19 Ways to Create Value out of NOTHING

This post is about 19 Ways to  Create Value Out of NOTHING… plus HOW and WHY you and I can do it. Most people think they have a money problem, when in fact what they have is a creating value problem.

You can’t “make” money… the Federal Reserve and the Mints do that.

Value, on the other hand, is something you CAN make… at will. And the value you create can be exchanged for money. We’re gonna look at 19 ways that gets done, EVERY DAY.

We don’t have a money problem, we have a Creating Value problem. When we master Step THREE: Learn To Create Value… money follows like the tail follows a dog. -Kurt Frankenberg

BUT FIRST: What IS Value Creation, Anyway?

Some things have infinite value to one person but little or no value to others. Example: my daughter’s woodworking projects are proudly displayed on my desk.

The value attached to them is inside mecreated that value because of my love for my daughter and the work she put into those projects.

On the other hand… some things, ideas, and  collections of ideas have value to a goodly number of people. If you and I can get off our asses and identify those people, we have something to offer them.

Like I said, we think we have a money problem… when in fact we have a Creating Value problem. Money isn’t worth anything anyway, but value is.

And that’s a good thing. In Shoestring Step Number THREE: Learn To CREATE VALUE, we tap into the principle that enables us to (almost literally!) print money. Which brings us to:

19 Ways to Create Value out of NOTHING

 First, let’s do the “math”:

ADD to Create Value Out of Nothing

       1) Add value by adding to somebody’s knowledge base.

“Everyone you meet knows something you don’t”, says Bill Nye the Science Guy. That’s right. But on the flip-side…

YOU know some things that many people you meet, don’t. And that they’d wanna know.

How valuable is wisdom? Well, the Bible sez we should desire it more than rubies… Knowledge is the most valuable thing by weight on the planet.

       2) Add value by fusing two or more things of value.


Beans are okay, sure.

Rice? Eh, it’s all right I guess…

Wait, beans AND rice? Plus Andouille sausage?

Mmmm. Sign THIS kid up for that.

       3) Add to an existing order. When your customer has their wallet out, suggest another purchase.

“Would you like fries with that?” 😉 I get this all the time when I’m buying stuff online. Amazon tells me what other stuff, other people like me bought. After picking up a free or paid course, I get asked to upgrade to an even better course. At the flea market I buy one vinyl record for a buck and the guy selling it asks me to take ’em all for ten bucks.

While you got ’em on the line, Create some Value for yourself and for them by offering your customers a little more.

       4) Add some atmosphere.

Y’know, COFFEE is a commodity that you can pick up just anywhere; f’rexample I happen to think that Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is just ducky.

So why would I want to pay twice as much or more… for basically the same product… at Fivebucks? Erm, I mean Starbucks. ESPECIALLY when the coffee is available for purchase to make at home for a tenth the per-serving price?

It’s the concept of  “the Third Place”. Starbucks isn’t the office* and it isn’t home. It’s a hard to define, where-everybody-knows-your-name kind of a third place.

More important than the product itself sometimes is the environment in which it’s delivered. “Atmosphere” creates value outta nowhere.

       5) Add a coat of paint.

This one doesn’t just work for cars and houses. A young Farrah Gray used to go door-to-door selling rocks. Yeah, rocks.

Go ahead and smile... this little fella was a millionaire by age 14!

Go ahead and smile… this little fella was a millionaire by age 14!

“Would you like to buy this beautiful painted rock? It would make an excellent doorstop or paperweight.”

“Uh… isn’t that the rock I had by my front porch?”

“No, it’s different now. I painted it. Only four dollars please.”

You’re grinning at this ballsy, cute six-year old’s speech, but not long afterward Farrah Gray emerged from the projects of South Chicago a millionaire at age fourteen.

Li’l fella understood a thing or two about Creating Value, hmm? In fact, his book Reallionaire was one of the things that inspired me to start Shoestring101. Do yourself a favor and grab a copy.

SUBTRACT to Create Value Out of Nothing

Speaking of six year olds: when I was a kid I never used the words, “minus” or “subtract”. Eight minus six was eight, take-away six. Let’s look at creating value by taking away:

       6) Take away somebody’s problem.

This goes along well with #1 above, adding to the knowledge base. Somebody is suffering pain, inconvenience, lack, or boredom because of a problem they have, that you can solve. Would this be of value? Dern tootin’ it would. And you’d be downright selfish not to give them the solution.

       7) Take away someone’s fears.

break boardJust as important is information is motivation. Who do you know that is sitting at top dead center, that just needs a little encouragement?

Psychiatrists call it therapy.

“Life coaches” call it counseling.

No matter what you call it it’s useful to say just the right thing at just the right time to someone that desperately needs it. Create value by helping others overcome fear.

