So maybe you just came into a bit of extra money on a hot stock market tip. Or the lottery. Or maybe you’ve just been pinchin’ pennies for years, waiting for the moment to unleash your big business idea on the world. Either way, you want to make those be-your-own-boss dreams a reality. So what’s next?
The good news is, starting with $50k or less, you can open a variety of businesses. You can start your own in a whole new market or buy an existing business and make it your own. The possibilities are pretty endless, honestly. With a bright idea and the right amount of elbow grease, you can be a successful entrepreneur.
What Is the Best Business to Start with $50k?
These days, $50k in capital is more than enough to start a number of great business opportunities. In fact, in many cases, it’s a lot more than you need, and that can come with its own hazards. Despite having extra cash flow, it’s important to expand slowly and steadily so that it’s easier to course-correct if you make a costly mistake. Don’t let all that money lull you into a false sense of security.
With $50k to get started, you have a better opportunity to get in on a business where equipment or real estate is a bit more expensive. You may want to try a business like these on for size:
- Buy an existing business: One of the best ways to invest $50k into a business is to buy one! You could turn around a failing business or buy an already-profitable one. Local chambers of commerce and the US Small Business Association (SBA) can help connect you with business owners who want to sell.
- Buy a franchise: Franchises allow you to buy the rights to a name and brand and open your own shop in a new territory. (McDonald’s, Subway and KFC are famous franchises.) Many franchises have opening costs under $50k, including household names like Jazzercise and H&R Block.
- Get into the trades: Welding, carpentry, electrical work and farrier work (shoeing horses) are all examples of trades that can require pricey certification and equipment but also have a built-in customer base to get you started right.
How to Finance a Small Business
Maybe you already have $50k in the bank, or maybe you’re looking to raise that (and more) 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). Your local bank already has a history with you and 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 at Grants.gov or by Googling “small business grants” along with the name of your city or state.
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What Are My Chances of Success?
The hard truth is that there’s no such thing as a guaranteed success in 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 for my Business?
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 become profitable. Relying on that income right away could leave you flat broke.
Starting part-time also lets you ease into business ownership, helping you avoid a dirty burnout. Briskman notes that business owners often work 60-70 hours a week, exhausting them and isolating them from family and friends. And if you burn out right away, you’re doing your new business no favors at all.
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.
Remember that the cost of a business isn’t just starting the business. $50k can be a lot of capital to invest in a small business, but it doesn’t go very far as a salary, especially if you’re supporting a family.
High-Risk or Low-Risk? Which Should I Choose?
It’s a myth that “high-risk” and “low-risk” businesses are written in stone. And, unfortunately, there’s no crystal ball that will help you see which businesses are safe bets and which could snatch the shirt 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 lots of money up front, increasing how much income you need to be profitable.
On the other hand, a freelance business that you can work from home via the interwebs 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 fan base, opening a restaurant could actually be your lowest-risk option—whereas making the leap to a tech start-up could lead to devastating failure. So keep your experience in mind when weighing your risk.
Open the Doors, Boss
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 of success.
Good luck out there.