Finding Your Niche
Q: My aunt and I want to start our own homebased business. We live in an area where opportunities are few and far between. Could you give us some pointers on what to get into and how?
A: Finding the right homebased business depends on different factors. Let's see if we can get you started in your search.
First, what are your interests? You mention wanting to start a business with your aunt. Do you both enjoy the same type of work or enjoy the same hobby? Do you want to:
- do the same type of work you're doing now (or have in the
past) or get into something entirely different?
- have a product-based business or a service-based
- serve a local market or a universal market?
- work full-time or part-time?
- supplement an income or provide a primary income?
As you can see, there are lots of questions you can ask yourself to begin narrowing down your possibilities. Once you have some answers, you can start looking at particular types of businesses.
There are numerous books listing different types of homebased businesses. One you might start with is Best Home Businesses for the 21st Century by Paul and Sarah Edwards. It provides a description of the most popular businesses run from home and includes start-up costs, what kind of income you can expect to earn and additional resources.
In addition to determining what kind of business you want to start, you must find out if there's a market for that business in your area. You mentioned you're in an area with few opportunities. You either need to identify what those few opportunities are and see if you can fill a need there, or explore beyond the area where you live. Many people are getting into e-commerce businesses and other technologies to more widely market both service- and product-oriented businesses.
There are many business opportunities being offered through magazines, direct mail and seminars targeted to people wanting to start a homebased business. Be sure to thoroughly research any company you may be considering purchasing a business opportunity from. There are a lot of scams as well as legitimate business opportunities available. Knowing the difference will take some investigating on your part. Before spending any money, here are some things you should do:
- Find out what state the company is based in, and contact that state's attorney general's office (consumer affairs division) for any information they might have on that company.
- Call your regional office of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Numbers for the FTC and your state's attorney general's office can be found in the government pages of your local telephone book.
- Ask the company for written copies of its financial statements.
Most small-business resources now have Web sites, such as the Small Business Administration at http://www.sba.gov and the FTC at http://www.ftc.gov. These sites provide numerous links to other sites and resources. As you can see, Internet access will allow you to do a lot of research right from the comfort of your own home.
Beverley Williams is the founder and president of the American Association of Home-Based Businesses Inc. (AAHBB) and was the SBA's 2002 Home Business Advocate of the Year.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.