       8) Take away somebody’s junk.

haulingI’ll never forget when I was eighteen and my roommate lost his job. With no savings and no assets but a pickup truck, he also had no worries.

Joe placed an ad in the Thrifty Nickel for hauling services and by that weekend had money enough for rent, groceries, a new album and a night out with his sweetie. Later he married that gal, so it’s good for them both that he knew how to create value out of nothing.

Joe simply hauled away stuff that was gumming up somebody’s life.  He created value by taking away.

Of course, “junk” that someone wants removed may be anything getting in their way, including themselves. Think of services to offer that automate stuff that folks don’t have the time or patience to do, and you’ll have yourself a winner.

More Ways of Creating Value Out of Nothing…

Again remember you don’t have a money problem. You have a creating value problem. Because while you can’t REALLY create money from nothing, you can create value for nothing, then trade that thing of value for money.

It’s as good as owning a printing press for $100 bills…

MULTIPLY to Create Value Out of Nothing

Why stop if you don’t have to? You can create value for a customer MULTIPLE times.

In fact, it’s easier to Create Value this way than with a one-at-a-time approach. Customer acquisition is one of the most difficult parts of marketing, but after you acquire a customer, Creating Value comes more easily.

       9) Multiple sales from one customer.

If your product is something that’s consumable, like food or laundry detergent… or has an expiration date, like window washing (how long has it been?), beat your customer to the punch by contacting them first. “You’re probably almost out by now…” The easiest customer to sell is one that has bought from you already.

Also, if it’s possible to structure your product into a subscription or other repeating income stream, and you can automate certain aspects of the delivery… wow. You have a winner on your hands. An example I’ve done with this is a book that teaches how to trade the stock market, followed by two different types of subscription service.

      10) Multiple customers from one sale.

begging-catKnow what almost everyone in sales does sloppily… or not at all (on purpose) … yet this factor still manages to produce up to eighty percent of their income? Getting referrals and testimonies.

Think about it; a company or individual comes along that solves your problem in a timely manner at a reasonable price. Would you tell someone about it?

Dern tootin’! Deliver GREAT service and some of your customers will turn into evangelists. Now, getting this to happen regularly and on purpose takes a little planing, but it’s well worth it.

      11) Multiple sell-ERS for one customer.

It doesn’t have to be all about you, ya know 😉

In the movie, Miracle on 34th Street (1947), Kris Kringle famously sent customers away from Macy’s to competing stores… if Macy’s didn’t have what they wanted.

"You can't find that sweaater here, but you can get it at J.C. Penny's..."

“You can’t get that sweater here, but you can find it at J.C. Penny’s…”

This was an actual policy that Macy’s had enacted. Against the common business practice of trying to sell the customer something close to what they wanted… Macy’s took the stance that they were in business to serve, not sell.

So if someone came in that wanted a red sweater, sales reps were NOT trained to sell them a blue coat; they were instead instructed to tell the customer where the finest red sweaters were available down the street.

We all know that Macy’s became an insanely successful, household-name retailer. Did they get that way from sending Bizness away? Naw, heck. They got that way from genuinely serving the customer, thereby winning that customer’s loyalty for life.

Sometimes the best way to Create Value is to send it somewhere else. You may not get the sale right now, but you will earn respect and very likely, future Bizness.  Fortunately, in this age you might also get a piece of the action by affiliate linking or joint venturing. Keep a list of people in your Bizness whose service you would recommend, and be ready to share when it makes sense for your customer.

      12) Multiple products for your market.

Taking-a-SurveyOne of the most overlooked ways to Create Value is to frequently survey who y0u’re already serving and find out other problems or desires they may have. You might end up not only being the first kid on the block to offer them the solution, you’ll also already have done the heavy lifting to sell it!

Let’s discover other ways to use Shoestring Step Three: Learn to Create Value and make money from seemingly NOTHING…

DIVIDE to Create Value Out of Nothing

      13) Split it up, mark it up

piece-of-pieOne of my first jobs as a kid was working in a Chinese restaurant. I’ll never forget the menu item, “Slice Cheesecake $1.25”. While I was back washing dishes, the owner’s wife took a Sara Lee cheesecake out of the fridge and slivered off what had to be  1/16 of that pie. The price tag was still on it; $2.39 for the whole thang.

I marvelled at how value was created there. Two slices sold and the Sara Lee was more than paid for… with fourteen more $1.25 paydays waiting to happen.

I’ve seen the same thing on a grander scale with bottled water. Ever do the math? You’re paying more than for gasoline. Sometimes folks will pay ridiculous amounts of money for the convenience of having something served up in bite-sized quantities. Get your piece of the pie by buying big and selling small.

