Business , investing , economic

Starting a Small Business in Tough Economic Times

Starting a Small Business in Tough Economic Times

Small business owners face an uphill battle, especially in a tight economy. Financing can be difficult to come by and the stakes are higher than ever for making sure their businesses succeed with well-crafted plans. It takes true grit to make it as an entrepreneur! 

If you're after financing, it's essential to have a good handle on your business' finances. Do the math and make sure that whatever investment is going into the project will be enough to cover operating costs and eventually turn a profit. Having all of these cash projections worked out before starting can give you an edge over competitors in securing funding.

Are you ready to take your career into the world of entrepreneurship? Making it in a challenging economy isn't easy, but these tips are sure to give you an edge when launching and growing your business. So what are you waiting for? Get going on that dream today. 

  • You can successfully start a small business during times of economic uncertainty.
  • Ask friends, other business owners, or professionals to review your business plan before you seek financing.
  • Consider and develop your marketing strategy using search engine optimization and social media to drive potential customers to your business.
  • Start small from hiring to inventory and then expand when things start to pick up.
  • Some businesses thrive during times of economic uncertainty. If you’re considering starting a business, make sure you do your research before you spend your money. 

Can You Be Successful? 

Despite the potential difficulties of launching a business during an economic recession, it could be exactly when opportunities arise for those willing to take calculated risks. With credit markets tightening and jobs being lost or frozen, clever entrepreneurs may see attractive gaps in supply that would otherwise go unnoticed - this might present great chances for success if approached with patience and preparation. So why not try to turn recessions into prosperity?  

Part of your success depends on the kind of business you intend to start, so choose a structure that can thrive when times are tough. Before we look at some of the steps you’ll need to take to get your business off the ground, remember that you can find success—even at moderate levels—during turbulent economic times. Here are a few reasons why: 

  • You may find a lot less competition during this time . That’s because most people tend to start a business when the economy is flourishing. If you’re determined and focused, you may even be able to do it without having to share your profits with third parties. 
  • Customers you gain during this time are more likely to stick with you when the economy changes for the better. This is especially true if you’re able to offer them more affordable options than your competitors.
  • Established businesses tend to curb or halt innovation during a downturn. You can use this time to come up with fresh ideas that may be missing in the market, giving you a better position when you open your real or virtual doors.
  • You may find things are much cheaper, namely things that contribute to your overhead costs. Think of things such as your rent, furniture, and materials—all of which you may be able to get at a discount. Of course, in an economic downturn, like the one caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, finding things or even places to rent out are not necessarily cheaper. The pandemic-related supply-chain issues, an inflated real estate market, lockdown rules, and social distancing requirements made it very difficult for small business owners, especially those in the hospitality industry. 

1. Find Financing 

Before applying for a loan, ask trusted friends or professional advisors to review your business plan to ensure you're not overlooking anything critical or making inaccurate assumptions. Often credit unions offer lower interest rates and fees than commercial banks, so don't narrow your search for financing down to only big banks .

You may consider asking the following sources: 

  • Friends who own their own business
  • A loan officer at the bank where you do business
  • Your local credit union where rates for business accounts may be friendlier than a commercial bank
  • An accountant, but first get an estimate for reviewing your plan, so you aren't surprised by a high invoice
  • Check out the Small Business Administration's SCORE program of free monthly mentoring sessions with retired professionals, designed specifically for people launching a business. 

In addition to securing financing for your new enterprise, come up with a financial backup plan for your business and personal finances if you fail to hit your initial revenue projections. It is a good idea to build up your cash reserves to have enough to live off for six to 12 months. Make sure you budget carefully, so you can continue making your most crucial payments: rent/mortgage, insurance premiums, utility bills, and food. Finally, check your gut—and your bank balance—to make sure you're ready to start your new venture.

2. Do Smart Marketing

Starting a new business when the economy is taking a nosedive takes creativity and ingenuity. Marketing is vital to getting ahead of the game and your competitors. Take your business plan and flesh out the marketing components: What exactly are you going to sell? Who are your target customers? How will you price your products or services? What is your plan for promoting your business?

You stand a better chance of succeeding by thinking niche. Slice and dice your original customer base to come up with smaller segments so you can market more strategically. For example, if you offer a professional service geared to women, can you narrow it down to target women within a specific age range, career type, or geographic location?

