Ten Principles of a Shoestring101 “Bizness”

Are You… or do You Wanna Be… In Business for Yourself?

By nineteen years of age, I had come up with an idea that saved the computer company I was working for thousands of man-hours and dollars.  I got zero compensation and even less recognition for my contribution. Meaning that someone in management levels above me swiped the idea and presented it as his own. To cope with my general disdain for ‘working for the MAN’, I learned some principles of entrepreneurship and became my own boss very early on. I’ve used these principles over and over to start, grow, and most importantly, scale a number of different ‘Biznesses’.SS101 Logo

The biggest obstacle to most folks’ success in business isn’t a lack of capital, it’s a lack of courage, sustainable motivation and knowhow.  Shoestring101 is meant to give fledgling business (‘Bizness’) owners BOTH motivation and knowhow so that they don’t run out of the capital!

Right now this list of Business Principles is published as-is. But come back soon, as I’ll be linking to more articles both on this site and on others to give a fuller dimension of each Principle.

Oh, and be sure to add your comments below, along with any request for any Bizness topic that interests you. I promise that if I don’t have the answers I’ll find ’em for you!

Ten Principles of a Shoestring101 “Bizness”

Is your “Bizness” on track to earn you Five Figures per month? Are you doing well in some areas but having challenges in others? Check this list below, and if you’re into it, click the links for other articles in the same vein.

ss101 passionPrinciple 1: PASSION. Choose a field in which you’d be willing to work for free… that you’re so enthusiastic, you’d even pay to do. Because you will be working for free or cheap. At least for a while.

It’s so overused and cliche by now:    “Take your passion… and CASH-in!”

Yuk, yuk.

But no one seems to address WHY it’s important to structure a Bizness around what you know and love. It’s because you’re more likely to carry on getting paid peanuts or less for lots of time invested… until that ‘critical mass’ phenomenon sets in and you get paid a lot for a little time invested. That stretch in between would seem unbearable if you weren’t passionate about your work in the first place.

ss101 Eating-The-Profits

Principle 2: DON’T LIVE ON YOUR PROFITS UNTIL YOU SCALE. Every millionaire I’ve ever met that owned their Bizness (instead of it owning them) built it by hustling. They always had another source of income and used that to live on… while building an empire on the side. To build their Bizness, they used the time that they made after the bills were paid. So don’t quit your day job. Yet.

ss101 Bootstrap

Principle 3: SELF-FUND AND STAY LEAN. Don’t take loans, partner with folks that may not share your vision, or gamble your savings to buy the latest thing you think is gonna grow your Bizness. Make money from your Bizness to put back into your Bizness. Even when you can afford to spend more, spend less if you can.

ss101 tightwadPrinciple 4: DON’T BE A CHEAPASS. Okay, so I just said not to spend if you can help it. After all, that’s what doing Bizness on a Shoestring is all about. BUT..! Sometimes it will be important to reinvest a substantial amount back into your Bizness to grow it. If you’ve followed the previous Principles you should have cash in hand. Don’t be afraid, just do it. Just make sure you get every cent of value that you’re paying for.

ss101 1st things 1stPrinciple 5: FIND YOUR TARGET MARKET, THEN PRODUCE A PRODUCT.
So many folks get this bass-ackwards. They spend countless hours, energy, and money cobbling together a product, then try and find someone to market it to. The best products and services come from someone that’s trying to solve a problem for themselves… then they can share that solution with others like them. We all have interests, hobbies, and values. When we connect with others that have the same problems, and can share a solution… we’re very very close to a product that sells.

ss101 Identification-Magnifying-Glass-300x225

Principle 6: IDENTIFY WITH YOUR TARGET MARKET. Notice I said, “identify with“. It’s hard to get people to know, like, and trust you if you don’t share their values. The other day I finished a bottle of organic, grass-fed cow milk and went to throw the bottle in my recycling bin… only to find that it was being sold in a non-recyclable container. I mean, WTF..? Seriously. Why on Earth would you sell a product that appeals largely to tree-hugging dirt-worshipers in a container that won’t biodegrade for a hundred years? Dipsticks.

ValuePrinciple 7: CREATE VALUE. I was in the store with my son the other day as he picked up a Gatorade on sale. It was ‘only’ $1 for a 32 oz. bottle. I said, “Let’s do some math… how much would a gallon cost at that price?” He correctly came up with the figure of $4 per gallon. Then I pointed out that his drink costs more (at least TODAY) than gasoline. For crying out loud! Taking water and adding a few chemicals and corn syrup, Gatorade would charge more for their product on sale than we pay for gas. And they were getting it! Point is, you can create something with very little overhead and get lots of cash for it. Value is something that human beings can create at will, because we all know or have something that others want but don’t know or have. Simple.

ss101 old newPrinciple 8: WHAT’S NEW IS OLD. Keyword testing. Data mining. Squeeze pages with video. SEO. Google Analytics. All just ducky, but the principles underlying these technologies and trends were being practiced in 1872 by Aaron Montgomery Ward. He broke away from the sticks-and-bricks general store. Ward’s idea was to cultivate customer loyalty by serving a targeted list of mail-order buyers. He read their letters and changed his inventory and delivery according to what his market was looking for. His Bizness was successful because of principles that still work today. Rather than always looking for the newest internet tools… master the underlying principles that make ’em work.

