The $100 Startup Review: Chris Guillebeau’s Ultimate Startup Guide

The $100 Startup

Source: Jamie Alcorn

Are you tired of working the same 9-5, day in and day out? Are you ready for your next adventure?

Well then, jump aboard and let Chris Guillebeau guide you on your quest for success!

Back in 2012, Chris Guillebeau published the New York Times bestseller The $100 Startup — the ultimate entrepreneurial guide to starting and growing a small business.

And guess what? You only need $100!

It’s so much more than a book about starting a business. It’s about living the life you have always wanted to live — and the journey it takes to get there.

This book may not only change the state of your bank account but also your state of mind.

Luckily, we have it all summarised for you.

Here is an in-depth summary of Chris Guillebeau’s The $100 Startup. 

This includes the top 5 takeaways needed to start your successful business now.

1. Who is Chris Guillebeau?

Chris Guillebeau

Source: Yaro

What started as an ambitious goal to travel to every country before turning 35, soon evolved into a personal research project to understand how people all over the world were turning the smallest amount of capital into a massive return.

Chris Guillebeau first started in 2008 as a travel and entrepreneurship blogger.

Just two years later, he was publishing his first book, The Art of Non-Conformity, drawing inspiration from his blog of the same name.

In the same year, he took his travel tips and created a subscription service called Travel Hacking Cartel which dished on all the special tricks to using frequent-flyer programs to your advantage.

It’s clear Chris Guillebeau is a natural-born entrepreneur.

Over the past 10 years, through his travels, Chris has come to meet thousands of entrepreneurs from every background, particularly those with successful small businesses.

And it was these interactions that inspired the idea of The $100 Startup. His thinking was, “If they can do it, anyone can!”

So, Chris set out on developing the perfect formula for starting small businesses and turned it into the bestselling novel that we all know and love.

Chris is an advocate for self-employment, defining an entrepreneur as, “Someone who will work 24 hours a day for themselves to avoid working one hour a day for someone else.”

He has spent his career helping people achieve happiness, success, and fulfillment.

And, on top of all of this, he still managed to travel to all 193 countries before 35!

So, without further ado, let’s get into it!

2. What is the $100 Startup about?

 the $100 Startup

Source: Sachachua

Reinvent the way you make a living, do what you love, and create a new future.

Who wouldn’t be inspired by this subtitle?

As Chris simply puts it in the book, “this book isn’t about me — it’s about other people who have found freedom, and how you can do the same thing.”

Chris achieves this by sharing the stories of unexpected entrepreneurs and highlighting the crucial lessons you can learn from them.

To find these hidden gems, Chris uncovered 1,500 entrepreneurs that met at least 4 out of the following 6 criteria:

  • Follow-your-passion model: their business must be built off a passion or a hobby
  • Low startup cost: the business should require less than $1000 startup capital
  • At least $50 000 a year in net income: the business must be profitable and earning as much as the average North American income
  • No special skills: the goal is to look for ordinary people who are more relatable, so the less specialized the better
  • Full financial disclosure: to understand the inner workings of the business, the financial records would need to be considered
  • Fewer than five employees: this is aimed towards practicality, and finding unexpected entrepreneurs

Another unofficial criterion was diversity. Chris wanted to find stories from all over the world — from people coming from every background.

Chris was given the difficult task of narrowing them down, eventually getting it down to 50 of the most impressive and relatable success stories.

Using these case studies as a driving force throughout the book, Chris creates a framework and unearths the essential lessons from each of them.

The $100 Startup is split into three parts:

  • Unexpected entrepreneurs
  • Taking it to the streets
  • Leverage and next steps

Each of these discusses the different stages of starting a business, particularly one with small startup capital.

We have narrowed them down to the top 5 lessons needed for your flourishing startup.

3. The 5 key takeaways

These 5 proven methods will take you through the process of building your startup from the ground up.

3.1. Follow your passion and find your skills

Follow your passion

If only we lived in an uncomplicated world where we could get paid for doing the things that we love. 

Except we do! It’s just maybe not that simple.

You can still do what you love, you just have to consider a few more factors.

This is what Chris Guillebeau calls the point of convergence.

When choosing your main concept for your business, you need to consider three things:

  • Your passion
  • Your skills
  • What other people value

Or as Chris simply puts it: Passion or skill + usefulness = success.

You need to find the point where each of these converges and overlaps. 

This is where you will find your sweet spot for the perfect startup idea.

So first, find your passion.

You just have to look at the things you enjoy — what makes you get up in the morning? What do you wish you were doing when you have something else you have to do?

