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Launching Your Mompreneur Business

These tips will help you determine just what type of business to start and offer a few "first steps" to get you going.

If you're ready to take the leap and become a mompreneur, your next step is to figure out just what type of business would be right for you. And I'd bet big money that many of you are looking for something you can run from home.

The desire to work from home certainly isn't a new one. For years, parenting magazines have had back pages filled with ads for various medical-billing, stuffing-envelope and cold-calling types of jobs. And if that didn't appeal to you, you could consider watching other people's children. (That way, your work included your little ones at home with you.) Today, there are more opportunities than ever for running a business from home.

One thing to keep in mind, when searching for the best business idea for you, is to decide just what type of childcare you'll have for your children at home. Some of you will want to be the primary caregiver and have a career that can be done on the fringe hours of the day when your kids are sleeping, napping or playing independently. Others would prefer to hire a nanny or babysitter to watch your kids while you work full time from home. Decide what you want before ever looking for a business idea--that way, you'll know how much time you'll have to devote to the business before you get started.

Once you've decided which option you'll choose, start by taking a long, hard look at your current skills and think about your present or past jobs. Many moms decide to do the same kind of work they've done in the past but on their own as a business owner. Of course, some careers are easier to turn into businesses than others, including accounting and bookkeeping, writing or editing, working as a travel agent, and graphic design.

Not all of you will be able to--or even want to--turn a past job into a business. But with a little creativity and brainstorming, you'll be able to come up with an idea that suits you. And be sure to remember this: No matter what type of business you decide to start, make sure you have a passion for it, as it will undoubtedly become a big part of your life as you travel the road to business success.

To help you get started, here are a few different ways moms can create their own business ventures:

Starting From Scratch
So you have an amazing business idea you want to start from scratch? That's great--some of the best business ideas and inventions have come from moms! Before you go any further, first do your research. Get online and try to find out what product or service comes close to what you want to do. Ideally, you'll want a niche, something that's special and unique. But even if you find that your product or service is already out there, see how you can improve on it or make it a little more unique. You'll need to find a catchy name, create a business strategy and will probably need some funds to finance it. Starting a business from scratch is the riskiest scenario, but it also carries the greatest excitement and unlimited potential.

Online Businesses
Do you have a business idea you feel could be done entirely online? Never before has there been as much entrepreneurial opportunity thanks to the availability of the internet. There are so many women turning their passions into online businesses. The startup costs are relatively low, and the hours are what you make of them. My caution here is that thousands upon thousands of moms try this, so you really need to have a great idea and be strongly committed to making it work. For instance, while virtually anyone can make money auctioning their stuff on eBay, to move from eBay hobbyist to eBay business owner takes hard work and planning.

Network Marketing Opportunities
If your primary desire is to work from home and spend your days with your kids, you might want to consider one of the hundreds of network marketing opportunities that exist. With nearly $20 billion in annual sales being generated from these types of business, it's no wonder they've become one of the most popular choices for moms who want to work from home. Whether you want to sell scrapbook supplies, cookware, toys or health and beauty products, there are countless companies that have capitalized on the desire of moms to earn money and work from home.

Be careful though: I know many moms who spend most of their profits on their inventory or the products themselves because they love them! I'm guessing that if success were gauged on personal profits, not many could call themselves successful. But if you feel this is a good model for you, make sure you love and believe in the product and are committed to making it work. Each company has different levels of investment, returns and commitment, so do your research and make sure it feels right to you and will fit in with your family goals. And understand that the sales won't just materialize, no matter how good the product is. For instance, will you be comfortable "selling" while on play dates with your kids and giving up family nights to host parties? If so, then this might be the right choice for you.

Business Opportunities
A business opportunity exists where a third party (the seller) sells or leases to you products, equipment, supplies or services to enable you to start your own business. Business opportunity programs can include vending machine routes, distributorships and multilevel marketing arrangements. Before investing, consider what type of business opportunity is best suited to your own particular experience, skills and interests. The financial investment and workload for these types of businesses tend to be higher than that of network marketing opportunities; however, the revenue may be more as well.

If you're thinking about getting involved with either a network marketing firm or a business opportunity venture, my advice to you is to exercise caution.

Unfortunately, there are many companies out there ready to take advantage of desperate moms who want to be home with their families. Before buying in to any business, however small, check it out. First off, check out any possible complaints with the Better Business Bureau. Also, check references. Speak to real people who are doing it and make sure they're really making money. Be skeptical of any company that says you can make lots of money in little time. And be sure to find out about the company. How long have they been doing this? How stable are they? What will they do to support you? The Federal Trade Commission offers a great deal of information to protect you from scams. Also check out www.fraud.org .

Steps To Get Started
Once you've decided on a business idea, these few "next steps" will get you moving in the right direction:

1. Create a business plan. After you've done your research about the business you're planning to launch, create a business plan for yourself. It doesn't have to be the formal kind you'd show to a bank, but it should outline what you're going to do and how you're going to do it. How much money do you have to invest and how much do you expect to make and by when? How are you going to market your business? When are you planning on working? For some, this task is already enough to make you want to throw in the towel. Don't! It's not as bad as you'd expect. If you can't get through this, you'll have trouble getting through your own business.

Get a business license. Do you need one? That will depend on your city and the business you're planning to start. Play it safe and go to your county clerk's office to find out the requirements for your city. And don't be intimidated: They're there to help you and want to see small businesses flourish in their city.

Get a seller's permit. How do you know if need one? If you plan on selling goods and your state has a sales tax, you need one. An exception to the rule is if you work with a direct marketer who handles the taxes on their side. You may be able to get a seller's permit in the same office you got your business license from. Most cities have their own websites with addresses and phone numbers to the appropriate offices.

Find out if you need a zoning permit. Depending on the type of business you're running out of your house, there could be zoning restrictions for your area. Again, check with your city's business office to find out more.

Obtain a tax ID number. If you're a sole proprietor, you can use your Social Security number. But if you incorporate or have employees, you'll need to obtain a federal tax ID number.

File a dba. If you're creating your own company, you'll need to file a dba (doing business as). To check if a name is already trademarked, do a search at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website .

Find a mentor. Mompreneurs are passionate about helping each other succeed. Find a mompreneur who's been successful and who'll share her experiences with you. Then stay focused on your journey and you'll likely be the next to have a successful story.

Lisa Druxman is Entrepreneur.com's "Mompreneur" columnist and the founder and CEO of fitness franchise Stroller Strides. Druxman is also a nationally recognized speaker and author, and is considered an expert in the field of fitness, particularly pre- and postnatal fitness. She hosts a free monthly webinar during which she answers questions from fellow mompreneurs. If you are interested in participating, contact her at lisa@strollerstrides.com.

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