From the September 2000 issue of Startups

Have you ever looked out into a sea of brake lights or been in a crowded subway and longed for the comforts of home? In the digital age, working out of your home is more practical than ever. According to the American Association of Home-Based Businesses (AAHBB), more than 24 million Americans measure their commute from the bedroom to the computer. We've chosen 10 homebased businesses and learned there are a few commonalities: 1) You need boundaries between your work and personal life, and 2) you need to network with other entrepreneurs who can offer support. Read on-but be prepared for an uncontrollable desire to eschew corporate culture for homebased bliss.

 

 

Talane Miedaner John Kleinschmidt  
Harry Nelson &
Jesse Raben
Claire Liston
Kartar Diamond Traci Moxson
Geri Loendorf Antonia Calzetti &
Brenda Yagmin
Stephanie Denton Bianca Wright

Life/ Business/ Success Coach, Talane Miedaner

Talane Miedaner

We all need an ear-an objective listener to guide us and help us better ourselves. Talane Miedaner has tapped into that need with her successful life-coaching business-helping clients find their way to fulfillment in both their personal and business lives.

Miedaner, 34, coaches from experience-she hired her own personal coach while working at a Manhattan bank. Under his guidance, Miedaner found that she, too, had a knack for coaching and enrolled in a training program at Coach University in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. To secure her finances during start-up, she continued working at the bank while forming a small circle of clients. In 1997, she left her job, wrote Coach Yourself To Success (Contemporary Books, $22.95, 800-323-4900) and continued to grow her client base.

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Coaching everyone from doctors to entrepreneurs, Miedaner's built a name for herself worldwide. "I love the commute," says Miedaner of the comforts of her home in New York's Catskill Mountains. "I roll out of bed, and I'm coaching away."

Working with 40 clients a month, Miedaner has four homebased coaches under her guidance at Talane Coaching Co. Her 2000 sales top $150,000. Concludes Miedaner: "[I help] people get their dream homes, their dream relationships...it's fabulous."

Netpreneurs, Harry Nelson & Jesse Raben

Harry Nelson & Jesse Raben

Not many people get to meld entrepreneurship with social consciousness. But Harry Nelson, 32, and Jesse Raben, 34, have done just that with AllThingsJewish.com (ATJ). Far from being only an e-commerce site, ATJ is a forum for the Jewish community, providing an online store, a library, an e-zine (called Tribe) and a Judaica gift registry.

The former lawyers launched ATJ last year when they saw the vast potential of the Internet. Nelson and Raben's biggest start-up hurdle was choosing a Web design firm to create an interesting and functional Web site (costing them in the low six figures). Working from their homes in two different cities (Nelson is in Chicago, Raben in Washington, DC), the two constantly monitor the site and the 1,000-plus products they sell-many of which come from Nelson's mother, who runs a brick-and-mortar Judaica gallery. From chuppahs (wedding canopies) to software designed to teach children Hebrew, ATJ products are in high demand.

The partners also sponsor their Tzedakah Program, in which they partner with nonprofit Jewish organizations to give back to the community. The most satisfying aspect? Notes Raben: "[We're] giving to Jewish organizations. We're making a difference in the Jewish community."

Feng Shui Consultant, Kartar Diamond

Kartar Diamond

When Kartar Diamond happened upon a Feng Shui book 10 years ago, she couldn't help but be intrigued by the concept of harnessing Chi, the positive life force, in order to maximize the health benefits of living and working spaces. Under the direction of Feng Shui authority Master Larry Sang, Diamond completed her studies before launching her consulting practice, Feng Shui Solutions.

What Diamond found, though, was that consumers weren't necessarily as informed as she was. One of her biggest challenges is educating the public about what exactly Feng Shui is. Says Diamond, "There's a tremendous amount of misinformation about it."

And after she gets the clients, getting to them is another challenge. While she is located in Los Angeles, she often visits the homes and offices of her clients all over Southern California. "What I came to realize [in my first year] was that one of my biggest unexpected expenses was car maintenance and travel," says Diamond.

Diamond, who also teaches Feng Shui classes at the American Feng Shui Institute in Los Angeles, cautions anyone who is interested in practicing Feng Shui to get adequate training. "People get so excited about Feng Shui, they want to do it after they've read a book or two. Or after they've taken only six months of classes," she says. "And you can end up damaging your reputation and causing harm to people if you don't know what you're doing."

Working with an average of seven to 10 clients per week and grossing a six-figure income, Diamond knows what she's doing: harnessing positive energy in her life and business.

Online Auctioneer, Geri Leondorf

Geri Loendorf

Unplanned but undeniably successful is an accurate description of Geri Loendorf's Fullerton, California, jewelry business, dubbed GEMdesign. While working full time in a graphic arts job, Loendorf had to take more and more time off due to family obligations. But fewer work hours meant smaller paychecks, so to supplement her income, Loendorf turned to eBay in hopes of auctioning off some of her old jewelry creations that were languishing in storage.

