From the September 1998 issue of Startups

Homebased business owners are perfectly poised to take advantage of a booming phenomenon: online education. Whether you need help developing a business plan or want to earn your MBA, learning about business has never been so convenient.

"Just hop online, and you're in the classroom," says David Wing, owner of Retail Advisors (http://www.retailadvz.com), a 10-year-old Mesa, Arizona, company that offers live, interactive business workshops via its Web site.

New York City communications consultant Jacqueline Gikow says participation is key to getting the most from your online education. "Don't be a passive student," Gikow advises. "Do the reading, and complete the assignments. If the class has a live, online meeting, attend it. If it's an independent study [course], stay in touch with the instructor. If you don't understand something, ask questions."

Other resources for virtual classes include these:

  • On AOL, go to keywords "online campus."
  • Ohio University College of Business offers an "MBA Without Boundaries"; visit http://www.cob.ohiou.edu
  • University of Phoenix offers an online degree program; visit http://www.uophx.edu
  • Women's University offers many business classes, such as "Bring Your Business To Life"; visit http://www.womensu.com

Stamps Of Approval

Cross one more errand off your list: Starting late this year or in early 1999, homebased business owners should be able to purchase postage online.

The concept, pioneered by E-Stamp Corp. of Palo Alto, California, in partnership with AT&T Ventures and Microsoft, uses secure Internet-based software that enables customers to generate postage from their PCs. Users purchase postage online with a check, credit card or by transfering funds electronically; it's then downloaded and secured in the E-Stamp Security Device, which connects to your PC's printer port.

When you print on envelopes, E-Stamp prints a SmartStamp, a bar code that functions like a postage stamp or traditional meter imprint. SmartStamps can also be printed on mailing labels or directly on the mail itself.

The U.S. Postal Service has approved E-Stamp for beta testing in Washington, DC. The tests will expand to San Francisco and Tampa, Florida, before national distribution. If you live in one of these areas and want to participate, visit http://www.estamp.com or call (888) 4-ESTAMP.

Marketing Moxie

In 1993, when single mom Rochelle Balch was downsized, she moved to Phoenix and, without a single business contact, started a homebased computer consulting company. Last year, RB Balch & Associates Inc. grossed more than $2.4 million. How'd she do it? Balch, author of C-E-O & M-O-M, Same Time, Same Place (RB Balch & Associates, $9.95, 800-922-5249), offers tips for homebased entrepreneurs with more moxie than money:

  • Give it away. Balch offers free consulting services as prizes at raffles, auctions and meetings. "It's great free advertising," says Balch, "and several winners have become clients."
  • Act confident, be assertive and look successful. If someone says "no," reassess the situation and ask another way. "When I was turned down for a line of credit at the bank, I insisted they sit down with me, review my business plan and learn about my business," Balch says. "After they met with me, I got a small line of credit, which has since increased."
  • Modify your product or service as needed. For the first three years, Balch literally gave away tech support business. When demand for small-office support increased, she started seeking out this business in addition to her core product, contract programming.

Lynn H. Colwell is a business writer in Post Falls, Idaho.

Contact Sources

RB Balch & Associates Inc., (602) 561-9366, sos@rbbalch.com

Retail Advisors, (800) 624-5261