52 Business Ideas You Can Start With Little Capital

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Bootstrapping a business with little or no capital comes with its fair share of challenges, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible.

The thing is… when you have a lot of upfront cash, it’s easy to throw money at every single piece of the business during the launch phase, even when it’s not necessary.

With sufficient research, a solid plan, and some extra time, there are plenty of ways to build your business from scratch, regardless of your startup budget.

We’ve identified 52 entrepreneurs that launched their business with $0-$10,000 dollars.

In each story, we also identify strategies to launch with little money, how much they spent to get up and running, and how much they're making today.

💰UNDER $1,000 TO START

Start a men's grooming products business

Doug Geiger started CanYouHandlebar, which started as a side hustle and sells men's grooming products. It cost $400 to start the business. They are now making $100,000 revenue/mo.

Our first product was a moustache wax. My research amounted to buying just about every competitor product I could get my hands on to get an idea of what was possible, doing lots of research and tinkering with all manner of ingredients.

The research process involves a lot of research online on the properties of each ingredient and to determine if there are known allergies we can avoid. We also have discussions with our chemist if we are having a hard time achieving some property we want as well as to look over the final formula.

After we believe we have a winner, we have a lot of people try it and give their feedback. Meanwhile, we are working on labels and UPC barcodes and product photography. It gets easier over time to lainch a product but it never gets easy.

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Doug Geiger, on starting CanYouHandlebar ($100,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a fun soaps business

Danielle Vincent started Outlaw Soaps, which started as a side hustle and sells fun soaps. It cost $200 to start the business. They are now making $74,000 revenue/mo.

These days, Russ heads up all the production. We have a set and predictable development process for new products:

  1. Get the concept from our customers (like I said, they’re very smart, and we’re very democratic).
  2. In January, at our annual meeting, we go over the products that have been submitted to see if they fit with our concept (for example, bath salts aren’t going to do well with our ultra-active crowd).
  3. For the 3 - 5 products that pass muster, we make a small test batch and send to a small test group, which we get from our newsletter list.
  4. If those tests are successful, we send them in our next subscription box, which is a bi-monthly box of Outlaw Soaps products exclusive to the subscription box subscribers.
  5. People often post commentary of their new products in our Outlaw Soaps Labs Facebook Group, and we take that commentary to heart.
  6. We start the product design phase after that, where we evaluate the types of packaging that might be appropriate for the product.
  7. We enlist the designer to design the label/box for the product and go through the rounds of design and revision.
  8. Design proofs come back from the company and we give a go/no-go.
  9. After the “go” is given, we hit refresh on the tracking page about 100 times (you know what I’m talkin’ about).
  10. We send the final products to Products On White Photography for press-ready photos.
  11. I write the descriptions and take some “lifestyle” photos of the products in fun and interesting environments.
  12. We post the new white photos to the website and Amazon.
  13. We send the new products to our wholesale sales rep.

outlaw-soaps

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Danielle Vincent, on starting Outlaw Soaps ($74,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a baby subscription box business

Charles Carette started Bambox, which started as a side hustle and sells baby subscription box. It cost $100 to start the business. They are now making $60,000 revenue/mo.

In the beginning, we knew nothing about ecommerce, digital marketing and design thinking. What we had was energy and good learning capacities. we enrolled in a free entrepreneurship course from a local university and we quickly learned that the only real entrepreneur lesson: execution is everything and you learn by doing.

“Cheap is expensive”. We learned it the hard way, hiring a cheap designer to build our first landing page - it was a total failure.

So we started surveying during the day, benchmarking, learning, design, coding at night.

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Charles Carette, on starting Bambox ($60,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a all-natural self care products business

Tony & Faye Ouyang started Doppeltree | Doppelgänger Goods, which started as a side hustle and sells all-natural self care products. It cost $1,000 to start the business. They are now making $40,000 revenue/mo.

We source our products primarily from China, via a network of trusted manufacturers that we’ve vetted, and some that we’ve also visited in person. Faye grew up in China and has over 10+ years of experience working with OEM/ODM suppliers on sourcing and new product development via her day job, so finding a high-quality manufacturer wasn’t too difficult for us. Day-to-day we spend most of our energy ensuring that they meet the highest quality standards of production and are able to source ingredients that are all-natural, sustainable, and organic, whenever possible.

From a very high level, we start our product selection process based on what fits into the overall brand, and also ideally, products that we can source from our existing and trusted manufacturing partners.

The process of finding a good manufacturer and getting started with them can take some time, so frankly it’s easier to work with one you’ve already built a relationship with. In general, we’ve found that an initial COGS (cost of goods sold) investment can be $1,000 - $2,000 for an initial order. You can probably go lower, but in our experience, this number is a good spend to a) minimize product expense (and risk if you can’t sell it) and also b) have enough product to sell during your initial launch. For a few of our products we’ve had good initial launches and then run out of product quickly, making us scramble to order more from the manufacturer.

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Tony & Faye Ouyang, on starting Doppeltree | Doppelgänger Goods ($40,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a sterling silver jewelry business

Diane Lawrence & Dawn Pochek started Inspiranza Designs, which started as a side hustle and sells sterling silver jewelry. It cost $500 to start the business. They are now making $400,000 revenue/mo.

Today we are instrumental in the design of many of our pieces but when we began, we just started to work with wholesale companies to build our brand. We soon found that this just simply would not work. Actually, it was a disaster! Our first catalogs cost $20 per catalog to produce and we found that after we photographed the catalogs and produced them….the wholesale companies would discontinue the products! This made for a stressful start.

We would spend hours upon hours trying to find an alternative for the product that was discontinued trying to find a replacement piece that looked almost exactly like the one we had photographed and presented in our catalog!

how-our-silver-jewellery-company-went-from-200k-in-debt-to-5mm-year-sales

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Diane Lawrence & Dawn Pochek, on starting Inspiranza Designs ($400,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a niche wedding dress business

Vivian Chan started East Meets Dress, which started as a side hustle and sells niche wedding dress. It cost $100 to start the business. They are now making $25,000 revenue/mo.

The very first dress that we launched was actually Jenn’s own wedding cheongsam design. In hindsight, we wouldn’t recommend launching with just one dress design, but in the beginning, my co-founder and I were super scrappy and just wanted to move quickly to achieve product market fit.

