Categorized | Shoestring Startup

From Day Jobs to Full-Time Entrepreneurs in 1Year… Spending $3000

Hey ShoestringVenturites! We hope we can help inspire you to get your dream rolling with a shoestring budget just like we did.

We started back in April 2011, and in December 2011 we were able to leave our day jobs to work on CDL Helpers full time.

From Day Jobs to Full-Time Entrepreneurs in 1Year… Spending $3000Now, we’re just coming out of beta, we’re gathering some amazing partnerships with key industry players, and we have multi-million dollar companies as clients on annual contracts. 2012 is looking like it’s going to be a HUGE year for us!

We were founded originally by two young guys from MN with complementary skill sets. Tucker had business knowledge, and Entrepreneurship degree, and industry experience from his day job. Gareth had lots of experience with web and graphic design, and handled the technological needs of the company. This let us save thousands on building things out.

This brings us to why you’re here! You’re not here to learn about us as much as you’re here to get ideas on how to build a business on a budget like ours. We’ve spent just under $3,000 of our own money to get this company off the ground over the past year, and we want to show other people how easy it is to get out there and add something positive to the world.

We saved money in 5 key ways:

1. We didn’t get office space until we had thousands in revenue coming in, and the business could bankroll the space.

2. We didn’t buy fancy equipment. We started this company with two grossly underpowered netbooks, and a home-made desktop computer.

3. We didn’t buy a ton of fancy software. We used freeware like Gimp, Asana, InkScape, etc. We also used a lot of free trials to test out which kinds of software we would want to buy in the future.

4. We used RingCentral, and routed everything to our cell phones. This let us have an 800 number and a call-center menu, without having the infrastructure.

5. We taught ourselves how to do everything we needed to get done. We did not outsource web development. We wrote our own legal documents with advice from professionals rather than hiring them to do it. We watched tutorials online. We read thousands and thousands of articles online from Entrepreneur Magazine, Business Insider, YC’s HackerNews, Inc. Magazine, Fast Company, etc. This meant a lot of late nights and early mornings while we learned, but it also meant not spending money we didn’t have. We recommend reading these kinds of sources as often as possible, and the things you pick up over time will come in handy down the road.

We also answered all the standard questions below so you can get more info on us, and we did a video that goes along with this article.

We would love to hear from anyone and everyone with questions!

We can be reached by emailing [email protected]. Please make the Subject line “Shoestring”.

Or, you can tweet our founders directly! @tuckrobeson (CEO) & @millergareth (CTO)

Name of your company and URL?

CDL Helpers ;

Date started?


What is your product or service?

We consult with trucking companies about how they can improve driver engagement. Our clients see improved retention rates, lower preventable incidents, lower preventable violations, and improved communication throughout their organization.

From Day Jobs to Full-Time Entrepreneurs in 1Year… Spending $3000

Gareth Miller

Why did you start your company?

We wanted to make it cost-effective for the businesses to work together better with their employees. We also wanted to protect employees from retaliation, which is a serious problem in the trucking industry.

How was it financed?

We paid for everything out of pocket. Neither of us had any savings, and we didn’t have any family or friends that could really afford to loan us any money. We worked day jobs, and spent what little we had to pay for server space, phones, etc.

Date officially launched?

04/2011 – CDL Helpers was established and testing with multiple types of clients began. We worked with smaller trucking companies, and got feedback from a Fortune 1000 company. It was great to get feedback from both ends of the size scale.

01/07/2012 – We came out of Beta testing, and started to look for more diverse clients after we got more opportunities to test and develop our programming.

What free online or offline tools do you use?

Boomerang for Gmail – This lets you time when emails go out. Very handy for making it look like you’re in your office at 5am.

Asana – The Project Mgmt App

Joomla – Great open-source framework with lots of free modules that you can plug-n-play to build cheap and easy version of your site to experiment with how you want it to look/work.

Pulse News Reader – To stay up on business news and tips.

Google Apps for Business – Email at your own domain name, document sharing, and more. – For scheduling networking things with mentors and PR people. It’s easier than 7 emails back and forth.

Gimp – Free image editing software.

InkScape – Free vector graphic creation software.

