How to Start a Business in Singapore with No Capital 2023- A comprehensive Guide to start your business today

How to start a business in singapore with no capital
How to Start a Business in Singapore with No Capital

While having capital can accelerate the process, it is still possible to start a business in Singapore without any initial funding. 

This comprehensive guide about how to start a business in Singapore with no capital will walk you through the entire journey – from evaluating business ideas, registering a company, finding free resources, building your team, marketing on a bootstrap budget, and sustaining through the early stages. 

With determination and creativity, your capital-light business can thrive in Singapore.

Structuring – How to Start a Business in Singapore with no Capital

In Singapore, a sole proprietorship is the easiest business structure to set up without capital. It is not a separate legal entity so you are personally liable for all debts and lawsuits. This risk can be mitigated by getting appropriate insurance covers later.

Also Read: How to start a tumbler businessA detailed guide to start Right now

If you wish to have a separate legal entity, register a private limited company. This shields you from personal liability but requires more compliance and yearly filing fees. 

For zero registration capital, opt for the “minimum $1” package during company incorporation. 

Have a look at some stats to measure the potential of starting your business:

StatisticsPeriodAmount (in £ billion)Change %Remarks
Total Trade in Goods and ServicesFour Quarters to Q1 2023$26.7 billion+18.4%Increase of £3.3 billion in current prices from the four quarters to the end of Q1 2022.
Total UK Exports to SingaporeFour Quarters to Q1 2023$17.8 billion+21.1%Compared to the four quarters to the end of Q1 2022.
Total UK Imports from SingaporeFour Quarters to Q1 2023$8.9 billion+13.5%Compared to the four quarters to the end of Q1 2022.
Singapore’s Rank as UK Trading PartnerFour Quarters to Q1 202320th largestAccounting for 1.2% of total UK trade.1
UK Outward Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Stock in SingaporeYear 2021$14.0 billionAccounting for 0.6% of total UK outward FDI stock.
Inward Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Stock from SingaporeYear 2021$15.0 billionAccounting for 0.6% of total UK inward FDI stock.2

You can register your business online on BizFile+ within a few hours at no cost. Singapore has eliminated administrative fees for many services to make compliance easy.

For industries like finance, travel, real estate, you may require specific licenses and approvals before starting operations. Do your homework to avoid legal penalties. Engage a corporate services firm if you need help with regulatory requirements. 

Legal Compliance

How to Start a Business in Singapore with No Capital

Don’t let legal compliance slide just because you have limited funds. Commit to meeting all regulatory and tax obligations from day one.

  • Register for corporate tax and GST if applicable. File and pay taxes on time.
  • Comply with employment laws if you have staff. Contribute to CPF correctly.
  • Know your industry regulations. Apply for the necessary licenses.
  • Maintain proper bookkeeping and audited accounts.
  • Renew licenses and permits as needed. Submit regulatory filings annually.

Poor compliance can result in nasty penalties. Use free government tools like START to stay updated on all your business legal needs. Or engage an affordable corporate services firm to manage compliance.

Also Read: How to start loaded tea business

Incorporating as a Pte Ltd Company

Though sole proprietorship is the easiest business structure to set up, it exposes you to unlimited personal liability. As the business grows and takes on more risks, consider structuring it as a private limited (Pte Ltd) company for liability protection.

Here is an overview of incorporating a company in Singapore:

Reserve the Company Name

Run a search on BizFile+ to ensure your desired company name is not already registered. Submit an application to reserve the name up to 4 months before registering the company.

Appoint Company Officers 

You will need at least one director who is a Singaporean or PR above 18 years old. They can also serve as the company secretary. Appoint local residents or a corporate secretary firm to fulfill these roles if you are a foreigner.

Select a Registered Address

Provide a local residential or office address to be used as the company’s registered address. Many virtual office providers offer this facility starting at ~$40/month. 

Submit Incorporation Documents

BizFile+ allows you to securely complete the entire incorporation process digitally in a few hours. SingPass authentication is required. The minimum paid-up share capital is just $1. 

Apply for Business Bank Account

With the digital registration certificate, you can immediately apply for a corporate bank account with a local bank. This keeps your business finances separate and would be an integral step learning how to start a business in Singapore with no capital.

Register for Taxes

File Form P for GST if annual turnover exceeds $1M. Submit Form R to register for corporate tax within 30 days of incorporation.

Most government fees for company incorporation have been removed. With the right tools, Pte Ltd registration can be simple, fast and cheap in Singapore.

Licenses and Permits 

Depending on your industry, you may require additional licenses, permits and approvals before starting operations in Singapore:

  • Food & Beverage – FSS License, Halal Certificate, Liquor License
  • Retail – Store Retail License for physical stores 
  • Import/Export – Trade permits, product regulations compliance
  • Professional Services – Registrations with licensing bodies
  • Employment – Work passes for foreign employees
  • Transport – PSV/PCV Licenses for passenger transport
  • Healthcare – Licenses from MOH Holdings, Singapore Dental Council etc.

Use the GoBusiness Licensing tool to identify licenses needed for your specific business activities. Engage a corporate services firm for help with license applications and renewals to ensure smooth compliance.

Managing Expenses

Careful spend management is critical when bootstrapping your business:

  • Minimize fixed costs like permanent office space and full-time employees initially.
  • Only spend on essential tools and services, cut out non-essentials. Start with free plans.
  • Use freelancers and consultants instead of hiring full-time resources.
  • Negotiate good deals with suppliers and vendors using payment plans.
  • Manage inventory prudently, don’t overstock items with low turnover.
  • Use FOC business tools and resources from the government.
  • Buy second-hand equipment and office infrastructure instead of new.
  • Review budgets regularly and monitor expenses. Trim excess fat promptly.
  • Only hire and expand based on revenue growth and Metrics, not before.
  • Automate processes wherever possible to minimize manual work.
  • Be prudent with founder salary, take minimum viable pay for your own needs.

Careful capital allocation and delaying expenses during the bootstrap phase can stretch your limited cash much further, this is what we call an important step in learning how to start a business in Singapore with no capital.

Leveraging Government Support   

The Singapore government offers generous support for startups and small businesses. Tap these resources: 

  • Funding – Grants, loans, equity financing via agencies like EnterpriseSG, SPRING.
  • Mentorship – Guidance on business strategies, management under Startup SG.
  • Subsidized services – Corporate services, legal, accounting, HR, marketing. 
  • Tax holidays – Exemption from tax for first 3 years. Lower 8% tax rate for next $100k. 
  • Co-working space – Low rental rates at government blocks via SPACEMOB.
  • Procurement – Get on GeBIZ to supply to government bodies.
  • IP protection – Heavily subsidized patent filing via IPOS, SMEC.
  • Export assistance – Help with overseas market expansion through IE Singapore, EDB, SBF.
  • Productivity incentives – Automation support via Productivity Solutions Grant.

Read the SME Portal and engage relevant agencies to tap the extensive government support ecosystem in Singapore.

Bootstrap Your Way to Success in Singapore

In conclusion, starting a business in Singapore without capital requires creativity, diligence and perseverance. 

By evaluating viable low-cost models, leveraging government support, using freelancers, and focusing on profitability from day one, it is very much possible to build and sustain a successful venture on a bootstrap budget. 

Maintain financial discipline, delight customers, and solve real problems and your capital-light startup can thrive.