How to become an entrepreneur when you have no money

As I travel around places to deliver talks, I see growing interest in entrepreneurship and startups among students in India. However, the trend seems to be mushrooming among those enrolled for MBA courses and engineering colleges are little away from it. The most common question that gets asked to me is this "I want to become an entrepreneur and start my own venture. I've a good idea and think it can sell in the markets. However, I don't have enough money to take the risk." The good news is that you are not alone - most of the entrepreneurs who start do not have enough money to start and I personally that's what makes the whole entrepreneurship thing more interesting to follow. Imagine if you had everything to start the business - money, resources, amazing people to work with, well set processes, clients ready with money in their hands and just waiting for you to say yes. You'd then just have to do what the managers do - 'manage' the things. You won't be an entrepreneur in the true sense then. The spirit of entrepreneurship lies in making things work when most of the things aren't well set.

Getting back to the original question - is it really possible to start a business when you have no money in pocket? The answer is 'yes' and I want to tell you that what matters the most is your commitment to making things happen and ability to keep going trying to put every brick together as you build your castle. You'll be surprised to see how things fall in place once you get started. Of course there are challenges, troubles, issues of all sorts; but things will work out well if you're prepared to make things happen.

So, how to get started when you've no money in pockets?

First of all, if you've 'no money' in your pockets, you should be thinking about how to have your next lunch than coming up with ideas to work on. When people say they have no money to start a business, they're actually figuring out all the money it'd take them to build a business. People tend to imagine a big office, several people working together , office stationery, printers, coffee machines and all when they think of a startup. In fact, a start-up does not need any of that. All it needs is a team of people that will work from anywhere and anytime with full dedication and passion. People often go by saying 'Think Big'; and that is right. But let me tell you how to go about it when you've very limited money to spend.

Starting 'Small' & Thinking 'Big'

The idea is to start 'small' and keep a big vision. That's sure-shot way of getting started in any business. Don't make up all the big plans. "Just Do It!" is what you should keep in mind. When you are small you can afford to make mistakes. You can move faster, fix errors, put your hearts in finding your clients and so on. You don't really need a coffee vending machine; and you can just do fine with a cutting chai from Ramu chaiwala across the road. You don't have to pay 'industry-standard' salary to your team mates; but convince them to have a bigger part of the pie when you become big.


Get or Keep A Day Job and Work Part-Time

When you're starting up, you don't have to give up your job right away. Instead, dedicate yourself to 8-9 hours of job and work part time. When I started CrazyEngineers, I worked 9 hours at office, come back home and then work on CE (which was my hobby project back then) for 3-4 hours daily. It continued for almost 2.5 years before I thought of turning this hobby project of mine into an entrepreneurial venture. So when I went full time with CE; I had known what it takes to run a community and had tested the waters. Though we made very limited money in the beginning (it was less than 10% of the salary I was getting); we just survived. I had fun working on CE part time and the fun doubled when I went full time with it. When CE wasn't making money, all the bills were paid directly from my salary and when we went full time; CE paid its own bills. So, it's better to stick to your job for some time and keep working on your venture part-time. It's difficult but you should have fun doing what you're doing. Only when you're convinced that you can make just enough money to dedicate yourself to your venture; don't think twice.

Venture Funds & Angel Funding

First of all, I've never raised money but have read enough about how venture/angel money works. If you've a great idea and have a working prototype; you should begin pitching your products / service to the people with big pockets. There are several platforms that connect you to these people. It's however going to be a long ride; so it's better to opt for it only when you've achieved 'something' with the limited money supply that you have.

If you are a student, it helps to get co-founders who can add value to your startup and even share some money. For an Internet startup you don't have to pay a lot and most of the development can be done using open source tools and software. There's a freeware alternative available for almost anything in the world if you need to use.

Business Plan Competition

One of the most ignored platform for raising money is business plan competition. If your ideas / products / services are impressive you can make good amount of money. Plus the B-plan competitions are held round the year in various parts of India so you must keep an eye on them. The most advantage of participating in such competitions is that you get lot of exposure among your prospective clients and even in the media. Plus the VCs and Angels keep check on startups participating in such competitions. Winning one would surely mean you get some special attention from the fat boys.

Finally, understand that you're a startup because you want to change the things. You're a startup because you want to play a bigger game. It's never an easy road and playing bigger game needs a big heart and an complementing attitude. Not having 'enough money' is just an excuse to not doing things and in startups, there's no place for 'excuses'.


  • Umesh Kumar Rai
    Umesh Kumar Rai
    Nice one. Thanks for sharing the idea. 😀
  • Pensu
    Great! Loved it.
    *You're a startup because you want to play a bigger game*.
  • Jeffrey Arulraj
    Jeffrey Arulraj
    Awesome one
  • Kaustubh Katdare
    Kaustubh Katdare
    I'd really appreciate an analysis of my post than simple likes and short comments. What's part of the article did you all like/dislike the most?
  • ShrinkDWorld
    Great As usual...
    I think i should fallow you.😀
  • Abhishek Rawal
    Abhishek Rawal
    I am very much interested in starting up entrepreneurship when you have no single penny.
    I wanna know how to handle both job as well as your main objective (entrepreneurship).Also what kinda difficulty a broke entrepreneur has to deal with.
    I wanna know how to collect a group of people who will be ready to work with you in new idea, how to attract them in joining our task.How to deal with 'em.

    Is it possible to start entrepreneurship when you are studying ?How different will be the scenario than employed-guy-entrepreneurship.

    I will keep posting more questions as it pops in my mind.
  • Jeffrey Arulraj
    Jeffrey Arulraj
  • Abhijeet Khandagale
    Abhijeet Khandagale
    another superb post. Even I began with a 'no money' start. I still remember having gained a profit of Rs. 1250 from my first venture at AI with zero investment. A startup is always about a team of 'dedicated and passionate' people, wanting to 'play the bigger game' very right words.

    its about taking the first steps.every startup has to deal with the other big fish in the sea. but if the team is good, the quality is best, and the management is ready to learn, the startup has every opportunity to become a business.i also feel there is no right time to start up. the sooner one gets the things in place, the better. i loved the way you summarized the entire process. no bricks. lots of bouquets.

You are reading an archived discussion.

Related Posts

what does a two legged stirrup, 3, 4,6 legged stirrup looks like?
So we've the British engineers devising a technique to create petrol from air. I'm wondering if the technology holds any promise and if it solves the man kind's fuel problems...
LG had announced the Optimus Vu earlier this year at the Mobile World Congress. The phone has now entered India with a price tag of Rs. 34500. The LG optimus...
Beijing Daxing International Airport is going to be the world's biggest and the busiest Airport, with an area spread of 2680 hectors (of the size of Bermuda) and carry about...
So, time's up CEans. As Voted by majority of CEans, our technical topic of discussion for today (21/10/12) is NFC (Near Field Communication). Hence, post anything technical related to NFC...