Don’t Ever Stop Bootstrapping: Saluting All Entrepreneurs

We’re honored to share this special guest post by our friend and colleague Pamela Hawley, founder and CEO of UniversalGiving, an award-winning service connecting donors and volunteers with high-quality international charities and global opportunities.

Congratulations to you as an entrepreneur!

Great respect is due for anyone starting a venture. A tremendous undertaking in leadership is entailed. Here are some ideas in bootstrapping which have been helpful to me, and which I hope stay with you as you grow your organization.

Don’t ever stop bootstrapping. Don’t.

My point is, always have your ‘skin in the game.’ Keep your expenses down. Care about your costs. Don’t rest on your laurels… and keep caring about how that dollar is spent on Day One as Day 2,555 (seven years, which is the average start-up mode). Why would you ever stop caring about hard-earned dollars?

That doesn’t mean you can’t think big. Garner more resources. Attain significant investments from major investors. But always care. Don’t lose your “bootstrap caring.” Everyone has put forth some serious investment to make their money. Respect their money as you do your own.

Family and Friends Close

Keep those close supporters for family and friends — close. It’s not just financial support. It’s ‘history’ support, emotional support, track-record support, ‘wisdom’ support of someone having seen you build something from scratch — and maintain it.

Keep those people who respect you very near with great, great ongoing appreciation. For some years after that initial investment, it may be more that they continue to be a sounding board or a positive cheerleader as you make advancements. As you grow your business, they might jump back in financially at a needed time. If you’ve kept them educated and inspired, they understand your need and will most likely help.

Share, Incubate

UniversalGiving is a part of The Hub, a worldwide organization that brings together entrepreneurs from all over the community, is designed to encourage sharing and networking among entrepreneurial individuals and organizations. There are socially conscious for-profits, nonprofits, independent workers.

In the Bay Area Hub, we have a shared kitchen, and “Super Salad” days where chefs come in and make salads with grilled tofu and almonds and fresh fruits and vegetables. You can participate by helping create it, and pay $5 for a healthy lunch. Milk and coffee, conference rooms, printing, faxing stations are all shared, which reduces costs for each entrepreneur and has minimum footprint for the earth. I think we have a shared printer and fax for about 40 people — what a great use of one machine!

Incubation under a larger, more experienced firm/organization can help you during your formation and startup. Or simply sharing office space, which not only helps to cut costs, but reinforces a sense of purpose and increased camaraderie with other entrepreneurs.

Embrace Your Startup Environment

Get into an environment that will help strengthen your capacity and help your team succeed in a rapid, yet sustainable, manner.

As an entrepreneur, you may not ‘see’ your environment. I didn’t when I was building UniversalGiving. I was in my home for 2 years with a printed three-year budget and contingency budget scenarios all over my roommate’s living room. Before that, I co-founded my previous startup working alone in a one-room brick office with no windows.

We entrepreneurs just want to get things done. We have a vision and we are stepping into that reality urgently. Who cares if there are no curtains, the rug doesn’t match, the bed isn’t made…? Or, my favorite to hear: “it’s too taxing for me to think about clothes so I end up wearing the same thing two days in a row…” 🙂 Who cares– we need to create!

Of course, not everyone is like that. Your team may need a more supportive and inspiring environment. (It’s good to remember to treat yourself to the same as well!)

Ask yourself and your team to keep entrepreneurial motives throughout the longevity of your organizations, balancing drive and enthusiasm with focus and perspective. As entrepreneurs we can and must commit to caring about our resources and relationships well beyond startup mode.


Pamela Hawley is a social entrepreneur who has founded two successful ventures, and is a global leader in ethics, entrepreneurship, philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility. She is a Jefferson Award Winner, a recent finalist for Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award, an Expert Blogger on CSR for Fast Company, and has been invited to the White House for their Consortium on Next Generation Leadership and Social Innovation.

Connect with Pamela and UniversalGiving

Twitter: @pamelahawley and @UniversalGiving

Facebook http://facebook.com/universalgiving

Living and Giving Blog
http://pamelahawley.wordpress.com