Now more than ever, there’s just one major hurdle on the path to owning your own business: deciding to take action.
Bootstrapping a business into existence — shooting for the stars with a ramen noodles budget — has always meant a lot of work and DIY creativity. Thankfully, other entrepreneurs have been down this road before. These entrepreneurs are developing new apps to make it easier for the next generation of founders. The number of apps that put enterprise-level functionality into the hands of small business owners, easily and affordably, is astounding.
It’s not just the Silicon Valley startup scene that gets to take advantage of these shiny new tech tools. Main Street coffee and flower shops are rapidly adopting tools and platforms that weren’t available even two or three years ago.
This democratization of business software has opened up a new wave of founders. At Gusto, we call this movement Generation Entrepreneur. Members of Generation-E know there are better and cheaper ways to solve business problems through software.
Instead of the old monolithic walled gardens of enterprise software suites, Generation-E leverages a growing ecosystem of lightweight applications, built to meet specific needs and sync with each other. The result is a toolbox that gives lean startups the support and functionality they need to make smart decisions and thrive.
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It’s easier to start
Whether you’re building a local boutique with an online storefront or a fully digital venture, platforms are emerging that let companies quickly build and iterate easily. Business moves at a fast pace, especially in the beginning, when you’re trying to find your footing — you need that flexibility.
For Internet startups, you can leverage cloud computing platforms like Amazon Web Services or Rackspace. In fact, there are numerous applications for almost every possible business need. Do you need legal services? Check out RocketLawyer. Looking for help with a logo? Try 99Designs. For almost everything else, you can use TaskRabbit or Postmates to get it delivered.
For offline and online merchants, it’s even easier. For e-commerce vendors, you can use a service like Shopify to set up your online shop. For brick-and-mortar merchants, there is a variety of affordable point-of-sale options now from Square to PayPal. If you need your goods shipped, there’s Shyp.
The ease of getting started means new services are being created on a daily basis — yours included. You just need to identify what you need, then check to see whether someone is available to help.
It’s easier to raise money
Startup cash always has been one of the biggest barriers to starting a business, and it’s still a barrier today — but that barrier is much lower than it used to be.
The services that make starting a business easier often translate into lower startup costs, especially with the downward-trending cost of technology. You also have access to a much larger customer base.
The global marketplace gives you access to an audience that spans the globe, no matter how small a niche your product or service occupies. That isn’t a guarantee for success, but it does mean your market research, word-of-mouth promotion and brand presence can reach a market that would have been inaccessible to small or medium-sized businesses not long ago.
Your customer base isn’t the only thing that’s gone distributed. The business financing environment has changed, too.
That ability to build and promote a business to such a targeted group of people has changed the dynamics of business financing. AngelList and CircleUp are platforms that connect angel investors with startups. IndieGoGo, Kickstarter and Tilt are crowdfunding platforms that let you go to your fans and supporters for investment capital. LendingTree or Kabbage allows you to raise debt, such as loans or lines of credit.
Lower startup costs mean you need less money to get your company off the ground. More importantly, they also mean you can reach profitability more quickly and start financing your efforts with your own cash flow.
It’s easier to manage
Few people create a startup because they’re experts in all aspects of managing a business. For example, the back office of the business can be complex and time consuming — and it’s critical that you get it right. A recent study estimated one in three small businesses in the US receive a payroll tax penalty costing over $800 each year.
From accounting to payroll to project management, new backend tools simplify administrative tasks so you can focus on your vision, not your spreadsheets. For your accounting needs, check out Xero or FreshBooks. TSheets helps keep employee time sheets under control. Expensify makes expense reports easy — including all those receipts. Trello, Asana and Basecamp are great options for project management.
One thing you’ll notice about all these tools is they are cloud-based. That means there is no infrastructure needed, you pay for only what you need, and you have access to the information you need anytime and anywhere.
When I started my first company, Buzzeo, six years ago, my options were limited to pricey enterprise-level software or doing it all by hand. Payroll was one of our biggest headaches, which is why I co-founded Gusto. This is an exciting time to be in the startup community, wherever you happen to be. There’s no better time to start a company and join Generation Entrepreneur.
This post originally appeared on Business Insider.