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Bootstrapping a Startup – The Ultimate Guide

With the financial situation in the world ever-changing, getting funding to start a new business is becoming more and more difficult.
Given the high bar set for entrepreneurs to show their business is profitable, many are finding other funding options, such as bootstrapping – where entrepreneurs self-fund their startups without relying on external investments or traditional loans.

As a solopreneur who has bootstrapped multiple startups in the past, I’m going to cover the exact steps you need to take to successfully bootstrap your business and show how it can be an incredibly viable option for your next startup.

If you’re looking for even more information about bootstrapping your business, I’d recommend you check out this great talk by Jason Cohen.

What is Startup Bootstrapping?

Put simply, bootstrapping a business means relying on your own resources and creativity to fund and sustain your startup without seeking external investments or traditional loans.

Bootstrapping was derived from the idea of pulling oneself up by their bootstraps and is an approach that allows founders to maintain complete control over their companies, avoiding the exchange of equity for funding.

The sources of bootstrapped funds vary, including personal savings, earnings from other jobs, or innovative methods like rollover for business startups (ROBS), which taps into existing 401(k) accounts.

Should You Bootstrap Your Business?

Opting for bootstrapping requires careful consideration, especially regarding the financial feasibility of your business idea. From my experience, it’s crucial to think about the following when bootstrapping a startup:

  • Financial Feasibility: Assess if your business idea is financially practical for self-funding.
  • Upfront Costs: Evaluate if your business requires significant upfront costs, such as expensive equipment, which might be challenging to fund independently.
  • Business Model: Consider if your business model aligns with the characteristics of successful bootstrapped ventures, particularly those in software-as-a-service (SaaS) industries.
  • Personal Finances: Examine your personal finances and decide how much liability you are comfortable taking on. I would recommend only putting in as much to your business as you are willing to lose.

Advantages of Bootstrapping

In my experience, the benefits of bootstrapping are:

  1. Complete Ownership: Bootstrapping allows entrepreneurs to retain full control and decision-making authority over their business without the influence of external investors.
  2. Financial Independence: By relying on personal funds or creative financing solutions, entrepreneurs can maintain financial independence and avoid debt or equity obligations.
  3. Focused Cost Management: Bootstrapped businesses often exhibit a heightened awareness of costs, leading to more efficient and sustainable business models as entrepreneurs are forced to be frugal.
  4. Quick Decision-Making: Without the need for approval from external stakeholders, bootstrapped entrepreneurs can make quick decisions, adapt to market changes swiftly, and implement strategies without bureaucratic delays.
  5. No Loan Repayments: Unlike businesses with substantial loans, bootstrapped ventures don’t face the pressure of ongoing repayments, providing financial flexibility and reducing the risk of debt-related challenges.

Cons of Bootstrapping

However, as with everything, there are some downsides of bootstrapping. These include:

  1. Limited Resources: Bootstrapped businesses may face constraints due to limited initial resources, hindering their ability to invest in marketing, research, or technology, potentially slowing down growth.
  2. Delayed Scaling: Without external capital injection, bootstrapped businesses might experience delayed scaling, as resources for expansion are contingent on organic growth and profits.
  3. Risk of Burnout: Entrepreneurs bootstrapping their ventures often juggle multiple roles, increasing the risk of burnout as they handle diverse responsibilities without the support of a well-established team.
  4. Market Competition: In highly competitive markets, bootstrapped businesses may struggle to keep pace with well-funded competitors who have more resources for aggressive marketing, research, and development.

It’s important to consider the pros and cons, as well as your business plan before committing to bootstrap your business.

10 Steps To Bootstrapping A Business

1. Define Your Business Idea: Clearly articulate your business concept, identifying the problem you solve, your target audience, and the unique value proposition that sets you apart.

2. Assess Financial Feasibility: Evaluate if your business idea is financially feasible for bootstrapping. Consider the upfront costs, ongoing expenses, and potential revenue streams.

3. Create a Detailed Business Plan: Develop a comprehensive business plan that outlines your goals, target market, marketing strategy, financial projections, and potential challenges. Include contingency plans for various scenarios. You can learn more about creating a great business plan here.

4. Tap into Personal Savings: Utilize your personal savings as an initial funding source. Assess how much you are willing to invest and the impact on your personal finances.

