Start Up a Business for Nothing?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

That phrase has been bouncing around in my head since it was the cover story of Entrepreneur’s May issue earlier this year. I have been quoting and citing resources from the article and its case studies ever since, with my adult clients looking for a change and contemplating giving up the job search to do their own thing.

In the meantime, as the year marched on, I found myself toying with an idea for a new company I could run in conjunction with the work I already do at Bright Livelihoods.  I wanted it to be a learning opportunity for me, to remind myself of what’s possible.  The challenge was to start something that would meet at least the minimum requirements voiced by many of my career change clients: it needed to have a high likelihood of providing cash, equity, and fun.  Could I start and launch this idea with a $100 investment while running and operating another business full-time? The surprising answer is yes — and I did exactly that this month with an idea I conceived just seventeen days ago.

Here is the time line with expenses:

December 4th: 6AM, visit my local postmaster to pick up a book written by my nephew, Aidan.  Woke up the nine-year-old Aidan early to show him his published masterpiece.

December 5th: Aidan brings the book to school and his teacher has him read it to his class. I get an idea that maybe this self-publishing project I did with my nephews in Austin and Dallas should become a business.

December 6th: I buy domain on for $9.99.

December 7th: I find a free image on and create a logo in Word for free!

December 9th-12th: Two focus groups are pitched the idea and the feedback is amazing and helpful.

December 13th: I finalize a location and price for pilots in Austin.

December 14th and 15th: I create spreadsheet P&Ls for running local Kamps in Texas and then set up a business model to license the methodology.

December 16th: Finalize dates for pilots in Dallas.

December 19th: Start 30-day Free Trial on for web design and web hosting. I begin teaching myself how to design a website.

December 20th: Create flyers for advertising programs and launch beta of site. Recruit two interns and a few others who will work on commission. Find first licensee in New York City.

December 21st: With the help of very wonderful people at Intuit, launch live site and set up ability to take credit cards for an investment of $4.99. Designed and ordered business cards from, priority delivery, for $16.99.

December 22nd: Begin promoting pilots and get DBA license for $21.00. Purchased printer cartridges for printing flyers for $44.00.

The business is now open and I have invested a grand total of $96.97 so far.  Learn more at and let me know your startup story or contact me to help you make your bright ideas a reality.

Laurel Donnellan                                                                                                                             CEO                                                                                                                                                 Bright Livelihoods

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