You don’t need money to start a business: Fact or Farce?

In 2014 after a couple of months of clinical practice at a teaching hospital where I was supposed to work after my graduation. I observed something weird. Almost everyone was always whining about how their working conditions were terrible and on and on. This observation pushed me to a decision to be on my own after graduation. Unfortunately, there was just one big problem, I had no money and was from a rather poor family. How do I go about being on my own? In this article, we shall discuss this topic thoroughly in its simplest form as possible.

Whenever I thought about business, there was always something that blocked me off, money. Where was I going to get money to start? How do you start a business when I have GH₵ 0.00 account balance?

One day something crossed my mind. Yes, I had no money and I didn’t need anyone to convince me, it was a hard fact. So what could I do to get closer to starting my own business? The Answer to this question led me on a hard, troubling and extremely difficult road.

I went from a student in laboratory medicine to a student of entrepreneurship. I was learning everything I could find on entrepreneurship. I also connected with an industrious mentor Ibrahim Curtis. It took me 4 years, from 2014 to 2018 to start a proper business; Starna Medical Services. Prior to this, I had started Starna farms, fashion and hospitality services.

I was also able to carry my roommate along the journey and today he has Biohak Diagnostic Services, a thriving diagnostic centre in Yendi. People who knew us at the university can tell how broke we were and we were able to start our various businesses even before our graduation from school. Check out NetSpot Ghana, one of the many tech businesses I am involved with and hopefully more to follow.

I started this article with my own story in order to give context to what we are about to discuss. So buckle up and let’s get started.

Can you start a business without money? My answer is yes, but you at least need to have something. Some other form of capital (more on this later).

If you have no money but reached a decision to be on your own, there are many things you can do. You have no money, fair, but what do you have?

Starting a business without money does not mean you will just wind a magic stick and voila, a business appears. If that were possible almost everyone would have one. The process of starting a business without money is just like any other business. You will have to buy stuff and pay people with money. When I developed my first business plan the cash needed to start my laboratory business was over GH₵ 60,000. This amount was enough to put me off since I had no idea how to raise it. The first thing I did was to acknowledge what I did not have and figure out what I did have.

Financial capital is what blocks many people from starting businesses because they don’t realise there are many other forms of capital. In a previous article, I wrote extensively on this, you may want to check that out.

It may be that you have skills or experience in a particular field. Or you have rich friends who you can link up with people who have the experience or skill. In my case, I had no skill nor experience nor rich friends. I only had my ability to learn anything I wanted to. I quickly developed the skills to the point where I was confident enough to communicate clearly about my ideas to anyone.

Business is not just about ideas, it is also about execution and there are so many skills that are required to start and manage a business successfully. The good thing is that these are skills you can develop by learning. You can also take a job just to learn certain skills in a particular domain you are interested in. Once you have the skill set, it becomes your capital.

Another important skill is networking skills. While you are building the other hard skills for business, begin to actively build a network of people in the business world. Once you are ready, it is this network you will leverage to build the required team and resources to get your business started.

In this era, sole-proprietorship is almost dead. Even if you have all the money to start a business, it is not a good idea to start it alone. Starting with a team gives your business a higher chance of success. That is the principles on which most businesses are build today.

You can’t communicate your ideas well without good communication skills. So that is another important skills. Once you have, it becomes easy to build a team for almost anything you want to do.

Firstly, you need to have an exceptional command on the concept you want to develop. And when you speak to anyone don’t act like you are seeking a favour. Do not approach your uncle asking for help, rather present a business proposal. Don’t expect a dime if he is not convinced he will make money. Do your homework well before you meet any potential member of your team. Even who to talk to requires proper selection, not anybody should be welcomed into the team.

There are several practical steps involved in starting a business with zero account balance. This article can’t handle everything but I hope you get the point. All the things mentioned in the article can be done without money. In the era of internet, you can learn almost anything for free. You can build a network easily even with people you have never met. You can join business forums to learn more from other people’s experiences. You can get a job easily if your focus in on learning a practical skill.

If you have all that I have spoken about, you are ready to start almost any business with or without money of your own. It is very simple, but not easy. Don’t think it will come on a silver platter, what is important though is that it can be done. I have done it successfully many times over and I know so many people who have. I am not special in any way. I have no unfair advantage whatsoever.

All I did was realised that it could be done. That it won’t be easy. And that it would be worth the try. It took long years and I am even just getting started but one thing I can say is that you won’t regret it.

With my personal story, I am not just saying “you can start a business with no money”, I am living that saying and you can too. Ask yourself, if its really true that only money makes money, and you have no money, have you accepted a life of poverty? Or are you ready to do something about it?

A study by Fidelity Investments found that 88% of millionaires are selfmade. That is a proof for you. Can it be done? Yes, is it easy? Absolutely not.

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