Since neither of us knew much about making dresses, we would go to Joann’s, an arts and crafts store, across the street from our apartments to touch and learn about the different fabrics and their names. We also partnered with a local tailor and asked if we could shadow her each week to learn about the craft of making a cheongsam and how the different parts of a dress fit together.

In the beginning, even though we had limited manufacturing connections, we put aside our insecurities and asked anyone we knew if they had any connections related to the fashion industry. Although neither my co-founder nor I are very extroverted, we learned that by approaching each new relationship with the mindset of a student, many people were helpful in providing us tips and recommendations.

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Vivian Chan, on starting East Meets Dress ($25,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a elastic apple watch bands business

Braxton Manley started Braxley Bands, which started as a side hustle and sells elastic apple watch bands. It cost $20 to start the business. They are now making $100,000 revenue/mo.

What I think is especially unique about us is that we literally only put about $20 into this and that is the only money that was ever invested to this day.

We bought elastic and Apple Watch adapters online and then hand-stitched them. Later on, my partner Grant happened to have taken a sewing class in high school (Most likely to meet girls) so he actually knew his way around the machine my Nana gave us to use.

We would stitch the bands ourselves until we absolutely did not have another minute to spare. Some nights staying up past 4am with classes and tests the next morning.

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Braxton Manley, on starting Braxley Bands ($100,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a podcast strategy business

Jeremy Enns started Counterweight Creative, which started as a side hustle and sells podcast strategy. They are now making $20,000 revenue/mo.

When I first started, I catered my services heavily to my client’s needs and what they were asking for. While this was a great way to get clients early on, I soon realized that by creating set production and launch packages, I could charge more, and do more to ensure the success of the podcasters I worked with, as there were often crucial steps that they were overlooking when producing and launching their shows on their own.

Most of the people we work with have zero experience working with audio, and many have limited experience with online marketing and content production of any sort. One of the ways we’ve been able to justify raising rates while also helping our clients get better results has been by incorporating a lot of education into our onboarding processes.

When it comes to getting started, I’m a big believer in moving slowly but intentionally. One of the most common mistakes I see is people quitting their stable jobs and going all-in on an idea that they’re excited about but is unproven.

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Jeremy Enns, on starting Counterweight Creative ($20,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a design services for pets business

Kaila Piepkow started Dox Design, which started as a side hustle and sells design services for pets. They are now making $12,000 revenue/mo.

When first starting out, I didn’t plan to open up a studio... I thought freelancing would be my thing. Like any person first starting their business, it was a side hustle. So it was all trial and error in the beginning, from pricing, to software usage, to billing—it was all very unknown to me.

Fortunately, working in the agency world provided some insight into how the business side of design worked, so I was able to use that knowledge to fine-tune Dox Design upon launch.

My biggest struggle was figuring out my service offerings and how I wanted to present it to potential clients. There are SO many freelancers and design studios who all do things a bit differently, so at first I was a bit overwhelmed deciding where I fit in. Ultimately, I found my sweet spot by just getting out in the real world, directly asking what people wanted and what they were willing to pay for.

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Kaila Piepkow, on starting Dox Design ($12,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a womens apparel business

Susie Q Aranda started Garage Gym Barbell Apparel, which started as a side hustle and sells womens apparel. It cost $1,000 to start the business. They are now making $7,000 revenue/mo.

Becca and I decided that we could both invest $500 each to start. A few of the initial costs included.. sellers license for $30 + notary fees, set up an online store with Shopify for $29/mth & GoDaddy $14 for our domain name. We needed an IG account and decided to use switch my personal IG to our new Garage Gym Business account. We started with 1100 followers (half of them being my personal friends & family). If you scroll far enough you'll see my old training videos...eeeh.

Funds were low so we relied on only IG & Facebook posts for our marketing. The hype was slow but it was working. We gained around 10-15 new followers each week and made sure to appreciate the hell outta them!

With the money we had left, we were able to buy a small number of tanks & tees and have a couple of different designs. Becca was able to keep the cost low by printing them for us.

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Susie Q Aranda, on starting Garage Gym Barbell Apparel ($7,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a pdf booklets business

Jodi Carlson started Leader Connecting Leaders, which started as a side hustle and sells pdf booklets. It cost $100 to start the business. They are now making $6,500 revenue/mo.

I created a booklet for my own troop and decided to put it out there on my blog with an easy Paypal “Buy Me” link.

For the first year, I reinvested everything I made. I wasn’t making much - about $50 bucks a month on average. But I was growing an audience, and a mailing list so I knew I was making progress.

I was not sure if people would buy something like that so I wanted to make it as easy as possible. Within the first week, I sold 5 and I asked them for feedback. As mentioned earlier the first booklet was the comic artist booklet.

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Jodi Carlson, on starting Leader Connecting Leaders ($6,500 revenue/mo) full story

Start a eco-conscious clothing business

Brandon Dendas started IndieGetup, which started as a side hustle and sells eco-conscious clothing. It cost $289 to start the business. They are now making $5,000 revenue/mo.

As I mentioned, my skill set is within digital marketing, not in web design or web development, so launching a website was uncharted territory. I had a good vision of what I wanted to create and had an arsenal of digital marketing best practices to make a kickass optimized platform, but I had no idea how to buy a web domain. Furthermore, I had experience creating content on WordPress websites, but I hadn’t had the slightest clue how to create one. So as millions of others do, I took it to YouTube and searched for a query like - “how to create a WordPress website?”

After work hours, and during slow periods throughout the day, (sorry dad!), I learned how to build a WordPress site. I bought a theme from themeforest.net and customized it through Visual Composer.

The theme, hosting, and other design elements cost me a grand total of $289.

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Brandon Dendas, on starting IndieGetup ($5,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a rustic decor and furniture business

James Wolfer started Valhalla Wood Forge, which started as a side hustle and sells rustic decor and furniture. It cost $400 to start the business. They are now making $4,300 revenue/mo.

The first flag I ever made was honestly, not the greatest. I glued on stars and used too thin of wood. I quickly moved into using better, thicker wood and hand carving the stars using a hammer and chisel. I sold the first few flags for dirt cheap to friends in the law enforcement and military communities, which got me great feedback and even better word of mouth referrals.

