*Sponsored by Amex*

The opinions and advice expressed are brought to you by WhoseYourLandlord

Entrepreneurship is booming! Who knows? The next Mark Zuckerberg may be sitting right next to you on the train! Here is the dilemma. As a society, enormous tech exits and million dollar rounds dominate the headlines. Wasn’t it Jim Carey who said ‘It takes ten years to be an overnight success’?  Yep, I’d agree with that…Understanding this, let’s strip away the expectation that investment funding will come your way. Not saying it won’t; I believe in you.

But the question is, how can one begin to build a successful business in this climate without the initial endowment of funding to kick-start things? You’ve got to be your own push of momentum. Here, I’ll teach you how to do that through a tactic called bootstrapping (using your capital and means to make it happen).

 

Establish a core vision

If you decide from day one that your company will influence the world in some capacity, this makes it a bit simpler to traverse the tougher periods of owning a business. Inevitably, there are going to be times of low funds, disgruntled team members or customers, acts of God that just swipe you below the knees. You’ll never know when these things will occur, but you better be mentally prepared for them when they happen.

By establishing your core vision, you give your company an internal beat to march. The core vision ensures that no matter the ebb or flow, your team remains consistent and tie to the underlying tone.

 

Try your best not to overextend yourself financially

This step is pretty easy to screw up. There’s going to be many things you want to do as a business owner. There are going to be people you want to hire because they just gush talent and you know – with your prowess and their abilities – the sky is the limit. I know the excitement. But, what sucks is saying to someone you’re going to pay them X and coming up with half of X when it’s time to pay up. I’m not saying this from a position of being holier than thou…I’m saying this as a human being whose not always been able to pay up when the payday hits. It’s a crummy position to be in, but you learn quickly.

 

Become a strong communicator

Just like in your personal relationships, in business, communication is vital. Bouncing back to the prior bullet point, in those moments when money’s tight, we’ve always communicated to the people owed – letting them know what the issue is, when we’re expecting our next inflection of funds, and realistically how much we’ll be able to pay them and when.

This style and standard of communication will help you to build relationships that last into the future. People understand, in business, stuff happens. It’s how you handle that stuff that’ll determine if people rock with you through those lows or become enraged and turn against you. Keep yourself financially in check and only commit what you can submit.

 

Take credit seriously

In the early days of WYL, we didn’t even have a credit card. We felt the way to ensure financial responsibility was to restrict our moves to what we actually had in the bank. That said, I always had a personal Amex card, justtt in case. We made sure, when we’d put a small purchase on it, we immediately paid it off the next month. This actually helped me to build my personal credit.

As we grew into an actual corporation, we decided we needed a corporate financial instrument to really begin expanding. Recently, through our partnership with Amex, we began using the American Express Blue Business Plus card and it’s been amazing. We use our card for everyday travel via MTA to our office in Chelsea and for gas in traversing between NYC and Philly which allows us to cover monthly expenses while still earning points that we can allocate towards larger purchases in the future. Every time we use our card, we’re establishing a pre-investment toward things like office supplies and software expenses we’ll be making as we expand our team early next year. We’re building our business’ credit by using a reputable company’s financial tools to make sure we are fiscally responsible and consistently growing.

 

Create some component of your company that you can sell from day one

Now look, this isn’t always easy, and we’ve all seen companies like Facebook and Twitter scale up before ever generating a dime of revenue. That said, we’re not all put in positions like those kinds of unicorn companies to just rely on our user metrics to raise substantial capital and worry about money next.

At WYL, while knowing we’re a data and community company, primarily, we still had to find ways to generate revenue in the early days – which wasn’t easy. From our previous experience running a branding company, we knew we could build up the brand and then leverage it to sell merchandise and swag. Next, we leveraged our user base to establish unique partnerships with local and national companies. Once we landed local partners, we hosted events which served as an opportunity to bring our most loyal users together and generate modest side revenue by way of vendor tables or sponsored activities.

These themes are simple enough to comprehend. By no means, are we perfect, but we’ve learned that if you keep these lessons in mind as you bootstrap your baby into becoming a well-oiled machine, you’ll be in good mental shape. Understand, the road is treacherous and ultimately rewarding in the same vein. Go out there and make it happen. The world awaits!

Written By

Ofo Ezeugwu (@ofoezeugwu) is the CEO & Chieftain of WhoseYourLandlord. He graduated from Temple University (shout out to N. Philly!), where he was the VP of the student body and also the university's youngest alumni convocation speaker ever. He's a Techstars'​ Risingstar, one of BET's #30Under30, a Black Enterprise: Modern Man, and his work has been featured in Newsweek, TechCrunch, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, MSNBC, and more. Ofo is based in NYC/PHL and is also a professional actor and model who's walked in NYFW, been featured on the Today Show six times, and worked with Nike, ESPN, and Alfani. Ofo is also very actively plugged into the community and speaks with local high schools and middle schools on leadership, college planning, entrepreneurship, and life skills. He's a Big in the Big Brothers Big Sisters entrepreneurial program. And, he's also spoken on tech - entrepreneurship - and leadership at prestigious universities and institutions such as The White House, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Penn, Temple, Villanova, etc. He lives by the motto, "No steps backward; just forward progress."