ss101 measure everythingPrinciple 9: MEASURE EVERYTHING.  Long before the internet, I measured every step in the marketing funnel for my martial arts studio. How many phone calls I got from a particular piece of advertising, and how much that method cost. How many calls turned into appointments, appointments ended up enrolling Students, and so on. Numbers don’t lie and they tell you where the holes in the bucket are. I never broke five figures per month in income until I started observing this principle… and measuring and tweaking everything. You won’t have fabulous success with any business until you do the same.

ss101 scaling upPrinciple 10: THINK ABOUT SCALING NOW. Before you begin your fledgling Shoestring101 ‘Bizness’, or let it grow too big… build it on a model that doesn’t always have to depend on you to run it. At one point you’ll want that four hour workweek. Own your Bizness, as opposed to it owning you. Document procedures, client lists, to-do checklists… so you’re not constantly reinventing the wheel. Learn to delegate and outsource the work so that later on, you can replace yourself… and experience some of those four-hour workweeks.

Tell Me What You Think, Tell Me What You Need

Hey, please take a minute below and let me know what you think of this post. What you think is true. What you think is bull-honky. What I’ve left off the list. What’s important to YOU.

For me, the last principle is very important to observe. A very good friend of mine said that if you think you own your business, then don’t show up for two weeks.  If you own it, it’ll still be there and making you more money than when you left! Most small business owners get a cold sweat when I suggest this. But it’s a good test of whether you are running a Shoestring101 “Bizness” or just a plain vanilla business. Lots of times a man or woman starts up a business, thinking that being their own boss will solve every problem… then they find out what a tyrannical master an (improperly set up) small business can be to serve.

BUT..! If you set up your ‘Bizness’ the way that you should, it becomes a money-crankin machine that needs just an occasional tweak and TLC for maintenance.

Okay Steppers! Sound off below! I want to hear how crazy you think I am, what belongs on the list that I missed… or just say howdy.

Keep Stepping,




  1. Thanks for your excellent advice Kurt!

    All ten principles are sound. But I especially relate to
    #’s 7-10.
    Your advice is flat out spot on! And I also love your totally
    down to earth, tell it like it is style!You pull no punches and it’s so refreshing! Thanks for sharing another awesome post!

    And even though I’m a relatively new comer to your blog, your
    real world entrepreneurial advice, is definitely resonating with me!Thanks!

    I’m thoroughly enjoying each post!
    Mark recently posted…So How In The World Do Savvy Entrepreneurs Give Away Extremely Valuable Services And Remain In Business?My Profile

  2. Kathie says:

    I really enjoyed reading your advice and steps. I live in north Texas, I am just starting out and planning on making my home/farm into a venue and eventually a bed and breakfast. I have mentioned it to a diverse group of people I know and all agree there is nothing like this and a need for it in our area. But because of that I’m a little nervous on how to figure out ; what to charge, what expenses to figure, and how much to bite off to start. My idea is to start small with bridal/baby showers, birthday parties, christmas office parties(small ones), ect. I have a beautiful pool area and adjoining party so summer will be my best profit. I have some great ideas of things to do but don’t want to get ahead of myself but I need to start making some money too. Any advice or thoughts would be greatly appriciated

    • Kurt Frankenberg

      It makes me a LITTLE nervous to hear that there is nothing like it in your area… mainly because it’s easier (generally) to move into a proven niche than to carve one out. That said, I think your idea is great.

      Maybe check into airbnb.com to see what comparable properties are renting for, and also use it to test your market. Also, check my post on how to get free advertising on Google… A locally owned biz gets all the love from Google without paying IF you know how to hack local search. Find that one and a few more on the “Top Five Posts on SS101 to Start or Grow Your Business“.

      I believe you can make your home business a reality. Keep Stepping!

      Kurt Frankenberg recently posted…Top Five Posts on SS101 to Start or Grow Your BusinessMy Profile

  3. Regina says:

    “The biggest obstacle to most folks’ success in business isn’t a lack of capital, it’s a lack of courage, sustainable motivation and knowhow. ” How true. I think that ditching the mainstream “I need to get a job” mindset holds us back so much more than we even know. We get so hung up on the supposed “security” of a “good job” that we don’t realize that we are basically chaining ourselves in places a large percentage of the time.

    I think Principle 5 in particular; Find Your Market, then Produce, is right on the momey, so to speak. I mentioned to you, Kurt, that I’m “in the middle” of starting a new business, and I can tell you I already got this wrong. I’ve been working my tail off making my products but now that I’m at what i thought was the next stage, finding buyers, I’m hitting roadblocks I was just not expecting. I’ll do my best to do better in the future. No more producing until I find the market I can effectively cater to.

    • kurtf

      You’re on the right track Regina. If you find a product, finding people to buy it is like herding cats. On the other hand, find people that want or need (or THINK they need) a particular thing and you may just be able to serve them up an endless parade of products.