A typical flag would take me about 10 hours to make. After a while, I moved to use a Dremel and hand-carved the stars and other customizations, which brought down the process to about 5-6 hours per flag. Now, using a CNC to carve the stars, I can do an entire 50-star wood flag in less than an hour. I can work on multiple flags at once, and within two hours, have 2-5 flags done.

I’ve also streamlined the ring process. I bulk order ring blanks, which are the metal rings with a channel cut in them, and then inlay whatever wood and other materials in the channel before finishing it with 10+ coats of a polished sealant. For example, inlaying whiskey barrel into a metal ring involves drilling a hole in a piece of whiskey barrel, sanding it the exact width of the channel in the metal ring, gluing it in, and letting that glue cure for several hours before I am able to sand it down smooth and put the sealant on it. I’ll do “glue-ups” of 5-10 rings on one day, and then the next day, sand down smooth and finish those rings.

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James Wolfer, on starting Valhalla Wood Forge ($4,300 revenue/mo) full story

Start a hand lettered stationery products business

Jordyn started Jordyn Alison Designs, which started as a side hustle and sells hand lettered stationery products. They are now making $3,000 revenue/mo.

My products primarily stem from my real life. From something I wrote in a letter during boot camp, to something I said out loud jokingly to my husband… to him deploying with a week’s notice and feeling all the feelings. I try to make products based on personal situations. However, there are times when I feel like making Baby cards even though I have no kids, and the inspiration from those usually comes from what I hear people saying on Instagram about their kids, or scrolling through Pinterest and seeing a pretty nursery!

My cards are all produced in my home studio. I get my paper from a business in my home state, but then I cut, score, fold, and stuff all the cards myself! This is obviously more time consuming, but as I mentioned earlier I am a military spouse and the thought of moving around with tons of greeting card inventory did not seem like a good idea for me at the time. It’s definitely something I’m considering outsourcing in the future, but for now, I can’t do that. The biggest hurdle for me has been making my products as eco-friendly as possible. For now, I’m using a plant-based clear sleeve around my cards for wholesale orders but I imagine that will change in the near future as I work out other solutions.

My vinyl stickers are outsourced because I wanted the highest quality sticker that could be waterproof and fade resistant. I believe I saw a Facebook ad from the company I used, so then when I went to look up manufacturers their name stood out to me. My stickers come packaged plastic-free whether the order is from a brick and mortar or from my online store.

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Jordyn, on starting Jordyn Alison Designs ($3,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a wooden, bling pendants business

Chris D started Bighead Custom, which started as a side hustle and sells wooden, bling pendants. They are now making $3,000 revenue/mo.

The process would require locating, locally, the supplies I would need to produce these pieces. Finding product supplies locally would be key because I knew I didn't want to start incurring shipping costs. Once I located everything I needed, I was ready to start making a few.

Each of our pieces is hand created. The only machinery used is the scroll saws that we use to cut them out. As far as creating the art for each piece I had a ton of experience as a digital artist and could create just about anything that a customer might want (no need to hire an artist).

Customer mockups are a MUST for us before production.

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Chris D, on starting Bighead Custom ($3,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a shirt folds business

Jay Fuller started FLXCUF, which started as a side hustle and sells shirt folds. They are now making $2,000 revenue/mo.

Fun fact: FLXCUF actually started as “Flexcuff Shirts” five years ago. Going off of the Van Heusen flex collar I previously mentioned, I thought a shirt made sense initially. After moving to Chicago from Cincinnati (literally took a leap of faith and moved to Chicago mid-Polar Vortex in February), I took a band-aid job at Trunk Club’s warehouse folding clothes and packing trunks.

I met someone working there who had the ability to cut and stitch. I told him about the idea and sketched it out. A few days later I had a pretty jank prototype (no offense to him and his ability, it’s just funny to think about) of a dress shirt off the rack with detachable elastic bands that made the cuff’s flexible.

I eventually got connected to someone who had his own private label and worked with manufacturers overseas. I learned that my “prototype” wasn’t actually a prototype. I needed to get a sample mold made AND then begin production. I ended up getting five different shirt design prototypes. From there, I launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds with a goal of $15K. I pulled the plug after two weeks because the funding stalled out at $2,700. Looking back, my Kickstarter totally sucked and was rushed (I’ll revisit this later on). The silver lining -- I received A TON of private messages on how good the idea was, but an accessory would be better than a shirt. So, I went back to the drawing board with a separate band design.

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Jay Fuller, on starting FLXCUF ($2,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a metal drums business

Oran started Goya, which started as a side hustle and sells metal drums. They are now making $2,000 revenue/mo.

I found out that metal butane/propane gas tanks are used for making the drums, so after some research, I found a company that refills used gas tanks. I visited them and after a lot of explaining about how they could possibly become drums, they showed me some that cannot go into recirculation and were going to be discarded. I could take my pick from a cage full of 30-40 tanks. Now I had something to work with…

Failure is the best learning tool I've encountered, I've learned to welcome it as an opportunity for my brain to stay creative.

There was no tutorial on how to do this, only a few timelapse videos on YouTube with a bit of commentary, but ultimately no information on tuning or what dimensions to make the tongues (notes) on the drum itself. After polishing the metal back to its former glory, I sat down with the drum and marked out some symmetrical notes that would look uniform and neat.

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Oran, on starting Goya ($2,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a matching mom & baby clothing business

Rosalee Rester started Baby Wit LLC, which started as a side hustle and sells matching mom & baby clothing. It cost $900 to start the business. They are now making $1,000 revenue/mo.

There was no official launch. I’d purchased on my credit card a used HIX heat press for $300. I also purchased an Epson Ink Jet Printer, transfer paper, band transfers from that Canadian company and t-shirts from American Apparel. I think my entire investment was under a grand. A relative had given me a PR list that I contacted but that was about it for the launch.

I remember getting my first online order for a Ladies Man shirt and felt bad about sending it out because I had made the transfer at home from an Avery transfer sheet. A local store told me about Ace Transfers, a company in Ohio that produced screen-printed transfers.

Within a matter of months, I was making a living wage off my sales. It continued to grow to the point where I was supporting my ex-husband and our child. He was off writing his fiction novel, I was making baby clothing and we were both at home with our girl.

