“Bootstrapping” Your Startup is Not a Four-Letter Word

Not too long ago I spoke with an entrepreneur who “bootstrapped” what has become a  great Main Street business. I’ve written about him before in Forbes, but he’s a great example of bootstrapping, so I think his story is worth repeating. A very successful entrepreneur in his native Scotland, he came to the United States for the love of a woman, but that wasn’t enough to create a credit score when he decided to stay and start a business. And yes, you read that correctly, he didn’t have a bad credit score, as an immigrant, he didn’t have a credit score at all.

As a result, Ross McGarvey decided to grow his small online marketing company organically until a particularly large opportunity presented itself and McGarvey needed more capital.

“Without capital, you can’t grow,” he said. “It takes money to make money.”

He was trying to finance what would ultimately become the largest Bluetooth marketing campaign in the country encompassing 126 shopping centers.

“I just didn’t have enough available capital and couldn’t get a loan from the bank to buy all the needed equipment,” said McGarvey. “I had to use my wife’s credit card to get things going, as well as getting help from other family members.”

The early years weren’t easy for McGarvey, but a willingness to learn new skills along with an “adapt and overcome” philosophy help him successfully meet challenges. He relied on his ability to learn and try new things as well as the talents of his friends to tackle new projects. When I asked him if he had any advice for other entrepreneurs, he said:

He’s been in business long enough now that accessing capital is a lot easier, but says, “I need more of it than I did in the beginning.”

Bootstrapping isn’t the easiest way to start a business and is definitely not the fastest way to ramp up, but it’s the way many Main Street businesses get through the first several years. Please share your bootstrapping success stories here. I know McGarvey isn’t the only successful startup to bootstrap his way to a healthy business.

Click HERE to learn about the importance of collateral

Click HERE to learn more about financing a young, idea-stage company

Click HERE to learn about borrowing money from friends and family

It takes a little cash to change the world.

So what are you waiting for?

About the author

Ty Kiisel
Small business evangelist and veteran of over 30 years in the trenches of Main Street business, Ty makes small business financing and trends accessible in common sense language devoid of the jargon.


  1. Hi, I like this article. I too believe it is more than possible to start almost any kind of business without having a ton of cash. Basically it breaks down to trading the idea of having the cash to doing the work. With the internet today you can find almost anything you need to help market and grow your business for free or at least find a free trial or an inexpensive alternative.
    I wrote an article very similar to this on my blog about how to start a business on a limited income, (hope you don’t mind the link) but my article is over at: http://www.magicfoxgraphics.com/part-2-a-detailed-guide-how-to-start-a-business-with-little-or-no-money/

    I look forward to reading more of your articles, and I think I may add your article here as a resource on my next article (Part 3 of the how to start a business on a limited income series). :)

  2. We’re getting ready to launch a kickstarter campaign to fund our expansion but up until this point I bootstrapped my sandal company. I’ve personally had to make some big financial sacrifices for this but I don’t owe anyone money and that feels great!

    I was laughing just yesterday about the irony. I bootstraped a sandal company!

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