Once you figure this out, you can look at the skills you have or can develop that coincide with this passion.

If you’re good at one thing, you are probably good at other things too.” 

This is a key phrase that Chris writes in the book.

He is referring to the idea that if you are skilled in one field, those skills could easily translate to another, possibly one you are more interested in.

For example, if someone is good at teaching, naturally they must also be good at communication, adaptability, crowd control, lesson planning, and coordinating among different interest groups.

You can apply this to your own life:

Think about what you are good at and identify the relevant key skills

Then consider how these skills could be transferred to another expertise, particularly one that aligns with your passion.

This is the process of skill transformation.

It’s that simple!

The last piece of the puzzle lies in the hands of the consumer.

A passion without profit is just a hobby. So, you need to ask yourself, “Is it profitable?

Research is the key here.

You need to learn if there is a demand within your chosen niche market; if there is something you can offer the consumer that no one else can.

You also need to know if the niche market itself is profitable.

This is done by:

  • Researching your top competitors:

Find out how much you can earn in your niche, how much people are willing to pay, which products or services have the most success, and what does the consumer need that they aren’t getting.

  • Keyword research:

Searching keywords within your niche means that you can find out what people are searching. 

You can then specialize and focus on a sub-niche that holds more profit than others.

Here is a list of the top 8 keyword research tools to help you.

  • Test whether your idea is marketable:

You need to be able to gauge whether or not your idea is marketable. 

Fortunately, Chris has supplied us with the 7 steps to market testing.

By going through each of the steps —finding your passions, skills, and something that people will pay for — you will uncover the perfect idea for your startup that shows great promise in becoming a successful business.

3.2. Give them what they want to get what you want

shaking hands

Both you and the consumer want something. You want sales and they want something of value.

These two desires work hand in hand. To get what you want, you have to fulfill the needs of the consumer, and vice versa.

It’s a win-win!

Chris connects the dots between freedom and value. Yes, you want more sales, because more sales equal more profits. 

But, what do more profits equal?

The answer is freedom. The main motivation of any business owner is the drive towards financial freedom and independence.

So, to fulfill your side of the bargain, you have to supply value to your customers.

The trick is discovering what they actually need, not what they think they need. 

This is because decisions made by consumers to purchase an offer are based on emotion, usually subconsciously.

Yes, they want something of value. But what does this value do for them?

A consumer usually wants to add something to their life (money, love, time) or take it away (stress, debt, pain). 

You can use this information to better cater to their needs and desires.

You need to connect with the people. You should be spending 50% of your time creating and the other 50% talking to your customers.

And when you know what your customer wants, you need to keep reassuring them that you can give it to them.

Chris discusses three main methods:

  • Create an FAQ page that discusses their main concerns and shows how they are overcome
  • Offer a great guarantee that answers the question, “what if I don’t like it?”
  • Rather overdeliver than underdeliver.

This ensures that your customers feel well looked after. 

This leads to securing your desires, setting you on the right path towards freedom.

3.3. Maintain a flexible location


Aren’t you tired of waking up early, sitting through hours of traffic, only to sit at a desk all day, staring at boring, gray walls?

Surely, the idea of waking up when you want, planning your schedule, working in the comfort of your own home, and having the freedom to travel whenever sound way more appealing?

Chris Guillebeau thinks so!

Fortunately, The $100 Startup is jam-packed with case studies involving ordinary entrepreneurs that managed to achieve this esteemed lifestyle.

And it’s not even that hard!

Because the book focuses on businesses with modest funds, it is aimed at low-cost traveling that is attainable for any newbie business owner.

Chris offers some extremely helpful tips on how to do this, based on the success of his experience and the experiences of so many others:

  • Traveling with an already-established business is ten times easier than traveling while trying to start a business. First, get your business up and going before you hit the runway.
  • Keeping your work in the cloud is the way to go. You don’t want to have to worry about storage, accessibility, and the risk of losing all of your data.
  • Many industries are conducive to a flexible location, but the one that stands out as being one of the easiest is the information publishing industry.
  • You can keep your accommodation costs low with Airbnb and even free with Couchsurfing.
  • With an online business, you will need some technological infrastructure such as WIFI. You can use the sites BootsnAll and MeetPlanGo to help get this information on your chosen country.
  • Remember to keep the balance between work and play. Work too much and you miss out on the actual adventure; play too much and your business will suffer.

Traveling around the world will not only help you grow as a person but will also help grow your business.

It has been proven over and over again that the happier you are, the more productive you are.

