As someone who’s been actively involved in the tech startup world for a few years, I’ve heard the word “bootstrap” pretty regularly. It’s often bandied about by people who have ready access to funds either from an investor or a hefty savings account. It’s also often used in judgment of people who are hesitant to step out and launch their business or follow their entrepreneurial dreams.
I want to discuss the concept of bootstrapping and give my opinion on doing it. First, let me define it for the people who may not be completely familiar with the word.
Bootstrapping: get yourself out of a situation using existing resources
You may have heard someone talk about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. I hope this explanation helps clarify what was meant by that statement. It is a fairly universal term that can apply in many different situations. But in this post, I’m referring to the way the term is used in the startup/entrepreneurship space.
So now that I’ve defined the word, let me give you some ways you can bootstrap your business.
- Get a job and use your income to fund the business
- Use your personal savings or other assets to fund the business
- Ask family and friends to invest in your business
There are plenty of other ways you can bootstrap a business. When it comes to resourcefulness, there aren’t many limits outside of what you can imagine and execute. But I want to focus on one particular area of bootstrapping that isn’t often discussed; getting a job.
I hear lots of stories of people who quit their jobs to launch a business and pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. And while those stories are great and can be very motivational, less attention is paid to the person that may go out and get a job for the purposes of launching a business. Or the person that has a job and uses it to fund their entrepreneurial passion.
Yep, I’m talking about that person that works from 9-5 everyday and then comes home and works from 7-11 every night on their dream. This idea is sometimes poo poo’d by people in the startup community or it’s not considered when the conversation turns to bootstrapping. I think it’s a combination of youth and privilege that leads some people to encourage others to just quit their day job and follow their dreams. It’s much easier to take unabashed risks when you have few responsibilities and/or a support network.
Don’t get me wrong; if you have the wherewithal to drop everything and pursue a dream, I’m all for it. However, if you have bills, responsibilities and lifestyle requirements, it’s probably not a good idea. So while it is definitely more dramatic to tender your letter of resignation and walk triumphantly from your day job to your home office to start your business, it’s often more practical to be a part time entrepreneur/full time professional until your business can support itself – and you.
I’m a big fan of bootstrapping, but it must be done based on your reality. Remember the definition of bootstrapping is to use your resources. Your job is a resource that can help you reach your goals of startup success. So use it. Being an entrepreneur does require some sacrifice, but it doesn’t have to be in the form of stress as you worry about your living expenses and your business.
Don’t quit your day job. Use it to fund your dreams while you continue to pay your bills.