To her surprise, her bejeweled stickpins and hat pins quickly sold out, with customers asking for more. "It surprised the heck out of me that the pins took off the way they did," laughs Loendorf.

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Using everything from glass beads and candy-like furnace beads to natural materials like carved gemstone or wood, Loendorf's creations are infinitely unique. Selling under the eBay screen name "gemdesign," Loendorf's artistry has created quite a following. "It's been extremely fulfilling to get so much positive feedback from people I've never met, including other designers," she says.

The bidding starts at about $5 to $6 for an average pin. Depending on the lampwork glass art in the pin, the bidding can sometimes reach $30 for her handiwork. To entice buyers, Loendorf makes certain the photos of the pins up for auction are of good quality. During busy weeks, she's listed some 25 pins up for auction.

While this is still a part-time gig for Loendorf, she would love for it to be full-time someday. Hopeful auctioneers take heed: "Once interest is generated [in an auction]," she says, "other buyers see that and are interested just because of the action that's happening around them."

Professional Organizer, Stephanie Denton

Stephanie Denton

Putting everything in its place can have its rewards. Just ask professional organizer Stephanie Denton, 33, of Denton & Co., who makes a good living creating order from chaos. Working out of her Cincinnati home, Denton is well-known in organizing circles.

After working in marketing and business administration, Denton got her start in 1994 when a client asked for her expertise. Positive word-of-mouth and a few local newspaper articles followed, and, says Denton, "It simply grew from there."

It took more than a knack for shelving and stacking to get going-running a professional organizing practice is really about serving clients. Says Denton, "Realize that it's not just about being organized for yourself; it's about being able to do that for clients." Denton credits her success to her ability to listen and discern the different needs of her clients as well as her participation in the National Association of Professional Organizers (of which she is vice president).

And who she can't reach via personal consultations, she reaches through other avenues: her nationally syndicated newspaper column and articles for Family Circle magazine. Considering her business has grown about 50 percent in the past year, her system seems to be working.

Internet Security Consultant, John Kleinschmidt

John Kleinschmidt

Virtually everyone has a dotcom domain. Tech-savvy entrepreneurs know that embedded in all that code is an opportunity-one that John Kleinschmidt, 31, of Waterford, Michigan, is capitalizing on with his Internet security consulting biz. This former Novell, NT and UNIX administrator was bitten by the security bug in 1995. He'd been studying security on his own via the Internet, books, conferences, seminars-anything he could get access to. When people started asking him for security advice, Kleinschmidt decided to start charging for his expert services.

Kleinschmidt's start-up costs were nil-he already had the computer and Net access in his home. The biggest challenge has been competing against the multimillion-dollar companies that "have their client base...and a very good reputation," he says. The best part (aside from spending lots of time with his wife and children), he says, is that "no two security jobs are exactly the same."

Keeping up with trends and the latest technology is important to any computer-related profession. And remember, as long as there are Internet thugs on the loose, there will always be a need for the Web site watchman.

Virtual Assistant, Claire Liston

Claire Liston

Gone are the days when an assistant had to be in-house. With the help of a fax machine, a computer and an Internet connection, an assistant can be in a completely different state and offer all the services a client needs. Claire Liston, 28, owner of C. Liston Communications in Alexandria, Virginia, found that out in 1998 when she started peddling her array of services, offering to do whatever they needed in order to keep their own businesses buzzing.

Liston was working in PR and as a meeting planner when she found herself in between jobs. It was then that her mentor, Katherine Hutt, suggested that Liston take the leap and turn her side virtual-assistant business into a full-time operation.

Liston's company has grown from there-strictly through word-of-mouth, as she does no advertising. All that positive talk comes from Liston's willingness to do any job her clients need her to do-be it writing a newsletter or designing a Web site. "If there's something they need done, they'll ask me if I can do it," says Liston. "If I can't, chances are, I want to learn how, and I'll [learn] it for that client." Because her existing clients keep giving her more and more responsibilities, she doesn't need to search for new business.

In the future, Liston plans to continue to expand the services she offers her clients. Hoping to gross about $70,000 this year, Liston offers this final advice for aspiring virtual assistants: "Serve your clients in as many ways as you know how."

Computer Training Specialist, Traci Moxson

Traci Moxson

Are you the one always offering to set up your friends' Internet connections? Do acquaintances know to call you when their computers crash? Traci Moxson was always the go-to gal when it came to computers-and now she's cashing in on her knowledge.

Moxson, 30, founded theResult Consulting Inc. out of her Atlanta home in the summer of 1999, following a leave of absence from her job in which she'd done some traveling in Europe. During her trek, she offered computer training, troubleshooting and desktop support in exchange for room and board. Says Moxson, "I realized there wasn't anybody-at least not in Atlanta-who did stuff like that. There was a market for it, so I started the business."

