Monday, the Wall Street Journal profiled three ambitious young entrepreneurs – all under the age of 35 – who started their own businesses for less than $150. Their stories show that, even in these uncertain economic times, it’s possible to get ahead on the strength of your own wit and perseverance.
A common thread between the three, says the WSJ, is hard work – $100 and 100,000 hours, as entrepreneur Jeff Swedarsky put it. Different businesses also have different capital requirements – it takes $82,000 to start a construction business, the Kauffmann Foundation told the paper, and $175,000 to start a manufacturer.
Kael Robinson, 27, started with seed money of $40, which she used to buy 100 cotton bracelets similar to one given to her as a gift. She sold them to lacrosse players that she coached, and sold out fast. Working with local businesses, cold-calling and even nonprofits, she built her business up to that point that last year, she cleared $60,000 in profit off of $160,000 in revenue.
Jeff Swedarsky, 29, hold an M.B.A. and works as a bureaucrat for the U.S. Coast Guard. Where some employees might take nights and weekends off, though, he runs Food Tours, bringing in groups for tastings at different restaurants, with which he contracts to have special meals served in the lunch-dinner gap. His first tour, the WSJ reports, had just two people back in in May 2008. His initial fees were $110, for a business registration and a domain name. These days, he has 23 staffers and hopes to clear $300,000 in revenue for 2010.
The final entrepreneur, Marc Ringel, is a bit different from the others. A math teacher at a New York City public school, he took on a sales position at a flooring company to earn a bit of extra cash. In 2007, just as the housing market was collapsing, he started his own flooring venture, with $145 in cash.
Without licensing, insurance or the technical skills to actually do flooring work, he partnered with a freelance contractor and spent his money on a digital voicemail system, business cards and a domain name.
He then deployed his network of contacts and began advertising. Though he wouldn’t tell the WSJ how much money he’s making, he pays himself a regular salary.
"Making a mistake – or a string of mistakes – doesn’t mean you’re a failure; it’s part of the learning process. There’s no magic formula for building a business, you just need a willingness to do lots of hard work," he told the paper.