The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau is a compilation of insights from studying and interviewing people who have built successful microbusinesses. Chris is an author and a traveler who has visited every country in the world. He identified 1,500 people who have built businesses with modest investments, on average less than $600, that have made at least $50,000 per year to identify the common factors of their business success. These business cases show that people with no special skills can build up successful businesses when they merge their passion with a skill that other people value.
Basics of starting a business
Convergence is the overlapping space between what you care about and what other people are willing to spend money on
Having a viable business idea is about finding that convergence. Chris broke down the basics of starting a business into these 3 points:
- You need a product or service
- People who are willing to pay for it
- A way to get paid
When I think about the basics of starting a business, I think about needing to write a business plan, registering a business, having to understand the rules and regulations of the industry, hiring necessary help, and managing the financials just to name a few. These 3 points that Chris boiled down to forces you to think about the minimum that you need to start your business.
Don’t create invisible barriers for yourself and don’t get bogged down in writing the perfect business plan. Focus on what is required to get your first sale and start doing.
Here is Chris’ one-page business plan that shows what you need to plan out to start your business.
Focus on your customers
Offer is a combination of product or service plus the messaging that makes a case to potential buyers
Having a product or service that people are willing to pay for is simply the first step. You’ll also need to have an offer that will garner the attention of your potential customers. Survey and understand what your customers need and your marketing should emphasize the benefits customers receive rather than the features your product or service have.
Think clearly about the people you plan to serve not only in terms of demographics like age, location, gender, race, income but on interests, passions, skills, beliefs, and values as well. You must learn to think about values the way your customers do and not necessarily the way you would like them to.
Ideas and Opportunities
The hard way to start a business is to fumble along, uncertain whether your big idea will resonate with customers. The easy way is to find out what people want and then find a way to give it to them
Focus on what people want. A product or service that removes pain points is often more powerful than one that fulfills a desire.
An industry with lots of lovers and haters present a good business opportunity. Another sign of good business opportunity is when lots of people are interested in something but have a hard time implementing it in their daily lives.
Get feedback on any ideas you have from your potential target market early on and make sure there is enough demand for your product or service before you invest all your time into it.
Hustling is how to get the word out about a project
Developing a product or service is the easy part. The hard part is informing your target market your business value. Leverage any resource you have and ask everyone you know to help spread the word.
Give strategically. You can target influential people who are in need of your product or service and offer it to them for free. It may or may not generate good word of mouth for you but you’ll have helped improve someone’s life. Always think about what your customers need. An additional service like free delivery or an extra coupon can make your customers feel valued and make your business stand out among your competitors.
Having a good product or service is just half the battle, so make sure you are always connecting and looking for ways to attract more customers.
This book contains numerous small business cases which you can draw ideas from. It shows you how different people are able to transform part of their skills to bring value to their customers.
The emphasis of this book is on starting microbusinesses, so if you are planning to start a resource intensive/high investment business this book might not be for you. However, if you have a passion you will like to monetize, I’ll definitely recommend this book to you.