How I built a business with just credit cards.

It is almost time for the next anime convention, but today I’m writing you with a little history story. We started from nothing. And I am quite lucky to be where I am.

Growing up, the concept of ‘easy money’ was foreign to me. Coming from a background where every penny counted, I learned the value of hard-earned cash early on. This instilled in me a resilience and a drive that would eventually fuel my entrepreneurial journey. At 18, armed with nothing but a regular personal credit card and a vision, I embarked on a path that many might consider unconventional: building a business financed almost entirely through credit.

You see, I grew up in a small town in Iowa. We didn’t have two cents to our name. It was exilerating to receive $5 from my grandparents on my birthday to buy new lego toys. I’m not like Donald Trump where he was given a $1 million dollar loan from his dad to start his business. I had to start with absolutely zero. Even my first car, I bought it thanks to getting a job and a credit union with generous loans for young people. Thankfully I was smart and got a used hybrid car too, as gas soon soared. But I only had that car – essential to my business, driving to events, handing out flyers, advertising, and promoting my anime conventions – thanks to credit.

My initial foray into the business world was guided by two principles: frugality and investment in growth. Unlike the stereotype of reckless spending on credit, I was meticulous about using my card. Every purchase was calculated, aimed at things that would either save money in the long run or help generate revenue. It wasn’t about depriving myself of life’s small pleasures, like an occasional meal out, but rather about making smart, informed purchasing decisions.

This mindset extended to every aspect of the business. For instance, when our indoor tomato garden needed a new humidifier, the options were clear: buy a $500 unit or build one for $200. We chose the latter. This decision wasn’t just about saving $300; it was a testament to our ethos of valuing resourcefulness over convenience.

DIY: A Philosophy for Growth

This do-it-yourself attitude became a cornerstone of my business strategy. When faced with the need for registration software for my convention, every other solution was ridiculous expensive, running upwards of $30,000 a year in hidden fees and little charges. They try to trick you. Instead of telling you a price, they give you a percent. Maybe 5% of every registration. Well if we sell $100,000 in tickes, that’s $3,000 gone off the top, with even more going to credit fees on top of that.

Instead of accepting these costs as an unavoidable expense, I decided to build the software myself. This not only saved us a significant amount each year but also gave us complete control over the functionality and user experience. The lesson? If you have the skills to build something yourself, do it. The value of self-reliance cannot be overstated, both in terms of financial savings and personal empowerment.

Credit Card Mastery: Balancing Act

The use of credit cards in business is often viewed with skepticism, if not outright fear, due to the potential for debt accumulation. However, when used judiciously, they can be a powerful tool. The key lies in diligent balance management. In the early days, it wasn’t uncommon for our balances to spike before an event, as upfront costs piled up. However, the crucial discipline was to pay down these balances aggressively as soon as revenues came in, ensuring that debt didn’t become a lingering shadow over the business.

This approach to credit was not about leveraging future earnings in a reckless gamble but about strategic investment and timely repayment. It’s a delicate dance, one that requires constant attention and discipline, but it’s one that can pay off handsomely by providing the liquidity needed to seize opportunities without diluting ownership through outside investment.

Now, thanks to COVID, we’re back in debt again, but what can you do? Sometimes life throws curveballs.

Lessons Learned and Paths Forward

My journey from a teenager with a credit card to the head of a thriving business is a narrative of perseverance, innovation, and strategic risk-taking. It underscores a fundamental truth: the limitations of our beginnings can become the foundations of our success. Growing up poor taught me the value of money, the importance of hard work, and the power of self-reliance.

For those aspiring to carve their own paths in the business world, remember that resourcefulness and a willingness to learn can overcome many financial hurdles. Credit, when managed with care and discipline, can be a launchpad rather than a crutch. And finally, never underestimate the value of building over buying. In the economy of innovation, the ability to create is the most priceless asset of all.

As I look to the future, these lessons form the bedrock of my approach to business and life. The journey of entrepreneurship is as much about the mindset we cultivate as the financial strategies we employ. In the end, building a business with just credit cards taught me far more than how to manage debt—it taught me how to think creatively, act boldly, and believe in the power of my own potential to transform visions into reality.



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