Entrepreneurial Inspiration:
Making Money From Nothing

By - December 28, 2013

Sometimes, in order for us to get motivated to do something, it helps to see what others have succeeded at. That's what this page is about. In addition, the criteria for inclusion here is that the business or money-making project can be started without much capital. I won't be more precise than that, but there is at least one business here that was started for absolutely nothing.

Alchemy Goods

I really like the story of this business. Apparently Eli Reich had his messenger bag stolen and he made himself a new one from used bicycle-tire inner tubes. People commented favorably on it, so soon he started making other things in the basement of the apartment building where he lived. Alchemy Goods, as he called his new venture, now "upcycles" used products and materials into many different new items.

This is a great idea, and I do like the look of the laptop bag I just checked out on the company website, but I would probably not pay $168 for any laptop bag until my income passed $300,000 annually (maybe that's just me). In defense of my frugality I argue that it would be more environmentally friendly to buy a used one at a thrift store for $5, since that would not require additional materials or energy to produce. On the other hand, it's still a cool idea, and people are apparently buying their products.

It is also worth noting that when you make things from things that are otherwise thrown away, you might be able to start your business with less capital than others. Here is their website: http://www.alchemygoods.com/

Money Growing on Trees

This man's business is one that I've reported on before, but I thought it was worth briefly repeating the story here because this particular entrepreneur did not need a single penny to start making money. My wife and I met him on the streets of Tucson, Arizona years ago, when we spent a couple months there escaping Michigan's winters (we are in Florida now). He was making beautiful creations from palm leaves that he just pulled from the bushy trees all around the town's parks and empty lots. He made animals and more by carefully folding the leaves so they held their shape -- something like origami with leaves.

We bought a rose he made for $2, and considered buying the more expensive scorpion. He was very quick, fashioning the rose as we watched. It dried without losing its shape, and we may still have it somewhere (I know my wife still had it on display in a vase several years later). Of course I had to wait nearby for a few minutes to see if other people were buying his more expensive handicrafts, and yes, he sold the $4 and $6 pieces also. I don't know how much he made in a day or how many times he was run off by authorities (it seems that they always try to prevent the things that make larger towns and cities interesting), but perhaps the bigger profits were to be made buying his works (and that of others) wholesale to sell to gift shops where they would sell for twice as much.

Name Advice

How about getting paid for choosing names? Now that's a low-investment business. Although it sounds too good to be true, that's what they do at pickydomains.com. They help people find the right domain name for their businesses or other purposes. The founder, Eugene Gromov, was helping people to pick domain names part-time when he got so busy he had to start getting help from others and sharing the profits. I don't know what he invested initially, and, as with any online company, you could choose to gamble big on expensive marketing, but I do know that this is the kind of business that can be started with less than $100 and a lot of social media work.

Throwing Knives for Money

David Adamovich, also known as "The Great Throwdini," calls himself an "Impalement Artist," or just a "Professional Knife Thrower." He makes money doing shows, and claims on his website (knifethrower.com) that he is, "The only knife thrower to perform the veiled double wheel of death." Nichegeek.com reports that he makes close to $100,000 per year performing, and also gives lessons at his home for $75 per hour. Now I imagine he has a lot of very expensive equipment at this point in his career. But I can also guess that this is something one can start doing for less than a few hundred dollars invested in targets and knives.

More Entrepreneurial Inspiration

The entrepreneurs above proved that their ideas could actually be used to make money. Now I'll leave you with some that are waiting to be tried (although who knows... some of these might already be making money somewhere for someone).

Newcomer Tours

When we moved here to Naples, Florida, we went shopping for a bed and found that the cheapest queen-sized mattress available was $700 (and that sales lady assured us it was the cheapest). Now we know there are several places where we could buy one for as little as $300 to $400. Eventually we found the restaurants that had top-quality food at low prices, and the best beach to go to, and the casino where we got a free meal and free $5 in slot play each time we visited. It takes time to learn these things. Perhaps people who have recently arrived might pay for you to spend a day showing them where all the best deals, coolest parks, and interesting places are around your town. Guarantee them that you'll save them the cost of the tour ($400 versus $700 for a mattress? And there's one place in town here that charges just $7 for a good haircut, while the next cheapest is $12). Make a friend at the local Welcome Wagon in order to get leads. If you already own a car you might start this business for as little as the cost of printing some cards.


I have told my own story about making and selling hundreds of walking sticks many times. I started out with an investment of maybe $20 for used leather coats that I cut into strips for handgrips. A neighbor of ours collects sea shells on the beaches near here and glues them to nice pieces of driftwood to make artistic creations that she sells (we bought one). These kinds of businesses are fun, but by themselves will never make you much money. On the other hand, if you learn how to sell things you might progress to selling the arts and crafts made by others, and then you could be into some decent profits.

Buying and Selling Anything

We recently found a great dining room table next to the dumpster by our condo, and a coffee table that we are now using in our living room. We also used Craigslist to sell another freebie we got. I'm not suggesting that you can build a business on dumpster diving and Craigslist, but there are a lot of nice things thrown out or sold cheap at rummage sales in this country. In the next town over from us there is a man who makes a living selling used furniture on Craigslist. I don't know if he started in his home, but this certainly seems possible. At the moment he sells out of storage units instead of a storefront, to keep his overhead down. he just has potential customers meet him at the storage units where the furniture is.


There are always more ideas, and more ways that entrepreneurs have already made money than you can ever imagine. And by the way, in our best years online (sadly, a few years back) we made more money than I even want to admit to -- and we started out with $700 for software and a used computer. Get inspired and don't let a lack of capital stop you from trying something new.

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