Archisman Misra is the Founder and CEO of Studiobackdrops.com, India’s largest photography and videography solutions brand. He himself is a photographer & cinematographer and has worked with some of India’s biggest agencies to create campaigns for global brands like Motorola, Lenovo, Panasonic, Pepsico, etc. Archisman taught himself photography through experimenting with the medium and YouTube.
We live in an age where entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial spirit are finally being taken seriously. Some of the greatest business ideas are popping up from all corners of the world and are being turned into highly successful businesses. News articles are full of stories about startups raising enormous capital from legendary fund houses to fund their meteoric and explosive growths. The glamour behind getting funded is such that every budding entrepreneur learns how to pitch to investors even before shaping their idea. 100% of news stories about funding are about VC fundings but only 0.05% of all startups manage to convince a firm to invest in their idea.
Unless a founder has a truly unique idea and the experience of doing business or both, convincing someone to invest in a startup is very difficult. However, this should not discourage you as you still have an option to build upon your idea. Bootstrapping is a very good means to get your idea off the ground, it entails using your own savings to fund your business. since it is your own money at stake now, you are that much more motivated to turn your idea into a successful one. Hugely successful companies like Zoho, Mailchimp, and Zerodha remain completely bootstrapped to this day.
It is true that bootstrapping your business has its own share of challenges, but you have more at stake and more reasons to give it your all. Here are a few tips to help
- Take it Slow
It’s important to build a solid foundation to launch from. Take your time, understand the market, learn more about the product and see if your product is right for the market. Spending money while you try to find product market fit is very painful and difficult. Find the best way to use your limited funds to the full potential every single time. Reinvest whatever you earn right back into the business to make it grow.
- Learn and Micromanage
A good founder needs to learn to become a master of all trades. The best way to do something cheaply is to do it yourself. This is how a lot of founders save on hiring a complete team. Learn what you can about everything involved in building a company. You’ll be only good at some things, but you’ll surely be better at others. When the opportunity presents itself, find people who are better than you at things you’re only good at.
- Believe in the Believers
There will be a lot of naysayers, who will rubbish your idea and your company. Don’t pay heed to them. There will a lot of people who will cheer you on and applaud everything you do. Take it with a grain of salt. Find the people who believe in you and your idea, those who support you in your failures and successes alike. These are the people who will keep you on the right path.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for Advice
VC funding also comes with experienced individuals joining your board of directors. Directors who advice you on righting the ship and preparing it for the long haul. It is impossible to know everything, and it is equally difficult to have a mentor who will selflessly show you the way. Whenever you meet someone who impresses you, ask them for advice. Hear everything they have to say but only implement what you understand and have faith in.
- Constrain Cash Flow
Cash flow problems can make it difficult for any startup to survive, especially a bootstrapped one. Make sure you keep a steady check on the flow of cash in and out of the company. You can even try to maintain a negative cash conversion cycle which is one of the oldest tricks in the book. This means that you take longer to pay your suppliers than it takes for you to sell your inventory and collect the money. Setting up such a payment schedule with a supplier, does however need a bit of tact and persuasion power.
- Adapt to Survive
Consumer Behavior does follow patterns, but it is also erratic a lot of times. It is not possible to always predict the volume of sales, because that will change with factors like consumer behavior, global markets and many other factors that are beyond your control. You will have to learn to make every aspect of your business adaptable, so that even the most unexpected swings don’t leave you in dire straits. Keep buffers wherever you can.
- Please your customer
This point is true for all businesses, yes but it is vitally important when you don’t have cash to burn to reacquire customers and pay the ever-increasing customer acquisition costs. The more attention you pay to customer satisfaction, the more returning customers you have, and this lowers the cost of customer retention. It can even lower the cost of customer acquisition as a happy customer always tells others about their experience.
Watching your idea grow and blossom into a successful business makes up for all the sleepless nights and constant tiredness. Plus, it is always better to bet on yourself with your own money than being answerable for every decision and risk you take. Happy bootstrapping!