Boss Lady

How to start a business without the internet


Focusing on relationships is key to business grow. It sounds old-fashioned and it sounds like hard work, but somewhere along the line we ditched meeting face-to-face, for phone calls, then email. Yet trust me, face-to-face relationship building really works.

At 24 I started my own business from my two-bedroom apartment. I had $2000 and an idea to sell gift hampers. The initial growth was slow, but steady. I took $15k of orders in the first few months of business. Then just a month before Christmas a city law firm contacted me. They wanted 800 gift-wrapped hampers for Christmas. Suddenly I had a $30k order. This business was not the result of an expensive marketing campaign; this client came out of a networking event and a coffee catch up.

Today I mentor business owners in the gift industry. Drawing on 18 years of experience, I help my clients avoid making the mistakes I made to grow and transform the profitability of their businesses. Sharing my knowledge helps others succeed and I truly believe that in time, this generosity pays back in business referrals and opportunities.

Here are some practical tips to help you grow your business without the internet or expensive marketing campaigns.

Get networking

Go to events, have coffee, learn from others in business, make connections, get known and share your business with others. Do use the internet to reach out and find leads. Personally I’m a big fan of LinkedIn, which can enable you to be more targeted and proactive, but I’ve found the best business is the relationships developed in person.

Connect with the media

Media and PR are an effective and cost effective way to reach a wider audience. For new organisations with little or no budget to market and publicise your business, PR can go a long way. Don’t forget to tap into local media outlets, including community newspapers and radio that are often keen to tell the story of businesses and people within their community.

The untapped power of awards

Entering business awards can have numerous benefits for your business. Perhaps it sounds uncomfortable, but as finalist in the Telstra Business women award, I found that this type of formal recognition gave me credibility, confidence and was excellent promotion for my business. Some awards also offer prize money or other in-kind benefits, which offer further benefit to your business.

Build partnerships

Finding other complementary organisations that have a similar customer base can be mutually beneficial. These connections can help you expand rapidly. When I started Hampering Around, a partnership with an airline rewards program was a fantastic way to reach a wider audience and scale my operation.


I believe strongly in sharing my knowledge and experience with others. I’ve learnt a lot on my business journey and I find the more you give, the more you get back. Mentors were key to my early success and today I continue to seek guidance and support from other experts and business owners. Don’t be afraid to give or reluctant to help others.

These simple, yet effective tips, will all assist with capturing referrals and word of mouth which are some of the most important assets for any business. Together with new technologies and online solutions, these approaches will help you attract clients to your business and realise the power of developing face-to-face connections.

About Sarah Cross

At 24, Sarah J Cross started at her kitchen table and grew her own corporate gift hamper service into a nationally recognised, million-dollar business. Her first Christmas season she went from landing a $30,000 order and wrapping every package by hand herself, to growing her company annual sales of $1.5M per year and being a finalist twice for the Telstra Business Women’s Award. Sarah is also the author of Fearless Fempreneur which outlines the strategies and in-sights to inspire other creatives business owners. She is also the owner of the Creative Product Institute - A mastermind for seasoned business owners in the homewares and lifestyle markets who want to take their business to the next level.

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