      14) Split it up and sell the pieces

I once shot the breeze with a junkyard dealer while picking up a fuel pump. He told me that he could often acquire a junked vehicle for $50, and sell just the door for more than that. Then there would still be a carload (literally!) of other parts he could sell off piecemeal. Value Created again… Are there things that you own or have access to, where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole?

      15) Split it up without running out

Quick, what’s a ‘product’ that weighs nothing, costs next to nothing to store and hardly takes up any space… and once you sell it, you actually still have it on hand to sell again? You guessed right if you said… Information.

Think of the most valuable substances you know by weight: diamonds, gold, rare art. All of them pale by comparison to information, because value is divided by weight. When you try to divide by zero, you get infinity! Therefore, information is of infinite value… as long as there’s a demand for it.

What Other Ways Are There to Create Value Out of Nothing?

Here are only a few:


death starVery, very high quality plastic is extruded at a cost of about $2 a pound.

But it can be formed into whatever shape is in demand.

Ever price  the Star Wars Death Star made by Lego? Boy howdy… $399 for the same 16 oz. of petroleum byproduct.

Not chump change.

be the goodOr how about this? My wife made this sign out of discarded scrap wood.

She created Value by turning it into a work of art!

Sometimes all it takes is a little imagination to re-purpose a thing that seems valueless.

You can see many of Sabrina’s pet projects on her Facebook page, Urban Swerve.

      17) BACK IT

Folks that were around for the early computer age remember Digital Equipment Corporation. I worked on their assembly line as a teen, following printed procedures and patching together what was then pretty high-tech stuff.

“Gawrsh, who on Earth could even need 80 whole megabytes of memory?!?”


Most assembly procedures involved dozens of steps… the use of freon and delicate instruments… all done in a cleanroom environment. But one of the procedures I got handed went like this:

guarantee1) Unbox device.
2) Remove manufacturer sticker.
3) Put on Digital Equipment sticker.
4) Put device in Digital Equipment box.


I was told by an engineer this computer part got marked up 1000% after this “procedure”. Seems that the very name of Digital Created Value in this case. In those days Digital Equipment Corporation was legendary for their guarantee and customer service.

      18) SELL IT – BETTER

A number of years ago while browsing eBay I came across a listing for Kris Kirschner’s Autopilot System For Selling Houses at Lightning Speed. It caught my eye because it was in excellent condition and the seller had a high feedback score. Also, it was currently bidding at waaaaaay below what I knew the course to be worth, both in terms of its pricing and its value. From my own experience.

Check this out: I made my own eBay listing and scheduled it to run after the other seller’s. I copied the seller’s picture of the course, SOME of the wording he used in his listing, then truthfully added this testimonial of my own:

“I used Kris Kirchner’s selling on autopilot system to sell thirteen houses in five months, only two of them with the added involvement of a real estate agent, having NO prior experience with real estate.”

Get this… I bought the eBayer’s Kris Kirschner course for about $240… began running MY ad before it even came in the mail… and pulled a little “Digital Equipment Procedure” of my own the day it came.

Pulling the course from one box and putting it in another, I sent it on its way for $420 plus shipping… a markup of $180 just for cutting, pasting, and writing one brief (but effective!) paragraph of sales copy.

Selling this course better Created Value for the first seller, for the end customer, and for me. NICE AGAIN.


Finally, I wanna point out that Creating Value doesn’t have anything to do with the product or the service… it has to do with the PEOPLE that the product or service serves.

That’s why Shoestring Step TWO: Find Out Some W’s (What, Where, Why, hoW, but especially WHO) is so vital that it comes before the Step of Learn To Create Value. Because it’s impossible to truly Create Value without knowing WHO you are Creating Value FOR.

hot dogA business professor asked his class what was the most important factor for a hot dog stand to succeed. Some folks were hung up on the appearance of the cart, some said get the highest quality hot dogs for sale. Others got a little closer when they said, good location. But they ALL missed the most important factor of all: the hungry crowd.

Find a hungry crowd and it won’t much matter how clean and pretty your cart is, how good the dogs are, how it’s positioned. You’ll make sales because you have what people want.  Remember that value is created within the consumer, not by you. 

So it may make sense not to Create Value by creating a product or service, but by connecting existing products and services with the customer. In other words, it may make sense to take a Step back and Find Out Some W’s.

Okay Steppers! ‘Nother post, over and out. I know there are more than 19 ways to Create Value Out Of Nothing, so why not remind me of a few below? Comments welcome and always replied to in a timely manner.

Oh, and ‘like’ and ‘share’ if the mood strikes you, K?

Keep Stepping,


Kurt Frankenberg posts for Shoestring101, which was founded to help entrepreneurs dodge the

But enough about me... let's talk about what YOU think of me.