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Rosalee Rester, on starting Baby Wit LLC ($1,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a temporary tattoos business

Anslea started Forgotten Mermaids, which started as a side hustle and sells temporary tattoos. It cost $100 to start the business. They are now making $1,000 revenue/mo.

Getting the first batch of tattoos ready was pretty simple. I knew I didn’t want to use tattoo printer sheets this time around, so I found a manufacturer located in the US and placed an order for 100 tattoos. Narrowing down an affordable and reliable manufacturer right at the start really helped us in the long run.

While waiting for the tattoos to arrive, I moved on to packaging. Everything needed to be packed by hand to cut costs, so with that in mind I put together a quick mockup in photoshop of what I wanted it to look like and what I knew would work within the limitations.

how-i-started-a-passive-income-business-while-living-out-of-a-van

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Anslea, on starting Forgotten Mermaids ($1,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a design services business

Abigail Butler started Chirps & Cricket Design Studio, which started as a side hustle and sells design services. It cost $500 to start the business. They are now making $800 revenue/mo.

It took me approximately five or six months to develop my first line of stationery products. I began with a small set of note cards, about ten in all, and eleven wedding invitation suites.

I began with finding the two companies that I wanted to buy my paper from (almost) exclusively – Paper Source and Envelopes.com. What I liked initially about these companies was

1) the quality of the product themselves (for example, the thickness and durability of Paper Source envelopes is hard to beat) 2) pricing – these two companies sell their products at affordable costs, without compromising on quality, offering trade industry discounts and wholesale purchasing 3) variety – both companies offer a wide range of color and paper weight choices.

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Abigail Butler, on starting Chirps & Cricket Design Studio ($800 revenue/mo) full story

Start a engagement ring agent business

Rowena Cumner started Agent Engagement, which started as a side hustle and sells engagement ring agent. It cost $12 to start the business. They are now making $500 revenue/mo.

I started building relationships with jewellers and very quickly built a Squarespace website while I was at the hairdresser.

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Apart from the monthly £12 per month to run the website I had no costs to get started. I started telling friends about Agent Engagement and messages started pouring in from their colleagues, friends, and family. At first, it was just 1 client per month, then 3 and now sometimes I run around London helping 5 at a time.

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Rowena Cumner, on starting Agent Engagement ($500 revenue/mo) full story

Start a beach weddings and elopements business

Sha'Quanna Davis started Dreams & Details Events, LLC, which started as a side hustle and sells beach weddings and elopements . It cost $700 to start the business. They are now making $0 revenue/mo.

So in providing my services to my customers, I approach the process in a very thorough manner. I ask my customers key questions and I have them complete a questionnaire so that I can identify their goals for their romantic event. I provide beach weddings so I gather information such as what type of wedding arch that they would like to have at their wedding ceremony.

I also collect the details of the color, what kind of chairs, and the type of ceremony that they would like to have like, for example, a stone ceremony. I have a past counseling background so it is like I am their companion in their journey to love. I also gain insight through pictures that the clients may provide.

I plan date nights as well. So knowing what is the most important goal of the customer’s romantic event makes it a lot easier in developing a plan for both parties.

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Sha'Quanna Davis, on starting Dreams & Details Events, LLC ($0 revenue/mo) full story

💸UNDER $10,000 TO START

Start a personalized photo products business

Jainam Shah started CanvasChamp, which started as a side hustle and sells personalized photo products. It cost $10,000 to start the business. They are now making $1,500,000 revenue/mo.

I want CanvasChamp to sell all types of items that are the true essence of personalization. Hence I needed to figure out two things: make the most high-quality products at the lowest prices and a very friendly, responsive website to guide people to their satisfaction with my products.

how-we-started-an-18m-custom-canvas-prints-business-online

Production

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Jainam Shah, on starting CanvasChamp ($1,500,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a carry on travel backpacks business

Fred Perrotta started Tortuga, which started as a side hustle and sells carry on travel backpacks. They are now making $300,000 revenue/mo.

We were clueless about design and manufacturing.

The design stage went quickly. We hired a designer on eLance and went from idea to tech pack (the blueprint for a physical product) in a few months. Sampling and manufacturing turned out to be a real problem.

We started our search for a factory in China, where most bags were made at the time. Without any connections in Asia, we were stumbling in the dark emailing random factories and working off of unreliable referrals. Finally, after months of trying to get a sample made, we got an email with a picture of our first ever physical sample.

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Fred Perrotta, on starting Tortuga ($300,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a stainless steel bottles business

Chris Gronkowski started Ice Shaker, which started as a side hustle and sells stainless steel bottles. It cost $5,200 to start the business. They are now making $250,000 revenue/mo.

Manufacturing the product was not easy.

This was a brand new product that had never been made before. We had to get multiple prototypes before deciding on which bottle we wanted to go with.

The problem with making shaker bottles is that if they aren’t made correctly, then they will leak, which is exactly what you don’t want a shaker bottle to do. This was our number one concern when making the first prototype and if there was any sign of leakage we had to find a new seal or different way to make the lid.

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Chris Gronkowski, on starting Ice Shaker ($250,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a professional makeup courses business

Anastasia Andreani started Vizio Makeup Academy, which started as a side hustle and sells professional makeup courses . It cost $4,000 to start the business. They are now making $200,000 revenue/mo.

We invested an enormous amount of time and energy in developing this concept. We didn’t have a big budget to work with, so with very little capital, a lot of hard work and persistence, we did it ourselves. We didn’t hire any employees to help us in the beginning; it was just the two of us working nonstop, all hours of the night and every weekend, tirelessly. I find myself reminiscing of the past sometimes, and I can remember having only $100 in the bank, doubting and wondering if this was really a good idea to pursue. I can honestly say there was a voice inside me literally yelling at me with the answer YES, keep moving forward. We believed in ourselves and in each other so much that we knew in our hearts we were on the right path; we knew this was going to work and grow.

So, we started building it all from the ground up. All the makeup lessons and information taught within our courses are lessons that I and our elite makeup instructors have invested our time and hearts into. I have personally taken great pride in being able to offer my trade secrets and knowledge with others. I consider myself beyond lucky that my love of makeup and skincare, after many long years of hard work, has turned into a successful business for so many others to learn and grow from.

