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Home-based business

Would you like to work a few hours a week beginning after lunch?  Or, start your day after the late news?  Or, work part-time or full-time?

Today a PC, keyboard and an Internet connection can provide you with the opportunity to become a home-based business owner.  This type of business ownership has moved beyond envelope stuffing, telemarketing and multilevel/network marketing.  Stay-at-home moms like owning a business from home, because they can make money and still be with their children.  Other entrepreneurs enjoy the freedom they have to take a break and prepare a quick snack in the comforts of their kitchen.

According to the latest survey conducted by the US Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, there were 29.6 million US small businesses in 2008.  Fifty-two percent or 14.8 million of those were home-based businesses.  They ranged from creating and assembling crafts to selling beauty care products part-time and from providing Internet marketing services to personal shopping services full-time.  And, the majority of home-based businesses were started by women.

When starting and operating a home business, you’ll answer the same questions and confront the same challenges that a brick and mortar or storefront business faces.

• Do I have what it takes to own a business?
• Do I need a business plan?
• Should I provide a service or product?
• How will I determine my business structure?
• How do I choose a business name?
• Where do I look for financing?
• Will I market my business differently?
• Where will I find my customers?
• Can I hire employees?
• What types of city and federal regulations will I need to meet?
• What are the tax implications?
• How will I know when to move from a home-based business to a commercial space?

A home business also has some unique advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages:
• flexible lifestyle, work hours
• lower start-up and operating costs
• no commuting
• increased tax benefits and deductions
• cost-savings on child and adult care
• control of personal environment (temperature, light, work breaks, etc.)

Disadvantages:
• cramped space, limited growth potential
• lack of business privacy
• inability to balance business and family
• increased family demands when home all day
• business activities cause problems with neighbors
• legal restrictions

Christine Gietzen, owner of Pride Perfect Gifts, an all-natural pet food, treats and specialty pet items retailer, started her business as a storefront, but moved it to her home in April of 2009. “The declining economy and Hurricane Ike had a negative effect on my business.  My walk-in traffic declined and customers didn’t have the disposable income to spend on niché pet products.  But that didn’t stop my rent increases and payroll obligations.  I was really afraid a move would kill my business and I didn’t want to loose the money that I had already invested.  But, I took the chance and ‘moved home’ – so to speak.”  Gietzen was honest and upfront with her customers about why she was moving her business. She sent emails to them explaining what was going to happen and when they could expect her to be up and running again.  She lost some customers, but new referrals made up for the loss.  Now, her business is doing better in sales than when it was at her former commercial location.

How does Gietzen market her home-based business?  “I rely on word-of-mouth advertising and our web site.  I constantly focus on providing the best pet products and building positive business relationships through good customer service.”

For a more traditional home-based business, Mary Kay Cosmetics has attracted aspiring entrepreneurs for decades.  Glynda Gros, senior independent consultant with Mary Kay Cosmetics for the past three years, explains how after a day at the gym she went from retirement to become a home-based business owner.  “I met a woman who had been selling Mary Kay Cosmetics for forty-two years. I was familiar with the name Mary Kay, but I had never used them.  She gave me some samples; I used them; and the rest is another Mary Kay ‘story.”  Gros continues, “I saw an opportunity to make some money and have fun at the same time, so I made the leap of faith and became an entrepreneur again.”

So what’s Glynda Gros’ best tip to have a successful home-based business?  “You need to have self-discipline and motivate yourself to go to work in the morning and maintain that motivation during the course of the day in order to succeed.”

So, are you ready to become the 14,800,001 home-based business entrepreneur?

Resources
The Wall Street Journal (12/21/09) - Stimulus Relief Extended for SBA Loans
SCORE - Service Corps of Retired Executives (set up a home-based business)
Business.gov (zoning laws for home-based business)
IRS - Publication 587 (use in preparing 2009 tax returns)
Business.gov (small business expenses and tax deductions)
Social Security Administration (self-employed)
Entrepreneur.com (55 home based businesses for less than $5,000)

Books
The Home Office From Hell Cure by Jeffrey A. Landers
Home Office Solutions: Creating a Space That Works for You by Lisa Kanarek
The Everything Home-Based Business Book: Everything You Need to Know to Start and Run a Successful Home-Based Business by Jack Savage
The Home Office Solution: How to Balance Your Professional and Personal Lives While Working at Home by Alice Bredin
The Joy of Working from Home by Jeff Berner
The Stay-at-Home Mom’s Guide to Making Money from Home (revised 2nd edition) by Liz Folger
Working from Home While the Kids Are There, Too
by Loriann Hoff Oberlin
Working from Home by Paul Edwards

Software
BusinessOwnersToolkit (free; home office deduction calculator)
Entrepreneur.com (links to free software)
EWomanWeb.com (free; for starting/operating home-based business) 

Quote Corner
"Excellence can be attained if you care more than others think is wise, risk more than others think is safe, dream more than others think is practical, expect more than others think is possible."  Anonymous

Joke Corner
A Professional Quiz by Gary Barzel

The following short quiz consists of 4 questions and will tell you whether you are qualified to be a “professional.” The questions are NOT that difficult.

1. How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator?
Correct Answer: Open the refrigerator put in the giraffe and close the door.
(This question tests whether you tend to do simple things in an overly complicated way.)

2. How do you put an elephant into a refrigerator?
Open the refrigerator put in the elephant and close the refrigerator. Wrong Answer!
Correct Answer: Open the refrigerator, take out the giraffe, put in the elephant and close the door.
(This tests your ability to think through the repercussions of your previous actions.)

3. The Lion King is hosting an Animal Conference. All the animals attend except one. Which animal does not attend?
Correct Answer: The Elephant. The elephant is in the refrigerator.
(This tests your memory.)

OK, even if you did not answer the first three questions correctly, you still have one more chance to show your true abilities.

4. There is a river you must cross. But it is inhabited by crocodiles. How do you manage it?
Correct Answer: You swim across. All the crocodiles are attending the Animal Conference.
(This tests whether you learn quickly from your mistakes.)

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