The benefits of bootstrapping from those who’ve done it
Entrepreneur: Bootstrapping and knowing your why
For the Leawood-based financial tech company, it signifies the epitome of bootstrapping.
“I think bootstrapping is inherently Midwest, and it shows tenacity,” the C2FO CEO and chairman said. “It shows a careful consideration of how you’re spending, and it causes you to make tough decisions.”
Kemper spoke at the Kansas City Business Journal’s Entrepreneur Live event. He was joined by Dominique Davison, founder of Kansas City-based Draw Architecture + Urban Design and PlanIT Impact; Carol Espinosa, a principal at Kansas City-based Freedom Interiors; and Jill Meyer, senior director of technology ventures at the UMKC Innovation Center.
The value of bootstrapping
Those hard choices set the foundation for good decision-making throughout a company’s lifetime, Kemper said. And that’s what he wants new employees to understand. That photo showcases the time when C2FO had grown too large to “borrow” paper towels from the office building’s bathroom for the coffee pot. So C2FO created a paper towel budget — but sacrificed coffee filters to make the numbers work.
“The longer that companies can bootstrap, the more compelling their business model is for people looking at it,” Meyer said.
But waiting longer before pursuing outside capital brings an added benefit to the company. It can help entrepreneurs be more discerning and choose the right capital with the right partners, she said. If entrepreneurs seek capital too early, they could be tied to the vision of the investor or not get the terms they hoped for.
Finding your why
There’s a why behind every business, and it’s different for each entrepreneur.
For Espinosa, her why is happiness. She wanted to create a workplace that she could be excited to go to every day. Employees share that passion.
“Culture is huge,” she said. “As a company, we know who we are, and we’re not apologetic about it. We’re all about empowerment, trust, collaboration, and all about personal growth as well. … Working at Freedom is a lot more than just showing up to work and just punching the clock and doing a task.”
As part of that commitment to culture, Espinosa requires employees to take personality tests so the team can communicate with one another more effectively. Everyone communicates and processes information differently, she said.
“Sometimes it can be hard to enjoy working with someone who’s the polar opposite of you unless you understand where they’re coming from,” she said.
For Draw, its purpose is tied to positive-impact design, Davison said. But carrying out that why requires an empathy toward clients — understanding their why and culture, she said. It leads to better designs, but it also can help Draw encourage a client to create a more energy-efficient building.
Sustainability is one of Davison’s passions. Energy use in buildings accounts for roughly 40% of all greenhouse gases. Davison wants to whittle that number through Draw and her tech startup PlanIT Impact by helping clients understand the return on investment.
Remembering the company’s why helps entrepreneurs overcome tough periods — especially when they want to give up, Meyer said.
“Being true to that (why),” she said, “is really what helps many entrepreneurs stick with their plan and stick with driving it forward.”