At Business Mamas, we love Kiva, a platform that allows people like you and me to make micro-loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries. We’re inspired by the entrepreneurs’ resourcefulness, talent, and hard work, but one of the biggest lessons is just how much they achieve with so little money.

Typical example: a woman sells food from a rickety street cart. Her food is humble but good, and customers love it. She knows she could get even more customers if they could sit, and she could prepare more food. So she applies for a loan of a couple hundred dollars for some plastic tables and chairs, and additional ingredients. Next thing you know it’s six months later and guess what? Business is so good that she’s now applying for a loan to convert her front room to a mini-restaurant! And next thing we hear, she needs to renovate her kitchen because the restaurant is doing so well. On it goes, and while her business is growing, it’s also putting her children through university, giving her independence, improving their standard of living… I love it! It’s exactly why I started Business Mamas!

These entrepreneurs are great examples of what I spoke about last week. They haven’t bought into the “all or nothing” crap. They’re working a business model that’s as old as the hills, and is still responsible for most of the businesses in the world today, even the ones worth billions. It’s the complete and total opposite of “all or nothing”, and basically involves starting with something. Anything! Then, building on that.

This is different to building your business in stages (which you need to do anyway!). It’s having different incarnations or phases of your business, each one bigger than the last. So you start off with My Brilliant Business Phase I, and one day, when it’s doing really well, you go on to My Brilliant Business Phase II. And one day, when it’s doing really well, you go on to My Brilliant Business Phase III. Or maybe My Brilliant Business Phase II is quite enough, thank you very much, and you keep it as is.

Phase it ’til you make it!

This is flexible and doable. You can keep your business small, or make it big. You can start it with no money or little money, and each phase of the business can, if you like, finance the next.

Carolyn Creswell put $1000 into a half-share of a cottage business making muesli for Melbourne cafes and delis; years later her company, Carman’s, is worth millions. JK Rowling was on government benefits when she wrote her first Harry Potter book; the rest is history. Sir Richard Branson’s first successful business venture, a magazine called Student, was financed solely by businesses that paid for advertising.

What’s your business dream? Say it’s a posh boutique selling your high-end fashion designs: what could the first phase of it be? Maybe designing, making, and selling just one item, like an exquisite silk scarf. Or instead of a boutique, invitation-only soirées at the start of each season. Use your imagination, business mama! The same brilliant brain that gave you your business idea will give you many more.

Decide on your special Phase I and be prepared to work it. How? We’ll talk about that next week!

Want more?

Check out Part 1 here.

Check out Part 2 here.

Check out Part 3 here.

Check out Part 4 here.