01Build a Great Community
While "sharing economy" startups like Airbnb.com and TaskRabbit.com are bigger, newer and better funded, Couchsurfing.com is one of the original players in turning a community into a business.
Founded in 2004, Couchsurfing is a social travel network that connects a community of 5 million members in more than 96,000 cities via its website and mobile applications. Individuals can arrange short homestays through the service.
While Couchsurfing initially eschewed traditional venture funding, instead focusing on the grassroots growth of its community of passionate users, in 2011, it raised $7.6 million dollars in funding with its sights set on growth.
Couchsurfing is nothing without its community, and so with bigger funding came rumbles that the company would not be able to stay true to its freewheeling, community-focused ethos. Committing to using that funding to enhance user experience and enhance reach, Couchsurfing is so far growing apace.
Sometimes you don't know exactly what type of business you want to be, and you need to change in order to be successful Take, for example, the ultra-successful online retailer Fab.com began life as gay community site fabulis.com. Founder Jason Goldberg struggled to find a niche for his fledgling site when Facebook and other dating sites were already so successful. Fab.com was born from the ashes, focusing on a completely different niche: high-end design.
"If you want to understand change, you have to live it," explains thought leader and author Joseph Jaffe in the wake of the success of his Kickstarter campaign for the new book Z.E.R.O. - Zero paid media as the new marketing model. He adds, rather cheekily: "You can't read about it in a book unless of course, it's mine."
As a sought-after marketing consultant, speaker and thought leader, Jaffe has a long track record bringing innovative thinking to organizations such as The Coca-Cola Company, Panasonic, Kraft Foods and H&R Block, Target, Verisign, Anheuser-Busch InBev and General Motors/Onstar.
With his latest project -- Z.E.R.O. -- he wanted to go a decidedly different route than traditional publishing, and so, working with his partner Maarten Albarda, Jaffe decided to launch a Kickstarter to fund the publication of the book. Read more in our interview.
The lesson for entrepreneurs: As self-publishing supplants more traditional routes to publication and real-time marketing demands authentic expressions of brand identity, involving the crowd in the creation of a product can build a deeper connection with the audience you're trying to reach.
Can you really build a sustainable business with committed employees and a large and growing community of customers without a big bank loan or borrowing lots of money from friends and family?
For CrossfitSouthBrooklyn.com gym owner David Osorio, the answer is a decided yes. He started his Crossfit affiliate in 2007 in a local park with a handful of clients. Over the years that bootstrapped operation has grown to a large dedicated space in Gowanus, Brooklyn with 600 members and 20 employees.
"When I wanted to start CFSBK, it didn’t seem like the smartest approach to find partners, take out a huge loan, and rent some ludicrously overpriced real estate in Brooklyn in order to start a gym based around a niche training concept that no one had heard of," Osorio writes in a post on his blog. "My entire "financial plan" was to simply work to my best abilities within the resources I had and to never spend a single dollar I didn't already have available. My rule was that if I didn't have the funds to obtain something I needed, I would have to work harder with what I did have until I was able to afford it."
4 Funding Success Stories From Real Entrepreneurs
From using credit cards to bank loans to Kickstarter, methods of funding your business dreams are limitless. Here are some inspiring examples from real entrepreneurs.