Start Your Own Business for $100 or Less

If you can't find someone to hire you, consider hiring yourself.

Not only can entrepreneurship bring great personal fulfillment, but launching a small business doesn't have to break the bank.

Here's my story and some of my favorite resources to help get you started.

My story. In 1999 I started Women for Hire to put on career fairs. I worked from home with no experience running a business, but I had a serious entrepreneurial itch -- that burning desire to run my own shop, do my own thing, be my own boss and provide what I thought was a much-needed service to the workplace.

VIDEO: Tory Johnson on GMA.

I didn't have a lot of money and I didn't have much time. Because my household very much relied on my income, I had three months to launch the company and generate a profit. If the venture failed, I'd have to quickly get a traditional job, which of course I didn't want to do.

Instead of spending months and months writing a business plan, I put my thoughts on one sheet of paper and I dived in. That's also the impatient side of me; I didn't want to think or talk about starting a business, I just wanted to do it.

With a background in corporate communications, I knew the importance of establishing immediate credibility. I'd be targeting human resource professionals to use my services, yet nobody in human resources departments knew my name. My company was totally unknown.

I bought 100 copies of Star Jones' new book at wholesale from the publisher and I arranged for Jones, who was debuting on "The View" at the time, to do a free book signing at my very first career fair. I also formed a marketing partnership with Mademoiselle magazine, allowing it to distribute copies to my career fair attendees.

Those two names -- Star Jones and Mademoiselle -- were very well known, even though I wasn't, so I benefited instantly from that borrowed recognition.

Incidentally, Jones moved on from "The View" and Mademoiselle went bust, but Women for Hire is still going strong! Knock on wood.

My focus from Day 1 has remained the same: provide a top-notch service, get the word out to the target audience and sell it. If you're thinking of starting a business, that's what you should do too.

Get the Word Out

First step, put it in writing. Write a brief plan outlining your goals. You don't need anything formal unless you're going to seek substantial capital. In fact, researchers at Babson College found that in businesses started between 1985 and 2003, there was no difference in the performance of those that launched with or without a written business plan.

Go through a simple exercise of putting a few things on paper for your own good: describe your business in one sentence. Who will buy your products or service? How much money do you absolutely need to get started? How much can you realistically charge for your product or service? What will it cost you to deliver that product or service? In the worst-case scenario, how much can you make?

Don't assume the best-case scenario because more often than not, you won't meet those projections. A baker may dream of selling 100 cakes a week, but is five more realistic to start? A dog walker might assume he can handle 10 customers a week, but is two more realistic to start?

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