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What does it really cost to start a business? 6 women gave us a pervy look at every dollar they spent.

Mamamia logo Mamamia 2/08/2021 Gemma Bath
a group of people posing for the camera: What does it really cost to start a business? 6 women gave us a pervy look at every dollar they spent. © Getty Images What does it really cost to start a business? 6 women gave us a pervy look at every dollar they spent.

Owning your own business is a career goal that's becoming more and more attractive to women in particular. 

The flexibility! Being your own boss! No cap on your potential earning! Turning your passion into a paycheck! Tick, tick, tick, tick.  

But becoming a small business owner is damn hard, and for those seriously thinking about venturing into the world of entrepreneurship, it can be kind of intimidating. It's particularly tricky to crystal ball how much you're going to have to pour into your side-hustle to start profiting from it. 

The Lady Startup Activation Plan can help with that, and is taking enrollments for its last intake of 2021 from August 3rd. Mia Freedman, founder of the Lady Startup movement and co-founder of Mamamia, (which she started in her lounge room, just FYI), has been guiding women from idea to launch since 2018 via a 6 step guide. 

By the end of this self-paced course you'll have:

  • Your ‘perfect’ business idea nailed down.
  • A registered business name (plus all the social media handles you need).
  • A clear and killer brand — with logo, brand board and brand story.
  • A product or service, and a website on which to sell it.
  • A list of people who can help get your biz off the ground.
  • A marketing plan detailing who your best customers are, and how to find them.
  • And pretty much everything else you need to start your very own business or side-hustle.


Well, firstly, some ideas cost absolutely nothing. But for those that do, we've popped together a little inspiration. 

In the spirit of helping their past selves (aka you, dear reader) build up the courage to take that first step, 6 women in business have kindly given us a peek behind the curtain into what it truly cost to get their startup off the ground. 

Tamara Khan: $9,894

MAINE+MARA is a two-year-old edgy and unique accessories brand hand crafted in Sydney. It's colourful, contemporary, and each piece is intended to uplift its wearer and influence the celebration of individuality and strength.

How much did you think it would cost to start your business?


The real startup costs:

$2,000 - materials for product design.

$1,450 - product photography.

$2,500 - video and photography shoot with models.

$39/monthly - website set up and fees.

$796 - Completing the Lady Startup course, as well as setting up my domain name and some digital resources.

$2,000 - Facebook advertising.

$189 - Public Liability Insurance.

$800 - marquee/tables/displays/branding.

$120/per event - market stall rent.

Where did the funds come from? 

Personal Savings.


"I had a clear vision having worked in branding and advertising for almost twenty years. This meant that all design/branding and making I could do in house but this investment allowed me to get off the ground at a level I was happy to promote. I knew I couldn't just build it and wait for people to come so I was prepared for marketing spend.

"I learnt to make a very small batch of a design, test it at markets and refine it before investing in it further or adding it to my online store. 

"Having always worked in agencies, surrounded by teams of specialists I found trying to be everything in my biz was a lot to juggle. In the beginning I thought that's just what I needed to do, and I learnt loads, but I also learnt that I could tap into small biz support networks like Lady Startups (and I found many of them through the official Lady Startup Lounge Facebook Group), full of people with different experience to shortcut the things I didn't know. It's like having that team of specialists again.

"Two years on, MAINE+MARA has evolved so much. I feel like it's moved from being an experiment to an established brand. I definitely underestimated how much I needed to learn and how many aspects were involved in having your own business. I am still loving learning, and growing."

Jen McKee: $62,552

Passionate about the agriculture industry, Jen realised farmers needed help in reducing time spent on paperwork and record keeping, so she decided to build an app which she called Grower Support. It streamlines record creation and audit preparation for everything from government regulation to food safety to help farmers "get back into the paddock." 

How much did you think it would cost to start your business?

"A few thousand. But I pivoted my business to offer software as opposed to the original plan which was to be service-based. I got a few shocks with that, but by that stage I was pretty passionate about the problem that I was solving so I forged ahead."

The real startup costs:

$700 - app build discovery call. 

$99 - ABN registration. 

$199 - ASIC business name registration. 

$50 - domain registration.

$20 - DIY logo package.

$24 - business cards. 

$800 - Completing the Lady Startup Activation Plan course and purchasing digital templates.

$660/annually - Indemnity and Public Liability Insurance.

$60,000 - app build. 

Where did the funds come from?

"12 months ago I decided to resign from my full-time government job after 13 years to work on my side hustle. I was lucky to have some leave owning to me as well as long service leave, so I used that money and a lot support from my husband."


"The app build is finished and I think it was worth every cent. Even if I fail in business, I have learnt so many new skills along the way, it's been invaluable.

"In doing the Lady Startup course taught by Mia, I learnt so much. I have started my business with a DIY approach as I had the time to invest in learning and upskilling. I listen to nothing but business and tech podcasts, watch tutorials and ask questions in the Lady Startup Facebook Group.

"My advice is to attempt to do things yourself where possible, near enough is good enough in the beginning. I now believe I could've registered my business name and ABN myself to save some money." 

