The Simple Secrets of a $100 Business

About a year and half ago I took part in the first round of a new and interesting online project called the $100 Business Forum run by two of my favorite entrepreneurs/people, Chris Guillebeau and Pam Slim.

The idea was simple: Over 28 days we’d build the framework of a business that cost $100 or less to start. This is the course that became the catalyst for and the business I’ve built around it that now supports me.

The bad news is that this great starter program no longer exists. The good news is that today I’m announcing a new project that not only picks up where The $100 Business Forum left off, but also improves on the model.

More on that in a second. For now, let me explain the concept of a $100 business because the idea of starting something for so little money is foreign to most people.

What Does it Really Take to Start a Business?

To tell the truth, is actually the fourth business I’ve started for less than $100.

When I was in high school I started a very small landscaping service (ie. myself, a few tools, and one client) before going on to start another small-time business collecting hay for local farmers with a few of my friends.

In college, when I realized how well I knew the music scene in Portland and how close I was to several popular venues, I started another small business reselling (also read: scalping) concert tickets.

Side note: As you can see, you don’t necessarily need a unique and impressive talent to start a business. Just solving basic problems goes a long way.

None of these businesses made me a fortune, but that wasn’t the point. They were projects that cost almost nothing to start, could be run in my spare time, and paid my most important bills. More importantly, each of them could have been easily scaled up to full-time businesses if I wanted or needed to.

To start a successful business—one that makes money and doesn’t destroy your will to live—you don’t need funding, investors, employees, tons of equipment, or a 90-page business plan and a fancy suit. And even though I recommend it to most people, you don’t have to quit your day job.

 Instead, what you need are just three very important things:

  • A group of people that have a specific problem and are able and willing to pay to solve it.
  • A product or service that provides an adequate solution.
  • A simple way for people to give you money.

With these three things in place, you can start nearly any business in the world. And they all cost far less than $100 to acquire when approached with a little ingenuity.

Thinking Small – The Version 0.1 Launch

The problem with most business ideas are that they start out far too big.

You look at other established businesses and think you have to match their size from the beginning if you want to be able to compete. Or you’re afraid that if you don’t have an office with a fax machine and receptionist, that people won’t take you seriously. Or if you don’t have a million dollar website, you’ll never attract the customers you need to make it.

You dream really big and start to imagine everything your business ever could be if it was wildly successful. From day one, you get the idea in your head that you must launch your business fully developed—that you have to start with “version infinity.”

Unfortunately for many, this leads to mental defeat and an acute case of procrastination.

Instead, as Derek Sivers explains in his brilliant YouTube lecture, what you really need to do is launch version 0.1—the smallest viable business you possibly can. This is what will eventually grow into your big dream, but today it’s only a seed.

You cannot plant a 100-foot oak tree. You can only plant a seed and nurture it.

Knowledge is Not Enough

With the state of communication and the Internet today, I am supremely confident that anything you could ever want to learn can be learned rather cheaply and easily. The knowledge required to start a bootstrapped business is no longer a barrier to entry.

But knowledge is not enough. This becomes obvious when you look at problems like obesity in America. Even the least educated among us know exactly what we need to do to solve the problem. The answer is not difficult to find or understand. Yet, the problem (and people) grows larger every year.

What’s missing is action. If you leave execution out of the equation, the product will always be zero.

We all know how to start a $100 business, but few of us actually do it because the hard part is finding the motivation to execute.

Introducing The Bootstrapper Guild

Given the specific challenges around starting a small but meaningful and profitable business—loneliness, confusion, lack of truly useful resources—I’ve developed a program specifically for us.

It’s called The Bootstrapper Guild and it’s an online community for do-it-yourself entrepreneurs like us who understand that skillful execution is far more valuable than start-up capital.

The premise is simple: each month we’ll focus on one and only one strategy to creatively develop your business the bootstrapped way.

In addition to the monthly lessons and execution plans, there will be a community of like-minded entrepreneurs available 24/7 to bounce ideas off of, learn from, and form partnerships and masterminds with. An easy to navigate one-stop shop so to speak.

You bring the ambition; we’ll provide the guidance and accountability. Together, we’ll make business happen.

The Bootstrapper Guild will be opening soon, but only for a short time and to a small group of pioneer members.

If you’d like the opportunity to get in on the ground floor, drop your email in the form below and I’ll make sure you’re the first to know when the doors open.

Bootstrapper Guild Priority Notification List


I’ll never share your address with anyone.

After you’ve signed up, come back and answer this question in the comments:

What’s the #1 thing keeping you from starting the business that’s been kicking around in your head?

Myself and other readers will try to offer some help to get you on the right path.


Image by: Surat Lozowick