & what you’re about then have no shame & own it. You are an entrepreneur because you are staying true to yourself & your dreams.  If you want to rock jeans to a meeting & think it’s the best decision at the time, then do it.  Above any dress code or expectation, confidence is what attracts business.  

7. Making a mistake.

We all make them. Everyone, everywhere does. No great entrepreneur has gotten where they are without making mistakes. So don’t beat yourself up, don’t be ashamed, learn from it, move on, & become great.

8. Asking for help or advice from a competitor in your industry. 

I once read that great leaders should always make sure they are NOT the smartest person in the room, and I agree. One of my personal goals in life is to learn something new every day. What better way to do that than to ask for the help or advice of someone who has been where you’ve been, who is struggling with your struggles, & ultimately taking a piece of the market away from you. There is NO shame in asking for help or advice and that is what I’m most excited about with Startup Soiree. It’s a catalyst for this type of conversation and environment where sharing is fostered and shame does not exist.

5 Tips To Starting A Business On A Shoestring Budget

Nic China

Startup On A Shoestring - Part 1 of 6

The Art of Bootstrapping: Own Everything. Owe Nothing.

Are you trying to launch the next big thing? Think you can’t afford it? You’re probably wrong. You just haven’t learned how to bootstrap yet.  

Bootstrapping your business simply means financing your company’s implementation and growth without the assistance of others.

It’s not easy, but there are 2 major advantages. It allows you to keep full control of your startup, and keeps you out of debt from day one. Bootstrapping is one of the cornerstones of The American Dream.

Master the art of bootstrapping and you’ll rely on no one. Trust me, I’ve done it.

So here we go…let’s do this thing on the cheap!

Tip #1: Pour blood, sweat and tears into it.

If you want to thrive as an entrepreneur, you have to work your ass off. If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times, but there’s a reason for that. It’s because it’s true! Ask any successful founder and they will tell you that drive and persistence are essential to your startup’s success.

Whether you’ve got $100 or $100,000, without good ol’ fashion hard work, you’ll never make it. So get to the grind!

Tip #2: Turn your company into a lean, mean cash flow machine.

When you’re bootstrapping, there’s no room for “fluff”. Every cent is precious, so make sure you spend wisely. Plan accordingly and figure out exactly what your necessary expenses are; then cut everything else.

Your team needs to be lean too. At the early stages, the most effective teams are made up of individuals capable of wearing multiple hats. Always adapt and never stop tweaking.  


Tip #3: Become a master of social free-dia.

Social media is King…at least for now. So don’t miss out! It’s a great way to build a reputation, create a following, and test ideas before bringing them to fruition.

The possibilities are endless…but here are just a few ideas:

  • Crowd source feedback on Facebook to avoid costly mistakes and potential “flops”.
  • Convert client testimonials into tweets.
  • Build relevant pin boards that link to your robust blog content.
  • Instagram industry specific memes.

Tip #4: Stay clever with your resources.

What do you already have at your disposal? Probably more than you even realize.

Your cousin is a graphic designer? Free logo. Your old roommate is a CPA? Free tax prep. Your neighbor has a pickup truck? Free fleet. You get the point. We all have access to different people, assets and skills. No matter what yours are, be sure to utilize and maximize!

On another note, the amount of free technology, apps and other web-based tools makes things easier than ever before. Need to figure out how to do something? Google it. The internet will bombard you with websites, videos, tools, information and the like. Soak it in!

Tip #5: Barter like it’s the fuckin’ Wild West.

What value do you bring to the table? Do people want your services? Do they need your product?  

If you need something, then find an angle and trade for it. If you have a product, skill or service at your disposal, use it to trade other businesses for their products, skills or services that you need. Make sure it works for both parties, but don’t be afraid to ask and offer.

You’d be surprised how many people are in your shoes and would rather trade than spend!

Go ahead! Pick yourself up by your bootstraps and get started!


 Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks! 

This article is part one of my six part Startup On A Shoestring series. 

Part 2, Blood, Sweat and Tears can be found HERE.

Part 3, Lean, Mean Cash Flow Machine can be found HERE.

Part 4, Master Social FREE-dia can be found HERE.

Part 5, Lean Startup Founders: The MacGyvers of Business can be found HERE.

Part 6, The Startup Scene Is The New Wild West. Be A Gunslinger can be found HERE.

For more tips, follow Nicolas China on Twitter @Nico_C7.

Nicolas China is co-founder of Pixilated (@PixilatedPhoto) & Startup Soiree (@StartUpSoiree).

If you liked this article, try this one: Top 10 Tips For Startups