From the February 2003 issue of Startups

The idea of working for yourself is a very inviting one. In fact, you've always dreamed of owning your own company. But unlike many entrepreneurs, a corporation the size of Microsoft--or even the 10-person landscaping business down the street--has never appealed to you. You'd be perfectly happy going it alone.

If you're wondering whether a solo business is realistic, the answer is a resounding yes! In fact, according to an October 2002 report from the U.S. Census Bureau, solo businesses are on the rise. One-person businesses made up a whopping 70 percent--or 16.5 million--of all businesses in the United States between 1999 and 2000. That's an increase of 7 percent since the Census Bureau began collecting comparable data in 1997.

Who are these millions of people who are going it alone, and what kinds of businesses are they pursuing? The biggest area of growth, according to the Census Bureau, was in businesses specializing in educational services, such as teaching a vocational skill or a second language. Businesses in the information sector, such as software publishers, broadcasting and telecommunications firms, and data processors, came in at a close second.

Draw on Your Talents!
It's interesting to note which categories of one-person businesses have experienced the most growth. But when it comes to choosing a solo business, the most important criteria ought to be what you do best. That's exactly what siblings Alicia and David Templin of Arlington, Texas, focused on--and it's paid off.

Back in 1999, Alicia and David both entered the 1999 Expressions from Hallmark and Crayola Kids Card Contest. Odds of winning were 72,000 to 1. So imagine their surprise when both Alicia and David were named as contest winners! They each won $1,000, along with a trip to Kansas City, Missouri, and Easton, Pennsylvania, for a tour of the Hallmark and Crayola facilities. "It's very unusual that two people from the same family were chosen," says Alicia, 19. "They never had a brother-sister winner before."

Today their winning greeting cards are on sale in grocery stores and Hallmark shops around the country. What's it like to walk in a store and see the greeting card you created for sale? "It's like a dream. It doesn't seem real," Alicia says.

For David, 17, and Alicia, art has always been a part of their lives. Their parents are graphic designers who create children's menus for restaurants, along with running an art school for children. Occasionally, David and Alicia teach classes at the school, which is located in their home.

As for the future, David, who loves clay animation and painting, is focused on a possible career in claymation. Alicia's goal is to become an illustrator, primarily of children's books, calendars and greeting cards.

Writing the Way
What happens when you write a book but can't find a publisher? If you're an entrepreneur like Julia Yorks, you start a company called Simply Kids' Publishing and publish it yourself. Julia's book, The Kid's Guide to New Hope, offers advice on things to do in her small hometown of New Hope, Pennsylvania.

Yorks gathered information from her own experiences, her parents, local townspeople and shopkeepers and even the town historian. She then wrote her book to show other teens that there were great restaurants, hotels, stores and places to visit in her hometown. She also illustrated it herself with photos, computer graphics and artwork.

Yorks and her mother researched publishers at the library and selected eight that seemed a good match for the manuscript. But despite their research, she received rejection letters from all eight publishers. That's when she decided to start her own publishing company.

When the book was released, Julia became a celebrity in her hometown. The mayor commended her, and her school newspaper and fellow students congratulated her as well.

Her fame, however, extended beyond New Hope. She appeared on TV four times, and she was invited for a book signing at her hometown Barnes & Noble.

As for her long-term plans, Julia, now 13, intends to continue writing--a lot. She is gathering information for future guidebooks about other towns, including New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia.

Ideas for Going Solo
Some business ideas, such as art, freelance writing and photography, naturally lend themselves to a solo operation. But does that mean that you're out of luck if you're not gifted in one of those areas?

Nope. If you think about it, many business ideas, from making jewelry or fixing computers to becoming a DJ or designing clothing--even a roadside produce stand--can be a solo performance. All it takes is a little creativity to imagine yourself running the business of your dreams.in sweet solitude.

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