Getting funds is the biggest barrier for a small business, especially if there is low business transparency. There are many ways for small organizations to seek funds without turning to venture funding. Bootstrapping in entrepreneurship is one of them.  Bootstrapping in startups is quite a common method used for funding, but what is bootstrap?

Here we’ll discuss the bootstrap definition, the strategies of bootstrap financing, the advantages and disadvantages associated with a bootstrap company and some examples of bootstrap business for any manager or executive looking to create new solutions for financing their bootstrap startup.


  1. What Is Bootstrap: Bootstrap Definition And Stages

  2. Strategies Of A Bootstrap Company

  3. Advantages Of Bootstrap Financing

  4. Disadvantages Of Bootstrap Financing

  5. Examples To Explain Bootstrapped Startup Meaning 


What Is Bootstrap: Bootstrap Definition And Stages

The traditional meaning of bootstrap is to get in or out of situations using one’s own resources. Bootstrapping in entrepreneurship is a situation when an entrepreneur starts an organization without relying on outside investment. A bootstrap startup attempts to not just lay the foundation of a business but build it up using personal finances and money from operating revenue of the new business. As per bootstrap meaning, it’s also a procedure to use market figures for calculating the zero-coupon yield curve. It’s usually resorted to by executives and entrepreneurs with considerable commercial acumen.

A bootstrap business is characterized by high dependence on credit, mortgages, loans and internal resources for financing. This means that it has limited sources of financing and for successful growth, it needs a competent strategy for development. All possible risks have to be accounted for and the available funds must be allocated to segments that are absolutely vital for the business model. 

In the beginning, the founder of a bootstrap company is the sole investor and is known as the bootstrapper. They are individuals who capitalize on the importance of entrepreneurship and fill in for different roles to avoid hiring more employees. The only investment might be the founder’s personal savings, so it’s important to reinvest the money earned from sales into the business. To grow the business they have to rely a lot on cash flow. 

So, what is bootstrapping? Essentially, the meaning of bootstrap is to do something on your own.

There are three main stages in a bootstrap startup:

  1. Beginner Stage

    It’s the initial stage that starts with money coming from savings, borrowings, small investments or friends. The founder may even have a full-time job to fund his venture with a part of the salary.

  2. Customer-Funded Stage

    When the business starts making some sales and generates cash flow, it’s reinvested into the business for it to grow.

  3. Credit Stage 

    In the credit stage, the entrepreneur focuses on funding certain activities such as upgrading and hiring. Businesses look to expand by taking out loans or finding venture capitalists to invest.  

The management mindset required for bootstrapping is quite different from that of angel-funded or venture-funded businesses. By looking at the bootstrapped startup meaning, it’s clear that they need to focus on profits to survive. There is no outside capital to help them acquire resources. They must have a healthy cash inflow to stay in business. 

Outside funding changes the approach of an entrepreneur. Investors are looking for high growth and returns, so they may accept initial losses to march towards a bigger payoff in the future. This keeps entrepreneurs motivated and allows them to take risks to achieve business goals. On the other hand, bootstrapped entrepreneurs have to be patient and calculated to grow over a long period of time. 

Strategies Of A Bootstrap Company

Bootstrap entrepreneurs need to develop paying customers and deliver value. They have to use money that the organization earns to pay bills, make payroll and invest into the business’s growth at the same time. From bootstrap definition we see that it’s a business that starts small in terms of capital and slowly grows its revenue to reinvest it back. The process isn’t easy but there are a few strategies to get a business going:


  • Finding Pre-Seed Money

One should not rule out asking friends or family to help out when personal savings aren’t enough. Apart from the amount being small, friends and family tend to believe in and back ideas when they’re conceived. The founder may even pursue a day job to accumulate funds for the business. The idea is to get the venture off the ground on a shoestring budget.

  • Quickly Launching A Minimum Viable Product 

Businesses must release a minimum viable service or product as fast as they can, especially online businesses, software firms or businesses that require advanced product development. They shouldn’t wait for the perfect product and be quick to advance in the market.

  • Using Customer Funds 

Use money from customers to expand and fund operations. It’s essential to work without credit and close sales early. The revenue generated from sales keeps the business operating and finances growth.

  • Knowing The Target Market

Organizations have to establish a target market early on so that they can tailor their products for the market. This prevents them from spending their precious resources and budget on marketing and advertising to people who won’t buy from them.

Often growth is slow as businesses have to first cross the barrier of meeting operating expenses to ensure their survival. If entrepreneurs stay committed, they are bound to find the capital to invest in the business by finding ways to increase sales.

Advantages Of Bootstrap Financing

Let’s discuss the advantages of bootstrapping:

  1. Entrepreneurs gather a wealth of experience by risking only their own money. A failed venture won’t land them with the trouble of paying off loans or debts and a successful one will attract investors.
  2. They reserve the right to development, including ideas used during the process of business development. 
  3. Lack of funding compels entrepreneurs to think out of the box to solve problems and attract customers. Bootstrapping often leads to incredible offers on products that can shift the dynamics of a market. 
  4. They have no one to answer to and no other target to meet, giving them the freedom to work on the business model, create something unique and strengthen to realize the dream. 
  5. Entrepreneurs can fully focus on core operations and key business areas as they don’t have to deal with the time-consuming and stressful task of attracting external investment. 
  6. Bootstrapping helps create a business’s financial foundations. This is significant for attracting investors in the future as they feel confident to finance an already secured business that is full of potential and reflects the owners’ commitment. 
  7. The key to generating sales is to offer value through a service or product. Bootstrapping lets entrepreneurs develop products and services that offer good value to customers. 

Bootstrap meaning isn’t exchanging equity for investment or taking a huge loan to start a business. Entrepreneurs may rely on credit such as microloans or small grants but it’s a short-term fix to fund specific activities for growth. Credit usually comes later and not immediately when starting a business.


Disadvantages Of Bootstrap Financing

Here are some disadvantages of a bootstrap startup:

  1. Capital is limited and investment is absent. Startups have to reinvest their net profits to fund operations further. Attracting large investments to fully implement an idea can be difficult.
  2. Growth can be slow and difficult, especially if demand exceeds the organization’s ability to offer products and services. 
  3. Finances are entirely the founder’s headache. This may prevent them from investing lump-sum amounts or take a huge hit if the business underperforms. 


Examples To Explain Bootstrapped Startup Meaning

Let’s look at some examples of bootstrapping in startups:

  • Apple 

Apple was founded by entrepreneurs Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs in 1976. They started with a small amount, with Jobs’s bedroom becoming their first office. They were in charge of development, operations and sales. When the brand gained some traction, the garage in the house became their first big office.

  • Spanx 

Sarah Blakely cut the feet off a pair of pantyhose when she couldn’t find an undergarment. Inspired, she then used $5000 from her savings to develop products and test them on friends. With no investment, she started by running the business from her apartment, looking over sales and marketing as well.

  • Dell 

Dell was founded in a dorm room when founder Michael Dell was studying at the University of Texas. He used stock components to build and sell computers, eventually becoming a billionaire ranked on the Forbes 400 list.

The meaning of bootstrap in business is minimalism. It’s a litmus test for the entrepreneur and for everyone, including the founder, it’s a challenge to keep a business running.

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