What to do when you don’t have capital

There are many people who believe they have wonderful ideas but don’t have the capital to actualize those ideas. They blame their inability to pursue their dreams on lack of capital, as a result they do nothing. Recently I had the opportunity of speaking to a group of young people, at the end of the talk I gave them an opportunity to ask questions, and some of them did have questions. But the interesting thing about the Q & A was that nearly all of them claimed to have wonderful ideas in their heads but lacked the capital to make them happen. So their questions were similar in many ways; “In a situation where you have an idea but don’t have the capital to implement it what do you do”? “Is there any formula or method for raising capital to finance one’s idea?” “What is your advice to someone who has a fantastic idea but doesn’t have the capital to actualize it?” And many other questions like these.

But as these questions were thrown at me I wasn’t in any way surprised, because at some point in my life I had been through the same struggle. So I could relate to their struggle. In my response I outlined 5 strategies to help them move from sitting down and waiting to get capital to making their ideas happen.

  1. Understand that paper money is just one of several forms of capital: Some people think of paper money as the only form of capital they need to actualize their ideas. But this is wrong thinking. You can leverage other forms of capital like human capital, social capital, intellectual capital, and so on. Human capital includes such things as health, physical wellbeing, natural ability, gift, talent, motivation, etc. Social capital include such things as connections, influence, partnerships, and good-will. It involves leveraging the support of family, friends, social and professional organizations, communities, etc. Intellectual capital includes such things as knowledge, skill, education, and experience. All these are important assets we must leverage on when setting up a venture, regardless of how much money we have.

  1. Ascertain How Much Money You Need: if you don’t know how much money you need to actualize your idea what then are you looking forward to? I mean what’s your budget? How do you start looking for money when you don’t have a target? From my everyday interaction with many would-be entrepreneurs, I have realized that many of them crying of lack of capital have never really sat down to draw a budget or estimate of what they actually need. So sit down and estimate everything you will have to spend money on, and determine how much you are expecting to raise from specific sources. After coming up with an estimate, ask yourself which of these items can I negotiate? Which of them can I achieve through collaboration? Where does my expertise, knowledge and skill play a role here? Who would I need to collaborate with? This will help you better plan and minimize wastage.

  1. Start with What You Have: What you have now may seem small, but often it’s enough to start. Starting small may not always mean starting a business from your living room or from your car, it also means starting a smaller venture or idea that requires less capital while keeping an eye on your bigger or long term ambition.

Again, Starting with what you have also implies harnessing your God-given gift/talent. All you need to do is to identify the next available platform you can use to showcase your gift and begin at once. The first platform you start on may not be where you will end your journey. For instance, if you have a gift to make people laugh, start by telling jokes to your family and friends. Offer to tell jokes at a friend’s birthday party, or departmental night. These are platforms you can start building on, and if you give your best at those levels, someday you would be rewarded with a bigger platform and bigger opportunities.

If you have a gift for designing fabrics, don’t just sit there and wait for when you will have the money to rent a big space and buy all the sewing machines you will need for your work. Start with one machine, start from your bed room. Design clothes for family members, friends, and colleagues, while keeping an eye on bigger platforms.

  1. Build Strategic Partnerships/Collaborations: You don’t necessarily need to have all the capital to actualize your dream, part of what you need is strategic partnerships. If you have an idea that requires a lot of capital, don’t struggle alone, lookout for individuals and organizations that have an interest in what you are trying to do and approach them. One of the things that makes you a creative person is the ability to identify and connect with partners and collaborators and leveraging their support to do things that otherwise would cost a lot more. No one makes it all by themselves, we all need the help and support of partners and associates. There is no wisdom in struggling to do things alone when you can get other people to work with you, thus making the task a lot easier.

  1. Lookout for Seed-Funding/Grant Opportunities in Your Area: No other generation in history has witnessed the rapid emergence of organizations, foundations, and entrepreneurial contests/business reality shows geared towards providing startups with seed funding, and grants that would enable them take off like ours, and there is no better time to access these funding opportunities than now. Here are some notable seed funding organizations and opportunities to lookout for: The Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP), The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Seedstars World, Investment AB Kinnevik, Innovation Prize for Africa, Omidyar Network, African Women Development Fund, Helios Investment Partners, Co-Creation Hub, Venture Kinetics, and a dozen others not mentioned in this article.

  1. Avoid Wasteful Spending: If you are looking for money to start something you consider really important, it doesn’t make sense to keep spending money anyhow, especially on things that don’t contribute in any way toward the realization of your goal. Cut down on the money you spend on alcohol, clubbing and women. Don’t pursue these things, instead pursue your ideas, when you succeed all these things will come chasing after you. Men with purpose don’t spend money anyhow. My heart breaks every time I see young men who claim they are looking for money to actualize their ideas spend so much of their lean resources gratifying themselves. They forget that there is no truly successful man of our time who did not learn to delay gratification. The more money you spend on self-gratification the less you will have to invest in your idea.


Are there any other suggestions you have that can help people struggling to raise capital for their own startups? Kindly let me know in the comment section.

Hilton Etakoh is the author of You Are Too Gifted to be Poor.  He covers career, creativity, entrepreneurship, and personal growth.  Twitter: @HiltonEtakoh, Facebook: @Hilton Etakoh, website: http://hiltonetakoh.com/

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