With five years of experience working for small businesses and non-profits I’ve learned that budget constraints are difficult to deal with. To navigate these constraints, I’ve learned how to think with a bootstrap mentality.
This blog will explore the four main ways that Pablow bootstraps our startup and provide ideas of how you can bootstrap your own small business or non-profit.
Although bootstrapping software is not always a possibility (i.e. everyone must purchase the Microsoft Office product suite), it is an extremely useful strategy in software categories with plenty of competitors and similar features.
For example, instead of using SalesForce for our customer relationship management (CRM) software, we use Zoho and HubSpot for free. Zoho in particular is an effective tool that allows our small sales team to set up contacts, take notes and set reminders.
Our development team requires a software development platform to collaborate on the projects they are working on, and instead of paying for a platform we’ve set up free accounts with GitHub. GitHub gives our team the ability to point out issues, assign team members to projects and chat about solutions to our problems.
INTERNS AND CONTRACTORS
Small businesses often rely upon interns to complete projects that are outside the organization’s current capacity and resources. At Pablow we take this a step further to utilize interns not only in positions that are outside our capacity, but also will bring significant value to the business. It’s a win-win in doing so, because we receive work that will ultimately contribute to the bottom line and interns receive valuable work assignments.
Additionally, as a technology startup our company qualifies for an Iowa Economic Development grant that allows us to split the hourly wage of our interns with the state of Iowa. This grant ensures that we are receiving quality intern help, without paying more than minimum wage.
The important projects that won’t be covered by our permanent team or interns are handed off to contractors, who have helped us with our product launch, cold email campaign, development and marketing content among other tasks.
Tradeshows are an important part of the vacation rental and insurance industries, but they’re often incredibly expensive! To avoid breaking the bank we’ve developed a few creative solutions and one very important rule to spend less money.
Rule #1: Instead of renting at a tradeshow, buy the materials you need ahead of time. This will require some additional work and planning, but figuring out what you do and do not need before the tradeshow will save you thousands as an exhibitor.
There are plenty of cheap ways that you can have a fun and engaging booth at a tradeshow. Why pay $1,000 for a fire breather when you can purchase a mini-golf putting green for $20?
At our most recent tradeshow we wanted to set up computers on a high table so that people could create their own travel insurance website without having to sit down. Instead of renting the expensive tables for just a few days we bought two computer stands on Amazon for $40 that will work even better for our booth.
One perk of taking classes for my MBA while working full-time is my student status. Besides receiving discounts at baseball games and the movie theater, purchasing student tickets for professional events and conferences saves my company thousands each year.
At one recent conference I was able to sign up for a $40 student ticket (regularly priced $495) and participate in all of the same events as those who had paid full price. I essentially paid for my food costs for the two days and everything else was covered!
Bootstrapping is an incredibly useful strategy to save money and cut costs, but it’s a practiced mentality. I challenge you to start bootstrapping by thinking about five different ways you can cut costs in your organization without materially altering the product or service you deliver to customers. I promise it’s possible!