The founder of Bravely, a financial-literacy company geared toward women, explains how.
The second half of my 20s has been an adventure in money. First, panicking about it, then learning about it, using it in smarter ways and finally, starting a company that revolves around it.
I started a business for less than $2,000 this year. My company is called Bravely (bravelygo.co), and we host financial-literacy events for women that range from debt-payoff workshops to ethical-shopping panels with fashion experts. I started Bravely with no investors, no grants and no partners. Bravely is 100 percent funded through money I personally saved.
I first had the idea for Bravely in March 2016. I had just emerged from an intense debt-payoff period: I paid off my final $18,000 in student loans in 10 months and then saved about $8,000 in five months.
As I was getting my own finances in order, I also binge-read stories of female entrepreneurs. I read about women who had managed to claw their way to the top of the business world like it was their job. I wanted what they had: a business that provided for me and meant I could afford the lifestyle I dreamed of living. As I read, I noticed a common thread in these articles: None of them spoke to the financials of how these women funded their lives while starting a business.
Where did they get the money to pay rent while they ran a clothing empire out of a bedroom? How much upfront cash did it take to start that baby-product company, and where did that cash come from? How did they meet investors? Did their partners pay the bills while they spent 18 hours a day on their passion projects? What were the financial realities of starting a business?
That’s when the seed for Bravely was planted. I wanted to create a platform through which women could learn from other women in business. There needed to be a place where a woman could go to find the hard numbers on what it’s like to start a clothing company, as well as tools to pay down her student loans. I wanted to see actionable advice for women to get their money right. I felt like it didn’t exist anywhere, so I figured I could do that.
The Startup Cost
Now, let me be clear: I’ve never held a full-time job. I was working as a freelancer and part-time caterer when I decided to pursue this idea. I didn’t have to walk away from a high-powered, well-paying job to start the company. I just needed to be able to pay rent and utilities as I started Bravely. I live with my partner, but he doesn’t cover any of our living expenses for me.
In Texas, it costs $308 to start an LLC without a lawyer’s help. You simply register with the Secretary of State’s office and pay the fee online.
I had a personal-finance blog I’d written for two years. I December 2016, I sold that blog for a few thousand dollars and used that money as startup capital. I also saved an additional $1,500 in that business account, which I earned at my catering side hustle. I used my old blog’s hosting plan for my new website, which I paid for in 2016. I paid a lawyer $900 to create contracts for my events and terms of service for my website.
In total, I started Bravely for about $1,450. ( I also don’t include internet as a startup cost, as I would pay for that anyway.)
How to Start Your Business on a Budget
If you’re short on cash but have an idea for a business of your own, I encourage you to pursue it. The financial realities of starting a business can be intimidating, but there is no shame in starting small and growing slowly when you’re funding yourself. Here are five steps you can take to start your own business for less than $2,000.
1. Decide on the type of business structure you want.
I chose to form an LLC for various legal reasons. That’s not the right course for everyone. You can start as a sole proprietor, file for a DBA (Doing Business As), form an LLC or incorporate your business. Each option comes with its own cost, though filing for a DBAs or sole proprietorship will be the cheapest.
2. Map out the first year’s expenses.
The more you can see what’s coming down the pipeline, the better off you’ll be. Map out what kind of inventory, events and partnerships you want to explore in your first year and try to work out a budget for them as best you can. This will give you an idea of what you should start off with.
3. Play to your strengths.
I have a background in events, so I have connections and experience that help me put together events for low cost. This helps keep my ticket prices down and saves me money. When you’re on a budget, play to the parts of your life you have strength in.
4. Barter and trade.
I would be nowhere if people weren’t willing to trade with me. I’ve exchanged money-coaching services with people in exchange for food and drink sponsorships. Rather than trying to buy everything you need, explore the option of barter and trade.
5. Save as much as you can.
The truth is there will always be something to spend money on. The more you can save in both your personal and business accounts, the better off you’ll be. Case in point: I saved a personal emergency fund with six months’ worth of living expenses before I started Bravely.