Play, refine and grow: How I started a successful shoe business with just $100

starting a business

Sienna Baby founder Sarah Nally. Source: Supplied.

I want to share a few insights from my experience starting a shoe business with just $100. It ain’t no billion-dollar empire, but I did learn a lot of practical tricks along the way.

Where do you start?

There are three myths I would love to bust about starting a business.

  1. You need experience.
  2. It is time-consuming.
  3. It is expensive.

How it all began

I started my baby and toddler shoe business in 2014. I got my ABN online and opened a business transaction account online. I transferred across $100 from my tax return and decided to prototype my first designs when I was in Bali for my sister’s wedding. My ex-husband and I jumped on a motorbike and went to the markets to see if we could get some prototypes made up.

Just 45 minutes later, I had sourced and started my very first order for $100.

Three days later, the samples were delivered to my hotel. I posted the images on Instagram and sold every pair.

I reinvested this revenue in stock and went home with 45 pairs of shoes to sell.

I used BigCartel for the first four years, at just $9.99 a month.

From there we grew. But the approach of ‘prototype, play, iterate, refine and grow’ worked, and I continue to apply this method every day.

Money isn’t all that

My first tip for those looking to start a business with a small amount of money is to actually ask yourself the philosophical question: ‘What is money and why do you need it?’

We often get caught up in the hype of money. But cast your eye back to a time where money didn’t exist, and you’ll find that back in the day, we facilitated value exchange through the exchange of goods (whether it was pigs and potatoes or houses and land).

So, when you’re starting anything, why not start with the question: ‘What value do I have that others might need?’ Starting here is a wonderful way to ensure you are on purpose and creating value.

Also, look at how you can use your own creativity to just start, and then, when you have some runs on the board, expand.

A lot of people get caught up worrying about things needing to be perfect, but most brands go through several iterations until they get it right.

What are you waiting for?

I created my logo using Canva.

When you ‘ship shit’, as Guy Kawasaki says, you know you’re moving in the right direction.

If you launch a perfect product, you have probably launched too late. Getting something out there allows for fast feedback and fast iterations to help you evolve your business.

Fail fast, fail often and fail frugally.

I celebrated every product fail and captured (and resolved) every customer complaint.

Marketing is hard in the Facebook ads world. I had no budget and big dreams. Instagram worked in my favour back then. We created a tribe of mum influencers and sent them product in exchange for photos. (There are seriously some talented mums out there!)

Experimentation is your superpower, so be willing to give most things a go, and learn from the experience. I recently played with click funnels, launching a free e-book and capturing emails to add to our lead database. In the first few days, we had 155 new email addresses.

You have to start somewhere, so be creative, start small and celebrate little wins.

NOW READ: “It was exhilarating”: Everything that happened in my first 90 days as a business owner

NOW READ: The top 10 mistakes entrepreneurs make according to Guy Kawasaki


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2 years ago


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