Ok Thekla – You’re not the only entrepreneur who at times, feels this way.
Points as extracted from your question and addressed below:
Addressed in reverse order;
Government funds – forget about these, let them go to their priorities.
Support agencies – how easily can you access the vast resources and wealth of information that exists online? Support agencies are changing shape as inspiring and insightful vloggers and bloggers freely share information on youtube etc. The greatest skill any entrepreneur can ever give themselves is the ability to teach themselves anything they ever need to know. My point here; find a circle of people who know what you need to learn and build your own virtual and physical, ‘personal agency of support’ to fast track your career. Mentors don’t need to be people you meet in person, they can be people whose biography you follow.
The economy – simply speaking; forget the bigger external economy and let’s focus on your own personal economic position.
Minimum Viable Operating Costs
We need our basic necessities covered before we can think creatively. This may mean a part-time job – ideally, it’s raised with the delivery of your Minimum Viable Product. Realistically, we want to aim to build multiple income streams.
Fundraising and startup capital – Money – here’s the rule-of-thumb:
When you need money, nobody wants to give it you. When you don’t need money, everyone wants a slice of what you’ve got.
Think about what this means.
If we were to go around the streets asking people for money to buy ingredients to bake a pie – they would be reluctant to give us their money. Can you bake a pie? What kind of pie? Can I taste your pie before I buy? Will you not just run off with my money??
If instead, we walk the streets with slices of steaming hot pie, smelling, looking and tasting delicious, other people would see the satisfied, lip-smacking smiles on the faces of those who had tasted our pie and soon que up to buy.
We need to get the business to the point where we don’t need money, without money. This requires creativity. It leads to the building of a business with much more stable foundations. Yes! It can be hard work. It can also be highly rewarding.
So… back to basics – without much money, how much time or other resources are available?
How can we most effectively deliver a Minimum Viable Product – something we can sell, ideally as a solution to real problem?
High-growth potential tech startups the likes of whom are based in places such as silicone valley will not like what I have to say BUT in larger areas of the world and to a large percentage of innovators and entrepreneurs startup funds just aren’t available:
It’s ok – there are other ways. As lovely as it is to spend other people’s money, it is not without its own expense:
So…what do we need to succeed?
Most entrepreneurs think they need cash to startup. The reality is they need CONNECTIONS and they need CREDIBILITY.
Work smart not hard – what have you done or could you do to earn money – how could you directly solve your clients’ concerns? Who do you know who could help? What connections can you leverage to ‘rent/borrow/trade’ the supplies, skills and space you need to deliver a product or service? How can you solve somebody’s problem to earn you credibility? Testimonials from people saying ‘thank you’ can go a long way to convincing others to pay for work you do.
Who has paid you before? Who was this person and where can you find more people like them? Concentrate predominately on building your connections and your credibility.
Forgive me if I teach you to suck eggs;
Businesses’ only grow in 3 ways:
I appreciate your business may be more of a community service project designed to help people and ‘customers’ may not be the word you use to think of the people you work with BUT… would these people value your services more if they were to contribute? And – even if they are not paying for your primary services directly, these people are still spending money on other things; food and drink, books, phones and other technology… clothes etc – think laterally and challenge your thinking daily. What else could you sell to them? Who else wants to reach these people – other businesses marketing to your target? Is there a way to connect and collaborate to deliver a joint service? Is there a way to earn introductory commission?
As a young person, you’re likely to be perceived by traditional business as better understanding social media and phone app tech than most of their big bosses – whether or not this is true! How can such perception help you? How can you build strong mobile networks with wide reach that appeal to sponsors? Remember; sponsors are just like pie buyers! AND social-network-pies do not have require expensive ingredients; presence, passion and persistence. My advice… get baking.
Work smart not hard.
Its easy to be busy without being productive.
Given what you have said about funding – prioritise profit.
How could you make $10,000 in a single weekend – whilst doing something worthy of sharing to grow your social-network?
1 sponsor donating $10,000 (unlikely without preliminary work in place – the pie). 10 people giving you $1,000 each – people do pay this sort of money for luxury weekends away (gold mining tourism…??!) – ask yourself who, what, why, when, where, how? 100 people giving you $100 each… use your imagination to design the vision. 1,000 people paying you $10 – what would you sell? A food stand set-up by a starving crowd soon sees people throwing their life-savings after a burnt bun. This metaphor means that your ‘food’ doesn’t have to be 5* provided the people you are offering it to really, really need it. Or… 10,000 people paying $1 each – how would you reach so many at the same time?
Either way, it’s all food for thought. Don’t over think it – come up with 1 x (3)-month money-making plan, break this down into (2)-week goals and go for it – review at the end, learn, amend and start again… look forward to learning how you get on.