      This is the path of least resistance; find a group of people interested in a particular activity or product. Then find a way to communicate with them; be a part of their “tribe”. Then, offer your help to them (at one level)for free. Finally, when you become the “go-to” gal for solutions to their problem(s), continue giving away help and info free but also start charging for a higher level of service or a premium product.

      Keep me in the loop, I’d love to see you post your success story here. And Keep Stepping!
      kurtf recently posted…Inside the $2 Startup: Making a Real Business on a Shoestring In Two HoursMy Profile

  4. I’ve always wondered how to scale. I’ve been plagued with the feeling that I can’t scale up my digital marketing business — especially the writing part. My clients insist that I write for them and not outsource work.

    Email templates, web design, coding, and virtual assistant work — all those things I don’t do — seem to be scalable. Just not writing.

    So, I am stuck. I am left writing all day long. I have no way to break away from this. I don’t like to consider any offline business models. I like virtual businesses and I want to keep it this way.

    What’s my way out of this, Kurt?

    Ash recently posted…How To Use Pinterest: Lessons from 5 Companies That RockMy Profile

    • kurtf

      Thanks for posting, Ash!

      It sounds like you need to master Shoestring Steps Four and Five.

      Shoestring Step FOUR is Measure Everything You Do.
      Without knowing too much about your writing, I’ll still bet that there are things about it and your customers that you can measure. For example, how much time you spend on a particular project vs. how much you get paid… the kinds of writing projects that return the best time for money… the kinds of CLIENTS that pay best and with the least hassle.

      “What gets measured, gets managed” ~Peter Drucker. Using the 80/20 rule, find out those 20% of activities and projects that produce 80% of your income. Focus on doing those things most often and offload, outsource, delegate everything else. For example, perhaps at your firm only YOU write, but you depend on a helper or virtual assistant to do research.

      This is your first prerequisite to scaling.

      Step FIVE is Now Write Everything Down. As unique as each writing project must be, there are still a finite, mostly repeatable number of steps to each finished product. Identify those steps, write ’em down, and streamline each step of the process.

      The FIRST benefit to Step Five is that it helps you, yourself… to become more efficient. Instead of a vague idea of what you should be doing next, you have a defined checklist and it’s as easy as 1-2-3.

      The ULTIMATE benefit to Writing Everything Down is that at some point you may be able to hand your to-do checklist to someone else.

      “My clients insist that I write for them and not outsource work”… hmmm. How do they know? Maybe try this as an experiment: once it’s made and tested by you alone, hand over your checklist… with strict outlines and style requirements… to a number of writers that bid for your business. Pick the best and EDIT it, but don’t make major changes unless it’s absolutely necessary.

      Now submit this to one of your clients and ask for feedback. Because it’s edited by you, you’ll make sure it’s up to snuff. But less of the work is personally done by you. SEE if your client can tell the difference! He might even commend you for doing better work, now that you are so “clean” and “clear” in what is expected in each assignment.

      DON’T take this as a blow to your ego… simply lather, rinse, repeat. You’re talking about scaling, right? Then you’ll need to accept that someone else may do better work for you for less than you get for it.. and that’s okay 😉

      Ash, near as I can tell that’s a pretty good way to begin scaling your biz. At some point you might even cpaitalize on the journey itself. Maybe package your to-do lists and style guidelines and sell THEM as an information product: “How I Get Paid Three Times What Most Writers Get For Their Time, and You Can Too!”

      Anyhoo, that’s my $.02. Broad strokes, but betcha they work. If I knew more about your product, your process and your clients I could help you establish a better roadmap but there’s a start for ya.

      Best wishes, Ash and

      Keep Stepping!


    • kurtf


      What she said.



      • 🙁 My post to Ash has apparently disappeared. But, thank you for the thumbs up. 🙂
        D Kendra Francesco recently posted…Helping You Solve Your Problem is My BusinessMy Profile

        • kurtf

          Awww DANG! I believe this must have been my fault; I changed from Akismet to something else and may have removed your comment inadvertently.

          It was good enough that I said, “What SHE said”. Ash, D Kendra basically said that your clients don’t define your service, YOU do. DO your thing, outsource what you can but watch its quality, produce results, charge your clients. Don’t let them dictate HOW you achieve results, just get ‘er done.

          Actually, D Kendra was much more eloquent so I just gave her the thumbs up. SOrry that comment is gone guys, mea culpa (blame me).

          Keep Stepping,

          kurtf recently posted…Why Should I Advertise When Word of Mouth is Working So Well?My Profile

  5. As I’m suddenly discovering, it’s the “how to do” with examples that are getting me further ahead than “what to do” without examples. Yes, from all the what-do lists (and where and when) I’ve kept, I can figure out how-do much of the time. But, as in the case of your “Measure everything” principle, you list some real things to measure that I wouldn’t have thought of.
    D Kendra Francesco recently posted…Merry Christmas, My Friends!My Profile

  6. Sabrina

    This is awesome! Thank you so much for the info!

    • kurtf says:

      You’re welcome Sabrina. Please let me know which of these ten areas would help you most right now. I’d be happy to write, or track down someone else’s blog post to be helpful in that area.

      Keep Stepping!


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