Please Give Me A Step by Step Startup Map, Personalized, and Free Too!

There was a comment posted on this blog last week. It’s well-written and touches the heart. It also plays some chords I get to often, worth calling out in a blog post. It starts…

I’m a 40-something woman and I want to start my own business. I have a visionary mind and I’m very analytical (almost to a fault…). I have been working in [mid-level clerical jobs] for over 7 years now and I’m hitting a dead-end in the industry. Not to mention, I’m tired of the cube life. I have worked even booths at home-shows and fairs for virtually nothing and less. I have half a clue as to how to operate, but I have no idea how to get started.

… so of course I’d like to help. And then she adds…

Because of the down-turn in the economy and the job market, I have been working as a temp for the last 2 years and our home is way under water. As a result, I have no money – we live literally from week to week.

… which makes want even more to help. But then I get to this:

… the research I’ve done so far has revealed that I know nothing. I just discovered that if I get a food cart, it has to go through an approval application review at $130 hr w/ a minimum of 2 hours. None of the books I’ve read have mentioned this expenditure.

She goes on:

If it sounds like I’m asking for some hand-holding, well, yes I am. I want to do this so badly, but fear has always been my own self-defeating nemesis. All of that to ask you: Do you have a map? Any direction you can provide would be GREATLY appreciated! I don’t want to think I’ve covered the bases only to find out – oh, sorry, you screwed up. You now owe us big money. I can’t afford that. Anyway, I’m hoping you can offer something…

Do I have a map? Well, yes, sort of. Although, to be be honest, when she doesn’t have $260 for an approval, it’s hard to imagine any way she can actually build a real working business. That level of spending for approvals and licenses and such is really hard to avoid.  Isn’t the food cart itself going to take spending? And complaining about those books that didn’t mention it makes me nervous about giving advice. I’m thinking they probably waved a hand or two at licenses and approvals, because most people assume there will be some fees along the way. My own book 3 Weeks to Startup makes only general references to this kind of detail. It’s hard (probably impossible) to generalize with a book, to make it useful, and also include specifics to the level of detail of approvals required for a food cart in some specific location.

Still, I do have suggestions:

  1. Chris Guillebeau’s book The $100 Startup. It’s brilliant. And so well-written, in such delightful detail, that it actually makes the $100 number seem believable, although I still take it as more symbolic than specific. Chris is a gifted writer and he’s actually done what he’s recommending. And besides, a book with a chapter titled “Hustling: The Gentle Art of Self Promotion” that’s subtitled ‘Advertising is like sex: only losers pay for it’ deserves to succeed. Warning: it will cost you $15 or so.
  2. I’m disappointed getting a request for a map as a comment on a website that tries, and oh so hard, to be a map. You’re reading this at Her comment was on this blog, on I’m obviously biased but I still think this is the best place in the world for free start-you-business information. And I’d like to think that map is right here.
  3. Sabrina Parsons (@mommyceo) and I wrote the book 3 Weeks to Startup, published by Entrepreneur Press, in 2008. I like it a lot. It’s not nearly as much fun as Chris’ book, but it has a lot of good information. Unfortunately, it does, like the books you complain about, talk about licenses and permits without giving specific numbers. Warning: it will cost your $15 or so.
  4. Find your local SCORE chapter with the search at Make an appointment and talk to one of the SCORE counselors.
  5. Do some Google searches for obvious search teams like “cheap startup” or “startup no money” and see what you get, but go very carefully with this one, because those waters are seething with sharks looking to take your money.

And a final thought: lots of people want the personalized step-by-step map, but building a business isn’t like that. Nobody but you can wade through the thousands of pages and flood of information available, sift and sort what works for you, and recreate a specific personalized guide. Everybody’s map is different. Thousands, maybe millions, of us have tried, in books and websites. But what you need is sorting and sifting and digesting it all, and then recreating a special customized personalized message for you, and that would take days, maybe weeks, of somebody else’s time. You have to do it yourself.


  • jami says:

    Hi Tim,

    I enjoyed reading this post. I came back to your site after deciding to close my current business, which is making very little income, to open another that builds upon my previous knowledge – in addition to getting more education and training for certification as a health & wellness coach. We met briefly at LiftOff 4 last August. I am sorry to say I left early that evening as I had a previous scheduled engagement, and feel that I missed some valuable insights that you shared that evening talking money and emotions… which can be a hang-up for so many entrepreneurs.

    Additionally, I am using Chris Guillebeau’s book The $100 Start-up. and thinking about how to use crowd funding for the gap between shutting down and starting up. Using this time to be clear on “Why” to build my tribe, corporate identity and social media marketing strategy (Liz Dennery Sanders) and the typical although not so pleasant items to take care of such as health insurance.

    For anyone interested in business, knowing where you are going (life plan) will likely be one of the most important, if not THE most important thing to do, then move onto some basic business planning to continually keep your business in a position to meet the needs of your customers/clients and the needs of the business. Thanks for such awesome posts, Tim!

    Kind regards,

    • Tim Berry says:

      jami, thanks for the addition, that’s very welcome info for this post. I’m glad Chris’ book is working for you. I hope to hear about your success. Tim

  • taffy williams says:

    Tim: Sorry to say, I have had a number of Entrepreneurs with no funds and no job asking for help to build a company. Some have spent time learning about a business but they do not have the experience or financial strength to carry on with the process.

    Entrepreneurs are not individuals with no jobs and no funds and no skills. They have a desire to build something and recognize they need to be able to work for no pay for a long while while building a business.

    No Map fits all sized and no amount of help will get a business going when the entrepreneur does not have enought financial resources to survive.

    Great POST!


  • Charles Robinson says:

    I’m with you on your closing point: you have to do it yourself.

    It sounds like she is doing the research that is necessary and I honestly don’t understand what she expects someone else to do for her. No book is going to take you through your specific venture from start to finish and it’s absurd to expect that. Licensing, permits, and safety regulations are universal to every business but they vary widely. You have to research them or hire someone to do it for you.

  • Kimberlye says:

    Hello Tim,
    This was a great post. It is somewhat difficult to find this amount of information without having to be directed to purchase either the book of CD/video to view the rest of the information. I am also in the infant stages of developing my company. I have a great idea and however no money. I am finding things that I know how to do in order to get started on my business. I have heard this before, “start with the business that you can generate income from first”. It makes sense and that is what I am working on presently. Thanks for your insight!
    Kimberlye McKinney

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