It was not easy at the beginning since we did not have thousands of dollars to invest. We learned everything we could about this business and how it works. Once the academy was built, we decided we wanted to create and design our own cosmetic line. We did not want to give students generic makeup products; we wanted to give them something we had created. The first 2 years were spent testing and trying new products until they worked. There was no giving up on anything we did; we kept fine-tuning and making it work.

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Anastasia Andreani, on starting Vizio Makeup Academy ($200,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a 3d printers for toys business

Ben Baltes started Toybox, which started as a side hustle and sells 3d printers for toys. It cost $10,000 to start the business. They are now making $200,000 revenue/mo.

Before we even had a product we tested the market pretty extensively. Not many people know this, but Toybox started from a string of projects that we had. We had witnessed people waste a lot of time building out previous products that sounded cool but had no market so we got in the habit of testing concepts with the market before we built them.

With Toybox, we created a website advertising a product that didn’t exist. It was complete with a checkout which opened a notification that said the printer wasn’t available for purchase. We did initial tests and we saw that people were coming to our website and clicking the button to purchase at pretty high rates. On top of that, a few publications somehow found us and we're writing about us. We even got our first cease and desist within 2 weeks. We figured this attention was a good sign and that we could make a splash.

At that point, I quit my job and we put all of our money into making prototypes, by the time we had one that we thought was ready. We did our big launch on the website. We were expecting to sell 50-100 given that our email list was about 400 people strong. We ended up selling two, one was outside the country and we couldn't ship to him, and the other was in New York. After about a year of hard work, we had one sale to show for it, it was humiliating and I felt absolutely crushed- I let myself down and the entire team.

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Ben Baltes, on starting Toybox ($200,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a education 3d printers and 3d printable stem curriculum business

Braydon Moreno started Robo 3D, which started as a side hustle and sells education 3d printers and 3d printable stem curriculum. They are now making $150,000 revenue/mo.

Our design process has changed quite a bit over the years.

When we were building our first machine, we created over 20 different concepts with a freelance designer and simply chose the one that we all thought was the coolest. We knew the framework had to be different than what was out there because we wanted to stand out in a lineup. We accomplished that with flying colors.

As we came to our second generation of machines, we had already defined our brand and our target demographics and it was more about compiling features and a style that appealed to the specific needs of that user base. We had a lot of feedback throughout the process from prototypical customers and it drove quite a bit of the direction and feature set. Then we added more touches that were crucial into making our 3D printers simple and easy to use, which everyone would appreciate and find pleasant.

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Braydon Moreno, on starting Robo 3D ($150,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a phone accessories business

JP Brousseau started Phone Loops, which started as a side hustle and sells phone accessories. They are now making $125,000 revenue/mo.

It took me a few months to develop the Petite Loop concept, working closely with 3M Innovation to get the special adhesive just right. Once we got it right, we then launched the business. We later innovated on that concept by creating our most popular Ninja Loop.

But back to the original phone loop... I built the first one myself, then took the specs to a small shop to make bigger batches. I brought it to a promotional materials supplier to set up larger production runs and a custom Phone Loops supply chain.

We have gone through multiple iterations of the product in order to come up with the perfect design in terms of cost, flexibility, reliability, compatibility, production capacity, etc. There’s a ton of factors influencing any product design, even the simplest object.

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JP Brousseau, on starting Phone Loops ($125,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a membership management software business

Mitch Colleran started Join It, which started as a side hustle and sells membership management software. They are now making $40,000 revenue/mo.

I used to build basic websites when I was in High School, but when I decided to start Join It, I knew nothing about developing web applications.

So I started teaching myself how to code (JavaScript / Node.js) while building the initial product.

It took about 9 months of late nights and weekends to build a simple service that allowed folks to sign up an Organization, define their ‘membership levels’ and sell memberships.

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Mitch Colleran, on starting Join It ($40,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a men's hair products business

Chris Healy started The Longhairs, which started as a side hustle and sells men's hair products. It cost $10,000 to start the business. They are now making $30,000 revenue/mo.

Developing the product was far more difficult than we’d imagined, taking almost two years from the idea to a minimum viable product.

We started with buying materials from the fabric store and making our own hair ties, which gave us a good idea of what we wanted, but we had no idea how to get them manufactured.

In a stroke of luck, we met a bro with long hair at a creative networking meetup. Turned out he was the owner of a local agency with international manufacturing connections, who became our broker. Reaching out to several manufacturers on our behalf, we were able to find one that could meet our needs.

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Chris Healy, on starting The Longhairs ($30,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a smoothie resource business

Jen Hansard started Simple Green Smoothies, which started as a side hustle and sells smoothie resource. They are now making $30,000 revenue/mo.

The first product Jadah and I launched at Simple Green Smoothies was our Fresh Start: 21-Day Cleanse program.

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My co-founder and I had gone through an online business school (Marie Forleo’s B-School) and learned the steps to create a product that sells. We would call up friends who followed us on social media and ask them what they were struggling with. We’d email our followers and ask them what would make their life even better. The common thread was they liked the smoothies and how they made them feel, but they wanted even more dramatic results. After lots of research, we talked with a holistic nutritionist from Australia, Meg Thompson, and learned about the power of a plant-based whole food cleanse. It was exactly what we wanted to create for our community!

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Jen Hansard, on starting Simple Green Smoothies ($30,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a framed tweets business

Zach Katz started Framed Tweets, which started as a side hustle and sells framed tweets. They are now making $25,000 revenue/mo.

I knew I wanted to keep things simple. I didn’t want to overwhelm people with twenty different styles of frames. I wanted to start with one beautiful, ornate gold frame that suits tweets perfectly.

At first, I considered buying from an American picture frame company, but I couldn’t find any ornate frames that were sold in bulk. I did some research and found that Alibaba was a good place to buy a wide variety of picture frames in bulk. I requested samples from a few companies, picked out the one I liked best, and ordered 500 of them with the last of my savings.

how-i-stumbled-into-a-300k-business-framing-tweets Good thing my building had a freight elevator.

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Zach Katz, on starting Framed Tweets ($25,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a masquerade masks business

Josh Bluman started VIVO Masks, which started as a side hustle and sells masquerade masks. It cost $3,000 to start the business. They are now making $25,000 revenue/mo.

