How to Launch a Startup for $100

This is an interview with Chris Guillebeau, author of The Art of Non-Conformity and his new book, The $100 Startup. In this interview, Chris and I talk entrepreneurship, creativity, and what it takes to launch a successful business these days.
$100 Startup
$100 Startup By Chris Guillebeau

Jeff: What’s the $100 Startup about, and why is it needed?

Chris: Two things: first, it’s the collective story of 1,500 “unexpected entrepreneurs” who all started businesses without a lot of money or special skills. Second, it’s a blueprint for readers who want to create their own freedom by doing something they love.

It’s needed because people are dissatisfied. They want more from life than a soul-sucking job that takes their energy without providing much in return.

People have always been dissatisfied, of course, but they haven’t always known which steps to take to create independence. The book is an attempt at providing 300 pages of next steps.

Jeff: In the book, you tell stories of businesses you’ve seen launched on a bootstrapped budget all around the world. What was one of the most interesting ones?

Chris: The book includes a wide range of stories, from six-figure blogging businesses to retail shops. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but since you’re a writer, I’ll point you to Brett Kelly’s success.

Brett was a self-described geek who wrote the first eBook on Evernote, the free note-taking software. This project earned more than $100,000 in its first year, and allowed Brett and his family to get out of debt.

It’s an incredible success, of course, but in researching the book and talking to people, I heard story after story like Brett’s. It seems that success can indeed be replicated, if you take the right steps.

Jeff: You live your life, traveling the world and supporting yourself online. What is it about this lifestyle that attracts you, and what advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Chris: Personally I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way. I’ve been self-employed for nearly 15 years and extensively traveling for 10 years. I love what I do and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is always focus on value. Value is one of those words that is often used without much definition. My definition is that value simply means “helping people.”

You aren’t likely to succeed as an entrepreneur, digital nomad, or whatever business goal you aspire to without helping people. In other words, you can do what you love, but you must find a way to connect that with other people’s needs.

Jeff: You’ve made a living, it seems, primarily through your words and ideas. What direction for writers do you have about how to support themselves professionally and financially? Is it really true that we’re all doomed to poverty?

Chris: Well, much the same advice for aspiring entrepreneurs also applies to writers, but with a key difference. More than anything else, the best writers continuously inspire us. We can also be educated through good writing, and we can also be entertained — but of all these things, inspiration tends to stick with us the most.

I like the quotation from Maya Angelou:

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Therefore, to make it as a writer, focus on making people’s lives better through inspiration. This can be done in fiction as well as non-fiction.

Jeff: How can people find the $100 Startup and support it?

Chris: It should be widely available in your favorite local bookstore, or it’s also offered through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and foreign translations are coming out throughout the world over the next year. (Affiliate links)

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Have you ever launched a startup or wanted to launch one? What did it take — or, what’s holding you back? Share in the comments.