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Shoestring Start-Ups

[ 0 ] Aug. 5, 2013 | SBO Editor

50 great businesses you can launch for $500 or less!

Thinking of starting a small business? You don’t need a lot of money and you don’t need a fancy, high-priced outside facility. Save a bundle and launch a lowcost business right from your home, your apartment kitchen table, even from you van or car.

You can start a small business on a part-time basis and pocket extra income every weekend, or go for the gold by starting a full-time venture. Even if you don’t have a lot of startup funds you can launch a business right at home. A shoestring startup is the answer.

Starting your own business can be an exciting and rewarding experience. It can offer numerous advantages such as being your own boss, setting your own schedule and making a living doing something you enjoy. But, becoming a successful entrepreneur requires thorough planning, creativity and hard work.

Consider whether you have the following characteristics and skills commonly associated with successful entrepreneurs:

Comfortable with taking risks: Being your own boss also means you’re the one making tough decisions. Entrepreneurship involves uncertainty. Do you avoid uncertainty in life at all costs? If yes, then entrepreneurship may not be the best fit for you. Do you enjoy the thrill of taking calculated risks? Then read on.

Independent: Entrepreneurs have to make a lot of decisions on their own. If you find you can trust your instincts — and you’re not afraid of rejection every now and then — you could be on your way to being an entrepreneur.

Persuasive: You may have the greatest idea in the world, but if you cannot persuade customers, employees and potential lenders or partners, you may find entrepreneurship to be challenging. If you enjoy public speaking, engage new people with ease and find you make compelling arguments grounded in facts, it’s likely you’re poised to make your idea succeed.

Able to negotiate: As a small business owner, you will need to negotiate everything from leases to contract terms to rates. Polished negotiation skills will help you save money and keep your business running smoothly.

Creative: Are you able to think of new ideas? Can you imagine new ways to solve problems? Entrepreneurs must be able to think creatively. If you have insights on how to take advantage of new opportunities, entrepreneurship may be a good fit.

Supported by others: Before you start a business, it’s important to have a strong support system in place. You’ll be forced to make many important decisions, especially in the first months of opening your business. If you do not have a support network of people to help you, consider finding a business mentor. A business mentor is someone who is experienced, successful and willing to provide advice and guidance. The valuable website sbag.gov has a lot of info you can use to help you develop your business and find free mentors and more.

Before you even take the steps to pick a name for your new venture and open a business checking account, ask yourself these questions.

They will help you determine if you are ready to take the next step: So you’ve got what it takes to be an entrepreneur?

Now, ask yourself these 20 questions to make sure you’re thinking about the right key business decisions:

1. Why am I starting a business?

2. What kind of business do I want?

3. Who is my ideal customer?

4. What products or services will my business provide?

5. Am I prepared to spend the time and money needed to
get my business started?

6. What differentiates my business idea and the products or
services I will provide from others in the market?

7. Where will my business be located?

8. How many employees will I need?

9. What types of suppliers do I need?

10. How much money do I need to get started?

11. Will I need to get a loan?

12. How soon before my products or services are available?

13. How long do I have until I start making a profit?

14. Who is my competition?

15. How will I price my product compared to my competition?

16. How will I set up the legal structure of my business?

17. What taxes do I need to pay?

18. What kind of insurance do I need?

19. How will I manage my business?

20. How will I advertise my business?

Entrepreneurs have a knack for knowing what niche needs filling. Don’t underestimate your ability to come up with a perfect business idea. Take a look at your community. Is there a business that needs to be started? If you already have a job, you can test the small business waters with a shoestring start-up without leaving the comfort and security of a steady paycheck and perhaps even nice medical benefits. Visit our website at www.sbomag.com to learn about other business opportunities and even low-cost franchise ideas. You will also find tips and suggestions on how to find the business that is just perfect for you. Maybe you’ll turn a hobby you love into a profit-making venture. If you have been let go from a job during our troubled economy, perhaps you’ll turn that work experience into a small business. The time is now.

As you conduct your own due diligence research, you might find that there is already a business that caters to your proposed market.  Analyze the existing business. Could you do complete the task faster? Cheaper? Better? If after careful analysis, the answer is ‘yes’ than you should prepare to take on the competition. Why not ‘you?’

