The $100 Startup: A Review and a Rant

If a book could teach you how to be an entrepreneur and “reinvent the way you make a living, do what you love, and create a new future,” would you read it and act on its guidance? The $100 Startup, a new book by Chris Guillebeau aims to help you do all that, using a new work paradigm utilizing the mindset of an entrepreneur engaged in microbusiness.

We think the message of this book will resonate with readers because they are dissatisfied. We believe you will find it inspiring. Some will take action using its information and guidance and go on to greater fulfillment. But sadly, we believe many who are inspired by this book will still take no action at all. The reason? They are self-constrained by outmoded beliefs. Consequently, they are stuck in an anachronistic work paradigm that destines them to obsolescence in today’s evolving economy. Read on . . .

The $100 Startup title is not a misnomer. This book relies upon specific case studies from many an entrepreneur engaged in microbusiness. These individuals shared not only their stories, but their specific income statements and projections. From these, Chris extracted actionable lessons that could teach you how to start a business on a shoestring, do better things under a revised work paradigm, and achieve greater personal fulfillment as an entrepreneur.

The book’s premise is simple:

“The money you have is all you need. The skills you already have can be put to use helping others and earning a good income for yourself. Don’t take it from me; take it from all the unconventional entrepreneurs in the study.”

Guillebeau believes the combination of two key themes, freedom and value, will enable a savvy entrepreneur to participate in a microbusiness revolution that throws aside the traditional career “rules” we’ve long been conditioned to follow. This new work paradigm is premised on something Pete and I maintain and continuously attempt to communicate: the bigger risk nowadays is holding down a job working for someone else. Instead, the safest pathway is working for yourself.

The modern-day micro-entrepreneur achieves freedom by providing value in today’s marketplace. The $100 Startup emphasizes low startup costs, and it takes you through planning, launching and leveraging options for growth that match your comfort level.

Even though the $100 Startup contains a specific blueprint which will enable you to start and build a thriving microbusiness, we’re betting the vast majority of its readers won’t do this. Why? Well, we think they might be inspired, yes. But will they act? We think it’s a toss-up.

If you’re dissatisfied with your prospects, why wouldn’t you start up a microbusiness? Here are a few reasons:

1. You’re still stuck in the conventional work paradigm. This would be the 40-40-40 plan: work 40 hours a week for 40 years and then retire on 40% of your income. Wow, sign us up, eh? An Accenture survey referenced in the June 2011 issue of Inc. magazine indicates 58% of employees say they are dissatisfied with their job, yet 70% plan to stay there. Even more inexplicably, many folks, even if they’ve been out of the job market for an extended period of time with no prospects under the conventional work paradigm, have not considered starting their own business. Instead, they wait for a job opportunity that may never arrive.

2. You’re still too comfortable. Many of the real case studies in The $100 Startup start out with an unexpected development: a layoff, a firing, a forced relocation, an illness. Life was going along okay, the bills were getting paid, there was enough money left over, until suddenly one day things went off the rails. Many people today, even if they’re out of work or underpaid, are still sufficiently comfortable that they perceive there is a greater risk in starting their own business. Even if this could be done so that it would supplement their current lifestyle, they’re still reluctant to commit.

3. You’re too afraid. Change can be difficult: you might have to learn something new, leave people you’re used to being with behind, adapt to different expectations in yourself from others, you might even fail. Cathy Davidson, a digital innovator interviewed in Fast Company, discusses how we’re wired to create walls against change and new realities when we feel threatened in her book Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work and Learn. Davidson thinks older people in particular have complex reasons to resist: “When I hear from those 40-year-old, 50-year-old Luddites, I’m thinking, what else is wrong in your life that you have to make such a wall?” Previous loss (job, income, prestige, security) may have tainted your willingness to be resilient and forge ahead. Loss is painful, and you may be avoiding even the smallest possibility of encountering such pain again.

4. You’re waiting until the time is right, and that time will never come. Christine Kane says this is a huge shift in mindset that is difficult for some people (especially those coming from larger organizations) to make:

When I begin working with a client who has been in corporate, I often catch them “waiting.” Waiting to get it right. Waiting to make all their materials perfect. Waiting for things to look slick.

Waiting won’t make you money. Action will. Even if it’s imperfect action.

If you’re waiting until you have enough money to start a business, The $100 Startup eliminates that excuse. Heck, you can get going for $5 with Pete’s e-book, How to Get Started on Zazzle, and the computer you’re reading this with. Five dollars. Tell you what? If you really don’t have five dollars and you want to start a business, email us your story and we’ll comp you a copy.

If you’re waiting until the economy improves, you’ll be far behind a competitor who already took the plunge, and it will take you that much longer to get established. If you’re waiting until you’ve researched and prepared yourself for every little wrinkle of eventuality, no matter how slim the likelihood, you’re lying to yourself. You’re using procrastination because you are afraid to act.

5. You might really not want to work that hard. Let’s be honest, starting up a business is hard work. For some people, it’s easier to stay in dissatisfactory circumstances (and sometimes incessantly complain about them) because they can do their work with little effort. There’s nothing wrong with putting in your time and having a real life outside of work – accept that this is what you’ve chosen to do and enjoy your off time. But be aware, if you’re not working for yourself, circumstances are not entirely in your control. You may want to consider a Plan B as a hedge.

Reviewer Jessica Sideways writes, The $100 Startup is “. . .going to show you how other people did it and how you can implement it in your life. So I am going to tell you right now that this is not a book for the lazy. . .”

She’s right. Most people aren’t really lazy, but sometimes they do need a reality check. If you’ve been dreaming of embarking on your dreams of business ownership, or if you’ve started and could use a helpful roadmap and examples of people who’ve hustled what they love to do into a fulfilling vocation, get this book and get moving.



    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Jessica – Welcome to PassingThru! You’re entirely welcome. I am looking forward to your play-by-play, chapter-by-chapter review of the book that you promised. Hope you stick around these parts, too. 🙂

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Stephen – Welcome to PassingThru! You’re right, it is one interesting read and a very comprehensive guide. Thank you.

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Hilary – Yes, he certainly seems to be. Not just content to visit every country in the world, is he? Very inspiring. Thank you.

  1. Lauren Smith says

    I can’t wait to get a hold of this book – thanks for the great review! Reminds me of another good read I just finished by John R. Fox entitled, Digital Work in an Analog World: Improving Software Engineering Through Applied Psychology. The author writes from a non-technical perspective and helps you to understand what drives software professionals. I highly recommend this one for anyone in the high tech field. You can find the author’s website here:

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Lauren – Welcome to PassingThru! Thank you for your comment and interesting recommendation. 🙂

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Corinne – Welcome to PassingThru! Thank you and we hope you stick around! 🙂

  2. Carla Mhariz says

    Great post Betsy! I am really interested in this book and before reading it, I want to have a background or review of it first and I hear that this is a really great book. Can this book be purchased in the local bookstores?
    Carla Mhariz has an awesome blog post here: seductionMy Profile

    • Betsy Wuebker says

      Hi Carla – Welcome to PassingThru! Yes, the book should be available in bookstores. I’d check Barnes and Noble first if there is one by you. Thanks!