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Starting a business with nothing but you

Updated on November 19, 2016
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Starting from Scratch

One of the most exciting adventures in starting a new business or developing an idea happens by starting it from scratch. Historically, some of the greatest business achievements have come from those pioneers that had little or no means in which to put their idea or plan into motion and had very little initial support other than a few family members or close friends. Some of these people were, in fact, at the lowest point in their lives. They had already lost nearly everything of monetary value and had very little to risk other than their sanity. However, there were two things that each of these had in common that changed their lives and the lives of the world and led them from poverty to great riches. They had an idea and they had a plan. What they didn’t have was money. One of the greatest examples of growing a business from scratch, was perfectly demonstrated by the perseverance and fortitude of Charles Darrow, the inventor of Monopoly.

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing. ”

― Walt Disney Company

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Broke but not broken

Charles Darrow, like many of his friends and family, was out of work, had no money, and had very little marketable skill sets needed in 1930. He had a family to support and a child on the way. He took odd jobs where he could find them just to put food on the table but even that was just barely enough to get by, certainly not enough in the business sense to move forward. What Charles did have, was an attitude of inventing and he became very good at not wasting time or resources. He still found ways in which to provide entertainment for his family and friends. He had a new idea. He drew a game on the tablecloth of their home and fashioned playing pieces of scrap wood and other objects he found. People who gathered at his table quickly found a great relief from the doleful times and wanted to play his new game in their own homes. With the help of his friends he made several boards and sets of playing pieces that quickly led to several people wanting additional copies. He found he was able to produce about two of his crude games every day. A local department store became willing to allow Charles to try to sell his novelty which in turn sold quickly. The store wanted more…and more…

After becoming better at producing his game on a very small scale and unable to keep up with the demand, his friends suggested he take his game to Parker Brothers which after consideration decided that this game was to complicated and lasted to long to play. As a matter of fact, they gave him a list of fifty-two reasons his game would never get off of the ground. And so, Parker Brothers rejected his game, Monopoly. Thankfully, for the millions of us who have enjoyed this game, the rejection did not stop Charles. He continued to find better ways to self produce and self market his game reaching out to F. A. O. Schwarz who placed an order for 200 sets. It didn’t take long for Parker Brothers to get wind of his success and ended up offering Charles a very lucrative offer. Charles retired a multi-millionaire by the time he was 46.

Charles Darrow was broke, but not broken. He had the two things that successful entrepreneurs have in common, he had an idea, and he had a plan.

Playing in style

For those of us who understand the importance of not only playing board games but also providing a respectable format, the wood edition of Monopoly allows it to become part of your décor. Well crafted and beautiful.

Thing one and thing two

The two things in common that Charles Darrow and other successful entrepreneurs are the very basis of what made the difference. Developing an idea and putting a plan to that idea requires simply a pen and a piece of paper. If you ask any successful entrepreneur about the most memorable exciting part of their adventure, it will most likely be the same—the birth and inspiration of their idea.

Software that grows your ideas

Plan your work and work your plan

I'm sure if Charles would have had a business plan software available to him at the time, he would have mastered its use! Quality planning software like Business Plan Pro, allows you to create multiple ideas and develop them into well formatted documents and plans. As a business grows, this software grows with you and allows you to constantly evaluate where you are in your progress.

“I'm a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn't have the heart to let him down.”

― Abraham Lincoln

Naysayer vs. Yea-sayer

The very moment you verbalize your idea you will get a response depending on how you present it. You will easily find more naysayers than yea-sayers but, it is important to understand both and develop an ability to read between the lines. In the study of Charles Darrow and his success with Monopoly, Parker Brothers was his biggest naysayer but ended up being his biggest yea-sayer. If Charles were to have stopped after listening to Parker Brothers, his eventual fortune could have also stopped. The reasons that Parker Brothers gave Charles were based on their expertise of the industry, after all, they were already successful and got that way by making good business decisions. Charles listened to their reasons but, he also listened to his heart and remembered the defining moments which came from his kitchen table. The next time you play Monopoly, share his story. You will be surprised how the conversation changes.

Don't let your good ideas go to waste

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No money, no problem…

As we have discussed above, the focus of starting a business from scratch does not require upfront money. And yes, it does require money to take your idea or business from the initial start up idea and plan stage into the next level. But, just like Charles Darrow, using what is already available around you is the first place to look. As part of your plan include the components that don’t cost money. For instance, nowadays, all businesses need an internet presence. At the very least, a website is your business card. There are literally dozens of “free” website builders that require nothing to start, are easy to design, and can have you online in a matter of hours. Obviously, there is a motive behind these places that offer free websites…somehow, they make money…true. But on the other hand, they know if they can provide a tool to help you make money, they in turn will also make money.

Starting your business online

Using a quality website builder takes much of the learning curve away by providing a comprehensive easy to use approach. WebsiteX is a great example of putting you, your business, or your idea in front of those who can help you the most. This package includes website hosting for a year, thousands of royalty free images, and step-by-step support to get you up and running quickly.

The more you know

One of the best resources to grow your ideas is a multitude of available TED talks and support information. The video below is a great starting point and, as you move forward, will quickly reveal the tricks and the motivation that will help you succeed.

Ted Talks

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”

― Robert F. Kennedy

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    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan Robert Lancaster 2 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Hello Joel, let the New Year in well? Have a good, prosperous 2015!

      I've played Monopoly off and on for the past half-century, won a few games, can't remember how many I've lost. I've also played it in German. It's called 'Der Kaufmann Talent' ('The Salesman's Skill' or 'Talent').

      The Waddington (British) version is based on famous London estates like Mayfair, Regent Street, Fleet Street etc., with utilities such as the Electric Company, the Gas Company, stations like Kings Cross and Euston. 'Chance' and 'Community Chest' I think might be the same as in the US, like 'Go to Jail' etc. Getting Park Lane and Mayfair and building hotels on them could wreck the opposition - or it could wreck your own chances of winning. I've played about 3+ hours before, but nowadays it's for high days and holidays, when the young 'uns come home for Christmas etc.

      Chess next?

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E. Franklin 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      I haven't played Monopoly for years, but it's great reading about the perseverance it took for the game to become a success. Like that poster says, I wonder how many good ideas are buried and never see the light of day because the person who thought of it believed they didn't have the capital or the influence to get it going. Good job.

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan Robert Lancaster 2 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Another thought I've had: I don't know the process of bankers' thoughts in the US/Canada these days, but even without this economic climate banks in this country are never keen to lend on new ideas. We'd still be in the age of the chariot, if not for the merchant venturers. Once you've got something launched on the market with £/$000's coming in the banks would be all over you, queueing up to lend you money to expand.

      Enterprising souls with a proven track record can go before the panel on Dragon's Den - but woe betide them if they're not armed with working specimens and spreadsheets of figures for the previous 12 months of sales! Not for complete beginners.

    • Joel Diffendarfer profile image
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      Joel Diffendarfer 2 years ago from Ft Collins, Colorado

      aLancaster149--I would love to see a game that you would create...I'm sure it would be a winner. I've designed games for my kids over the years--especially back when we were "too poor" to afford television...I will never regret it and they will never forget. Thanks for the comments--always worth the read and the "reread"!

    • zaton profile image

      Zaton-Taran 18 months ago from California

      Great and informative hub! There's probably never been an easier time for the average person to start a business than today. I really resonated with your section on funding the business start-up - my primary advice to people would be: don't let others discourage you! Work hard and chase that dream.

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