Thanks to the Web, it is possible to do research on just about any topic quickly and easily from the comfort of your own home or local public library. Do a search online to look for business ideas and inspiration.  And if you choose a seasonal business, combine it with other businesses to round out a full-time fortune. It’s a solid plan.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the simplest and most common structure chosen to start a business. It is an unincorporated business owned and run by one individual with no distinction between the business and you, the owner. You are entitled to all profits and are responsible for all your business’s debts, losses and liabilities.

Forming a Sole Proprietorship. This status automatically comes from your business activities. In fact, you may already own one without knowing it. If you are a freelance writer, for example, you are a sole proprietor. It’s a common structure.

But like all businesses, you need to obtain the necessary licenses and permits. Regulations vary by industry, state and locality. Use the Licensing & Permits tool at the sba.gov website to find a listing of federal, state and local permits, licenses and registrations you’ll need to run a business.

If you choose to operate under a name different than your own, you will most likely have to file a fictitious name (also known as an assumed name, trade name, or DBA name, short for “doing business as”). You must choose an original name; it cannot already be claimed by another business.

Sole Proprietor Taxes.Because you and your business are one and the same, the business itself is not taxed separately-the sole proprietorship income is your income. You report income and/or losses and expenses with a Schedule C and the standard Form 1040. The “bottom-line amount” from the Schedule C transfers to your personal tax return. It’s your responsibility to withhold and pay all income taxes, including self-employment and estimated taxes. You can learn more about this at IRS.gov.

Advantages of a Sole Proprietorship

Easy and inexpensive to form: A sole proprietorship is the simplest and least expensive business structure to establish. Costs are minimal, with legal costs limited to obtaining the necessary license or permits.

Complete control. Because you are the sole owner of the business, you have complete control over all decisions. You aren’t required to consult with anyone else when you need to make decisions or want to make changes.

Easy tax preparation. Your business is not taxed separately, so it’s easy to fulfill the tax reporting requirements for a sole proprietorship. The tax rates are also the lowest of the business structures.

Disadvantages of a Proprietorship

Unlimited personal liability. Because there is no legal separation between you and your business, you can be held personally liable for the debts and obligations of the business. This risk extends to any liabilities incurred as a result of employee actions.

Hard to raise money. Sole proprietors often face challenges when trying to raise money. Because you can’t sell stock in the business, investors won’t often invest. Banks are also hesitant to lend to a sole proprietorship because of a perceived lack of credibility when it comes to repayment if the business fails.

Heavy burden. The flipside of complete control is the burden and pressure it can impose. You alone are ultimately responsible for the successes and failures of your business.

And before you launch, it is a good idea to understand your knowledge of credit. Here is a quick rundown to test your credit literacy.

To test your credit literacy, see how well you answer the following questions:

Do you know your current FICO® score? You’re not alone if you answered no. Nearly 70.5 million people are unaware of their current credit scores.

If you know your FICO® score, did you know a 740 or above allows you to save the most money and have the most control over your financial position? Unfortunately, about 43 million people have a 599 credit score or lower. Not to mention the millions of people with scores below 740.

Are you aware that identity theft is the fastest growing crime in our country today? It’s shocking to hear that every 3 seconds, an identity is stolen. By the time you finish reading this post, think about the number of people whose identity has just been stolen.

Do you know one of the ways to protect your credit scores is to keep credit card balances under 30% of the credit limits? Your level of debt, also known as credit utilization, accounts for 30% of your credit scores. A low credit utilization on each account and overall demonstrates that you can responsibly use credit.

Did you know your credit score impacts what you’ll pay not only on mortgages, auto loans and credit cards, but also your insurance premiums? The fact is that it could cost you over $200k in interest, expenses and fees over the course of your lifetime if you have less than excellent credit scores.

Are you aware that over 50% of employers use credit scores as a factor in determining who they will hire? While eight states now limit employers’ use of credit information in employment, the remaining states still allow its use.

Do you know that you are entitled to one free credit report per year from Equifax, Transunion and Experian? Nearly two thirds of the population (that’s 65% or 148 million people) has not ordered a free credit report in the past year.

