Forget outside investors. Here’s the secret of how I funded my company.

Posted on Mar 9, 2009 - 3:44 PM PST

Paul Graham, founder Y Combinator which funds startups, said entrepreneurs need to be “relentlessly resourceful,” which made me think of the story of how I got the money to launch my first company.

When I graduated from college I was hell bent on starting a business right away, but I was dirt poor.

One day, I looked at the flood of catalogs that J Crew sent me and was bummed out. I thought to myself, if I hadn’t spent money on clothes at J Crew in college, I might have enough cash to start a business.

But I wasn’t going to give up on my idea. School didn’t teach me much, but in my spare time I read enough biographies of successful entrepreneurs to realize that throughout history, the most successful entrepreneurs started out with nothing. If you’re determined, there’s always a way.

One time, when I looked at a J Crew catalog, I noticed their return policy on the back cover of their catalog. It boasted that their refund policy didn’t have an expiration. Out of curiosity, I called up their customer service number and asked, “would you give me a refund for clothes that I WORE.”

The customer service woman said, “Yes. That’s our policy.”

It seemed too good to be true, so I wanted to make sure. “I bought clothes from you throughout college. I wore them. They’re used. Are you telling me I can return them to you and get a refund check in the mail?”

She said, “Yes. That’s our policy.”

So I boxed up my clothes and sent them back. Within a few weeks, I got a check. I considered it my grubstake and used it to launch my business. There’s always a way.

I would never have come up with that idea, if I hadn’t spent years reading about the resourcefulness of other entrepreneurs. I’m telling you about my experience because I hope it’ll spark some creative idea in you. There’s always a way.

If you have any examples of relentless resourcefulness, share them so we can inspire others.

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  • mkrawse

    Andrew,

    Great post… very informative and even more entertaining. I agree that being “relentlessly resourceful” is the key to success. If you want it, it's yours! Entrepreneurs just have to be willing to put in the time/effort, the sweat/tears, and all the other great things that come along with the ride.

    Relentless, Persistent, Driven, Determined… whatever word you want to use is the “make or break” for an entrepreneur. Mix that with a little creativity… and you have gold.

    Thank you for sharing your story! It was inspiring!

    - Matthew Krawse

    P.S. Too bad that JCrew doesn't still have that return policy! That was awesome!

  • mofey

    Well, now JCrew is getting so much more out of that incident! It's that kind of service that builds up a brand. Kind of like the Zappos story Seth Godin told at one of his presentations.

  • http://mixergy.com AndrewWarner

    From what I understand, they're not upset with this.
    Thanks for the comment.

  • Mark

    What was the name of your company (the one with 30+ mil in annual sales) and what did it do?

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    Bradford & Reed

    I have more posts here about it, including some financial statements.

  • http://hameedullah.com Hameedullah Khan

    No doubt, You are genious!

  • http://hameedullah.com Hameedullah Khan

    Andrew!! Thanks for motivating me yet once again. There is always a way.

  • http://www.timothysykes.com timothysykes

    Bed Bath & Beyond has the same kind of dumbass policy, you can bring in old receipts and use their 20% off coupons to get cash back for eternity

  • http://www.twitter.com/arthurcundy Arthur Cundy

    Great story Andrew! It gave me some things to think about going forward. And it's true when you want something bad enough and are passionate about it, you'll find a way to make it work. I call it being shrewd. http://www.shrewdops.com

  • thereviewguy

    Love the J-Crew story although I can never pull that off.

  • thereviewguy

    Love the J-Crew story although I can never pull that off.

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