When we first started we did not design our own products. We simply found other products that weren’t available in North America, purchased them, and brought them here. Once we started figuring out what was working and which products were selling well, we would work more closely with our manufacturers, tweaking specific products and adding styles that we saw selling well in the market.

Still, the highest cost for us in starting this business was inventory. We had to order a ton and take a big gamble on how much we were going to sell, as the business is very seasonal - with most sales being around Halloween time.

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Josh Bluman, on starting VIVO Masks ($25,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a recycled trunks business

Evan Waldenberg started Junk In Your Trunks, which started as a side hustle and sells recycled trunks. It cost $9,000 to start the business. They are now making $25,000 revenue/mo.

So as somebody with no design experience, I thought this part would be a little bit tougher. The reality is that I was just designing a pretty simple pair of shorts, not too dissimilar than many things that came before it.

Once we felt like we had something good enough to take to the market we spent about $650 on a small order of 35 trunks. These weren’t meant to be sold, but these were really were glorified samples that I sent around to friends for testing and for content creation.

I’m based in NY so there are a lot of local resources that are helpful to fashion brands so I was fortunate to find some consultants to help talk me through the process and hold my hand a little bit. Most of the big fabric and manufacturing trade shows come through NY as well so I met with a lot of suppliers there but their MOQ’s were a little too high for me as I was still trying to pull initial designs together and had no idea how to assess demand so I wanted to start as small as possible.

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Evan Waldenberg, on starting Junk In Your Trunks ($25,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a cigar subscription service business

Michael Arciola III started Southern Cigar Co, which started as a side hustle and sells cigar subscription service. They are now making $20,000 revenue/mo.

This was possibly the easiest part. Since we aren’t doing anything new or novel, there’s processes and companies in place to help us out.

But first, when I got to this phase I realized I wouldn’t be able to manage the day-to-day activities. Not that I couldn’t, but at the time I was a double major in computer science and business, was running my own web design firm, very active in school clubs/activities, and just got accepted to be an intern at Viacom/MTV at their headquarters in NYC.

Due to my overwhelming schedule, I knew bringing on help would be my best help in bringing this vision to life. I ended up asking my roommate and good friend at the time to manage the day to day operations as I knew I could trust him with that.

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Michael Arciola III, on starting Southern Cigar Co ($20,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a podcast strategy business

Jeremy Enns started Counterweight Creative, which started as a side hustle and sells podcast strategy. They are now making $20,000 revenue/mo.

When I first started, I catered my services heavily to my client’s needs and what they were asking for. While this was a great way to get clients early on, I soon realized that by creating set production and launch packages, I could charge more, and do more to ensure the success of the podcasters I worked with, as there were often crucial steps that they were overlooking when producing and launching their shows on their own.

Most of the people we work with have zero experience working with audio, and many have limited experience with online marketing and content production of any sort. One of the ways we’ve been able to justify raising rates while also helping our clients get better results has been by incorporating a lot of education into our onboarding processes.

When it comes to getting started, I’m a big believer in moving slowly but intentionally. One of the most common mistakes I see is people quitting their stable jobs and going all-in on an idea that they’re excited about but is unproven.

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Jeremy Enns, on starting Counterweight Creative ($20,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a emu oil based skincare business

Carole Rains started Emu Joy, which started as a side hustle and sells emu oil based skincare. It cost $5,000 to start the business. They are now making $19,000 revenue/mo.

When choosing a supplier for my products I reviewed the online information on several emu farms in the US and spoke with the owners. It was important to me that my emu oil be certified by the American Emu Association so that I could ensure its purity and quality. My other criteria were that all the ingredients in the combination products be only natural.

I’ve learned that the key to a successful business is relationships. Whether it’s with my suppliers, customers, freelancers or fellow ecommerce entrepreneurs, developing a mutually beneficial relationship makes everything go more smoothly and efficiently, and makes going to work each day a pleasure.

I found the supplier I wanted to work with based on the quality of the ingredients they used and the way they care for their emus, but they weren’t particularly interested, having had a bad experience in the past with private labeling for another seller. Just as I was about to sign a contract with my second choice supplier, the owner got in touch and said they’d decided to take a chance on me.

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Carole Rains, on starting Emu Joy ($19,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a sustainable clothing business

Pepe Martín García started Minimalism Brand, which started as a side hustle and sells sustainable clothing. It cost $2,000 to start the business. They are now making $18,000 revenue/mo.

Our design is kind of easy. Our products are basics. We don´t have any logo on our clothes. All that they have is a small green mark on the left side.

We want to be the referent in basic clothes in Europe and then move to the USA. People don´t like much to have a big logo on their clothes, we neither, so we design all our products with that idea in our top of mind.

All our products are made in a sustainable way. We produce our clothes in Portugal, we are part of the production process.

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Pepe Martín García, on starting Minimalism Brand ($18,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a ice cream business

Stephen Layton started The Good Scoop, which started as a side hustle and sells ice cream. They are now making $16,000 revenue/mo.

When I first got serious about trying to start an ice cream business and making ice cream one of my buddies and I bought a nice small Italian countertop ice cream maker off of Amazon. We started making ice cream in our houses in East Sacramento each weekend, having fun with the process. We got creative and came up with all different types of flavors, experimenting with different combinations in order to get our ice cream flavors just right. There was a lot of tasting and ice cream eating that took place! During this process, we started compiling a list of our recipes and flavors that we could make. We always paid close attention to what some of our favorite ice cream shops around the country were doing and I took some inspiration from them while trying to put our own unique twist on our ice cream.

Sometimes not having a lot of experience doing something or learning from an expert allows you to be more creative and free to try new ideas.

When we finally got our first commercial ice cream machine, a small Emery Thompson CB-350, it was a bit overwhelming and we were nervous as to how the process would translate from a small countertop machine to a larger commercial one. We have always believed that if you take the highest quality products and ingredients available and combine them we would have a quality ice cream. This was a huge help getting started, as the old adage quality in and quality out remained true for us. We just started making ice cream and having fun, people started really enjoying some of the flavors we were making. Admittedly we started with some basic flavors and built up from there to some more challenging and complex flavors. An important lesson we have learned is to have fun! We have found if we are having fun making the flavors, they typically translate very well to the customer.

