by Ng Lee Peng (Singapore)
I shall share 2 short stories on 2 of my friends who started their businesses with zero or minimal start-up costs. To start a business, it is not a must to have a huge capital. Anyone can do it. It is the will and the move to step out.
Fann (not real name) was a structural engineer with a small consultancy firm. After 10 years in employment, she applied for registration as Professional Engineer (PE) and was approved. A PE is not allowed to practice her profession in more than 1 company. Thus, if she wanted to start her own consultancy firm, she would have to resign from her employment. Her boss treated her well during the period of employment. However, there was no increment for the past 3 years as the industry was facing a downturn. There was no prospect if she continued to stay in the company. On the other hand, if she resigned and started her consultancy firm, she might not receive any income for next few months as she would need to build up her clientele from scratch. This would pose financial difficulties for the family as she is the sole bread-winner. How to start a business while still receiving a minimal fixed income for the family?
After a tough deliberation, she thought of an idea and decided to explain the situation to her boss. She then proposed to do freelance work for the company with a minimum of 8 days per month. To her employer, there was cost saving as she would be drawing 1/3 of her salary and contribution to CPF would not be required. But, there would be risks that she might steal his customers away. She assured him that she would not accept jobs from his clients. After much consideration, her boss agreed to her proposal based on trust.
With no worry of a minimal income for the family, she started her consultancy film. Start-up cost was almost zero as she used her house as home-office and the home computer doubled up as the office equipment. Business picked up very slowly and she continued to work hard in getting her clientele. She provided good service and this has helped her business grew. After 2 years in business, she could not afford 8 days of freelance work for her previous boss but she will be there on need basis. Currently, she is planning to expand her business by renting an office space and employing staff for the company.
Julia (not real name) graduated from ITE and was an architectural draftswoman. She is a Permanent Resident of Singapore but all her family members remain in Malaysia. After 4 years of employment, she was retrenched. With a few hundred dollars of savings in the bank, she decided to be her own boss in providing drafting services. Minimal capital required as she used her rented residential as home-office and her existing personal computer for office use. To build up her clientele, she made cold-calls to potential clients for drafting work. Life was tough for the 1st few months as income dropped to $600 per month. After paying rental, there was not much left for transport and food. She did not give up but work harder. When business picked up, she enrolled herself to study interior design and expanded her scope of work. She is doing successfully now with annual turnover of more than $200, 000. She plans to expand her business into sub-contractor work.
• You need a huge capital to start a business is a myth;
• Maintain good relationship with your boss;
• Never give up.