But enough about me… let’s talk about what YOU think of me.

same old bullets… bad marketing advice, bad loans, bad partners. We watched over his shoulder while he built a business from concept plus $62.66 seed money into a five-figure per month company!

The Five Steps to Five Figures class has revolutionized how small business owners profit and scale. Learn to market YOUR small business on a Shoestring and subscribe to Shoestring101’s military-grade top secret business building tips. 

Kurt makes his home in Monument, Colorado where he runs two local businesses and builds information products. Call him at 719-360-9559 to learn how to add an extra $1,000 profit to your business THIS month… or just to say howdy.


  1. You should add Bitcoin forking to that list. You split a virtual currency, you end up with 2 virtual currencies creating billions of $ of value out of absolutely nothing. Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash. Before the August split: 1 Bitcoin was worth around 2800$ and Bitcoin Cash didn’t exist so was worth zero (there in fact was a product called “Bitcoin Cash Futures” that was worth something but I won’t talk about it). After the split a Bitcoin is now worth more than 4000$ and Bitcoin Cash more than 800$ And another one coming soon in November! WHY NOT!!! I know it’s all about Branding but it seems the public buying in those crypto currencies just dont’ know how to divide… Basic math… but still people think that when you divide, your value multiplies itself magically…. That’s the craziness of market speculation…

  2. mi balasa says:

    this article on it own is value addition. am adopting your stile in communicating creativity to my students and readers.

  3. Thanks for sharing another excellent article Kurt!
    All 19 of your excellent tips, have definitely helped spark
    some of my dormant creative marketing juices.

    Thanks! Because there is always some untapped ways to add value!Another excellent read!
    Mark recently posted…How Savvy Small Business Owners Increase Their Gross Profits Simply By Adding Value To The Mix!Part TwoMy Profile

  4. Kurt is leading away from Nerdom Business Failure, to a chance of success. I have good stuff, carefully created, but it rarely sells. Why? Because 40 years in a successful science career, in spite of beating my way past study sections and project assessment panels, is no kind of training for Internet Marketing. What’s more, I’m enjoying Kurt’s style. NO BS! FitOldDog

    • Kurt Frankenberg

      Haha! No BS… I think that’s Dan Kennedy’s claim, but I’ll take it.
      Kevin, your no-nonsense approach to getting other Old Dogs to become Fit is going to sell. We just need to package ‘er right and find those intrepid souls that know getting fit with sensible scientific training will save their lives, as it did yours.
      Here’s to the money you’ll make, but much MUCH more importantly, to the LIVES you’ll save and enhance!
      Keep Stepping,
      Kurt Frankenberg recently posted…Take Your Side Hustle to Full Time Income, Part 1My Profile

    • Kurt Frankenberg

      Haha love it Kevin. Thanks for being an avid pupil. I think your story about overcoming aortic aneurysm and training for Ironman events is quite inspiring.
      Keep Stepping,

  5. Ann Abbitz says:

    I’d like to give you a look at how my husband has used the “combining” technique to add value to his work. When he was still trying to establish a customer base for his custom leather projects, he reached out to & partnered with an established wood worker. They collaborated on a few pieces of leather/wood fused artwork & the results were amazing. By joining forces with an established wood worker, my husband was able to gain exposure to his own work through the other guy’s established customer base 🙂

    • Kurt Frankenberg

      AWESOME! Ann, that’s a perfect example of truly CREATING value. Value for you r hubby, value for the partner, value for the customers. All the way around this is a great proposition.
      Tell Mr. A to keep up the good work! And thank you for the many insightful comments you’ve left on Shoestring101.

      Keep Stepping,
      Kurt Frankenberg recently posted…5 Steps to YOUR Killer USP (Unique Selling Proposition)My Profile

  6. The WHO is a great band by the way and I was also wondering How do you discover the TOP 3 Hungry Markets that are ready to spend some cash?

  7. Love #16 and the concept of repurposing. Woodworking projects and lumber projects always fit well in this type of DIY activity. Thanks for sharing the idea and picture of your wife’s wooden sign – very clever!

    • kurtf

      Thank YOU, Orlando Lumber!

      Heh… I “unspammed” this comment that Akismet caught becuz it looks like you took the time to read the article. Thanks for taking the time to read it. I’m leaving the backlink for ya because I’m a sucker for small businesses everywhere. But unless yer first name really is “Orlando”… 😉 I’d appreciate a little more REAL connection here on Shoestring101. Who is blog-commenting, and how can I REALLY help you? My specialty is marketing and scaling small businesses.
      Keep Stepping,
      kurtf recently posted…Effective Marketing on a Shoestring Budget Part TWOMy Profile


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