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Stephen Layton, on starting The Good Scoop ($16,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a ultimate travel gadget business

Craig Rabin started The Airhook, which started as a side hustle and sells ultimate travel gadget. They are now making $15,000 revenue/mo.

For anyone trying to invest in a new product… know it’s not as easy as it was coming up with the idea and sketching it on your bar napkin. You will find good days and bad day along your journey. In the case of The Airhook, we spent 13 months developing the concept.

how-i-invented-the-ultimate-flying-gadget-and-landed-massive-press

Design – build – break – repeat

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Craig Rabin, on starting The Airhook ($15,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a skincare products business

Leslie Eisen started AlmondClear, which started as a side hustle and sells skincare products. It cost $10,000 to start the business. They are now making $15,000 revenue/mo.

If you want to start a line of unique skin care products, then you have two basic options: you can make them yourself, or you can find a manufacturer to work with that creates custom formulations for their clients.

I knew that I was trying to build a larger-scale business and that the home-made model wasn’t right for me, so I had to find the right manufacturing partner. It took a lot of research, phone calls, and emails before I found the laboratory that met my needs.

I wanted to create unique products (as opposed to private label), so I worked with the manufacturer’s chemist who specializes in skin care formulations. This process takes some time!

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Leslie Eisen, on starting AlmondClear ($15,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a consulting business

Stacey Haynes started Thrivette, which started as a side hustle and sells consulting. It cost $10,000 to start the business. They are now making $10,000 revenue/mo.

The tip we learned back then, that we still use today is to look at what items are trending as Best Sellers on whatever platform you want to be in and find a way to make it your own. In 2012, we saw a project that was featuring foods from different cities, so we thought doing attractions from cities would be cool...and boy was it! The next month after the City Prints launch, we noticed beer was trending. We researched beer to create a flowchart that dissected the different bodies of beer, and it raised over $15,000 on Kickstarter. It was the start of our Diagram Collection, now featuring Beer, Whiskey, Wine, Coffee, Tea, Gin, and Vodka.) The Beer Diagram is our most popular selling item to date, and we sell all of our collection on Amazon, CrateStyle.com, Etsy, and flash sales on Touch of Modern. We have also had the privilege of doing art shows at breweries around Dallas and West Elm.

how-i-started-a-10k-month-business-helping-entrepreneurs

how-i-started-a-10k-month-business-helping-entrepreneurs

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Stacey Haynes, on starting Thrivette ($10,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a blogging business

Carly Campbell started Mommy On Purpose, which started as a side hustle and sells blogging. It cost $2,000 to start the business. They are now making $10,000 revenue/mo.

I had spent years “exploring” what sort of work I could do from home - I had very seriously considered transcription (just turning recorded words into text sounded to me like something anyone could do), and I had pursued photography - taking a night class, and purchasing an expensive camera. I took lots of wedding photos on the weekends, working alongside my mom.

I had even taken a 5000$ travel agent training course, and spent a few years trying to sell travel from home. But none of those jobs seemed like the ideal fit for as the work I pictured in my life - something that let me set my own hours entirely, something that didn’t require me to answer to anyone. Work that I could do - or not do - on a daily basis and still make money. (Yes, I know that’s a high ask, but I believed it was out there!)

BLOGGING seemed to check every box for me … so I decided blogging it would be.

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Carly Campbell, on starting Mommy On Purpose ($10,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a actually slim dress shirts business

Tanya Zhang started Nimble Made, which started as a side hustle and sells actually slim dress shirts. It cost $5,000 to start the business. They are now making $5,000 revenue/mo.

We started with building our actually slim fit off of Wesley’s body. He was 5’5” in height and around 130 lbs at the time we were prototyping and became our, then, smallest size N1. From there, we created a preliminary size chart with various measurements across the body for our N2, N3, N4, and N5 sizes. We created an initial batch of samples of these first 5 sizes and did a bunch of user testing and interviews to adjust. We also just recently added our newest smallest size N0 due to high demand and customer feedback.

Wesley and I didn’t have any fashion experience going into it – I was a graphic designer and Wesley wore dress shirts at his finance job– that was the extent of it. We were eager to get to an MVP stage (meanwhile still working at our full-time jobs) so we put a very scrappy mood board collage of the first three shirts we wanted to make and Wesley put together an excel sheet of all the measurements he wanted them to have. Then we sent this to maybe 5-7 manufacturers we found online–most of whom did not want to work with us because 1. we didn’t meet their MOQ (minimum order quantity) requirement and 2. we didn’t have a tech pack (a standard technical document with patterns in the garment manufacturing industry). Luckily, we found one who was willing to work with what we had. We’re still working with this supplier, however, last year we’ve started to formalize our patterns with a technical designer we contracted to give us more ownership and opportunity to start conversations with other suppliers.

The sourcing process takes a long time. We were looking for suppliers online and at trade shows; they’re either located abroad which makes communication difficult or they’re based in the USA but have higher labor wages. We reach out to the ones we like from our initial conversation and talk to them over email to gather estimates, shipping logistics, etc and if it all goes well, we ask them to make a sample by sending them our scrappy “tech pack”. Getting a sample is very important because we can see how well they follow our measurements, instructions, and more importantly, their craftsmanship. In the beginning, it was very difficult because Wesley and I didn’t know the vernacular in the industry so trying to get across what we were trying to make, especially over email, and without a tech, the pack was all trial and error. We were looking for a supplier that was somewhat vertically integrated so we didn’t have to go source fabric or trims ourselves, had a small MOQ, and could deliver within our bootstrapped budget.

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Tanya Zhang, on starting Nimble Made ($5,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a niche e-commerce business

Amanda Austin started Little Shop of Miniatures, which started as a side hustle and sells niche e-commerce. It cost $5,000 to start the business. They are now making $4,000 revenue/mo.

I used Shopify to set up my store--I love it! I probably asked their support team a million questions in the first few months.