Now Moxson goes to people's homes and businesses to share her technical expertise with her grateful clients. And helping clients isn't the challenge-it's finding them. Moxson's Web site (www.theresult.net) and a listing on RentAGeek.com (a referral site for computer professionals) help to court clients, as does positive word-of-mouth. Though she has some exceedingly busy weeks and others when the phone doesn't ring, Moxson's business has grown 50 percent in six months. "Anytime I get a new client, the thank-yous [are rewarding]," says Moxson. "And knowing it is 100 percent me-[I take] the blame and the credit. It's so much more rewarding knowing it's all my own creation."

Event Planners, Antonia Calzetti & Brenda Yagmin

Antonia Calzetti & Brenda Yagmin

Spending your life at parties doesn't sound like a bad gig, does it? That's exactly what Antonia Calzetti, 34, and Brenda Yagmin, 28, decided when they opened Conjure Marketing & Event Design in October 1999. The two met and became friends while working for a small catering company; when their boss wanted to take the business in another direction, Calzetti and Yagmin opted to start their own company instead, utilizing the skills they developed together.

The start-up costs were minimal-less than $500 for their letterhead and logo, since they already had the computers. The hard part, as with several of the other entrepreneurs we talked to, was finding clients-but they've solved that problem with broad-based marketing efforts, including standard press releases to media outlets and direct mailings to clients. They also share their party-planning expertise with a few wedding publications, "just to get our name out there," says Yagmin.

The entrepreneurs, both with homes just outside New York City, communicate mostly by phone and e-mail. And there's no regular work weeks here. "We focus [on the business] seven days a week," says Calzetti. "But you really have to have a structure for that, because if you don't, it's going to be 24 hours a day."

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Calzetti and Yagmin's unique approach to party planning and their dedication to giving each client a special experience takes time, but their work is paying off, with sales expected to hit about $100,000 this year. But the real bottom line? Says Calzetti, "We party every day."

Technology Writer, Bianca Wright

Bianca Wright

Translating complicated techno-speak into easy-to-understand English is one of Bianca Wright's greatest gifts. Since 1996, she's been sharing her talent with Office.com, ebody.com, ComputorEdge, Cosmopolitan and our very own Start-Ups.

Working from her home in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Wright, 22, mostly does freelance writing for publications in the States. According to Wright, "The number-one requirement for any freelancer, in my opinion, is a good computer with an Internet connection." Since she already owned the computer stuff, her start-up costs were minimal-about $150.

Though she didn't have formal training in journalism, Wright was able to hone her skills while working on both her high school and college newspapers. She also had guidance from her family-her mother is a linguistics lecturer, and her father is a computer programmer. Says Wright, "My mother's literary nature and my father's computing knowledge proved extremely useful."

To find work, Wright looks to The Writer's Handbook (Trans-Atlantic Publications Inc., $29.50, 215-925-5083) and also lists herself on freelance directories like Guru.com. But, she says, "The best marketing tool any freelancer can have is doing good work." Keep up with all the latest technology advances, always be on the lookout for new story ideas, and research your market well.

Above all, be confident in yourself. "Being a freelance journalist," says Wright, "means dealing with rejection on a daily basis. Don't take it personally." Given the fact that Wright composes up to eight articles per month and her sales have tripled over the past year, she knows what she's talking about.

Look for part two of our homebased section next month, when you'll get 30 surefire tips for homebased success.

If you're anxious to leave the commute in the dust, check out these outlets for homebased help:

  • American Association of Home-Based Businesses, (800) 447-9710, www.aahbb.org
     
  • Home Office Association of America, (800) 809-4622, www.hoaa.com
     
  • How to Raise a Family and a Career Under One Roof: A Parent's Guide to Home Business (Bookhaven Press, $15.95, 800-782-7424) by Lisa M. Roberts
     
  • The Best Home Businesses for the 21st Century: The Inside Information You Need to Know to Select a Home-Based Business That's Right for You (Putnam Publishing Group, $17.95, 800-631-8571) by Paul and Sarah Edwards
     
  • The Perfect Business: How to Make a Million From Home With No Payroll, No Employee Headaches, No Debts and No Sleepless Nights! (Fireside, $12, 800-223-2336) by Michael LeBoeuf
     

 

Contact Sources

Bianca Wright, bmt@icon.co.za, www.icon.co.za/~bmt

C. Liston Communications, cliston@erols.com

Conjure Marketing & Event Design, (718) 945-9426, www.conjuredesign.com

Denton & Co., (513) 871-8800, Dentonandcompany@compuserve.com

Feng Shui Solutions, (310) 820-7891, www.fengshuisolutions.net

GEMdesign, loendorf@earthlink.net

John Kleinschmidt, 3525 Karen Pkwy., #102, Waterford, MI 48328, (248) 681-7275

Talane Coaching Co., (888) 4-TALANE, www.lifecoach.com.