When Bill Nicholson looks in the mirror, he sees a reflection of a successful professional homebased entrepreneur: a self-starting individualist who has the potential to demand political and economic change, but who lacks affinity with his 19 million fellow homebased business owners to become an effective, singular voice.
"I've worked from home for 10 years," says Nicholson, "but I've never been able to find the strength in numbers that the SOHO community could offer."
Nicholson wants to change all that.
Earlier this year, Nicholson started SOHO Lobby Inc., a Raleigh, North Carolina-based membership and action community that seeks to champion the political and social needs of the professional homebased business community. Though Nicholson's organization will serve all homebased entrepreneurs, he sees his core audience as the "next generation" of SOHO professionals: the former executives and higher-end professionals who are earning more than $50,000 annually and "are really participating and contributing to this new economy," says Nicholson.
To help deliver the message about his organization, Nicholson has created the "SOHO Lobby Community Contest." The contest, which debuted on August 15, poses a single question: "As a SOHO professional, I think politics and the Internet will affect me in the following ways . . .". Entrants must write an essay of no more than 250 words and e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for entries is December 31, 2000. The grand prize winner will receive $5,000 in prizes from sponsors including Day Runner, Sentry Safes, APC and Fellowes.
Nicholson, whose chief political consultant is lobbyist Rufus Edmisten, is hoping the contest will raise the group's profile, drive additional membership, spur its interactive online community, and help steer his organization's mandate as a group lobbying for political change in Washington.
Entries will be posted online for the media, government officials and other homebased business owners to read. This should help bring cohesion to the diverse community-and strength to the message, Nicholson claims. "It's going to add emotion to our mission and create external attention outside of our community," he says. "When we walk into a senator's office, our people will have said something about their needs and goals."
Journalist and author Jeff Zbar has worked from home since the 1980s. He writes about home business, teleworking, marketing, communications and other SOHO issues.