Intuit's Simple Start is Simply Free

By Lauren Simonds | Posted October 16, 2007

Are you one of the many Americans who dream of starting a business? In a move designed to help you move out of the cubicle farm and create your own destiny, Intuit has stripped the price right off of QuickBooks Simple Start, the company's entry-level accounting program.

To further sweeten the pot, Intuit plans to throw cold hard cash into the bargain with its Just Start campaign, where nascent entrepreneurs have a chance to win a $50,000 startup grant.

Intuit launched Simple Start in 2004 after realizing that more than 9 million small businesses managed their finances with nothing more elaborate than paper and pencil. The company's research found that these business owners found the standard QuickBooks was too complicated to use.

Simple Start focuses on three areas and uses straightforward, nonaccounting terminology to describe them: Money In, Your Business and Money Out. Intuit designed the program to be simple and claims it's easy to learn and use, and that you can set up your business finances on it in about 15 minutes.

The program lets you track finances, organize your tax receipts, customer data and vendor information. It also lets you run a variety of reports, such as profit and loss, to help you keep tabs on the status of your business. The program used to sell for $99.95.

So what drove Intuit to make the program permanently available at no charge? "We've always had a free version of Simple Start that was somewhat limited. We decided to make the full-featured version of Simple Start free in order to make it easier for the millions of budding entrepreneurs to successfully start and run their businesses," said Rick Jensen, vice president of Intuit's small business division."

Of course, by making the program free to millions of small businesses that have not yet moved to computer-based accounting, Intuit stands to attract a whole new customer base, a fact that Jensen freely acknowledges.

"By helping them be successful early on, we hope to build long-term loyalty so that as their business grows or their business needs change, they'll look to our network of Intuit products and services like payroll and payment processing, to meet these new needs," he said.

Beyond laying the groundwork for a lifetime customer base, Intuit said that establishing sound financial habits from the beginning can make or break a small business.

"If they start out with Simple Start from the get-go, they’ll be set up for success by being able to easily track money in and money out as well as keep key business data organized," said Jensen. "This gives business owners peace of mind knowing that their money isn’t slipping through the cracks and that they are organized for tax time."

Small businesses that use the Simple Start software and that have employees can also subscribe to Intuit's payroll services.  The company offers two payroll services. The first is QuickBooks Payroll which costs anywhere from $99 to $299 for the year. But, Jensen said, "QuickBooks Basic Payroll is most likely the best fit for Simple Start users, many of whom have very few employees. It costs $99 for the year and helps business owners manage payroll in-house for one to three employees."

You can download the full, free version of Simple Start here.

Just Start
To all of the people out there who have their hearts set on running their own business, but just haven't taken the first step, Intuit says, Just Start. This new campaign, details of which you'll find at IwillJustStart.com, is designed to help you take the first step toward realizing that dream. It also includes a contest with a chance to win a business start-up grant in the form of $50,000 in cash, products and services.

You can enter the contest by submitting a letter or video at IwillJustStart.com, or by attending a Just Start event to be held in each of the four cities below:

  • Seattle – Oct. 24-25, Westlake Center
  • Chicago – Nov. 1-2, Union Station
  • New York – Nov. 8-9, Grand Central Station
  • Boston – Nov. 13-14, South Station

Your letter or video should describe your particular business vision, what you need to make it happen, and how you'd use the business grant. If you attend one of the local events, you can enter the contest at the Just Start Lounge by relating your business dreams on video. The events will also feature and expert advice from local business owners and entrepreneurs.

Get your entry in by Dec. 15, 2007. A panel of judges will choose five semi-finalists and post their entries on the IwillJustStart Web site in mid-January where visitors will vote to determine the winner.

The results will be announced on January 8, 2008. The grand-prize winner will receive $40,000 cash and $10,000 in business services and resources. Two of the other finalists will be awarded a $5,000 cash prize.

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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