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any dream of becoming a solo entrepreneur, but few truly know what it takes to step into self-employment and quit the nine-to-five grind. It was only seven years ago that I found myself in this position, ready to take the leap into business ownership. My daydream of creating accessories for women turned into my leather handbag line, Liz Riden, as well as a vintage shop and a full-time styling career. So how did I get there?

The first hindrance most business startups face is funding. Without capital, it can be hard to move the needle forward from ideation to implementation. I'm here to tell you that it is not only possible, but it can be extremely effective to build a brand with a lean financial model. I started my first company with $500 in the bank: no fancy venture capital, outside funding, or trust fund to fall back on. The idea of launching a business with so little money was terrifying, but I quickly learned how restraints make for the most creative solutions. 

Step One: When starting a business from the ground up, it’s important to determine the most essential elements. Your budget should be allocated to making your product, service, or offering as strong as possible. Perhaps, like in my case, you can't afford to buy all the equipment from the start. Begin where you can and with what you have. I started a handbag brand with only a small home sewing machine, teaching myself skills for free by researching techniques online and learning as much as possible about my industry. It wasn't until years later that I was able to invest in fancy machinery and further advance my growth. Education is one of your most valuable resources, especially at the beginning. There is such a vast amount of information available online, with just the click of a button, and learning from those who have experience is an incredible asset. 

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Step Two: Once you nail down your business offering, your next step is getting your product to consumers. Arguably, this is one of the best places to put your resources. You can't sell a product without an audience. But slow, organic growth can be just as powerful, if not more so, than an overnight success story. How do you reach your target audience without spending a fortune? Focus on showing up authentically and consistently in digital spaces. Platforms like Instagram and email allow you to market freely and in your own voice. Just as a shoe will not fit everyone, your brand will not appeal to everyone. Focus on your mission, “your why,” and grow an audience that cares about your offering. The key to sustainable growth is having a fully engaged customer base, not a huge number of followers. 

Entrepreneur woman working with materials

Step Three: It’s essential to understand your value, pricing for profit, and tracking your finances along the way. A pitfall many startup entrepreneurs fall into is making pricing mistakes early. Too many business owners undersell themselves, as it can be hard to ask for your full monetary worth right off the bat. The best lesson I've learned over the years is to start strong; don't discount or undersell your capabilities, or customers will grow to devalue your offerings. Keep track of your finances, including how you’re spending money, so there are no surprises along the way as you scale and grow.

There is no race when starting a business, nor is there a timeline for success. The greatest advice I offer to all entrepreneurs is to recognize that it takes time to build longevity. If you are committed to your mission, your brand will stand the test of time. You will make mistakes along the way. Your growth may not happen instantly. The brands that succeed often make sacrifices and work quietly behind the scenes. You can begin where you are, with what you have, and build something incredible.

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March 7, 2022
Small Business Stories

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