How to Start a Business With $20

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Starting a business with little upfront investment requires that you bypass ‘fixed costs’. Fixed Costs are things we need to buy in order to do business, even before we get the business rolling. For a farmer, fixed costs will be his tractor. Landscaper’s will have fixed costs in the form of equipment like lawnmowers. Most any tangible and manufacturing based business will involve fixed costs.

Enter Services

The first step to bypassing your fixed costs is to orient your business to serve, not to produce. If you are selling a product, chances are you will need to manufacture and distribute it. That equates to too much start up capital. So instead, let’s focus more on services. If you think about it, all business is a matter of services. Does a company like Apple sell a product (iPod, iPhone), or does it sell a service. Apple is in the service industry. It provides its costumers with novelty. It serves peoples curiosity for what is different. If your product is simply a product, you will surely be limited in your success.

Let your product or service embody something greater than what it is. Being remarkable is generally a matter of ideas rather than $$$. When it comes to offering a product, reframe in terms of a service. When offering a service, ask yourself what would make it remarkable. Are you offering ice cream with your little ice-cream stand? No, you are offering the cold refreshing relief of a sugary sweet on a hot summer day. Value is created by what is intangible. Lifestyle, belonging, curiosity, fun. These ideas will have more of an emotional impact on a customer than any gadget could ever provide.

Provide service rather than product.

Possible services:

  • Information (abundance of knowledge capital)
    • Consulting
    • Expertise
    • Coaching

Are you particularly good at anything?

  • Time (abundance of time capital)
    • Data entry
    • Redundancies

Do you have large amounts of free time?

  • Labor (abundance of human capital)
    • Trash/recycling service
    • Construction
    • Yard work
    • Painting

Do you have access to people who you could team up with to form a manual labor crew?

Enter the Internet

Now we have covered a list of physical ‘real world’ domains that could be developed into businesses. The problem with the real world is that it is limited. The laws of physics are constantly restricting us. The world keeps moving around the sun and the clock keeps ticking away. There are never enough resources in the real world: time, money, people, competence, and knowledge.

The beauty of the Internet is that it is the land of abundance. Anything is possible. Everything is available. And all at your finger tips. Starting a web-based business will save you time. You do everything from the convenience of your home. Equally important is that the Internet will save you money. How?

  • Distribution
    • The world becomes your audience. Say goodbye to the physical limitations of reality.
    • Cost
      • You can find basically any type of info online for free
      • You can find labor for 60% to 80% cheaper on sites like,, and
      • You can save a lot of time by automating your business with web tools

An interesting thing happens once you enter the cyber world. It is much harder to develop trust with your customers than it would be with a physical, ‘real world’ business. People generally need some form of human interaction in order to create feelings of trust. This is probably one of the biggest hurdles for online businesses. With that said, nothing is impossible.

Possible Online Businesses:

Because you are working with only $20 or so dollars from your wallet, it would be best to focus on information businesses.

Everyone is good at something (hopefully true). The trick is to know what you are good at and convey it in an understandable and hopefully monetizable way.

Step 1 – Find some valuable information you can share to the world

  • Are you particularly good at something?
  • Have you had a unique experience that people would be interested in?

Step 2- Find appropriate channel to broadcast your message

  • Is your info more visual? Think: YouTube channel that you could then advertise on.
  • Is your info reoccurring? Think: Blog with weekly posts.
  • Is your info in-depth? Think: E-book writing that you can self publish and sell on Amazon for free.

Step 3 – Become popular

  • Drive traffic to your information channel

Step 4 – Monetize

  • Ad revenue
  • Sell eBook

Creating a business with little or no fixed costs is definitely achievable. What’s more, it is becoming easier with the advent of the Internet and the scope it allows individuals to have. Because of limited startup funds, it is best to focus on things YOU can give or do. This leads us to a logical place: information. Everyone has some and it’s always a little different with each person.

Find a way to leverage your information in a way that is remarkable and unique and you will succeed.

Lewis Edward is an entrepreneur and the co-owner of The Office Providers . The Office Providers provide any kind of office space, including serviced offices and business centers. Visit his website to find out more.

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