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Tanja Aitamurto

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Woman: How To Start a Business Without Money

Posted: 03/24/10 04:08 AM ET

I am a woman with a great business idea in technology, but without the money to start the venture. What should I do?

I will apply the skill of sharing to business. Sharing is a skill, that most of us women naturally have. As a woman, it is fine to ask for help and share, since my ego is not stopping me.

For example, when I'm organizing a party, I always ask for help from my friends. I know who makes the best cake and who can pick up the best wine at an affordable price. And the fun part is that my friends want to help -- they even offer to.

Why wouldn't I apply the same method when starting a tech business?

There are plenty of examples of successful businesses that have been started with a minimal budget. What I need is a network of friends and good karma.

For example Cordarounds, a San Francisco-based clothing company, known for its horizontal corduroy pants and funky bicycle pants, got started with under a $10,000 budget. The founder Chris Lindland traded pants and meals for web design and ads.

There are a couple of benefits when starting the business the Cordarounds way.

First, I don't need to have much money. I have to test my idea in a small scale, which, actually, is good for the business. As the good old Silicon Valley-wisdom goes: The worst thing to happen for a start-up is to have too much money. That creates a sloppy work culture and a lot of waste, in time and resources.

Secondly, when working with my friends, I'll save time and money. If I hired people I don't know, I would have to get around the block a couple of times before finding the right ones.

I apply the sharing-mode to more informal structures, too. With my tech-oriented friends, whether women or men -- we always trade ideas, knowledge, and news whenever we hang out. My friends tell me about stuff related to the projects I'm working on, and vice versa.

I tend to be drawn to sharing-minded people. It is not only about the knowledge -- the best tips in the programming languages PHP or Ruby on Rails, or identifying the best web developer in town, but it is also about inspiration. I want to be surrounded by people who inspire and encourage me. Of course, I need to be able to inspire them too.

According to my observations, the older and the more successful the women are, the more likely they are to share their knowledge and the less hesitant they are to ask for help. Also, they seem to integrate fun and friends with work more often than we younger women do.

I listen to those older women: They have gone around the block a couple of times more than I have. And yes, they and I, do know that there still are more men in tech and venture capital than there are women. The gender inequality in technology is apparent in Silicon Valley. But does it matter so much anymore?

PS. Three of my girlfriends and two of my male friends helped me finding an idea for this post, and editing the piece. Thanks, friends!

 

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