And who knows — maybe you will be as inspired by the local entrepreneurs you encounter as Chris was, and you can incorporate it into your life one way or another.

3.4. Create the perfect launch

Create the perfect launch

In the battle between planning and action, action wins

Chris doesn’t mean that you should go into your business blind, but rather, if you are always planning and never doing, your business won’t go anywhere.

Set your launch date as soon as possible. The sooner you get your first sale, the better.

Your planning starts with aone-page business plan. Yes, you read that right — just one page!

Lucky for you, Chris supplies a simple template with all the information you will need.

We all know that plans change, so instead of having to completely rework your plan every time something changes, take it as it comes.

Another important tip is creating a mission statement that is 140 characters or less

Just another way to keep things simple.

In staying true to the name, you must try to keep your costs low.

One way of doing this is byputting marketing before manufacturing

Before you start making the product, you need to know if people are going to buy it.

Surveys are a good way of finding this out. Or, if you are feeling adventurous, you can deliver just a taste of your product in the form of a prototype or mini-version

Then wait and see if anyone bites.

If your trial product starts racking up some sales, then you know to go ahead with your actual launch.

You should approach your launch like a Hollywood movie.

Hollywood has devised the perfect formula for releasing a movie. 

First, there is the prelaunch period — teaser trailers, trailers, and press are used to slowly build the hype.

Finally, we get to the day premier where they pull out all the stops, and people, buzzing with excitement, rush to the cinema doors.

This applies directly to your launch. You need to capitalize on the pre-launch period so that your sales are booming from the moment your launch is online.

It doesn’t end there. You must monitor the initial response. 

The sooner you receive feedback and implement it, the sooner you can improve your product.

Make sure to analyze the initial success of your launch. Ask yourself if it was coincidental, or purposeful, and see how you could replicate it for your next launch.

Chris walks you through the perfect product launch process by offering a 39-step checklist.

With your first launch checked off, remember to keep your foot on the pedal. You have to use the momentum from your first launch to continue to grow your business.

3.5. Just keep on growing

Keep Going

Now that you have your business and offer launched there is only one direction to go — UP!

Though some entrepreneurs are content with remaining modest businesses owners. 

However, maybe you are ambitious enough to take your business to the next level.

Chris offers some great advice on how to monitor your business to ensure it stays on track:

  • One-page promotion plan

Chris has generously made a one-page promotion plan — a simple, yet effective, guide to actively recruit new prospectswhile keeping it within the means of your business.

Try to avoid using traditional advertising and rather just focus on making a great product or service, using word of mouth to grow your business, relying on building strong relationships.

  • Social media

Maintaining a strong social media presence is essential for any business.

It is recommended that you post 1-3 times a day while remembering to touch base with your audience through social media platforms.

  • Metrics

It can be overwhelming trying to constantly monitor every single metric. 

Chris suggests finding two metricsto be aware of at any given time to get an understanding of how your business is doing.

Chris’s preferred metric is daily email signups, but other common examples are sales, leads, and conversion rates.

The rest of your metrics can be viewed bi-weekly or monthly to get a more comprehensive report.

  • Price

Don’t be afraid to experiment with your prices

First and foremost, your prices should be based on value rather than cost.

You should plan to raise your prices on a regular basis

Don’t be afraid of losing customers when doing this. You will end up with higher profits in the long run.

  • Prepare for the future

You never know when a new opportunity will come around so try to prepare your business by making it teachable and valuable.

Opportunities for growth include partnerships, self-franchising, joint-venture, affiliate recruitment, and outsourcing.

4. What’s next?

What’s next?

If learning about $100 Startup has sent you into a Chris Guillebeau frenzy, make sure to check out his other killer books:

If you are looking for a platform to launch your startup, why not try

It’s an all-inclusive service, offering you everything you could need as an online business owner.

Its features include:

  • Ecommerce
  • Sales funnels
  • Email marketing
  • Online courses
  • Affiliate programs
  • Blogs
  • Dropshipping
  • Evergreen webinars

And guess what — There is a freemium program!

So, if you are looking for something simple and are on a budget, here is the perfect solution.

5. Conclusion

Chris Guillebeau gifted us with the perfect guide to building a startup from the ground up that can easily blossom into a flourishing business.

By truly connecting with the everyday entrepreneur, Chris proves that you may only need $100 to start living the life you have always wanted to live.

With this $100 Startup review, you should be well on your way to becoming a successful entrepreneur, gaining freedom and a whole new lifestyle.

Don’t forget to check out the book, The $100 Startup, to find out even more!

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