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How to Start a Business, Find Freedom from Poverty

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.

Part IV of a series on using entrepreneurship to alleviate poverty. You can read Part III here.


So you’ve decided you want to start a business. It’s going to involve starting at the bottom and working your way up. And for those in poverty it’s going to be one hard slog.

Here are my suggestions — and my warnings — from personal experience as an entrepreneurial Income Assistance client, on how to get going:

Begin by writing a business plan. For the portion of people who live in poverty and have a learning disability like myself this could mean seeking help to draft your plan. (I covered support systems in Part II of this series.)

The second step is doing the market research for your product and/or service. This can be stressful, and some people living in poverty cannot handle stress at least without the proper support. Again, reach out to supports and networks when you have to.

The final part is getting the business up and running. How the business is going to do is something you can’t tell until you’ve given it some time.

An entrepreneur (who wished to remain anonymous) I spoke to offered the following advice:

“One of the best ways to start a business is to approach it as a ‘test.’ Start the business in a limited way, without formal business cards or office space or a separate phone number. The best way is to start approaching some of your potential clients to get their reaction to your product or service. If possible, do some work for these few clients and, using the proceeds, start spending money on items you have already determined are a priority for your business. It might be a cellphone, or a better computer, or a professionally printed brochure.

“Many entrepreneurs are unsuccessful because they spend too much money at the beginning, buying everything they need before they've made any money. If you can attract the trust and loyalty of one or two customers/clients and start to invoice them, with the proceeds you can slowly start to build your business.”

Another source of finances for your business are lenders.

Lenders will look at your business plan and decide whether or not to give you funding based on a few factors: Do you have good credit? How viable is your business? Do you have the proper education and training that qualifies you to run the type of business you are proposing? If your product is already created, how many have you sold?

One lender here in Halifax amenable to giving business loans to people who live in poverty is the Centre for Entrepreneur, Education and Development. Unlike other lenders, this lender actually encourages people who live in poverty to go the route of starting their own business to get out of poverty. CEED understands people living in poverty might not have the start-up money required to make more money with their business. CEED also provides a $2,000 training grant. You are entitled to use this grant for training related to your business.

Take advantage of the support systems I have detailed in this series. Starting a business, especially for those who live in poverty, takes a lot of hard work and commitment. 

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