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How to build a business in 7 days for under $500 [Day#7: The Launch]

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So, you want to start a business but have no time or money? That’s no excuse, according to Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin.

In early 2010, serial entrepreneur Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin set himself a grand entrepreneurial challenge. In seven days, he would create a new business from scratch — from concept and branding to product development and launch.

And, to make things just that bit more tricky, he would do all this with a budget of only $500. For seven days, he blogged about his adventures (and misadventures). This is what happened.

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Entrepreneurs’ Challenge: Day #7

One week ago, I set myself a challenge to build a business in seven days for less than $500. Today, at 1.17pm, AutoCarLog, the product of that challenge, was launched.

Over the last week I had come up with and researched an idea, registered a bank account, credit card gateway, setup secure website and domain name, developed a marketing strategy, built a fully functional back end and database, designed the interface with a focus on the user experience, and built my very own SMS gateway.

The launch itself consisted of uploading the sign-up page, sending an email to everyone who had pre-registered and posting an update on Twitter. I must admit, as soon as it was launched, I found myself refreshing my database admin page every few seconds to see if and when I had my first customer.

After 15 minutes, AutoCarlog had its first customer! (It was my mate, who had problems with his paperback logbook and inspired the idea.)

Motivation

There were two motivations for doing this challenge: to inspire others and to see if it could be done.

Can it be done?

The challenge was to build a business in seven days and for less than $500. So can it be done? Yes. Just.

To reduce costs, AutoCarLog used my existing company structure. But if you’re starting from scratch you can operate under your own name. If you didn’t want to operate under your own name you would need to factor in the cost of registering one ($110-$160 depending on the state or territory where you live).

I also did all my own the software development, which saved further costs. If you haven’t built a website before, you can teach yourself (and sacrifice time) or hire a third party developer (and take a hit on cost). Alternatively, you could negotiate a partnership with a developer and graphic designer for a share of the business. (I might even be interested!)

Another thing this challenge taught me was to think outside the box, particularly with the SMS gateway. If money wasn’t a tight constraint, normally I would have signed up with an aggregator. However, this challenge forced me to look at alternative ways, which is how the idea to use a mobile phone and PC was born and why I eventually built my own hardware SMS gateway.

Inspiration

The best thing about this challenge was hearing about the ideas it inspired in others. It is such a great feeling to be able to help other people. Here is some of the comments I received throughout the week:

From Manny (on semi-blog.com)

I found the info you provided VERY useful for my own website, which will need an SMS gateway! Thanks for the links you posted!

From Royce Fullerton (on semi-blog.com)

Thanks for sharing your experience in such transparency and detail Seb. I look forward to your new posts everyday. I am planning on doing something similar in size of scope when I have enough time to devote to it.

From Marney Perna (on Anthill Online)

OK I am now very interested. I agree with the many comments re not having sufficient skills as this is my one single most frustrating aspect of creating online products. Look forward to reading the next 6 days…. fabulous and thanks.

From Marfi (on ReadWriteWeb)

Wow! Great story, I wish him good look, he is an excellent example to everyone complaining and hating when the real obstacle is… [their] own lack of motivation 🙂

From TheNextCorner on Twitter

TheNextCorner @sebeckmas You already inspired me…!

Where to from now?

While the AutoCarLog service is fully operational, the business is still in its infancy. Like a new born, AutoCarLog requires a lot of attention to grow and I have no intention of sitting still.

In the next few weeks I have meetings with the managing directors of several tax accountancy franchises and will be selling ‘prepaid’ accounts to national stationary suppliers, hopefully for placement on the shop-shelf next to the humble $4.69 paperback.

AutoCarLog will be expanding internationally and I have already been approached by people wanting to discuss licensing the service overseas.

Finally, I have a large PR campaign planned to promote the service in the offline space.

So, I hope I’ve been able to inspire you to give your great idea a chance. I ope that this series of blogs has demonstrated that it is possible to limit your exposure to just seven days and $500, which is a challenge you could easily set for yourself. If you do, please let me know — I would love to hear about it!

Now it’s time to get some sleep.

One of Anthill Magazine’s inaugural 30under30 Award winners, Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin thrives on creating smart solutions to every-day problems. For the past decade, he has spent his time balancing the demands of a full time Naval career, a Masters in Engineering and running personal businesses.

In 2009, Eckersley-Maslin returned from duty in Iraq with a drive to storm the ‘front line’ of Australian business. In 2010, he was the subject of an international documentary, where he aspired to create the world’s smallest multinational.

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