This free program trains people how to start a business —but without debt

This free program trains people how to start a business —but without debt

JUDY WOODRUFF: Most people think you need
money to start a company, but the PopUp Business School is taking a completely different approach. Our economics correspondent, Paul Solman,
has the story. It is part of our weekly series, Making Sense. ALAN DONEGAN, Co-Founder, PopUp Business School:
People don’t want to interrupt, so they do this weird hover, like waiting for a gap. And then they kind of wait for the gap and
go, hah-hah, yes. (LAUGHTER) PAUL SOLMAN: At a Houston mall, zany British
entrepreneurship coach Alan Donegan demonstrating how to network. ALAN DONEGAN: There is going to be a moment
of awkwardness when you meet someone new. If you want it to be over, done quickly, go
up to them and say, “Hi, I’m Alan.” PAUL SOLMAN: This was day seven of a two-week
PopUp Business School, which teaches the basics of starting a business on a shoestring. ALAN DONEGAN: People think they need to borrow
money to launch a business. PAUL SOLMAN: They don’t? ALAN DONEGAN: No. Like, pretty much any business, you can start
for free. It’s not as easy. You have to be creative. You have to borrow things and barter. And you need to use your energy. But we haven’t found a business that we can’t
yet find a way to start for free. PAUL SOLMAN: Come on, really? But in the last seven years, Donegan and team
have held over 100 workshops for mostly low-income wannabe entrepreneurs, in a world that thinks
you need money to make money. ALAN DONEGAN: You don’t want to put measure
pressure on them and more debt on them. You want to help them make money, rather than
get into debt. PAUL SOLMAN: The course is free, thanks here
in Houston to sponsors like the Houston Housing Authority, which recruited people from the
city’s poorest neighborhoods, like Sylvia Guilliam, teeming with ideas. SYLVIA GUILLIAM, Entrepreneur: I do holistic
health projects. I wanted to do actually one-on-one health
and wellness coaching. PAUL SOLMAN: But the course helps her to focus
on homemade soaps and taught her the free tools to sell them. SYLVIA GUILLIAM: So, I learned how the make
a Web site and just building relationships. PAUL SOLMAN: Another lesson, how to sell yourself. Is there any advantage to being a tall entrepreneur? SYLVIA GUILLIAM: Yes. People can see me coming, and I can see them
coming. So… PAUL SOLMAN: The first six days were about
creating a company, finding customers. Now was time to actually sell in the mall. ALAN DONEGAN: If you do a survey, people will
be nice to you. If you go and ask your friends, they will
be mice to you. It’s not good feedback. You ask a customer to take their money out
of their pocket, they will tell you exactly what they want. PAUL SOLMAN: Guilliam quickly discovered her
soap samples looked good, too good. Somebody actually ate one of these? SYLVIA GUILLIAM: Yes, because they’re all
natural things in the kitchen, connected to food. That’s why I just have to let people know,
don’t eat it. (LAUGHTER) PAUL SOLMAN: In her victims’ defense, edible
samples abounded. MAN: Ice coffee. PAUL SOLMAN: Very nice. WOMAN: Do you have hair on your chest? PAUL SOLMAN: Yes. WOMAN: OK. This will put more on it. KEVIN SCOTT, Entrepreneur: I specialize in
brownies, butterscotch, peach cobbler, chocolate caramel, and these are butterscotch. PAUL SOLMAN: Kevin Scott designs clothes,
promotes events, and already has a Houston following. KEVIN SCOTT: What I wanted to do doing this
training is concentrate on just one business and use it as a model. Even though I have already a business going,
I didn’t do everything 100 percent correct. PAUL SOLMAN: Cheryn Pollard was demoing dog
massage. Now, I’m allergic, so I shouldn’t… CHERYN POLLARD, Entrepreneur: Me too. PAUL SOLMAN: Are you? CHERYN POLLARD: I know. PAUL SOLMAN: You’re allergic to dogs? CHERYN POLLARD: My love overcomes it. (LAUGHTER) PAUL SOLMAN: Pollard’s main takeaway from
the course, how to start cheap. CHERYN POLLARD: This massage bed is actually
— someone was selling it to humans for doing facials. PAUL SOLMAN: Yes, right. CHERYN POLLARD: And they couldn’t sell it
because it has some stains on it. Well, I cover it up when I’m using it for
dogs, so I got a massage table for $25. PAUL SOLMAN: Also, over the years, a drone
flying school, an escape room, clown entertainment, hand balancing. ALAN DONEGAN: And there was a zombie fitness
training lady. PAUL SOLMAN: A zombie fitness training lady? How does that work? ALAN DONEGAN: She would dress up as a zombie
and chase you around the park, and you would run. And you would get fit. (LAUGHTER) PAUL SOLMAN: No way, thought Donegan, but
it turns out there is now a zombie fitness movement worldwide. Seriously, though, how many of these ideas
have become viable companies? ALAN DONEGAN: In Reading, in Berkshire, in