Did you know there is a way to prohibit creditors’ ability from pulling your credit report for promotional purposes? If you don’t want to receive prescreened offers of credit and insurance, you have two choices: you can opt out of receiving them for five years or opt out permanently. To opt out for five years, call toll free 1-888-567-8688 or visit optoutprescreen.com to opt out for either five years or permanently.

Do you know nearly 80% of all consumer credit reports contain inaccuracies or erroneous accounts? In a recent FTC study one in four consumers identified errors on their reports that might affect their credit scores.

Are you aware that credit reporting agencies are privately held billion dollar companies, not government agencies? A credit reporting agency (CRA) is a company that is in the business of collecting and selling information about how people handle credit. They are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Whether you want to pick up extra cash or start a full-time venture, a shoestring startup is for you! Here are our 50 suggestions that can be started for $500 or less. The businesses are listed in no particular order.

1. Junk Removal: Plenty of people have junk around but don’t know how to get rid of it, or they don’t have a van or truck to haul it. This is where you come in and turn their trash into your treasure.

2. Garage Sale Organizer: There are garages all over the United States that are full of items that could be sold. You sell it for the homeowner and pocket a commission.

3. DJ: A mobile disc jockey business is a very lucrative career. You can work your own hours and party your way to profit.

4. Errand Service: There are plenty of businesses and individuals who need help with chores and errands and you can launch a service helping them get the jobs accomplished.

5. Gutter Cleaning Biz: Every homeowner dreads gutter cleaning. Combine this business with a few other seasonal offerings and you are on your way to success.

6. Concierge Business: You can start your own concierge service right from your home. Local businesses can use your service as well as tourists to the area.

7. Assembly Service: Have you mastered the little pieces from the Ikea box? Then you can start a business assembling furniture, gas grills, bikes, etc. for your customers.

8. Detailing: Boats/Cars/RVs: People like a clean machine but don’t have the time nor the inclination to get the job done properly. There are a number of products you can purchase to make the job an easy one.

9. Baking Biz: Cupcakes, scones, cake pops, bread and custom-made cakes are popular items in any economy. Start baking and find your own recipe for riches.

10. Just Weeds: Weeds are everywhere and there are a number of small business owners who make a living just pulling weeds.

11. Power Wash: If you have a power washer you can start a business cleaning homes, decks, etc. for your clients.

12. Personal Assistant: There are plenty of lawyers, accountants, small business owners, local figures and more who need help with their email, shopping, organizing, etc.

You can take on as many clients as you can handle.

13. Herb Garden: People love to cook with fresh herbs but who has the time to start a garden? You do, for money. Buy some pots and start growing. Set up the gardens for your customers.

14. Food Delivery: This is a good business in any community where there are senior citizens living or single parents who are too busy to get out and do the food shopping. You can also coordinate with local restaurants and diners to deliver their products.

15. Space Rental: Do you have extra parking space in your driveway for a commuter who can’t park at the local train station? Do you have extra space in your garage for that vintage car lover who doesn’t own a garage? Consider renting your space for cash.

16. Seasonal Pop-Up Shop: You can sell umbrellas when it is raining, watermelon on a hot beach, sunglasses when the snow is blinding, etc. Make sure you don’t need a local license to peddle your products.

17. Flowers Arrangements: You can buy wholesale flowers and finesse them in fine style for local restaurants, doctor’s offices, businesses. Create a photo portfolio and go around and book your clients.

18. Window Washing: We talk to local window washers who make six figures every year. They have to hire help to get all of the clients’ homes and businesses serviced. An enviable position.

19. House Painting: We know a retired fireman who makes more than $100,000 a year painting homes for six months a year. It’s a lucrative small business opportunity. Get a partner and have fun while you work.

20. Bed & Breakfast: If you live in a college town or resort area and have an extra room or two and a bath, you can rent it out. Find out what the going rate is and start your guest house business.

21. Laptop Inventory Service: Every year people say they are going to make a video or a list of their home items for insurance purposes in case disaster strikes. You can carry your laptop and camera around, or just take your iPad, and prepare the documents for them.

