You’re starting up. You’re growing a side hustle. You’re scaling a proven business.
All of these probably involve a constant battle with restricted budgets. Anything you spend money on has to be very carefully considered.
But what if you could get the things you need without spending any money?
Well that is doable. Yes, it’s slower than if you use money, sure. But the practice of trying will help those with budget, make it go further, and those without, get started in the first place.
Mainly it hinges on one main principle: everyone needs something.
Why is this so important?
Because your ability to deliver that ‘something’ can help you create opportunities, leverage, products, services and power to attract customers without needing to spend cash.
How about a real life example that’s really close to home to give that context?
When Yena started I had less than zero budget to play with and another full time business that took most of my time. I made the necessary sacrifices required to make things work but had to use the initiative to grow what we had created.
Here’s how I tackled some of the core parts of the business in a lean way…
Events & Community
The very first Yena event was run on a promise. That I could bring them customers.
I knew that venues need more people. They make their sales through drinks and food purchases, right? So if I bring them more people – and not only that but entrepreneurial people who will need places to eat, work, meet clients and more – then I would be able to bring them value and leverage that into getting a venue to host for free.
Then the people. People want and need to meet other people in business. So setting up an event online, sharing the word on social media and letting organic sign-ups happen, did the job just fine. From there, network effects kick in and a snowball starts to happen (as long as the events deliver a good experience).
Once we grew though, the events needed hosts. This was a tough one. How do you get people to run an event for you without spending money?
After a lot of trial, error, practice, and communication, we realised events could be run in a verylean way, meaning the role of hosting events was actually so lightweight for hosts, the reward they got from running them far outweighed the input required. The free Yena+ membership was a cherry on top and allows us to build a really tight community that has enabled us to grow to our 15th city this week!
Events and community done on a budget of: £0.
3 years into building the community, people started to ask what they could buy from me. So I came up with the first version of the membership which comprised of wholly digital features, that could be built in, acquired, pointed to and negotiated for.
In building a big community of early adopters who needed business tools, we found we gained buying power to leverage opportunities and offers from suppliers – eventually creating ourToolbox. Sourcing deals that individuals would find difficult to negotiate on their own, enabling us to build a product that, in many cases, now ends up delivering an immediate positive return on investment for members.
Taking payments for this new membership initially sounded complicated, and expensive. However, after discovering tools like GoCardless and Stripe, I realised I could do this easily, with little effort and no upfront costs to pay.
Membership sold with a cost of sales of: £0.
Marketing & Partnerships
To grow, we needed to reach more people but with no budget how would we do that?
The realisation that companies with products (and importantly, followings) also need to reach more people & show them they’re doing good and that communities such as university societies, have an obligation to let their cohorts know about things that could be useful for them, played into our hands nicely. A few tweets and emails and soon we were reaching the inboxes of their audiences with events & a product that would be useful for them.
We also asked well known individuals to speak at events and when they obliged, they often would post on social media about it (or we kindly asked them if they would mind doing so if we felt it needed prompting). As a result, thoughts such as “oh this person I know is doing something with this new company, I should check it out” created strong social proof and our reach & attendance grew.
Setting up marketing and partnerships costs: £0.
These are just 3 of the many ways in which we’ve grown Yena with virtually £0 budget to where we are today, connecting 3,800+ people across 15 cities in 3 countries, every year and have hundreds of people subscribed to our (frankly awesome) membership community.
I urge you to start using the realisation that everyone needs something, to drive the lean growth of your business. Let’s see how much money you can save or how much further you can make that budget go, by being a little more inventive with how you negotiate deals, hey?
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I hope so!