When Mary Kay Ash retired from her job in 1963, she took her life savings, $5,000, and opened her own business. Boy, did it pay off! Mary Kay Cosmetics is now a billion-dollar company.
Or take Hugh Hefner. He financed Playboy with $8,000 in loans from 45 family members, friends, and other investors… and became a megamillionaire. (His famous mansion alone sold in 2016 for $100 million.)
Successful entrepreneurs like Ash and Hefner who risked all their money (and sometimes their family’s money) to pursue dreams that others considered foolish get lots of press. And with good reason. Their stories are exciting and inspirational. But they are also misleading.
These risk-taking entrepreneurs are actually the exception. Most business builders succeed by taking a far more conservative approach.
In his book The Leap, Rick Smith uses Bill Gates as an example. Contrary to popular belief, Gates didn’t drop out of Harvard, says Smith. He took a leave of absence – and relied on his parents’ financial support – while he developed his programming skills and made the contacts that led to Microsoft. If it hadn’t worked out, he could have gone back to finish school.
Look at Ben and Jerry. The two budding moguls started by selling their ice cream in a converted Vermont gas station. They had thought about opening a bagel shop, but they decided the equipment would be too expensive. Only after two years in business did they expand into wholesaling their products to local stores.
Google was a side project of two Stanford graduate students. Michael Dell started what would become Dell Inc. in a University of Texas dorm room for just $1,000. Apple’s first computers were hand built in a garage and sold to local computer geeks. Wayne Huizenga started Waste Management with just one garbage truck. And he drove it himself!
Read the biographies of successful people, and you will discover the truth. Most of them started small and took modest, calculated risks. They were not reckless and brave, as the business magazines would have you believe.
The Only Business Startup Strategy I Recommend
Yes, starting your own business is the fastest and surest way to grow wealthy. But you don’t have to – in fact, you shouldn’t – risk everything to claim your slice of the entrepreneurial pie.
I have started dozens of multimillion-dollar businesses. But I have never been willing to “bet the farm” on one.
I want all the benefits that come from owning a business. But I refuse to risk my hard-earned money or time on an unproven idea. I want my cake. And I want to eat it, too.
That’s why I call myself a “chicken entrepreneur.”
A chicken entrepreneur is somebody who keeps his day job while he gets his ideal career going in the evenings and on weekends. He is an entrepreneur because he is taking the initiative to start his own business. He is chicken because he’s not willing to quit his day job and lose the income.
I have done my best to promote this concept in all of the business and self-help books I have written. My primary point has always been, “You don’t have to be a wild and crazy risk taker when starting a business.”
Let me tell you about “Alan Silver.” Alan has a multimillion-dollar supplement business. He does what he wants when he wants. He spends much of the winter at his vacation home in Park City, Utah, skiing. And when he’s back home in Florida, you can often find him on the golf course after he’s put in a couple of hours of work in the morning.
He started as a chicken entrepreneur.
A friend of his ran a newsletter that published information about natural health and wellness. One day he mentioned to Alan, quite casually, that he was looking for someone to sell vitamins to his subscribers.
Alan, who had been selling office supplies for 15 years, stepped up. With his friend’s help and mentorship, he started his own side business with a very small initial investment. Mostly, he invested his time and energy.
The going was rough at the beginning. He didn’t know anything about marketing, vitamins, or the health industry. But he was willing to learn. Keeping his sales job while working on the new business meant 10-hour days. But it was worth it.
At first, Alan reinvested most of the profits back into the business. But within six months it had brought in more than $250,000 – enough for him to keep growing the business and quit selling office supplies. And within a few years, he was making $10 million in sales annually.
Alan isn’t the only one. I’ve helped several friends start multimillion-dollar businesses with less than a $10,000 investment. And these are just a few of the other people I’ve personally mentored:
- C.F. built her specialized physical therapy business from zero to $90,000 in 15 months.
- J.J.F.’s financial teaching program for children is paying him close to $100,000 per year after less than three years.
- W.C. made $250,000 in less than 18 months – on top of his regular salary – by running a mail-order business on the side.
- P.R. built his health product business to more than $20 million in six years (and became a multimillionaire doing so).
- K.Y.’s business pays her a very nice salary – plus, she shares $500,000 in profits from a career counseling program that’s less than 10 years old.
It’s Definitely Worth a Small Investment of Money and a Large Investment of Time
Having your own business is not the only way to get rich, but it is – far and away – the way that most people do it. Statistically speaking, it is your most likely road to success. It also gives you a chance to eventually become super rich – to join the $50 million-plus club.
Maybe you think that a small business you can start and run from your kitchen table won’t amount to much. You’d be wrong.
It all starts with figuring out how to make that first sale. That’s how every business, from your local landscaper to General Electric, started. With each passing year, your business will grow – and that will give you greater cash flow and the potential for a bigger payout when you’re ready to retire.
In two or three years, your side business should be big enough to pay you a salary as the CEO. Then, and only then, can you quit your day job.
And then things should really skyrocket. Because you’ll be able to devote all your time and energy to this single enterprise.
But maybe you don’t want to be the owner of a big, multimillion-dollar business. Maybe you don’t want a business with dozens or hundreds or thousands of employees. Maybe you just want to work by and for yourself.
That way, you’d be both the owner of a microbusiness and its only employee. But you could also get someone else – maybe a friend or relative – to do the work, pay them a good salary, and still have a good income. Either way, you earn a good living, enjoy a great deal of independence, and you can even get rich.
Chicken entrepreneurs who start microbusinesses do it because they want to give up the tedium of commuting to a 9-to-5 job and take on the fun of managing and growing their own little enterprise. They can make decent money working on their own – often as much as they’d earn elsewhere as an employee – and they can choose when, where, and how much they work.
Plus, some of them find that there’s even a way to make a microbusiness into a gold mine.
Basically, here’s how you do it…
After a few years as the main (or only) employee of your microbusiness, you hire someone to replace you and pay him roughly 50% to 70% of what you were making. Now, instead of earning, say, $80,000 per year, you’re earning $30,000 – but you’re working only 10 hours per week.
And by adding other people to your income pool – selling franchises, as it were – you can double, triple, or even quadruple your take-home pay without appreciably increasing your workload.
That’s how you can turn a small amount of money into a lot of money.
Though getting started as a chicken entrepreneur requires only a small amount of money, it does require a big investment of your time. You are essentially working two jobs, dedicating 40 hours or more to your day job, plus another 20 hours or more to your side business.
However, there is tremendous satisfaction in charting your own course and seeing it through. And when you begin to employ other people (and you will), you create wealth not just for yourself but for them, as well.
P.S. I’ve always believed in investing in conservative, safe opportunities, as I’ve talked about over the past few weeks. But there’s a unique wealth-building opportunity Andy tells me he’s excited about… He says there’s easy (and lucrative) money to be made in the market right now that you don’t want to miss. You’ll get all the details next week.
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