Alternatively, think about ways to alter your products or services to broaden your business appeal and customer base. For example, if you opened a make-your-own-dinner company, could you also offer dinner delivery or premade/prepackaged dinners for customers who want grab-and-go?

Remember to keep a close eye on the competition. Do ongoing competitive analyses. Watch what other providers are doing and study the marketing techniques they’re using to build their businesses. Are they tweaking the product? Lowering the price? Using creative promotional tactics? You’ll need to know where your competitors are to differentiate yourself and gain market share.

3. Start Small...With a Plan to Expand

Manage your expectations and expenses by starting as “mom-and-pop” as possible, then plan to expand when your business takes off. Review your business plan and reconsider what you need to start. For example, could you open in a smaller and less expensive location? Or could you stay virtual by eschewing a physical office altogether?

After identifying the best, most affordable space for your business, think about your staffing needs. Before hiring full-time employees, think about filling positions with independent contractors, temporary workers, or part-time staff.

If you’re opening a business in an area that has seen local businesses fold, you may be able to pick up some excellent talent for less compensation than in a favorable market.

Be realistic about which employee benefits you can offer and shop competitively for the best prices. It may be better for your employees to provide fewer benefits upfront and add them as your profits increase rather than taking benefits away if you can't afford to maintain them.

4. Use Technology to Your Advantage

First, nearly all small businesses need to use social media marketing on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social media sites to reach a broad audience in cyberspace. In addition, learning how to use search engine optimization to reach potential customers via Google is a wise idea.

Digital marketing on social media creates a buzz of awareness around your brand, drives sales, and can be an affordable way to market your new business.

Technology can provide you with numerous ways to save money and increase profits. Using technology will bring customers to your brick-and-mortar or digital door.

Expand your market by selling online through multiple channels.

Do email marketing instead of more expensive electronic or print advertising.

Use websites to get ideas from fellow entrepreneurs and successful business leaders, such as

Optimize your website for search engines to keep your site coming up at the top of your customers’ searches.

Produce affordable marketing vehicles, such as podcasts or webinars, through your website.

Create an online customer loyalty program offering advanced notice of sales, discounts, referral bonuses, and coupons.

5. Network, Network, Network

Get to know other people in your community who can refer customers and help build your business. Don’t know where to start? Find a local business networking group or contact your chamber of commerce. Consider joining a professional association—either a local one where you can meet people in person or an online group—to tap into others’ ideas.

6. Lower the Costs

A gloomy economy can disguise some great ways to save money. Creative ideas to lower your startup costs include:

  • Using the economic situation as leverage when negotiating rents, equipment leasing agreements, etc. Lessors, developers, and vendors need businesses to pay their rent and fulfill their contracts. You may be able to get a lower price if you can demonstrate the ability to deliver on time and in full at a lower rate.
  • Buying supplies from businesses that are closing or need to reduce inventory, particularly for big-ticket items such as electronics, office furniture, etc.
  • Bartering with other business owners by looking for business alliance possibilities and suggesting offsetting costs by trading products or services.
  • Doing your legal homework before shelling out big money to a lawyer through online sources such as, which provides free resources and low-cost services.
  • Online comparison shopping for the best deal on a business credit card, looking for rewards, record-keeping tools, and other special services, as well as reasonable rates and low fees.
  • Find a bank account that fulfills your small business needs, including access to brick-and-mortar and online services as well as attractive interest rates and rewards.

How Can I Start a Business With No Money?

The first step in starting a business with no money is determining what you can do right now without additional costs. Can you sell to friends and family, can you market yourself on a free social media account, or can you sell your goods on sites like Etsy? From there, save up a few months of expenses before going all-in. In addition, reach out to friends and family for starter funds. You can also look to crowdfunding sites to raise initial capital. Once you get the initial business fundamentals going, you can apply for small business loans or grants; the Small Business Administration (SBA) is a great resource for this.

What Are the First Steps to Take When Starting a Business?

When starting a business, the first step is to conduct market research on the idea, service, or product you plan on selling. See if the market is conducive to newcomers; what are the barriers to entry; is the market saturated; is there an opportunity for change or growth? From there, create a business plan. This is critical in structuring your business, what you want out of it, how it will be run, and what you want to achieve. Register your business with the appropriate authorities; the federal government and state government. The next step is then to raise funds to launch your business.