Start Your Biz for Under $150. Really.

Meet five shrewd women who launched new companies--and careers--for less than the cost of a pair of boots

By Kate Ashford
Photograph: Illustration by Guyco.

Meanwhile, she joined the Association of Personal Historians for $90. When Campbell couldn’t afford to go to the organization’s annual conference in Denver, she applied for—and won—a scholarship it sponsored. Then she contacted her local paper, which ran a piece about her that reeled in two more customers. Whenever clients e-mailed to say she’d done a good job, she asked for permission to post their comments on her website as free advertising. She also gave talks at her town’s genealogy society. “I just put my name out there,” she says.

Now in her third year, she makes more than the $60,000 she earned annually at her old job. She’s written her own how-to guide, Start & Run a Personal History Business, forthcoming from Self-Counsel Press. And she never tires of hearing people’s personal tales. “This doesn’t feel like work to me,” Campbell says. “It’s just so rewarding.”

Rochelle Peachey, Transatlantic dating website

Start-up costs: $124

When Rochelle Peachey, then a full-time mom, moved from London to Windermere, Florida, she found that acquaintances on both sides of the pond were pestering her to matchmake—internationally. “I thought, There have to be a lot of singles in the U.K. and America who want to be set up with one another,” she says. So in February 2010 she started a transatlantic dating site:

Peachey registered her domain name for $25 and found a designer via Craigs­list to build the initial website for $99. She promoted it herself (“I blogged as much as I could,” she says) and joined other dating services to see how they did things. At first, she checked every half hour, but when few people signed up, she feared she was wasting her time. Two months in, however, she logged on to show the site to a friend—and couldn’t believe what she saw. “I had about 120 users,” she says.

Membership was free in the beginning, but Peachey soon found that this business model attracted spammers. “Several customers told me, ‘I’m quitting, because my inbox is bombarded by fake people,’ ” she says. So after three months, when she had about 1,000 members, she started to charge—$20 a month or $30 for three months. “People don’t mind spending $10 a month to meet someone,” she says. “That’s the price of a glass of wine.”

Peachey now works full time on the venture. Instead of paying a publicist, she issues her own press releases every time there’s a big success story (amazingly, the site is already responsible for five weddings and a pregnancy). When she decided to celebrate the launch by giving away a flight to London, she saved by using her husband’s frequent-flier miles.

As soon as she started to make money, Peachey hired an experienced designer to give the website more sophistication. The company is doing far better than she ever imagined: Ten months in, it had 5,800 members and counting. Peachey is aiming for a gross revenue of $150,000 in 2011. “I’m so pleased,” she says. “If you believe in your concept, just persevere, and you can make it happen.”

Jackie Kaufman, Rock My World: Sterling-silver jewelry

Start-up costs: $102

Jackie Kaufman and her husband owned three mall kiosks selling women’s accessories in South Florida, and three years ago, she decided to take a class that she thought might help with the business: wax casting. For $100 at a local high school, Kaufman learned how to use casts to form jewelry out of sterling silver. “In the second week, I melted down my old pieces of silver jewelry and made new ones,” she says. She posted 12 of her creations on Etsy?.com (which had a much broader clientele than her kiosks) and paid the 20-cent fee for each item. Within days she attracted her first customers, who spent more than $300. “I was surprised,” she says. “The pieces sold immediately.”

First Published February 10, 2011

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What's with all the spam on the comments boards??? You should remove it and block the users. It's very distracting!

GD BAILEY02.21.2011

Kudos to theses women. I have the internet, now for an idea...

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