Thousands of people have dreams of turning a business idea into a multi-million dollar company. And just as many worry about finding the capital to begin. But money isn’t everything, and those who want it the most find ways to make it happen. Keep reading for successful startups that began with under $100.
Success stories are aplenty: William Wrigley began his business with just $32 and in 2008 posted revenues of over $5 billion. And let’s not forget the many wildly successful companies that had humble beginnings in garages or college dorms — Apple, Facebook, Google, Mattel, the Walt Disney Company.
The following companies have profited hundreds of thousands, but began with no more than $100. Take heed.
Sophia Amoruso – Nasty Gal
Ten years ago, Sophia Amoruso, founder and CEO of e-commerce store Nasty Gal, was a college dropout working for $13 an hour when she began her now multi-million dollar company by finding, purchasing, and selling vintage finds on eBay.
“I was 22 and, like most 22-year-olds, I was looking for a way to pay my rent and buy my Starbucks chai,” she told Business Insider. One of her more notable finds was an $8 Chanel jacket from the Salvation Army, sold for $1,000 on eBay. By 2012, Nasty Gal had made $24 million. And last year, she’d profitably sold nearly $100 million from accessories and clothing, according to the New York Times.
She did so creating an e-commerce brand accentuated by fun photography, eccentric styling, and a creative, youthful brand aesthetic. Nasty Gal has now gained a cult-like following among 20-somethings who appreciate her funky style and trend-setting ways, and view Amoruso as a trusted source for curated fashion. The team does little to no marketing, instead relying on its huge fan base to spread the word for them. And for now, it’s working.
Rebeca Mojica – Blue Buddha Boutique
Rebeca Mojica, owner of Blue Buddha Boutique, began her jewelry company with just $20. The idea for the business came about when she went to Renaissance Festival and found a belt riddled with chainmaille rings. After looking for similar belts elsewhere, she discovered a lack in the market and decided to capitalize on the niche. She bought her first set of rings from for $20 and sold a few of her belt designs to family and friends.
Soon, she began teaching others how to design the belts themselves, and found this to be less time-consuming and more profitable. She then created chainmaille belt kits with instructions, profiting $300 when she sold a handful of sets. From there, Blue Buddha Boutique was born and it quickly became one of the most profitable top-selling chainmaille jewelry stores. In 2013, it surpassed its $1-million mark with just 13 employees, and has since expanded its product line to include a series of new kits, individual jewelry parts, classes, and instructional videos. In addition to its website, Mojica runs a wildly successful Etsy shop.
Joy Gendusa – PostcardMania
Like many companies, PostcardMania came to fruition when founder former freelancer Joy Gendusa identified a problem. She wanted to create a few postcards to advertise her freelance business and was unhappy with the postcard companies offerings and the high fee structures that came with them.
To combat that, she decided to start postcard company PostcardMania, which offered more friendly options for freelancers, and with no capital, used the money from her first client to buy a printer and continue printing postcards. Cash was tight, and she continued funneling the profits she made from clients here and there to keep going. As business grew, customers began asking if she provided other services as well, like email marketing. Given the positive reception, today, the company has grown to include email marketing services and surpassed the $20-million profit mark.
Burt Shavitz – Burt’s Bee
Burt Shavitz was selling gallons of his locally produced honey from his truck on the side of the road before he began his now multi-million dollar company, Burt’s Bees. He drew inspiration from an old book beekeeping book, and began selling candles as well. Both products were adored by locals, and he continued to add more products to the lineup (like their best-selling lip balm and natural soap) and distribution took off. In 2007, the Clorox Corporation bought out the company for $925 million.
Kael Robinson – Live Worldly LLC
Kael Robinson invested just $40 into her company Live Worldly LLC. She’d went to Argentina wearing a Portuguese bracelet (who instructions had said to make a wish before tying around the wrist). During her trip, she’d realized that the bracelet was a hot commodity there, and purchased 100 of them for $40 from a South American wholesaler. At $2.50 a piece, she sold out quickly and ordered another 100–only this time, raising the price to $5 a bracelet.
When she sold a full 1,000, it gave her the confidence to start cold calling businesses and land a few willing to sell the product on a consignment basis. It wasn’t long before several retailers all over the country began calling for orders, and the company began getting the press it needed to get to the next step: high-end boutiques like Barneys and Kitson. Today, her catalog of products has expanded to include jewelry inspired from countries all around the world, including monk-blessed earrings and necklaces from Tibet. By 2010, the company had $160,000 in revenue and $60,000 in profit, according to the Wall Street Journal.