Most of us have the abilities needed to become entrepreneurs and solopreneurs. The problem is a lot of people - yourself included, perhaps - don’t know how to put these skills to use.

This isn’t such a surprise, since it normally takes $30,000 or more to start a business. That’s a large barrier.

But what if you could skip it? What if you could create your own business without going into debt, or having to get another degree?

Below I’ll show you how to do this with your own retail business. Whether you want to create your own products to sell or get inventory through a vendor, these steps will help you build your own retail business (without financing).

Figure out what to sell.

Before you can run a business, you’ve got to have something to sell. Do you have anything in mind?

Many people who start a retail business on a budget create the things they’re going to sell. Usual items include:

  • Baked goods

  • Artistic trinkets

  • Photographs, paintings, or small sculptures

  • Furniture

  • Produce

  • And original creations of all sorts

If what you want to sell isn’t something you can create, or, if you don’t know what to sell yet, you need to find a vendor. This can be difficult, particularly if you’re new to the game and aren’t sure what to look for.

That’s okay, though, because several platforms like Alibaba make it easy to get merchandise.

Go where the people are.

To sell something, you need people to sell it to. Where are they?

Typically, the two most expensive things for a new retail business are inventory and space. The amount of startup capital you have will dictate whether a physical storefront is an option for you, but let’s start on the cheap side.

To find customers, you either need to be easy to find online, or you need to attend events like farmers markets, trade shows, and the like. If you want, you can do both (and more), but I’d recommend starting out with just one until you get the hang of things.

Being easy to find online could mean being active and engaging on social media, using SEO to your advantage, advertising to the right people, or being on the right platforms (like Etsy and Amazon).

Farmers markets and similar events will run you about $500 a season, or a few bucks per day, while trade shows will normally cost anywhere from $500 to several thousand dollars per event (though they often bring more potential customers).

Manage your inventory and sales.

It might be fun to just show up places and sell your goods, but real businesses keep a lazer eye on everything in, out, and sitting on the shelf. Do you know how to keep up with it all?

Things you’ll need to be able to do include:

  • Tracking inventory

  • Processing payments

  • Recording sales

  • And giving receipts

An added bonus would be reporting on each of these, so you can see where you’re doing well and where you might want to improve. Thankfully, there are tools that make this easy for you, like Shopify POS, whether you’re selling online, at an event, or in your own store.

Save as much as you can.

Starting a business without financing normally means you’re light on cash. How can you fix that?

The concept is simple: don’t spend anything.

Of course, it takes money to make money, and you have to pay for inventory and other overhead. But every penny of what you sell needs to go back into your business. The one exception is if you’re already supporting yourself solely from this business, in which case things get a bit more complicated (but congratulations!).

In an ideal situation, your retail business will become self-sustaining. You’ll make enough in the beginning to cover expenses and purchase more inventory. Over time, this will snowball (because you’re constantly saving every penny to put back into the business). Eventually, the business will make enough money to cover expenses and support you.

But that opportunity only comes from scale (growth), and scale comes from reinvesting your earnings into more inventory, marketing, or whatever it is that fuels your sales.

Decide whether to hire or stay small.

As you get through the first few steps, things will begin to grow. You’ll hit new stages in your company and in your progress. What are you going to do next?

Your two options are to keep doing exactly what you’re doing, and grow slowly or remain steady. Or, you can change what you’re doing slightly to accommodate growth.

Usually (though not always) this change means hiring other people to help you sell more, attend more events, or manage some of your duties so you can focus on more important things.

There’s not an obvious correct choice. This is your business we’re talking about! It’s success is entirely defined and dictated by you - but you will have to make a decision.

Wrapping Up

These days, it’s relatively easy to start a retail business, and even to support yourself and your family financially through it. It takes some finagling, hard work, and commitment, but I believe you can do it. Are you ready?

Published by Kenneth Burke