The $100 Startup – Chris Guillebeau

If you’re hoping to turn a passion into a small business with minimal capital, this is the worklifestyle manual for you. Like us, entrepreneur and writer Chris Guillebeau loves a startup success story and has scoured the world to find the most captivating. In this book he introduces us to the diverse characters he has met – ranging from a hula-hoop entrepreneur to a map designing duo to a Cambodian tuk-tuk driver – and uses their experiences to illustrate his business ideas.

Many of Guillebeau’s theories challenge conventional thought. For example, he argues that market research categories based on traditional demographics are outdated. Rather, he says, we should look at “new demographics” based on interests and beliefs when considering our target market. In this fluid, new media age this approach seems more helpful than pigeonholing people according to their class, age and gender.

Guillebeau is also pretty critical of the franchise business model. We’re with him on this one. Who wants to shell out their life’s savings to be bossed about by some remote company? And if you become the remote company yourself, the opportunities for your franchisees to muck up your brand identity are myriad. ‘Franchise yourself” Guillebeau urges – the perfect catchphrase for us control freak entrepreneurs.

“Give them the fish” is another great Guillebeau slogan to add to the bank. He uses it to remind us that as entrepreneurs we should sell the customer what they want, and not bamboozle them with irrelevant detail. His analogy: if someone visits your fish restaurant they just want to relax and eat your beautifully cooked fish. They don’t want to hear about the inner workings of the kitchen, and they certainly don’t want to be taught how to fish. So as the restauranteur you should just “give them the fish”.

As well as urging us to simplify our service to the customer, Guillebeau advises us to simplify our approach to our own endeavours. He presents us with blueprints for a one page business plan, a one page partnership agreement and a 140 character tweet of a mission statement. For any excitable startup entrepreneur there is always a tendency to introduce unnecessary padding. We would certainly endorse this less-is-more, as-and-when, approach to formalisation.

Guillebeau’s aim with “The $100 Startup” is to inspire us to make money doing what we love, and to value freedom alongside profitability. After reading about the entrepreneurs he profiles, you do genuinely feel that a completely new worklife might be attainable. What’s more, Guillebeau’s storytelling is so engaging that it could be read and enjoyed by anyone, even if they have zero interest in setting up a business.