Many believe that people think you need to have a lot of money to start a business, especially a business that seems to require a significant equity and asset stake, such as an art gallery. But sometimes, the best stories of business come from people who risked it all – down to their last dollar. Thus was the story of Imran Md Ali – and how he started and launched an art gallery in 14 days with less than $500.
He had only $500 left in the bank – which is when many might panic and look for a job. He lived with his family, but they had invested enough in his ideas and had put their foot down on this one. So, he did a bit of a “hail mary” – he booked a plane ticket $200 dollars (Singapore currency) to find 10 pieces of art each worth $30, spending the final $300 in his account. “No one believed I was going to be successful, so I only had himself,” he explained.
Once he got home, the question became where to host the art gallery. “Again, I had already asked my family for too much money in the past, so I had to get creative and figure out a free option.” The option he came up with? His mom’s living room.
He lined the paintings around the perimeter, framing each one and making the living room look nice. Then, he ran some advertisements for free on the Singapore equivalent of Craigslist. It worked. The ad got inquiries, and suddenly people started to flood his Mom’s living room like crazy, buying the paintings for… a whopping $300 each. Yes, that’s a 10x markup. “But I didn’t stop there,” Ali shared. “I re-invested that money, bought more from ali baba and kept going.” With the money and the proven profitable business model, he then started a total of three art galleries all around Singapore.
When it comes to what to look from this story, aside from the remarkable confidence in his last-ditch effort, Ali says the biggest takeaway readers should find is finding a “low cost, high-value business.” After all, maybe it was a blessing in disguise that he couldn’t borrow the money to rent a gallery space – because his Mom’s living room did the job just fine, and he got to keep any money he would’ve had to pay back to his family. He didn’t get fancy on the website – he just used weebly.com for free hosting, and he did all his own copywriting and traffic generation techniques by learning for FREE, then applying free practices – such as the Singapore “Craiglist” rather than investing in Google Ads.
“This business model – the low cost, high value one – is easier than ever due to the proliferation of the Internet,” Ali told us. “You can learn how to do just about anything for free thanks to YouTube videos and free online courses – then apply those skills to using the internet for free to market your business and drive traffic!”
And while Ali certainly makes it sound easier than most people envision, it can really be that easy – with a little grit, a vision, and, as it turns out, just $500.