My background was in copywriting and websites. I knew how to write for both search engines and a reader. So after I uploaded about a bazillion products, I created a blog with tons of rich keywords related to dollhouse miniatures. I’ve been rather lazy about updating content, but to this day it brings thousands of people to my site for free every month. Some of my most popular posts include “9 Free Dollhouse Miniatures Printables Site” and “How to Choose a Dollhouse Glue.”

how-i-started-a-part-time-dropship-business-on-shopify

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Amanda Austin, on starting Little Shop of Miniatures ($4,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a illustrated books for kids business

Jane Du started Finn and Remy, LLC, which started as a side hustle and sells illustrated books for kids. It cost $1,200 to start the business. They are now making $2,000 revenue/mo.

My first commercial product was a watercolor greeting card design that I created of a hedgehog holding a pinecone. I was practicing dip ink calligraphy at the time and made it into a “thank you” card.

leaving-the-american-dream-to-travel-the-world-writing-children-s-books

My friends loved this piece and from it, I started making more hedgehog based doodles. I also branched out into other underappreciated animals such as mice, badgers, raccoons, and anteaters, but hedgehogs remain my character animal.

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Jane Du, on starting Finn and Remy, LLC ($2,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a kitchen-krafted body products business

Meredith Moseley-Bennett & Yolanda Grbic started Oh My Balm, which started as a side hustle and sells kitchen-krafted body products. It cost $10,000 to start the business. They are now making $2,000 revenue/mo.

Once we had decided that we wanted to do this, it was time to think of a name. You have no idea (or maybe you do) what a formidable task it is to name a body products company. Think of a clever name, Google, find out it is taken, rinse and repeat. We found there were considerations beyond whether or not a name is taken. Target audience; the potential of making your name too “niche;” and coming up with a name that is simple, but catchy and easy to remember guided us in our quest to name our company.

After about three weeks of deliberate research and calling to the stars for a name, it came to us like a light - Oh My Balm. At first, we were thinking we might have to get a friend to create a logo, but then, one night we were playing with fonts and created a very simple logo. We had a friend show us how to turn it into a jpg and we were off and running. We knew branding colors were important as well and we loved green because of its connection to nature.

how-two-moms-started-a-business-selling-homemade-body-butter

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Meredith Moseley-Bennett & Yolanda Grbic, on starting Oh My Balm ($2,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a portrait from pennies business

Maury McCoy started Penny Portrait, which started as a side hustle and sells portrait from pennies. It cost $2,000 to start the business. They are now making $1,250 revenue/mo.

Creating the original prototype was a lot of fun. I toyed with placing pennies in a grid pattern vs. a honeycomb pattern, tried 3 vs. 4 shades of pennies and also tried different poster dimensions. A local printer was able to print a sample one for me that cost ~ $30.

Once I nailed down the design, I filed for a copyright which costs only $35 for a single work of art. The toughest decision I then had was how many posters to purchase initially.

I wanted a high-quality product, so didn’t want to skimp on printing or materials, but printing can be quite expensive. There are online places which will print posters for you at great prices, but the paper quality is lower and when you include shipping, the savings disappear.

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Maury McCoy, on starting Penny Portrait ($1,250 revenue/mo) full story

Start a men's health products business

Jack Scrimshire started The Gentlemen’s Lounge, which started as a side hustle and sells men's health products. It cost $2,000 to start the business. They are now making $1,000 revenue/mo.

I’m a pretty do-it-yourself kind of guy (and frankly don’t like spending money when I don’t have to), so when I realized how essential quality beard care products are, I started making them for myself.

As I tried different recipes and batches, I was able to use them on myself to see how they worked. What’s great about beard products, is if something doesn’t work it’s, objectively obvious. If my beard was flaking after two weeks using particular oils, I knew that recipe wasn’t great.

All in all from packaging to ingredients my startup costs were around $2,000.

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Jack Scrimshire, on starting The Gentlemen’s Lounge ($1,000 revenue/mo) full story

Start a men's underwear business

Zaid Shahatit started Nooks, which started as a side hustle and sells men's underwear. It cost $1,240 to start the business. They are now making $800 revenue/mo.

I had some boxes manufactured in China and shipped to the United States for a previous business, so I knew how to get in touch with manufacturers, negotiate deals and work together to perfect the design of the product. I spent a couple of hours searching through Alibaba for underwear manufacturers and messaged about a handful that met our requirements - low minimum order quantity (<500), great materials and awesome reviews.

After going back and forth for a few days, we settled on 1 and had them send us a sample with our logo (which I just threw together on Canva). For product design, I knew from the beginning that I didn't want loud design - nothing plastered across the waistband, no logos on the actual underwear, etc.

After about a week, I received a sample in the mail and decided to take some photos for a landing page (Shopify) and set up a couple of Facebook ads to collect leads. I didn’t want to launch to crickets. The ads ended up collecting about 1100 emails over the course of about 2 weeks, and now I had some customers to talk to over email, chat, social media, etc. about what they want.

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Zaid Shahatit, on starting Nooks ($800 revenue/mo) full story

Start a automatic time-tracking business

Stas Moor started Klokki, which started as a side hustle and sells automatic time-tracking. They are now making $350 revenue/mo.

The process to create the product included several steps. First, and I think the most important step is to identify the problem. I am a big believer that you actually have to fully live and understand the problem before trying to solve it. So being a freelancer myself, I faced the issue of forgetting to start and pause the timer multiple times a day. The answer was to ship a product that was not only a bit better but actually gets into the core and provides a solution that is context-based. By that I mean, why can’t the timer just start as soon as I open up Figma or a site or a specific file that I am working on? That’s how we defined the problem and a possible solution.

Don’t fall for the hype around starting a “business” — be smart about it, because it’s not going to be easy.

After that, we listed down all the basic features a time-tracking app needs to have and started to sketch… a lot. We researched our competitors, saw their takes on things, marked their flaws and tried to come up with a better solution. In parallel, it is also good to try and design a first take of the product, just to start getting a feeling of how the app will eventually look like and live inside a certain eco-system (in our case — macOS).

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Stas Moor, on starting Klokki ($350 revenue/mo) full story

Conclusion

As you can see, you don’t have to have a ton of money in the bank to start a business. In fact, many entrepreneurs say that the challenge of having little startup money taught them to do things right from the start, which ultimately helped their business grow in the long run.

Thanks for reading! To learn more about businesses getting started, visit our explore page at Starter Story

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Samantha Walls,   Founder of Starter Story Blog