Companies of all sizes are courting the hottest market of the '90s--homebased entrepreneurs.
A powerful combination of forces--new technologies, corporate layoffs and a desire to simplify life--has fueled the tremendous growth of homebased businesses. Those entrepreneurs who run their businesses from home have needs that have become the underpinning of a huge consumer market.
Numerous companies, from insurance businesses to telecommunications giants, are trying to target their products and services toward the more than 31 million homebased business owners. Some of these firms have been marketing to the industry for years; others simply know a good business move when they see one.
"We've been targeting this market for years. We had products geared toward [homebased workers and entrepreneurs] before there was even a market," says Russell Marchetta of Canon USA Inc., which markets desktop copiers, faxes and other electronic equipment. "When the explosion of home offices came about, we were already there."
Among the products Canon aims at home business owners are personal computers, laptop computers, word processors, and multifunction machines that combine faxing, copying and more.
Perhaps one of the best examples illustrating how companies are rapidly jumping on the home office bandwagon comes from the insurance industry.
According to Peter van Aartrijk Jr. of the Independent Insurance Agents of America (IIAA), 18 months ago only four to six companies were selling an insurance plan specifically for home offices. Now there are more than 20 firms jockeying to sell to these entrepreneurs.
"Long-term players in the market include RLI, Allied, Fireman's Fund and Continental, which was purchased by CNA," says van Aartrijk. "The industry is still waking up. We saw activity in earnest early last year, and it's been exponential growth."