22. Digitize Movies: That old video is fading fast and your customers will be delighted that you will transfer the treasured memories to a DVD. Google the various ways you can do it and place an ad in your local paper today.

23. Social Media Maven: Every business today needs to have a facebook account and a twitter account. Many don’t know what to do. You come in and start them on their journey to social media stardom. You can also help them make and post YouTube videos.

24. Maid Service: Cleaning businesses always seem to prosper. You can specialize in residential or commercial. Charge what the market will bear.

25. Appointments Plus!: There are many hours lost waiting for the cable guy, the plumber, the pool guy, etc. You can start a business arranging appointments for your clients and you’ll be the one to let them in and oversee the work.

26. Tutor: Do you have a language skill? Are you good in math? Can you play a musical instrument? Congratulations, you can start a tutoring business. You can offer the class on your premises or in the home of your student. Combine a few students in one session and you’ll maximize your time.

27. Sell Personalized Products: Who doesn’t love a pen emblazoned with the name of their business, or a hat or bag with a favored logo? You can go online and google various opportunities to help you get started. You can outsource the actual printing process so you just book the goods and deliver them to your customers.

28. Photographer: You don’t have to be a world famous photographer to book a lot of jobs. Many weddings today book a pro for the wedding party shots but want a fun photographer to do the candid shots. Couldn’t that be you? Research various opportunities in your community.

29. Sell Your Crafts: Etsy has made it easy for you to formalize and professionalize your jewelry and craft making into a business. Check out the site, build you own virtual store and start selling.

30. Scrapbooks: You can offer memory books for special occasions such as 50th wedding anniversaries, business celebrations, grand openings and more. Any party or special event is a potential moneymaker for your business.

31. Move-In Service: Haven’t we all moved into an apartment or home rental and wished someone had come in right before us and cleaning out the refrigerator, the shower and maybe painted the hallways? Yes! You can start a service performing these tasks for landlords, property owners and new renters.

32. Shuttle Service: Kids need to get to sports events. Pets need to go to the vet. Senior citizens need to get out to the store or go to a medical appointment. Beef up your auto’s liability insurance and see if you can establish this type of service business in your community.

33. Gift Basket Business: These are eternal gifts as someone always needs to order something special, customized for a certain event. You buy the goods wholesale and then resell the end product at a large profit.

34. Organizer: Kitchen/Closets/Base-ments, etc. are your specialty. Charge by the hour, and get your clients’ homes and businesses in shape. Positive word of mouth will help you grow your business.

35. Handyman: We’re not suggesting you become a major contractor or home builder but there are dozens of tasks that home and apartment dwellers don’t want to tackle. Make a list of what you feel comfortable offering and place an ad in a local newspaper or circular. It would be a good idea to make sure your don’t require a special license to perform these tasks before you start.

36. Parking Lot Cleanup: It seems hard to imagine, but we know of an individual who makes more than $120,000 a year, sweeping up parking lots. Go around and book your clients. Return during off hours and pocket your earnings.

37. Organic Vegetable Gardens: You build Victory Boxes on the premises of your clients and establish an organic vegetable garden. Charge more if they want you to come back every week and care for it and harvest the crops.

38. Video Business: You can take your old Flip video camera or invest in a better digital camcorder and start making clips of sports events, local rock bands, events, small business celebrations and grand openings, parades, local clubs, etc.

39.Pet Biz: Pets are a $50 billion industry just in the U.S. alone! Shouldn’t you be grabbing a piece of this pie? Start a pet sitting/walking/furniture/clothing, etc. venture.

40.Sell Wholesale: Find a product that clicks with our culture and buy it wholesale: sell at a whopping profit.

41 Lawn Service: Americans love a green lawn but often can’t get results or take the time to care for it.

42. Window Displays: Every storefront has a window that could be your next moneymaking assignment. If you have a flair for design, consider offering this service.

43. eBay: Sell your wares on the online auction site.

44. Blog for cash: You can visit blogger.com and start blogging today. Sell ads on your own site or blog for others for money.

45. Tailor: If you have sewing skills you can make a mad mint hemming pants, taking in dresses or taking out an outfit. Work at home or piggyback on someone else’s facility.

46. Delivery Service: Find a number of businesses in your community that don’t offer delivery and ask them if you can start a freelance delivery service. It’s a win-win.

