Don't Ever Stop Bootstrapping

Great respect is due for anyone starting a venture. A tremendous undertaking in leadership is entailed. Here are some ideas in bootstrapping which have been helpful to me, and which I hope will help anyone growing their own organization.

1) Bootstrapping

Don't ever stop bootstrapping. My point is, always have your 'skin in the game.' Keep your expenses down. Care about your costs. Don't rest on your laurels ... and keep caring about how that dollar is spent on Day One as Day 2,555 (seven years, which is the average start-up mode). Why would you ever stop caring about hard-earned dollars?

That doesn't mean you can't think big. Garner more resources. Attain significant investments from major investors. But always care. Don't lose your "bootstrap caring." Everyone has put forth some serious investment to make their money. Respect their money as you do your own.

2) Family and Friends Close

Keep those close supporters for family and friends — close. It's not just financial support. It's 'history' support, emotional support, track-record support, 'wisdom' support of someone having seen you build something from scratch—and maintain it. Keep those people who respect you very near with great, great ongoing appreciation. For some years after that initial investment, it may be more that they continue to be a sounding board or a positive cheerleader as you make advancements. As you grow your business, they might jump back in financially at a needed time. If you've kept them educated and inspired, they understand your need and will most likely help.

3) Share, Incubate

UniversalGiving is a part of The Hub, a worldwide organization that brings together entrepreneurs from all over the community. There are socially conscious forprofits, nonprofits, independent workers. We have a shared kitchen, and "Super Salad" days where chefs come in and make salads with grilled tofu and almonds and fresh fruits and vegetables. You can participate by helping create it, and pay $5 for a healthy lunch. Milk and coffee, conference rooms, printing, faxing stations are all shared, which reduces costs for each entrepreneur and has minimum footprint for the earth. I think we have a shared printer and fax for about 40 people—what a great use of one machine! The Hub is designed to encourage sharing and networking among entrepreneurial individuals and organizations.

Incubation is an option. Shared office space to cut costs and increase camaraderie with another entrepreneur. Or you can even ask a larger company if they have extra room. The point is, get into an environment that will help you, and your team, succeed more rapidly.

Remember as an entrepreneur, you may not 'see' your environment. I didn't when I was building UniversalGiving. I was in my home for 2 years with printed three-year budget and contingency budget scenarios all over my roommate's living room. When I cofounded VolunteerMatch, I worked alone in a one-room brick office with no windows.

We entrepreneurs just want to get things done. We have a vision and we are stepping into that reality urgently. Who cares if there are no curtains, the rug doesn't match, my bed isn't made ... ? Or, my favorite, it's too taxing for me to think about clothes so I end up wearing the same thing two days in a row ... :) We need to create!

So the point is ...

Not everyone is like that. Your team may need a more supportive and inspiring environment. And, it's good to treat yourself to that, too!

Let's keep some of our entrepreneurial motives throughout the longevity of our organization. As entrepreneurs we can commit to caring about our resources and relationships well beyond startup mode.

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