A Budget-Lover’s Guide to Starting a Business with $10k

(We’ll help you turn a small investment into a big payday.)
Written by Maggie Tiede
Written by Maggie Tiede

Maggie Tiede is a writer and blogger based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Maggie has worked as a freelance writer since 2013, when she began reporting on politics, local events, health, and human interest for the Grand Rapids Herald-Review.

Reviewed by Len Briskman
Reviewed by Len Briskman

Len Briskman is a small business mentor with decades of experience in retail, franchising and management.

Young female artist painting in art studio.

So you’ve got this big ol’ business idea just rolling around in the back of your head but you’re a bit shy of having a million in the bank? Don’t sweat it. The right kind of idea and the right amount of elbow grease with even a bit of cash may be all you need to jumpstart your dream. In fact, in many cases, $10k in savings or financing is more than enough to get you rolling.

To get you started down the right path, we’ve put together this little guide with the help of small business mentor Len Briskman. Let’s get started.

What Is the Best Business to Start with $10k?

$10k in capital is actually a small business sweet spot: It lets you get creative without forcing you to think too big, and the bigger the business, the bigger the risk.

Great businesses that can be started for $10k or less include:

  • E-commerce and online resale: If you have a great idea for used and antique items or are interested in selling brand-new items through platforms like Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA), $10k is a great amount of money to start with. It lets you buy a ton of inventory, web space, postage, shipping materials and storage equipment.
  • Cleaning, landscaping and delivery services: Do you have a sturdy vehicle or the means to buy one cheaply? If so, starting a business you can run out of a van could be right for you. Just make sure you have the right skill set, equipment and certifications.
  • Writing and blogging: The sky’s the limit when it comes to writing online. Do you have a knack for explaining tough topics to newbies? Are you a home cook who likes to write chatty recipes and lifestyle tips? You can turn these skills into profits with $10k (or a lot less) when you buy a web domain. Turn it into a portfolio or a blog and turn traffic into customers and ad revenue.
  • Consulting: Time is money, and consulting takes that literally. The more experience you have in a specialized area, the more you can charge clients. Use that $10k investment to pay for travel, lodging, certifications and equipment to get the job done right.
  • Crafting and making: Are you a talented knitter, seamstress, painter, sculptor or cosplayer? Do you have another out-of-this-world skill set? $10k could allow you to scale up production and turn your favorite hobby into a real business. Buy raw materials, rent a workshop or retail space, and pay for ads with that initial capital.

How to Finance a Small Business

Maybe you already have $10k in savings, or maybe you’re looking to raise that amount up front. Either way, it’s important to understand small business financing, since it’s key to growing a business (even if you don’t need the extra money to start one).

Loans and grants are the two most common financing options. Loans are money you need to pay back, whereas grants generally do not need to be paid back. Investors may also purchase a stake in your company, giving you capital up front in exchange for a share of the profits.

Small business expert Len Briskman says that the best place for small business owners to start looking for financing is their local bank (the one where you already have a checking or savings account). A local bank can help evaluate your business plan and point you in the right direction for a loan.

Grants are much harder to get in the for-profit sector (most grant money goes to nonprofits), but there are still small business grants out there, especially in areas looking to boost economic activity. You can find grants by visiting Grants.gov or searching “small business grants” along with the name of your city or state.


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What Are My Chances of Success When Starting a Small Business?

The hard truth is that there’s no such thing as guaranteed success in a small business. All sorts of things in and out of your control could cause your business to fail, but that doesn’t mean you’re a bad entrepreneur. Self-employment is risky!

But it’s not all grim. Briskman says that the best step you can take to increase your odds of success is to get experience in the field before you open your own business. Scope out the competition, get to know your potential customers. and hone the skills that set you apart.

Should I Work Part-Time or Full-Time?

Unless you’ve got a substantial nest egg (we’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars), it’s almost always better to work your business part-time at first. Businesses take a long time to be profitable. Relying on that income right away could leave you broke.

Starting part-time also lets you ease into business ownership, helping you avoid burnout. Briskman notes that business owners frequently work 60- to 70-hour weeks, exhausting them and isolating them from family and friends. And if you overwork yourself, you’re not going to want to do it anymore and your business could fail.

There is one scenario where it makes sense to go full-time right away, says Briskman, and that’s if you can walk away from your day job with a ready-made portfolio of customers (especially in fields like sales or consulting). This guarantees an income and makes striking out on your own far less risky and uncertain.

High-Risk or Low-Risk? Which Should I Choose?

It’s a myth that “high-risk” and “low-risk” businesses are written in stone. There’s no secret codex that will help you decide which businesses are safe bets and which could rip the shirt straight off your back.

Instead, there are two factors to consider when deciding if a business is high- or low-risk for you, says Briskman: start-up costs and your previous experience.

Restaurants are notoriously risky business opportunities, and that’s because even a food truck gets expensive fast. You need to have skilled staff, fresh inventory and a pleasant, clean location. Those all cost loads of money up front, increasing how much revenue you need to become profitable.

On the other hand, a freelance business that you can work online from home has very low start-up costs, and therefore lower risk.

Revisiting those examples, if you have decades of experience in the restaurant industry and a built-in following, opening a restaurant could actually be your lowest-risk option—whereas making the leap to a tech start-up could lead to devastating failure.

Open Up Shop

Starting a business is both art and science. Make sure you’re doing the right research to start with. Then, when you combine that with your experience and general know-how, you’ll increase your odds for success.

We hope we gave you some guidance toward the business that’s right for you,and your budget. Good luck out there, we’re rooting for you.

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