47. Flea Market Entrepreneur: Become a professional flea market salesperson. You can keep your own job and just run your small business on weekends. Find an old table, and some goods to sell.

48. Freelance Writer: If you have some talent as a writer, you can make money putting together anything from press releases, to web content for a wide variety of clients.

49. Holiday Decorating: There are dozens of holidays throughout the year that offer decorating potential. Scope out restaurants, diners, and other small businesses to see if they’d be interested in your work.

50. Crowdfunding: Help other organize and run their crowdfunding campaigns on IndieGoGo, Kickstarter and any of the other 600 money-raising platforms. You take a percentage of what you help earn on the site.

If you need help in getting your small business off the ground, don’t forget there are many free resources available to you from the U.S. Small Business Administration. They have local offices in every state to assist you. The programs they provide are counseling, mentoring and training. Here is a summary of their support services:

Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs)

900 service sites to serve your local business needs

Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) provide a vast array of technical assistance to small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs. By supporting business growth, sustainability and enhancing the creation of new businesses entities, SBDCs foster local and regional economic development through job creation and retention. As a result of the no cost, extensive, one-on-one, long-term professional business advising, low-cost training and other specialized services SBDC clients receive, the program remains one of the nation’s largest small business assistance programs in the federal government . The SBDCs are made up of a unique collaboration of SBA federal funds, state and local governments, and private sector resources.

SBDCs provide services through professional business advisors such as: development of business plans; manufacturing assistance; financial packaging and lending assistance; exporting and importing support; disaster recovery assistance; procurement and contracting aid; market research services; aid to 8(a) firms in all stages; and healthcare information. SBDCs serve all populations, including: minorities; women; veterans, including reservists, active duty, disabled personnel, and those returning from deployment; personal with disabilities; youth and encore entrepreneurs; as well as individuals in low and moderate income urban and rural areas. Based on client needs, local business trends and individual business requirements, SBDCs modify their services to meet the evolving needs of the hundreds of small business community in which they are situated.

SBDC assistance is available virtually anywhere with 63 Host networks branching out with more than 900 service delivery points throughout the U.S., the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands,. The 63 SBDC hosts include:

48 University-sponsored SBDC Hosts: 2 2 University Hosts are in Washington, DC (Howard University) , and the U.S. Virgin Islands (the University of the Virgin Islands)8 Community college-sponsored SBDC hosts: Dallas-TX, UT, OR, NM, AZ, San Diego-CA, Los Angeles-CA, and American Samoa

8 Community college-sponsored SBDC hosts: Dallas-TX, UT, OR, NM, AZ, San Diego-CA, Los Angeles-CA, and American Samoa

7 State-sponsored Lead SBDCs (CO, IL, IN, MN, MT, OH, & WV): Since 1990, Congress has required all new SBDCs be Hosted by institutions of higher education or Women’s Business Centers


The SCORE Association “Counselors to America’s Small Business” is a nonprofit association comprised of 13,000+ volunteer business counselors throughout the U.S. and its territories.

SCORE members are trained to serve as counselors advisors and mentors to aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners. These services are offered at no fee, as a community service.The following lists some of the ways you can get in touch with SCORE.org  and start getting the business advice you are looking for:

· SCORE Online: Choose a mentor. Ask your business questions with the click of a mouse.

· Visit Your Local SCORE Office: Make an appointment with a mentor and talk face-to-face or attend a business workshop.

· Online Workshops: Check out one of the free, online workshop or register for a webinar.

· Business eNewsletters: Subscribe to the eNewsletter and get business tips and interview with leading experts.

· There are 348 SCORE chapters in urban, suburban and rural communities.

· SCORE was formed in 1964 and nearly 10 million Americans have utilized SCORE services.

· SCORE can help you if you are trying to start a business or if you need so help with your existing business.

Women’s Business Centers

Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) represent a national network of nearly 100 educational centers designed to assist women start and grow small businesses. WBCs operate with the mission to “level the playing field” for women entrepreneurs, who still face unique obstacles in the world of business.

