What's It Like?

What's it like to start a business from scratch? I found it to be intensely creative and stimulating — so rewarding that I've done it more than once. Yet the very thought of leaving a job to start your own business scares many people. Should you start your own company?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

My book Bootstrap provides an honest, insider's window into the process I went through, starting with a dream and ending years later with the sale of my company, Banner Blue Software, at a handsome price.

I certainly had many questions before I founded Banner Blue and I'm sure you do as well:

  • How do I find a good product idea? Or, is the idea I have good enough?
  • How do I obtain the money to start a company?
  • Can I live on a reduced income until my company gets on its feet?
  • Can I run a successful business, raise children, and still have a normal family life?
  • What personal qualities does it take to found a successful business and do I have them?
  • What education and experience is the best preparation for becoming an entrepreneur?
  • What if I fail?

As I built my business I learned answers to these questions and many others. Ultimately, I did more things right than wrong, for Banner Blue Software went on to great success. I hope that by sharing what I learned, you can improve your chance of success and minimize your mistakes. Read one man's answers.

A Brief Introduction to Ken Hess

As the founder and president of Banner Blue Software from 1984 to 1996, I sold over two million copies of Family Tree Maker to help users locate and organize information about their ancestors. One of the all-time, best-selling home software programs, Family Tree Maker also received a variety of prestigious industry awards for product quality.

And, before I left the company, I designed and managed Family Tree Maker Online, one of the most popular Web sites of its time, receiving over 75,000 unique visitors per day.

During my tenure at Banner Blue, there were many twists and turns as the business and technology environment changed. I actually founded Banner Blue to produce a piece of business software called Org Plus — a product that became quite successful in its own right. In fact, Microsoft included a copy (under the name Microsoft Organization Chart) with every copy of Microsoft Office for almost a decade.

Of course, some of my product ideas were expensive failures — I hope we can both learn from those experiences. Learn more about my background.

What Must I Do to Start a Business?

The specific business you choose will have a significant impact on the work you perform every day. However, many tasks are the same across all types of businesses — things like obtaining permits, paying taxes, managing intellectual property... Read about the mechanics of starting a business.

Contrarian Thought:
A Bootstrap Makes Sense Even Today

I bootstrapped Banner Blue from a personal investment of $20,000 and no outside funds. For the first year I was the only employee, doing all programming, marketing, and operations myself. Ultimately, Banner Blue grew to almost 100 employees before I sold the company.

In today's atmosphere of copious venture capital, why in the world would someone bootstrap their company? Read why.


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