Local and Regional Mentorship Networks and Events

Do you use Social Media tools like Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn or ? Provide exact URL of each

From Day Jobs to Full-Time Entrepreneurs in 1Year… Spending $3000

Tucker Robeson


Tucker Robeson –



Gareth Miller –



YouTube – Do you have a YouTube video URL that you can share with us, and allow us to publish with your story?

Yup! We recorded it especially for

How many people are currently working, including employees (freelancers or independent contractors for specific projects)?

2 full-time, 2 part-time, and 2 interns

What is the best advice you never got?

Don’t be afraid to be patient. If you think it will take a month to get to a goal, plan on it taking 3 months. Don’t change what you’re doing. Still try to hit that month deadline… but don’t let yourself get thrown off by things taking 3 times longer than you wanted.

So many people will try to tell you to be more aggressive, or they will say things like, “The reason you aren’t growing fast enough is because of X”… Don’t just blindly listen to what others say. We knew that we had to grow wisely, and take every step with care, because our budget was non-existent. We had to be smart about how we grew. Along the way we had a few people tell us we weren’t growing fast enough because we weren’t making enough cold-calls or pushing ourselves hard enough.

We waited for our networking to bring us to the right people instead of trying to force our way through their doors. Because of that, we now have much stronger relationships with our core clients.

What almost killed your business in the start?

Not having any money, and not selling hard enough during our trial period. We didn’t want to come off all “salesy” to the people that were willing to test us out. In hindsight, we learned to never pass up the opportunity to sell. Also, we were very afraid and skeptical of telling the wrong people about what we were doing. We didn’t want to get taken advantage of, because we didn’t have money for legal counsel or other forms of advisement. We are pretty young, and we’ve heard some horror stories about seasoned sharks taking young guys like us to the cleaners.

In the end, we relied on our gut instincts and focused on developing extremely strong bonds with critical mentors that were able to help us navigate tricky situations or bounce back from failures in the right way.

What is the one thing that you did right?

We didn’t give up. There is no other thing more important than perseverance when it comes to entrepreneurship. Out of everything we’ve learned, this is the most important thing we did.

We made all kinds of mistakes, and we adjusted. We were patient with ourselves while we learned how to do this, and because we weren’t rushing, we were able to take our time and do things the right way the first time.

We also asked for help a lot. We literally just walked up to people at networking events that could share advice and said, “Here’s what we’re trying to do, and here’s what we don’t know how to do. Can you help?” And, people responded very positively. We didn’t try to pitch them, or sell them anything. We just said we were young, and we needed advice. Be genuine with people, and they will usually be genuinely helpful in return.

What was the biggest transition you had to make (i.e. new skill set, habits, abilities, focus)?

The transition from day-job to self-employed is a real mind-bender. We really had to get used to being completely in charge of our whole days. We spent our entire lives following directions, sitting still through class, and doing what we were told. The first few weeks on your own are great, and then the next couple weeks after that seemed to hit hard. It’s bizarre being totally in control of your own fate, and deciding when to work on things independently.

We also had to learn how to work like that as a team. It took a while to feel truly comfortable relying completely on the other person to hit certain targets even when we weren’t working together on it.

Are you currently in the black or red?

We are in the black. Technically, we are now in the green.

What type of marketing or advertising do you do?

Right now, we’re doing mostly word-of-mouth. Most of our clients see our service as a competitive advantage that they only want to share with certain key partners. That’s bad because we grow slower, but it’s good because we have stronger relationships with our core client base in the beginning.

What would make your business more “Successful”?

If we had more money, we could advertise more, but we have some interesting guerilla marketing plans in the works. We’re going to be filming a lot in the next month or two.

Besides money for larger marketing plans, we just need more clients. That’s really it. The more companies we help improve and grow, the more successful we will be. As long as we continue to make sure we are adding value first, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Would you want to be acquired by a bigger company, run it yourself or sell in a couple of years?

We would never close any doors. We don’t care about being in charge. We care about accomplishing things we can be proud of. If the smartest route to go in 3 years is to sell to a larger company, we will. If more will be accomplished if we do this without selling off, then we will do that. Titles really mean almost nothing to us at this stage. It’s all about how far we can build it out.

What do you think your projected annual revenue will be?

We think we can hit our target of $250k in our first full year (2012). Our goal is to hit at least $500k in 2 years at least. We think we can grow this to a $30-40Million company over about 7-10 years, with the potential to be much larger if we continue to innovate, or take our model to other industries.

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