How to start a bootstrap business in college

How to start a bootstrap business in college

The startup and hustle culture is seductive. Every other college and high school student is looking for a way to start a business. But wait, you guys don’t have the funds, right? So, how do you start a business with no money? “By bootstrapping a business!” – a smart kid.

Today, it is easier than ever to become a startup founder and grow your company to at least a million dollars. I’m not even exaggerating. Look at our own CEO – Aditya Siripragada!

Here’s the kicker – you don’t need deep pockets to turn your startup dreams into reality. In this article, I’ll talk about how to start a business with no money while still hitting the books. Word of the day: Bootstrap.

What is a Bootstrapped Business?

In the world of business, bootstrapping in entrepreneurship refers to starting and growing a business without much outside money. That is, a bootstrapped business is when the founder starts a company with little to no assets.

Instead of relying on investors or loans, bootstrapped entrepreneurs use their own savings, revenue from sales, and hard work to get things going. The journey of a bootstrapped business starts from the question – of how to start a startup with no money.

You see, bootstrapping is all about being resourceful and figuring things out on your own. It means finding clever ways to make progress without a lot of cash to spare. And obviously, when you are a college student with little to no income, bootstrapping becomes your only shot.

But don’t get any weird ideas, bootstrapping is tough. You need to learn to spend money wisely, find smart ways to save and adapt quickly to changes in the market.

Difference Between Bootstrapped and Funded Business

When it comes to starting a business, the source of funding can make all the difference. And that is precisely why most hustlers go for funding. But it’s not all white.

Let’s break down the disparities between bootstrapped and funded businesses:

Bootstrapped Businesses:

Bootstrapped businesses, as we’ve already discussed, rely on internal resources and revenue to fund their operations and growth. This often means starting small, perhaps with personal savings or revenue generated from early sales.

Bootstrapped entrepreneurs need to wear many hats, from product development to marketing, leveraging their creativity and resourcefulness to make ends meet. It’s not for the weak-hearted.

Funded Businesses:

On the flip side, funded businesses take a different approach. They seek external investments, whether from venture capitalists, angel investors, or crowdfunding platforms, to fuel their growth.

While this injection of capital can accelerate expansion, it often comes with strings attached. Funded businesses face pressure to meet investors’ expectations and transfer some degree of control over their operations in exchange for funding.

I told you, it’s not all white.

The deciding factor: Independence and Control

One of the key distinctions between bootstrapped and funded businesses lies in the level of independence and control.

Bootstrapped entrepreneurs have complete authority over their business without external interference. This autonomy allows them to maintain a clear vision for their business and make decisions based on their own values and priorities.

In contrast, funded businesses find themselves beholden to investors’ demands. The more funding you receive, the less command you hold over key decisions.

How to Bootstrap a Business While in College

How to Bootstrap a Business While in College

You know what a bootstrapped business is, and now you need to know how to start one.

But before, let me shatter some myths and give you a clear picture: No guide or step-by-step process can help you build a successful bootstrapped business. It doesn’t matter if you’re in college or a graduate.

However, there are some set patterns that have helped many entrepreneurs build successful startups. Especially our very own Aditya Siripragada, CEO of Fountane. Want to learn about his exquisite journey? Watch this episode of FuelEd Unfiltered podcast.

Starting a business while juggling college coursework may seem daunting, but with the right strategies, it’s entirely feasible. Here are some practical tips for students looking to bootstrap a business with limited resources:

1. Identify a Niche Market or Problem to Solve:

The golden rule of business is to sell what can be sold.

Before diving into entrepreneurship, take the time to identify a niche market or problem that resonates with you. Conduct market research to understand your target audience’s needs and pain points. Look for gaps in the market where you can offer a unique solution or product.

2. Create a Business Plan:

This sounds all complex but is very easy. You just need to outline your business idea, target market, competition, marketing strategy, and financial projections. While it doesn’t have to be lengthy or overly complex, having a roadmap for your business can help keep you focused and on track.

3. Develop a Minimal Viable Product (MVP):

Instead of aiming for perfection from the get-go, focus on developing a minimal viable product (MVP). Aditya built Fountane with the very idea of creating MVPs for other entrepreneurs with cool ideas.

An MVP is a simplified version of your product or service that addresses the core needs of your target market. By launching quickly and gathering feedback from early adopters, you can iterate and improve your offering over time.