Through the management and technical assistance provided by the WBCs, entrepreneurs (especially women who are economically or socially disadvantaged) are offered comprehensive training and counseling on a variety of topics in many languages to help them start and grow their own businesses. Visit sba.gov and search for the Women’s Business Center in your state.

U.S. Export Assistance Centers

Even a shoestring startup operation might consider exporting. Is your small business ready to go global? It may be an easier step than you think. Advances in technology can make worldwide commerce achievable for many small businesses, depending on the goods or services you offer.

If you’re ready to explore the possibilities and challenges of exporting, U.S. Export Assistance Centers provide the help you need. These centers are located in major metropolitan areas throughout the United States.

Each U.S. Export Assistance Center is staffed by professionals from the SBA, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Export-Import Bank, and other public and private organizations. Together, their mission is to provide the help you need to compete in today’s global marketplace. Your local U.S. Export Assistance Center is your one-stop shop, designed to provide export assistance for your small- or medium-sized business. Find your local U.S. Export Assistance Center by visiting sba.gov.

Veterans Business Outreach Centers

The Veterans Business Outreach Program (VBOP) is designed to provide entrepreneurial development services such as business training, counseling and mentoring, and referrals for eligible veterans owning or considering starting a small business. The SBA has 16 organizations participating in this cooperative agreement and serving as Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOC).

Services Provided
by the Centers

Pre-Business Plan Workshops

VBOCs conduct entrepreneurial development workshops dealing specifically with the major issues of self-employment. An important segment of these workshops entails the usage of the Internet as a tool for developing and expanding businesses. Each client is afforded the opportunity to work directly with a business counselor.

Concept Assessments

VBOCs assist clients in assessing their entrepreneurial needs and requirements.

Business Plan Preparations

VBOCs assist clients in developing and maintaining a five-year business plan. The business plan includes such elements as the legal form if the business, equipment requirements and cost, organizational structure, a strategic plan, market analysis, and a financial plan. Financial plans include financial projections, budget projections, and funding requirements.

Comprehensive Feasibility Analysis

VBOCs provide assistance in identifying and analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the business plan to increase the probability of success. The results of the analysis are utilized to revise the strategic planning portion of the business plan.

Entrepreneurial Training and Counseling

VBOCs, working with other SBA resource partners, target entrepreneurial training projects and counseling sessions tailored specifically to address the needs and concerns of the service-disabled veteran entrepreneur.


VBOCs conduct, as appropriate, on-site visits with clients to ensure adherence to their business plans. Additionally, VBOCs review monthly financial statements to determine whether a revision of the business plan is warranted or that desired results are being attained.

Other Business Developmental Related Services

VBOCs also provide assistance and training in such areas as international trade, franchising, Internet marketing, accounting, etc.

Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs)

Doing business with the government is a big step to growing your business.

Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) provide local, in-person counseling and training services for you, the small business owner. They are designed to provide technical assistance to businesses that want to sell products and services to federal, state, and/or local governments. PTAC services are available either free of charge, or at a nominal cost. PTACs are part of the Procurement Technical Assistance Program, which is administered by the Defense Logistics Agency.

What can a PTAC do for you?

Determine if your business is ready for government contracting. Pursuing government contracts is a challenge, and can be burden for your company if you do not have the resources or maturity to handle a contract. A PTAC representative can sit with you one-on-one and determine if your company is ready, and how to position yourself for success.

See if you are eligible in any small business certifications. Some government contracts are set aside for certain businesses that have special certifications, such as woman-owned, minority-owned, and HUBZone. A PTAC representative can help you obtain these certifications, if you are eligible, allowing for more government contract opportunities.

Help you register in the proper places. There are numerous databases to register with to get involved with the government marketplace, including the Department of Defense’s Central Contractor Registration (CCR), GSA Schedules, and other government vendor sites.

Research past contract opportunities. A PTAC representative can look into past contracts, to see what types of contracts have been awarded to businesses like yours.

In addition, a PTAC can help you identify and bid on a contract, and if you are awarded the contract, continue to provide you support through measuring your performance and helping with your contract audits. Don’t hesitate and find the PTAC near you today to get started in government contracting or to improve your success.                                  •

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Category: Magazine, Small Business Opportunities, Small Business Opportunities Nov 2013