boot•strap (b t str p )
1. A loop of leather, cloth, or synthetic material that is sewn at the side or the top rear of a boot to help in pulling the boot on.
2. An instance of starting of a computer; a boot.
tr.v. boot•strapped, boot•strap•ping, boot•straps
1. To promote and develop by use of one’s own initiative and work without reliance on outside help: “We’ve bootstrapped our way back with aggressive tourism and recruiting high tech industries” (John Corrigan).
2. Computer Science To boot (a computer).

1. Undertaken or accomplished with minimal outside help.
2. Being or relating to a process that is self-initiating or self-sustaining.
by (one’s) (own) bootstraps
By one’s own efforts.

While pulling on a pair of boots the other morning I slipped my fingers through the straps and gave them a good tug. I got to thinking about bootstrapping and what a great way it is to start a business. Starting your own business by bootstrapping is an exhilarating, creative endeavor. Okay, maybe that’s too rosy of a spin. Bootstrapping can be pretty stressful and scary, too. But, it’s a mixture of highs and lows, of good days and bad that can be pretty rewarding if you let it. I’ve worked with quite a few entrepreneurs and there are a few characteristics that consistently show up among the successful ones.
First, a successful bootstrapper is cheap. It forces you to be surprisingly resourceful. When my partner, Beth, and I started our software company many moons ago we were both committed to making our seed money go as far as possible. She found computers for us at a great price. In these pre-Internet days I spent time in the law library of the local university learning how to file trademark documents and develop distributor agreements. Travel to trade shows was determined by where we had a free place to crash. As our business expanded, we stayed true to our frugal roots and that helped us succeed where others in our field didn’t.
Second, a successful bootstrapper is resilient. Those who have never owned their own business can’t appreciate how stressful it can be when the inevitable setbacks occur. Some days there’s nothing else you can do except pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again. Well, that, and maybe break into a bag of strawberry Twizzlers.
One final characteristic I’ve seen is that good bootstrappers always pay it forward. You never forget how hard it was when you were just starting out. I don’t try to judge someone’s business idea on whether or not it’s a ‘good’ idea. Sometimes someone can have a great idea but be at the wrong time or place. Or maybe they just don’t have the resources to pull it off. It takes a certain amount of courage to start a business so I say hats off to anyone who steps out and tries. You never know, it just might be the next big thing.

Definition provided by: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

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