Starting A Business With No Money

How to Start a Business With No Money: A Step-by-Step Guide

Kurt GraverBusiness Start-up Advice

Are you dreaming of launching your own business but lacking the funds to start? You’re not alone. Recent research shows that most people have considered starting their own business, but financial constraints hold them back.

The good news is that with strategic planning and resourcefulness, you can turn your business idea into reality without substantial startup capital. This practical guide breaks down actionable tips for UK entrepreneurs looking to bootstrap their way to success.

Overcoming Perceived Barriers to Starting a Business

The first step is shifting your mindset and realising that significant upfront investment is not a prerequisite for entrepreneurship. While 78% of aspiring founders believe they need outside funding before launching, history shows us otherwise:

  • Well-known companies like Apple, Microsoft, HP, and Disney got their start in garages or basement offices with the founders’ savings.
  • A study by found that half of small business owners started their company with less than £5,000.
  • Today, 53% of UK small businesses were launched without requiring external financing from banks or investors.

With drive and perseverance, you can join the ranks of successful entrepreneurs who turn an idea into a thriving business without deep pockets.

Choosing a Startup Idea With Minimal Funds

The business idea itself plays a significant role in determining initial costs. Opting for an industry and model with low barriers to entry will make bootstrapping much more achievable.

1. Focus on Service-Based Businesses

Offering services leverages your expertise rather than tangible products that require upfront inventory and manufacturing costs. Professional services like consulting, freelance work, coaching, marketing, or web design have flexible models and profit potential with limited overheads.

2. Consider an Ecommerce Site

An online shop allows you to tap into global demand with minimal investment. Dropshipping models or reselling products through online marketplaces eliminate the need to carry stock or fund production costs. As of 2021, 16% of UK SMEs were operating some form of e-commerce model.

3. Build a Website or App

In today’s digital economy, web-based businesses present prime opportunities to launch without significant funding. Options like affiliate marketing sites, online courses, subscription services, and multi-sided platforms can be built and marketed entirely online to validate and monetise concepts with little risk.

4. Explore Franchising

Becoming a franchisee allows you to capitalise on an established brand and proven business model with lower risk and upfront costs. The average franchise in the UK costs between £10,000 to £100,000, which is significantly lower than independent startups requiring £24,500 on average. Consider more affordable options like rental-based franchises.

Funding Your Business Without Investors or Loans

Just because you’re not eligible for traditional small business loans or angel investment doesn’t mean you can’t access capital. Here are innovative ways bootstrapping founders have funded their ventures:


The number one source of funding for most startups comes from personal finances. On average, 76% of UK small business owners invest their savings to launch companies. Consider spending part of your paycheck or freelance income on your startup each month.


Platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Seedrs allow you to raise small investments from many people. Reward-based campaigns offer products or experiences in exchange for support. UK startups raised over £80 million through crowdfunding in 2020.

Government Grants

Public funding programs like The Prince’s Trust Enterprise programme or Start Up Loans schemes provide mentoring and loans on lenient terms to disadvantaged founders. Competition is stiff, but grants don’t take equity or require repayment if your venture underperforms.

Business Loans

While high-street banks have strict eligibility criteria, alternative online lenders now cater to cash-strapped entrepreneurs. Options like Funding Circle, Metro Bank, and Funding Options offer various products more accommodating of early-stage ventures.

Invoice Financing

Rather than taking loans, you can access funding based on unpaid customer invoices. This helps improve cash flow and cover immediate expenses while waiting for invoice payments to clear. Platforms like MarketFinance allow you to borrow against invoices by providing details of outstanding dues.

Cost-Cutting Tips and Free Resources

Carefully monitoring expenses and eliminating all non-essentials is paramount when bootstrapping a business. Here are tips for reducing startup costs and making the most of free tools:

Work From Home – Working from a spare room or garage until you have regular revenue eliminates office rental overheads. Coworking spaces are also significantly cheaper than traditional leases.

Leverage Tech Resources – Software like Google Workspace or Zoho provides free plans with pro features. Canva, Unsplash, and Creative Commons make professional branding design achievable without a graphic designer.

Sell Online – Ecommerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, and Square Online Store help you launch digital shop fronts without developer resources or inventory. Integrated payment processing eliminates merchant account fees.

Use Free Promotion Channels – Organic social media, guest blog contributions, forums, and online communities allow entrepreneurs to market their brands widely without ad spend requirements.

