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The Benefit of Benefits

A new study reveals the demographics of the average homebased business owner.

Two years ago, Kevin Karten left behind a career on Wall Street, a steady paycheck, the camaraderie of the corporate office and the role of employee to open K2 Inc., a general contracting company. At 28, he started over, staking his claim building and remodeling homes from a general contracting business based in his home.

"I realized working for a corporation was not what I wanted to do with my life," says Karten, who sole employee is his part-time bookkeeper, a 30-year-old who also left the corporate world to launch a homebased business. Recently, his wife, Alisa, who left a multinational PR firm to start communications company, works from a separate home office and watches over 10-month-old Hailey. Welcome to America's new lifestyle choice: homebased entrepreneurship.

Last year, some 27 million people worked from home, with the number expected to surpass 37 million by 2002, according to research firm International Data Corp. Average household incomes of those with home businesses topped $57,000 a year in 1998.

IDC's latest survey reveals more about the workers behind this phenomenon. The average homebased worker is between 39 to 43 years; more than 55 percent of homebased business owners are male. That number, though, is dropping by a percentage point each year as women make use of technology and the Internet to grow their own ranks, says Ray Boggs, vice president of small business/home office research with IDC.

Boggs adds that the ethnicity of homebased entrepreneurs resembles the face of America today, with African Americans, Hispanics and Asians increasingly working from home.

Home office households are laden with technology. In 1996, a quarter of home office households had Internet access; in 1998, it topped 65 percent, IDC reports. Last year, the group spent $52.2 billion on technology. By 2002, IDC expects that number to jump to $78.8 billion.

Driving the growth of the home office, in part, is people's realization they can do their jobs from home, and the confidence to leave so-called stable employment to do so. This results in a younger work-at-home population--and an increase in corporate America's exposure to successful and professional home businesses, Boggs says. As more corporations hire homebased contractors and employees continue to leave and start their own companies, Boggs says, "everybody will have had a higher comfort level with this phenomenon."

Karten is one convert who's extremely comfortable with life working at home. "I love what I do," he says. "With 20/20 hindsight, I should have gone right into this from college."

Jeff Zbar is a homebased writer, speaker and author of Home Office Know-How (Upstart Publishing).

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