Get Your Product to Market on Any Budget
by Stephanie Chandler
A recent survey revealed that 40% of American workers have considered starting a business, but many fail to pursue their dreams due to funding constraints. While there are people who invest thousands of dollars to launch their businesses, there are just as many businesses that were started with just a few hundred dollars and some ingenuity.
Michael Simmons, the founder of Kinko’s, rented a space the size of a closet near a college and started his business with a few spiral notebooks and a single copy machine. If he had waited until he had enough saved up to open a 4000 square foot store, he might be an accountant right now.
You may have a vision of a giant store, warehouse or internet operation but if your funds are low, it can seem like a pipe dream. But a sagging bank account doesn’t have to stop you before you even get started. Consider launching your business on a smaller scale. In fact, launching your business on a smaller scale can have many advantages. It allows you time to test your market and evaluate your price point. You may want to try different methods and pricing strategies to see what works. Since your investment is minimal, you can make some mistakes without ending up financially devastated.
It takes some creativity to build any successful business, and creativity is entirely free. Talk to friends and people in the business community that you trust to get some ideas for getting your product in the marketplace. Here are ten possibilities to consider:
Classified Ads – Whether in your local paper or on one of the many free online classified sites, you can use classified ads to advertise your product. Craigslist has a growing presence in most major cities and you can list ads for free. Visit: http://www.Craigslist.org.
Flea Markets or Yard Sales – Most flea markets will rent you a space for as little as $10-$20. Set up an attractive display and suddenly you’re in business. You can even host your own yard sales to showcase your products. I once had a neighbor who sold used books in his driveway several weekends each month. Just be sure to check city ordinances and make sure you aren’t violating any local laws.
eBay – The online auction giant offers a potential customer base in the millions. It only costs a fraction of your sale price to list and sell an item on eBay. Successful eBay sellers research their market first. Are other people selling a similar product on eBay? What is the going rate? How can you best describe and display your item to maximize sales? Invest a little time to determine how to position your product and you could become one of the millions making a living on eBay.
Renting Shelf Space in an Existing Store – You might be surprised to learn that many small to mid-sized retailers would gladly rent you shelf space in their stores. Talk to the owner and present your product in a professional manner. Make the owner a fair offer or ask her to make you an offer. You can suggest a 90-day trial to see how it goes. Don’t forget to get your agreement in writing.
Consigning Your Product to Retailers – Retail store owners often work with limited budgets and may be reluctant to try a new product, but consignment provides an attractive alternative. Make it as simple as you can on the business owner by presenting your product in a self-contained display. One candle company offers their products in a stand-alone display. The candle representative visits the retail stores that display the candles each month and checks to see how many have sold. The candle wholesaler then presents the retailer with an invoice and collects payment. It’s a win-win situation for both parties. After a period of successful consignment, the store owner will also be more likely to purchase the products outright and do away with the consignment agreement.
Your Own Website – Website hosting has become quite affordable and setting up your own site has never been easier. Yahoo Small Business offers hosting packages for as little as $12 per month. You can use their free site builder tools to design some basic web pages or purchase a template for $20 from The Template Store. You can set up a free merchant account with PayPal to accept credit cards, or if you want to expand to a sophisticated shopping cart solution, check out the offerings from 1ShoppingCart.com. Once your site is up and running, you will need to work on marketing your business and letting people know your doors are open – 24 hours per day.
Trade Shows – If you have the ability to deliver your product in large quantities, a trade show might be just the solution. Find one that fits your market and set up a professional display. Attendees of trade shows are there to make buying decisions and many businesses have been launched from the hollow halls of convention centers. Visit The Trade Show Network http://www.tsnn.com/ to locate upcoming events.
Home Shopping Channels – It’s not impossible to get your product on a home shopping program. QVC accepts proposals and for more information visit www.qvcproductsearch.com.
Host Parties – Mary Kay, Tupperware and the Pampered Chef are all businesses that have been built from home-based parties. Develop a theme for your party, make it interesting and start by inviting your family and friends. Once you have a good presentation prepared, advertise your parties and grow your business in your spare time.
Back of the Room Sales – Are you an expert on your product or anything relating to your product? Consider hosting seminars, teaching classes at the adult learning annex or in a local bookstore and sell your product to attendees. Teach the audience something and then offer your product as a soft sale (don’t make it the central focus of your presentation) after the presentation.
These are just a sample of venues for product sales. If these don’t work for you, consider similar options and find a solution that fits your budget and your lifestyle. We would probably be running off our copies at the grocery store if Michael Simmons hadn’t taken a chance on Kinko’s. Perhaps your business is destined to become the next success story.
Stephanie Chandler may be contacted at http://StephanieChandler.com
Stephanie Chandler is an author of several books including "LEAP! 101 Ways to Grow Your Business" and “From Entrepreneur to Infopreneur.” She is also CEO of http://AuthorityPublishing.com, a custom publishing and marketing company, and http://BusinessInfoGuide.com, a directory of resources for entrepreneurs.