How to Start a Business in 10 Days

With an executive staffing venture about to open, a business loan from the in-laws gnawing at her conscience and a new baby to care for, Michelle Fish was already feeling the pressure. But what really pushed her over the edge was an unexpected communique from the IRS demanding immediate payment of a "huge sum" owed from a prior business in which she was a partner. Poof! Her seed money was gone. "All the spreadsheets, all the forecasting, all the pre planning took a back seat once that bill came," recalls Fish, hearkening back to the 2003 launch of her Charlotte, N.C.-based firm, Integral Staffing.

Jeremy Ostermiller didn't need a letter to know that he had to get his Denver-based media-tech startup, Altitude Digital, into the black fast or watch his future take a dispiriting U-turn. "I knew it had to be profitable," he says. "I had put my last $500 into it, and I definitely didn't want to move back in with my parents."

A lightning-fast rise to profitability by their respective startups spared Fish and Ostermiller from going belly up. Neither has looked back since. Now a decade old, enjoying seven-figure annual revenues and flush with Fortune 500 corporate clients, Integra Staffing is the third-largest female-owned business in Charlotte, according to Fish. Meanwhile, 4-year-old Altitude Digital, which matches online content publishers with advertisers using an eBay-like bidding platform, is on target to generate $20 million in revenue this year.

Chances are, neither venture would be where it is today if not for the strategically sound groundwork laid by its founder prior to and right after launch. Trying to start a business and make it profitable in a matter of weeks isn't for the squeamish. Nor is it always advisable. But it can be done. In fact, we've condensed the process into 10 intense, highly focused days. Call it our DIY accelerator to launching a business.

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