5. Explore Creative Financing Solutions: Consider alternative financing options, such as a rollover for business startups (ROBS), where you use funds from your existing retirement accounts to fuel your business.

6. Emphasize Cost Management: Adopt a frugal mindset and prioritize cost-effective solutions. Negotiate with suppliers, explore collaborative partnerships, and find ways to maximize resources without compromising quality.

7. Build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP): Focus on developing a minimum viable product that addresses the core needs of your target market. This allows you to enter the market quickly and start generating revenue. Click here for my top tips on creating an MVP.

8. Generate Early Revenue Streams: Implement strategies to generate early revenue, such as offering pre-sales, securing initial clients, or launching a subscription model. Reinvest profits back into the business for growth.

9. Prioritize Customer Feedback: Collect and act upon customer feedback to iterate and improve your product or service. This iterative process, driven by customer input, enhances your offerings and increases customer satisfaction.

10. Scale Gradually: As your business gains traction and revenue, consider gradual scaling. Invest in areas that drive growth, hire strategically, and explore additional funding options if needed, while still maintaining control over your business.

Remember, bootstrapping requires resilience, adaptability, and a willingness to be resourceful. Continuously assess your business strategies and be prepared to pivot based on market feedback and evolving circumstances.

Key Takeaways

  1. What is Bootstrapping in Entrepreneurship?: Bootstrapping involves relying on personal resources and creativity to fund and sustain a startup.
  2. Considerations Before Bootstrapping: Entrepreneurs should assess the financial feasibility of their business idea, evaluate upfront costs, align the business model with bootstrapping characteristics, and carefully manage personal finances.
  3. Pros of Bootstrapping:
    • Complete Ownership
    • Financial Independence
    • Focused Cost Management
    • Quick Decision-Making
    • No Loan Repayments
  4. Cons of Bootstrapping:
    • Limited Resources
    • Delayed Scaling
    • Risk of Burnout
    • Market Competition
    • Potential Constraints on Innovation
  5. Balancing Pros and Cons: Entrepreneurs must weigh the advantages and disadvantages, aligning them with their business plan, before committing to bootstrapping.
  6. 10 Steps to Bootstrapping a Business:
    • Define Your Business Idea
    • Assess Financial Feasibility
    • Create a Detailed Business Plan
    • Tap into Personal Savings
    • Explore Creative Financing Solutions
    • Emphasize Cost Management
    • Build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
    • Generate Early Revenue Streams
    • Prioritize Customer Feedback
    • Scale Gradually
  7. Bootstrapping Requires Resilience: Success in bootstrapping demands resilience, adaptability, and resourcefulness. Entrepreneurs should continuously assess and be prepared to pivot based on market feedback and changing circumstances.


What Is Bootstrapping In Business?

Bootstrapping in the business world refers to the practice of creating a company solely through the use of the entrepreneur’s funds. It involves relying on internal means rather than seeking external investments or financing to kickstart and develop the business.

Why Is It Called Bootstrapping?

The term “bootstrapping” originated in the 1800s and was derived from the expression “pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps” or similar variants.

This phrase symbolised the act of accomplishing challenging tasks by exerting effort on the ankle straps of high-top boots. Over time, the saying has come to represent any endeavour that necessitates additional exertion due to its inherent difficulty.

Why Might Bootstrapping Not Be a Viable Option for Many New Business Owners?

Bootstrapping may not be a viable option for new business owners facing industries with substantial upfront costs, such as manufacturing or biotechnology. The need for expensive equipment and significant capital for research and development can pose challenges that exceed the capacity of personal savings alone.

Rapid scaling requirements present another hurdle for bootstrapped ventures. Businesses in industries where quick expansion is essential may need more immediate access to capital, making alternative funding sources, such as venture capital, a more suitable choice. In highly competitive markets or regulatory environments, where substantial upfront investments are necessary for marketing, promotions, or legal compliance, bootstrapping may prove insufficient for establishing a robust market presence.


Bootstrapping a startup in 2023 presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities. By thoroughly researching and weighing the pros and cons, entrepreneurs can make informed decisions that align with their business goals and financial capabilities.

If you’re thinking about starting up your own business, take a look at our guide to coming up with your own startup idea and understand the core components of a successful startup.

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