Bootstrapping your business
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Tim Leeds Havre Daily News [email protected]
Some 25 to 30 entrepreneurs from the Havre area Wednesday learned some tips on how to ramp up their business with little or no external funding, a process known as “bootstrapping” pulling a business up by its own bootstraps. The group was at tending a Bootstrap Montana seminar at Montana State University-Northern conducted by Tech Ranch, a business incubation organization based out of Bozeman. Prairie Lee, Tech Ranch business manager, said the group is using a $29,000 two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development to hold seminars for entrepreneurs. “We are targeting rural Montana,” she said. The group held a bootstrap seminar in Glasgow Tuesday before coming to Havre. Seminars were held in Conrad, Miles City and Whitefish in 2008. In the seminars, presentations are given by three professionals, one on sales planning and strategies, one on online marketing and the third on saving on expenses and finding funding options. The Havre seminar also was sponsored by Opportunity Link Inc., a poverty- fighting organization created through a grant by the Northwest Area Foundation in 2003. Opportunity Link paid the registration fees for people attending Wednesday's seminar. The seminars tie in to another program administered by Tech Ranch, a no-interest loan program for projects planned by Montana businessmen and women that will provide a fast return on investment. That program is funded by a grant from the Gianforte Family Trust, headed by Greg Gianforte, chief execut ive of f icer of Right -Now Technologies of Bozeman and coauthor of “Bootstrapping Your Business: Start and Grow a Company with Almost No Money,” which he wrote with Marcus Gibson. Lee said the idea of the loans, which range from $5,000 to $20,000, is To fund projects so business owners don't have to resort to outside investment for operating capital. The loans are intended to be paid off within a year, and no interest is charged in that first year. If it takes longer than a year to repay the loan a fee is then charged. Bootstrap has made repeat loans to a couple of businesses, with one company recently taking out its third no-interest loan and another that has taken out two, Lee said. The presenters at the seminar were Cindy Taylor, chair of Tech Ranch and founder of IPG Consulting of Bozeman, Jake Cook, founder of Sweet Onion Creations of Bozeman, and former venture capitalist Gary Bloomer, director of client development at Tech Ranch and head of the Bootstrap Montana loan program. The program is aimed at giving tips on how to present a unique product or approach to prospective clients and customers, marketing the business and finding alternate ways to fund businesses without going into debt and giving up control of the business. Taylor, a former executive for both IBM and Oracle, said a key is finding something that makes a business, product or service unique and memorable. She said there is a “sauce” needed in selling that makes the difference between a successful entrepreneur and an unsuccessful one. Why, she asked the audience, does one person selling a product have success while another selling a nearly identical product or service with similar tactics does not? “This one understands the art of selling, and this one only understands the science ,” she said. “That's the sauce.” She used Gianforte as an example while describing a successful first contact in marketing. When he started looking for clients for the software he planned to develop, he used a memorable first line in his call, she said. “Hi, this is Greg Gianforte from Bozeman, Montana. You ever been to Montana?” Taylor said Gianforte would say. That would open the door to finding out who the prospective client was and what he or she would need from a product, Taylor said. Cook, in his presentation, discussed marketing a business including the aspects of bootstrap marking, and how to research and create an effective online marketing program. Bloomer gave an outline presentations on bootstrapping funding for a business, including the dangers and downside of seeking capital from outside sources, issues an entrepreneur should focus on, and ways to find cash for a business and to minimize expenses and conserve money. For more information about Tech Ranch and Bootstrap Montana, people can contact Tech Ranch at 910 Technology Blvd., Suite A, Bozeman, MT 59718, (406) 556-0272. On the Net: Bootstrap Montana: www. Bootstrapmontana.org. or Tech Ranch: www. Techranch.org.