4. Utilize Free or Low-Cost Resources:

As a college student, this one might be a bit hard for you. But not if you deal with it the right way. Take advantage of free or low-cost resources available to you as a college student. Ask your skilled friends to help you with MVP.

If not, use online tools and platforms to learn and work on website development, marketing, and project management. Many universities also offer entrepreneurial programs, workshops, and mentorship opportunities that can provide valuable guidance and support.

5. Create a Revenue Retention Plan:

In addition to focusing on generating revenue, it’s essential to have a plan in place for retaining those earnings. Especially as a bootstrapped business, you need to pool your own money to deliver your first product/service.

But once you receive the payment or incur some revenue, consider reinvesting profits back into your business, such as scaling operations, expanding product offerings, or investing in marketing and customer acquisition.

6. Network with Mentors and Fellow Entrepreneurs:

Building a strong network of mentors and fellow entrepreneurs can be invaluable on your entrepreneurial journey. This is exactly what made Fountane a multi-million dollar bootstrapped company.

Seek out mentors who have experience in your industry or field of interest and learn from their insights and advice. Attend networking events, join entrepreneurship clubs or organizations, and connect with like-minded peers who can offer support and collaboration opportunities.

As an aspiring startup owner, 90% of your time should be spent networking. That’s the guru mantra.

Aditya’s Multi-Million Dollar Bootstrapped Business – Fountane

Aditya’s Multi-Million Dollar Bootstrapped Business - Fountane

For all the college students who want to build a startup, Aditya Siripragada is nothing short of an inspiration.

Growing up in a conservative middle-class family in Hyderabad, India, Aditya faced academic difficulties. From failing his 9th and 11th grades in school to even being suspended from a university in the US.

Trying to save his US Visa, his pride, and his life, Aditya went on to start his own business in India. Teaming up with his college classmate, Saawan, they founded Fountane.

Despite limited resources and initial skepticism, Aditya and Saawan were determined to succeed. They used unconventional methods, such as advertising in local Telugu newspapers, to recruit talent and build their team.

Today, Fountane stands as a testament to Aditya’s entrepreneurial spirit and determination. From its humble beginnings, the company has grown into a multi-million dollar business.

Watch a full one-hour podcast with Aditya here. This story gives you three lessons:

  1. You don’t need to be a scholar or have a degree to succeed.
  2. You don’t need millions in funding.
  3. You need to have a never-bending resolve.

Pros and Cons of Bootstrapping a Business in College

Building a startup in college, and that too bootstrapped, is not for everyone. If you’re thinking of starting one, here are some pros and cons you should know about:


  • Independence and Control Over the Business: Bootstrapping allows you to retain full control over your business decisions and operations. You can follow your vision without external influence.
  • Opportunity to Gain Valuable Entrepreneurial Experience: Managing a college business provides hands-on experience in entrepreneurship. You’ll learn essential skills like leadership, problem-solving, and decision-making.
  • Flexibility to Experiment and Pivot: Bootstrapped businesses have the freedom to experiment with different strategies and pivot as needed. You can adapt to market feedback and refine your approach without the pressure of external investors.


  • Limited Financial Resources: Bootstrapping typically means starting with limited funds, which can restrict your ability to invest in growth opportunities, marketing, or hiring. You’ll need to be resourceful and prioritize spending wisely.
  • Balancing Academic and Entrepreneurial Commitments: Juggling business responsibilities with academic coursework can be challenging. You’ll need to manage your time effectively to avoid neglecting either aspect of your life.
  • Potential for Slower Growth Compared to Funded Businesses: Bootstrapped businesses may experience slower growth compared to those with external funding. Without access to significant capital, expansion efforts may take longer, requiring patience and perseverance.


In short, starting a business while in college through bootstrapping is both a daunting and exhilarating journey. It is super hard, and most fail, but the satisfaction of building something from the ground up is unmatched.

The path from ‘how to start a startup with no money’ to ‘I did it’ is challenging. But success stories like Aditya Siripragada’s will inspire you to take the first step, learn from their mistakes, and build a successful bootstrapped business.

If you want to listen to more stories about how college-going kids build million-dollar businesses, watch the FuelEd Unfiltered podcast on YouTube.

Sushrut is the key content strategist and writer for FuelEd Community. He is a content writer and content strategist with experience in domains like technology, freelancing, and side hustles.

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