Ah, yes. This is the need that often arises first in the minds of new entrepreneurs. Notice it is the last in this series after initially getting your mind ready and making sure you’ve got your physical needs. There’s a reason for that. Many folks who start a small side hustle have modest expectations. With modest expectations, come modest capital requirements. Sometimes those capital requirements are about as close to zero as you can imagine.
“I have, with one exception, always started every venture with resources or personal connections to get what I needed, even if I couldn’t afford it,” says Margo Benge, Owner of Miracles, as well as North Node Publishing, in Houston. “And I’m very creative at managing at next to nothing—a benefit from the years before I figured out how to be successful.”
Especially with a retirement side hustle, which will probably develop from some activity that you’ve been doing for some time, the transition from a non-revenue generating diversion to a for-profit enterprise might only involve a tiny investment.
“As a beginner, we all require funds to expand and take a small hobby and expand this into a business that can sustain itself by reinvestment,” says Rizwan Girach, Owner of Chessgammon in Leicester, United Kingdom. “Again, we have ensured the business is self-funded and requires no loans to prevent being hit by the toughest times.”
You’re probably not starting a brick-and-mortar business. You probably don’t need to rent office space. It’s very possible all you’ll need is a computer with an internet connection and an available electrical outlet.
“I didn’t need much to get started,” says Alexis Haselberger, Time Management and Productivity Coach at Alexis Haselberger Coaching and Consulting in San Francisco. “I started my business out of my home (and, in fact, still work out of my home), and the only upfront cost I had was a website on Squarespace for about $200.”
Of course, there’s no reason at this stage in life to avoid ambitious undertakings. That might mean operating on more than a shoestring budget.
“I needed an IT company to help bring my vision to life,” says Mollie Krengel, Founder of Wild Bum in Minneapolis. “I wanted Wild Bum to be a gorgeous platform that sparks adventure and a sense of serenity. I needed money to build the site.”
Now comes the question you’ve all been waiting for. “Where do I get the money to fund my side hustle?”
Well, if it’s not apparent by now, your retirement side hustle should not require a king’s ransom to fund. It may require something, but you certainly don’t want to start a business that forces you to refinance your house. Tapping into family and friends for a few thousand, though, isn’t out of the question.
“To start my new business, I needed to be sure I had the right amount of experience, a strong reputation in my profession and a Rolodex of contacts who would take my call and consider hiring me and my nascent firm,” says Steve Cody, Founder and CEO of Peppercomm in New York City. “I could not have done so at an earlier stage in my career. I also needed to borrow $7,500 from my mother-in-law and $5,000 from my older brother to ensure I could stay afloat for the first few months.”
If you’ve planned properly, however, there’s no need to ask anyone else for start-up capital. You might already have it. You might harvest some lifetime assets, assuming that won’t disrupt your source of retirement income.
“To start any business, you need capital,” says Paul Polizzotto, Founder & CEO of Givewith in Manhattan Beach, California. “To start Givewith, I had the financial advantage of selling two prior enterprises I founded. I also had the experience of launching two successful companies.”
Finally, and this is the goal you should aim for, design your side hustle so the first few sales can provide the necessary start-up capital. This is known as “pre-selling” your product or service. You take advance orders before actually delivering the goods. This is an ideal strategy if you don’t have much to start with in terms of an existing prospect pipeline.
“Everyone needs a boost at the beginning from a sponsor,” says Chin Beckmann, CEO & Co-Founder of DSP Concepts in Santa Clara, California, “so when DSP Concepts started, I really needed to identify those early customers that believed in us and our value.”
This strategy works best when you have a side hustle in an industry where advanced ordering is already commonplace.
“We had little experience or an established network, let alone seed capital,” says Thibaud Clement, CEO and Co-founder of Loomly in Los Angeles. “Inspired by a prior encounter in Canada with Bruce Firestone—he is the entrepreneur who brought back the NHL Senators to Ottawa—who made us discover the art of bootstrapping, we were able to start the business with negative two hundred dollars by pre-selling subscriptions to future customers and using the money to buy the candy and ship them. That’s the moment we truly understood the concept of working capital and how to make it work for us.”
The bottom line is don’t allow anything to hold you back. Move forward, maybe with baby steps, but move forward. Successful entrepreneurs have had the jitters when getting started. They figured out a way to get over them. You should, too.
“I thought I needed a million and one things to get my business started like business cards, a detailed business plan, an elaborate marketing initiative to come out with a bang,” says Daniel Ndukwu, Founder& CEO of KyLeads in Powder Springs, Georgia. “In reality, most of that wasn’t necessary. Cards don’t close customers. Due diligence is important, but a detailed business plan will be obsolete in 6 months—the business landscape changes too fast. All I needed was a clearly defined niche, a product people wanted to buy, and the ability to get in front of that target market.”
The formula for a successful side hustle does not differ from that of any successful business.
“To start my business, I needed a product or service and customers. It’s as simple as that,” says Camille Hugh, CEO of In Stitches Games in New York City. “I had a product (real estate inventory) from the years I had invested in finding clients (landlords and property management companies). To find my customers, I advertised online and offline. I fueled my business by encouraging and promoting word of mouth, the best kind of promotion and marketing there is. This means that I had to do an exceptional job and put professionalism, transparency, and honesty at the top of my list of priorities to exceed clients’ expectations, which then resulted in referrals.”
What’s holding you back?
The answer should be “nothing.”