I started my online marketing business with just $22. Here's how I control costs and keep things flexible.

I started my online marketing business with just $22. Here's how I control costs and keep things flexible.

When Mallory Rowan was 21 years old, she started her first e-commerce business selling powerlifting apparel.

She left corporate America, where she didn't like the strict hours, to join the startup scene in order to find more flexibility and make a greater impact. But she didn't realize the toll it would take on her body.

Two years into running her company, "I was really starting to burn out," Rowan told Insider. After months of unexplainable rashes on her face, hair loss, and four rounds of pneumonia she couldn't shake, "that's when I started to be like, 'OK, I can't do the 24/7 hustle.'"

Rowan closed the apparel business and took time off before launching her next venture, Rowan Marketing. Today, her business offers one-on-one coaching and self-led courses to help other founders build brands without experiencing burnout.

Rowan initially invested $22 to launch the startup in 2019. Since 2020, her first full year in business, she's booked six figures in revenue each year, documents viewed by Insider show.

Rowan shared her steps to launching and scaling an online business with low startup costs. This is an as-told-to story based on an interview with Rowan that has been slightly edited for length and clarity. 

When I decided to start Rowan Marketing, I knew I wanted to create something that would scale more sustainably for my mental and physical health. I decided to take my existing skills in marketing a startup and offer it to others looking to grow.

But I knew I wanted to be able to take time off and focus on other aspects of business and life while growing. That's why I launched the one-on-one sessions and quickly transformed them into self-paced education programs online. 

In order to grow from one-off consulting to a business entity, I paid for a website domain, which can cost as little as $10 a year, and a personal email (as opposed to a Gmail account), which costs $12 a year. The $22 initial investment helped me establish the professionalism of the brand.

The business runs fully online for reach and cost purposes. With an online brand and online audience members, nothing is limited to a certain place.

Operating online also helps us stay connected with the community through sharing on social media and through emails. An email list is important for online founders to generate, because it's the only content we own if other social platforms shut down. 

Additionally, growing an online ecosystem is also a great way to cross-promote and take part in peer-to-peer affiliates, which allow you and other business owners to promote and send clients to each other. 

There are many free resources to learn about building a brand.  

Business owners share tips on YouTube or TikTok, and consultants like me typically have a library of free resources on their platforms. 

With so much transparency around how people are launching brands, there are tons of educational tools that aspiring founders can use at zero cost.

There are also free alternatives for graphic design, email marketing, and communications tools. I used the free versions of platforms like Canva and Slack when starting out and would advise other founders do the same. 

A lot of these platforms also have tiered subscriptions, which can act as stepping stones, growing as your business does.

I'd recommend that founders keep their businesses low cost at all stages of development. In many cases, it becomes more difficult when you start making a profit and have to decide how to spend the money.

Plus, if you can stay lean, then you don't have to get lean later if something were to happen to the business or the economy in general.

Despite being a founder, I'm not a high-risk type of person, so that's how I choose to run my business.

It also allows for flexibility in growth and pivoting, especially for women and expecting parents in business. I get a lot of clients who don't want to work to burnout because they're planning on getting pregnant and are taking care of their bodies differently.

Being able to say, "I'm going to pause my business for a few months and there aren't any crazy costs in taking time off" can be very freeing. 

Images Powered by Shutterstock