When Courtney and I decided to launch Socialfly in May of 2011, we knew we were taking a big risk. Neither of us had attended business school, neither of us had launched a company before, and we didn’t have a presence in the NYC entrepreneur bubble.
We were in our mid-twenties and, truthfully, we were naive – we didn’t even know that raising money for our business was an option. We built our now-multi-million-dollar social and digital marketing business entirely from scratch using our own money, strategic networking, and a handful of scrappy techniques that helped us fill in the gaps that we had in experience, resources, and know-how.
Here are 5 ways we grew our business without taking in any outside money:
We waded in cautiously and cut overhead as much as possible. Although Courtney and I were both 100 percent committed to launching Socialfly, we knew that we couldn’t quit our day jobs until we had invested the time in developing our brand and landing enough clients to keep us afloat. For the first 10 months, we kept our day jobs and spent our early mornings, evenings and weekends building Socialfly. We also knew that we needed to keep our operation as streamlined as possible – all we needed were our laptops, phones, and our apartments to get done what we needed to, so, at the beginning, the only money we spent was on web hosting services and an inexpensive web developer to build our site. When we needed extra people to help, we hired interns in exchange for college credit.
We bartered with other entrepreneurs for essential services we knew the business needed. Early on, we didn’t have the capital to invest in many services that we knew we would need in order to scale our business, so we had to get creative. We met a number of entrepreneurs through our networking groups who needed social and digital media help, and so we were able to exchange that for services including office space, legal consultation, and even public relations help. Over time, as we began to see success, we tapered off this practice. Eventually, the amount of time that we were spending on providing services in exchange for another person’s services became more valuable to us than the service itself, and we began paying providers outright.