Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image
Chris LoCurto


November 9, 2011

You Can Start A Business With No Money!

November 9, 2011 | By | 27 Comments">27 Comments

Years ago, I was having dinner at The Melting Pot in downtown Nashville, when I came across a story written on the back of the menu. It explained how the restaurant began.

Now, I wasn’t able to find the story online, so I’m going from memory. It began in 1975 with a few college kids. They opened the humble restaurant across the street from a grocery store. They would seat customers and give them a choice of only three options—Swiss cheese fondue, beef fondue or chocolate fondue.

After taking the order, they would ask the customers to pay. Yep! They had them pay for their dinners in advance. Why? Because the students didn’t have any money. And they didn’t go in debt to fund their restaurant. They took the cash, ran across the street, purchased the necessary items, ran back to the kitchen, prepared the meal and delivered it to the table.

What a concept! Obviously the word got around that the food/service was great. People kept coming with no issues of paying in advance. The students eventually franchised the restaurant. By 2009, they had 142 different locations. All of this because some college kids had an idea, and they were brave enough to ask for the money up front.

Could that work today? Absostinkinlutely! Are there variables that must be in place? Sure. You must have a product that people want. You need a sales person(s) that can sell the product. You have to have customer service that makes people happy, and you have to deliver all of this in a way that causes your customers to tell others about their experience.

If you can do all of the above, you, too, can create your own Melting Pot type of story.

Question: Would you be brave enough to take the same chance?

  • Laura Johnson

    My husband and I are attempting starting a business right now, with no money. Thanks for sharing the Melting Pot’s story! It’s encouraging :)

    • Chris LoCurto

      My pleasure!

  • Uma Maheswaran S

    Agreed Chris! That’s the power of entrepreneurism. All first genration entrepreneurs have started from the scratch. Nobody starts as an millionaire or billionaire.

  • Misty Gilbert

    Absostinkinlutely! I would be brave enough. ;)

    • Chris LoCurto

      HAHAHA….love it!

  • Uma Maheswaran S (@mahez007)

    Even though, I am a Chartered Accountant in my country, I am crrently in employment. Right now, I am not contemplating freelancing on my own. But, your post has given me the encouragement to explore that option.

    • Chris LoCurto

      I think there’s no reason not to. What the worst that can happen? You change your mind and continue doing what you’re doing. :-)

  • Louise Thaxton

    Absolutely you can start a business with little or no money! 11 years ago, when I lost my job as a Senior Vice President at a local bank because they closed the mortgage department – I purchased a desk from a local thrift shop for $25.00, a used computer, and set up shop, intending to process the loans myself until I could afford to hire someone! I was so fearful of going out on my own! Today I have 6 offices with 16 employees – and no debt on my mortgage practice! There have been some lean times – but God has been so good – and blessed us immensely.

    • Chris LoCurto

      HECK YEAH!!!!

  • ginasmom

    After reading the story, yes i would sounds like the key to this is excellent customer service.

    • Chris LoCurto

      Excellent customer service and a great product can get you anywhere.

      • ginasmom

        Now i just need to find the great product:) and i’ll be on my way.

        • Chris LoCurto

          Not tennis? :-)

          • ginasmom

            Mmmm, you might be on to something here…:)

  • Edwin Woolson

    These college kids were spot on with starting small. I need to teach my brain to dream smaller and not be afraid to make a drastic career change.

    • Chris LoCurto

      Yes!! That’s it!!

  • Tom Brichacek (@tbric)

    I’m in an industry where the standard is to get 1/2 of the money up front. This pretty much commits the customer to the process at that point.

    If you think about it, you pay for a lot of things up front, from groceries to cars. Why can’t you do it in your business?

    • Chris LoCurto

      As we see with you, it can be done!

  • Eric Speir

    That’s a great idea. I like your new word, “Absostinkinlutely!” It’s definitely gutsy and you have to believe in your product. I think it helps to have a product that is different from the market. It provides a niche that no one else is providing. That’s why it’s important to know what you’re good at and then go and do it. I like what Truett Cathy says about Chick-fil-a restaurants. He says, “We sell chicken!” It’s a simple business model.

    • Chris LoCurto

      How true is that?!

  • Jana Botkin

    When I do commission work for people, it seems the ones who flake out the most often are those from whom I didn’t ask for money up front. Haven’t been able to figure out why that is, but I have certainly learned from it!

    • Chris LoCurto

      Because when you pay up front, you’re more emotionally involved.

  • David

    Wow!, That is a reminder and reality check. I began with no money as well and as a result I was forced to only take projects that would pay me upfront draws. As the company grew somehow my mindset transitioned to think that I should fund the project and then bill for the service. The result; alot of uncollected receivables. A lot of times I think it was out of fear of not getting a job or a pride issue, not wanting the customer think that I was too small to fund their project. Now, 17 yrs later I am in the process of forcing myself to go back to the plan that got me started.

    Thanks, I needed to see this post!

    • Chris LoCurto

      In today’s economy, I think less people will be surprised. :-)

  • Kent Lapp

    That’s a great reminder, most of the times that we have cash flow problems it’s our fault. We get more up front than most of our competitors and yet almost never get pushback from that, seems trust is more important than when you have to pay.

    • Chris LoCurto

      Absolutely. Trust that you’re going to deliver an amazing product. That says a lot about your company Kent!

  • Anonymous

    Chris a truly motivational story and one that can be replicated. I also started a business with a colleague for (almost, literally) nothing and made sure that we ran a cash positive business that grew to be a national one (still cash positive). I also bought a business for nothing once (with guarantees) but that’s a much longer story.