Leena Terry: $300

Bliss Organisation is a home decluttering, organisation and styling service that's now 2.5 years young.

How much did you think it would cost to start your business?


The real startup costs:

$200 - website build. 

$100 - marketing material (business cards, shirts with logo on them).

Where did the funds come from? 



"I did as much as I could myself and used all the apps that were free like Canva for socials and logo. I started the business finding clients through Airtasker - it's free as well and it has a rating system that helps build up your profile.

"This year I went over my forecasted revenue goal! With COVID I am trying to expand on to online courses and selling products to work alongside the business."

Sharna Sloan: $5,000 

Lady Startup Activation Plan graduate Sharna is getting ready to launch The Memoir Collective in late 2021, just in time for Christmas. She creates beautiful, bespoke journals and 'future' letters to help people capture, ponder and pass on their most precious moments.

How much did you think it would cost to start your business?

 $5,000 - $10,000.

The real startup costs:

$5,000 - domains and emails, copywriting, branding, samples and research, as well as completing the Lady Startup Activation Plan course.

Where did the funds come from?

"My husband and I agreed that I would use $10,000 of our savings to fund my business."


"As much as I had a budget limit set I know that by the time I pay for my website to be created, marketing for my pre-launch and launch as well as final set-up costs, I will go over my budget. There are so many lessons you learn along the way. But I have loved the journey so far, even in the times where I was in a rut or I felt deflated."

Sharon Russell: $26,697

Slice Avenue is an ethically produced Tennis Apparel brand, made in Australia from recycled fabrics, that launched in February 2021. 

A percentage of all profits are given to three local Aussie charities, with plans to increase that percentage as the business grows. 

How much did you think it would cost to start your business?


The real startup costs:

$5,500 - product samples.

$3,697 - Completing the Lady Startup course and buying domains, custom email, registered office, logo design, website design, registering a trademark.

$17,000 - first round of production (fabric, heat transfers, grading, cutting and making.)

$500 (approx) - packaging costs and subscriptions to Shopify, Klaviyo, Canva.

Sharon adds: "I was able to do a lot of the setup myself including registering the trademark, the website legals, and other contracts. I also designed the clothes myself and set up a lot of the website (and email flows) before I asked a designer to make it all look more professional. Otherwise, it would have cost a lot more!"

Where did the funds come from?



"It is so much more complicated than I thought to run an ecommerce business. I had the very naïve belief that if I ‘built it, they would come’. Unfortunately, that was not the case and I had to become a marketeer very quickly. I am currently spending more time on marketing than any other aspect of my business.

"[But] it’s been an extremely busy five months, since our February launch. We’ve launched nine new products, sponsored disadvantaged girls and events, launched on Amazon, started retail partnerships, run pop-ups, and launched Brand Ambassador and Corporate Mentoring Programs.

"We are most proud of making our first donations to our three Australian charity partners. We are on track to turn over six figures in our first year.

"From a sales perspective I'm really happy with how the business is going. Start-up life is certainly a roller coaster. I love connecting with other like-minded women and the flexibility of working from home and being able to spend time with my family. The start-up community consists of amazing women who inspire me every day."

Chantelle Kechebashian: $10,100

Send Boxi is an online gifting service for everything from birthdays to baby showers to corporate events, with the business about to celebrate its first year. 

How much did you think it would cost to start your business?


The real startup costs:

$3,000 - initial marketing and advertising.

$1,500 - initial website set up, domain names and other website related costs.

$600 - new laptop.

$2,000 - initial stock set up.

$1,000 - packaging, printing, labels.

$500 - photography.

$500 - office furniture, shelving, printer.

$1,000 - education and training.

Where did the funds come from? 



"Advertising is very expensive if you want it to work, so my advice is to have an advertising plan that gets you a great return for your dollar. That plan requires a good strategy; and a good strategy comes from a specialist.

"Be sure you are confident that you love your branding and ‘look’ before you go ahead and order stock, and packaging and so on. In the short time I’ve been operating, I have changed my aesthetic a few times and am now really happy with how we look – however that has cost me, as I wasted a lot of time and money in the beginning. I think it's important to evolve – but evolve wisely!

"COVID-19 is testing us but our momentum is growing and we are learning a lot about our customer and audience. The good thing about lockdown and COVID is, as an ecommerce business, I’m forced to learn quickly and to keep up with what customers want and need from our business and service.

"Business can always be better dollar wise, but I reinvest every dollar that comes in the door, so I’m not taking a wage yet and don’t intend to for a few more years to come. I want to land 3-4 dream clients before I treat myself to a shiny new Chanel 2.55 handbag!"

Setting up your own business? The Lady Startup Activation Plan is designed to take you from idea to launch in six weeks. The online course will walk you through what you need to consider when it comes to finance, pricing and costs. There's also a bonus module all about setting up your financial scaffolding to make sure you put into place the right systems, keep great records and manage your cash flow.

Enrollments for the next Activation Plan, taught by Mia Freedman, are open from Tuesday 3rd August 2021 until midnight on Monday 9th August 2021.

Feature image: Supplied/Mamamia.


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