Outsource Selectively – While hiring shouldn’t be rushed, platforms like Fiverr and Upwork provide access to freelancers that allow you to fill gaps more cost-effectively.

Buy Second-Hand – From electronics to office furniture, bootstrappers can save significantly by purchasing reconditioned items rather than brand-new equipment. Prioritise must-have gear first.

With strategic planning, you can reduce initial outlay substantially and unlock free resources that enable starting ventures on limited budgets.

Building a Support Network

They say it takes a village, and community support can compensate for financial constraints when starting a business. Here’s how to rally a network that provides expertise and promotion without cutting into your budget:

Family and Friends

Don’t be shy about sharing your ambitions with loved ones. Offering services like product feedback, administrative tasks, or even manual labour is invaluable help. Set clear expectations, and show your appreciation.

Mentors and Coaches

Look to those further along the journey for guidance. Attend small business networking events or use LinkedIn to connect with potential mentors. Many established founders are happy to pay it forward with advice.

Mastermind Groups

Joining forces with other new entrepreneurs provides built-in support and accountability. Local organisations like Enterprise Nation offer free access to mastermind groups focused on peer learning.

Incubators and Accelerators

While competitive, programs like Founders4Schools provide training, tools, mentor networks and potential investment opportunities. Being surrounded by like-minded entrepreneurs creates synergy despite financial limitations.

With relentless self-promotion and consistent networking, you can build a community that rallies behind your vision and helps your business thrive through the startup phase and beyond.

Developing an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Finally, having the right mindset and soft skills that lend themselves to entrepreneurship is just as crucial as your business idea. Here are essential traits that will set you up to achieve your goals against stacked odds:

A. Resilience

Starting a business is a rollercoaster journey, replete with failures and setbacks. Expect challenges, stick with your ambition, and pivot as needed – tenacity is non-negotiable.

B. Resourcefulness

Bootstrapping requires finding creative solutions with limited resources. Adopt a frugal, cost-saving mindset and leverage expertise, communities, and available tools.

C. Commitment

Be willing to work long hours to build momentum, especially in the early days. Progress will be slow; accept this reality and commit fully before expecting external investment.

D. Flexibility

Rigidity is startup kryptonite. Success lies in adapting your product offering, processes and models based on real-world feedback. Pivot when needed but stay focused on solving customer problems profitably.

E. Marketing Savviness

Master self-promotion strategies that spread brand awareness widely without relying solely on expensive channels like paid ads. Leverage organic networks and foster engagement.

Top 50 Businesses To Start On A Budget  (in no particular order)

  1. Blogger
  2. Vlogger
  3. Computer repair – hardware and software
  4. Recycling
  5. Mobile App Development
  6. Social media consultant
  7. Game development
  8. Security
  9. Catering
  10. Image Consultant
  11. Mystery Shopper
  12. Cleaning – domestic and commercial, including graffiti removal
  13. Car Valeting
  14. Handyman
  15. Virtual office support
  16. E-learning provider / Information Products
  17. Events Promotion / Management
  18. Direct marketing
  19. Perfumer
  20. Graphic Design
  21. Online Publishing
  22. Mobile dry cleaning
  23. Removals
  24. Courier & Parcel Delivery
  25. Storage Solutions
  26. Sports Coaching
  27. Personal training
  28. Storage Provider
  29. Parking Solutions & Services
  30. Online store
  31. Amazon & eBay trading (various possibilities)
  32. Personal services
  33. Beauty Therapy
  34. Hairdressing
  35. Jewellery Designer/Maker
  36. Clothing (all types)
  37. Consultancy & Professional Services
  38. Workshops / Seminars
  39. Tradesman
  40. Bicycle repair
  41. Car Repair
  42. Micro-brewery
  43. Childcare
  44. Elderly care
  45. Furniture Maker
  46. Network marketer
  47. DJ’ing
  48. Music Production
  49. Social Media Marketing
  50. Photographer / Photo Editing

To decide which of these business ideas (or any business idea) you need to analyse what you have expertise in, what you are passionate about, how much funding you have and the market size (and profitability).

Launching a startup without significant capital requires grit, strategic thinking, and leveraging available resources. While the road ahead is long, thousands of business owners have done it with less – you’ve got this!

Stay confident in your ambition, get creative with funding options, build meaningful connections and adopt an entrepreneurial mindset. With commitment and resilience, you can turn your startup idea into reality without substantial investment.