England, we did a longitudinal study, which is basically tracking people over time after
the event. We ran three courses, had 335 people along
for the three courses. Of those, 122 started a business. Eighteen months later, 89 percent were still
trading. And I really do think that’s because they
started without debt, so they didn’t have anything at the most vulnerable point of their
business that would drag them down. PAUL SOLMAN: In Houston, some seemed more
vulnerable than others. Single mom Nakia Sims, despite a law degree,
has had her struggles. NAKIA SIMS, Entrepreneur: The house burned
down. We stayed in hotels. And so I could not afford that. I went to my church. They suggested the Salvation Army. We lived there for six months. PAUL SOLMAN: She’s now in public housing,
learning to concentrate her considerable talents on a theater business to entertain kids. NAKIA SIMS: The opportunity here is meeting
other people that are holding me accountable. PAUL SOLMAN: Christall Sipsey has learned
social media marketing for her health and media consultancy. CHRISTALL SIPSEY, Entrepreneur: There are
pod groups that you can create among certain friends, and that helps kind of blast your
information out a lot further. PAUL SOLMAN: At the booth next door, James
Barnett, Sipsey’s dad. JAMES BARNETT, Entrepreneur: That’s my biggest
fan right there. PAUL SOLMAN: Barnett came to the mall at his
daughter’s urging to promote his specialty sauce. JAMES BARNETT: I have been making this sauce
for years and giving it away. Family, friends said, hey, you ought to sell
this. This stuff is good. CHRISTALL SIPSEY: I have been calling him
on the phone and filling his ear up with all kind of information that I’m learning. PAUL SOLMAN: Calling her dad and coming home
at night to advise her husband, Konkheis, on his new business. KONKHEIS SIPSEY, Entrepreneur: Every day,
she comes home, I get an earful, at least 45 minutes to an hour, until I fall asleep. (LAUGHTER) PAUL SOLMAN: The family was in a homeless
shelter just a few years ago. Now dad is starting a youth sports program. KONKHEIS SIPSEY: I have been where these kids
have been. I had a promising future in basketball, but
since no father figure, no good role model to try to guide me to where I should be going,
I took another route, stealing, breaking windows. Just had nothing to do. So I’m trying to give kids something to do. Some are being called to the streets in gang
violence. It’s just not what I want to see. PAUL SOLMAN: Christall Sipsey is teaching
her husband everything she’s learning at the PopUp B School, because his business could
mean so much both to him and to others. As Donegan puts it: ALAN DONEGAN: We help people build businesses
from something they love to do. PAUL SOLMAN: Even those with no obvious resources
at all. ALAN DONEGAN: They just have got a phone,
or they don’t have technical skills. Like, there’s people without bank accounts,
no e-mail addresses. PAUL SOLMAN: But may be able to throw together
some ingredients, add their own sweat equity, and sell. MAN: We have pork, cream cheese. We have jalapenos, spinach. PAUL SOLMAN: Some will take off. MAN: It’s really good. PAUL SOLMAN: Many won’t, but says Donegan: ALAN DONEGAN: If you have spent a week coming
up with the idea, and you launch, if it doesn’t work, you have lost a bit of time, maybe a
bit of pride, but we can pick you up and give you the energy to have another go. And most people’s successes are not first
business they run. Should I do the, like, hover on the edge and
wait? PAUL SOLMAN: And if they know how to try again
for almost nothing, maybe they will take another plunge. Wow, that is… WOMAN: God’s margarita. (LAUGHTER) PAUL SOLMAN: “PBS NewsHour” economics correspondent
Paul Solman, sampling fare at the Memorial City Mall in Houston, Texas.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes


  1. Thank you PBS Newshour for helping us spread the word of the #PopUpRevolution. Our event in Houston was so much fun!

  2. This is amazing! I received support not too long ago! I recommend anyone starting a business to take a look at pop up business school!

  3. The PopUp Business School team are truly amazing. If you go to one of their workshops you'll soon learn that there's no such thing as can't, their positivity, pragmatic approach and practical tips have empowered and enabled so many people who dreamed of starting a business but thought it was too complicated, costly or challenging to see how they can make it happen and do so. The world needs more PUBS perspective.

  4. Thank you PUBS… my time spent at the Maidstone event was absolutely amazing..I PUBLISHED MY WEBSITE…everyone was brilliant, patient and knowledgeable…you must go if you have the chance..#justdoit#doneisbettetthanperfect

  5. Great coverage of PopUp Business School! Thanks PBS NewsHour!! This was a great event, and I was so grateful to be a part of it!

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