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Connecting With Other Homebased Biz Owners

Trying to connect with other home-office entrepreneurs? They're closer than you think, and we show you where to look.

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Hanging out your shingle from your home can be a pretty dauntingexperience, and it helps to know you're not alone. We wenthunting for some homebased business associations to help you onyour journey. The bad news is that we didn't find many huge,national homebased associations out there. The good news? Expertshave a lot of suggestions to help you find (or create) the supportyou need in your community.

BeverleyWilliams, named "Home-Based Business Advocate of theYear" by the SBA in 2002, says entrepreneurs should startlocally with their chambers of commerce to find homebased groups intheir area. It's hard to serve everyone's needs on anational level, she says, because "the needs [of homebasedbusinesses] are so diversified." Try your local Small BusinessDevelopment Centers and colleges and universities in your communityto find other homebased entrepreneurs. Local newspapers oftenpublish information on meetings as well.

In choosing a group to join, see if you can attend meetingsbefore you pony up any membership fees-just to see if it'sreally for you, says Jeff Zbar, a home-office columnist andconsultant. "Make sure the membership isn't just a bunchof consultants," he says. "You want people who arelike-minded and who consider [homebased business] a full-time joband a career path." Decide what you want from a group. Do youwant camaraderie? Support? Networking contacts? Business leads? Getthree to five references on the group, do a Google or a Hoover's search onthem, and above all, say experts, trust your instincts.

Do an Internet search for "homebased business," andyou'll get a lot of hits-some of them shady. Says Williams,"The primary goal of these [false] associations is to continueto sell you things, so watch [out] for that." Even if a groupis on the level, don't expect them to provide all theinformation and resources you'll need for your business.

If, after all your research, you are unable to find a group inyour community, don't abandon hope of finding your homebasedbusiness comrades. Experts say to look within other establishedsmall-business groups for homebased entities like yours. KateKoziol, 44, founder of K Squared Communications Inc. and Fusion Marketingand Public Relations in Chicago, found a fellow homebasedbusiness owner through her local Women's Business Development Center. A fewyears after starting her business in 1997, she sought camaraderieand met Kathy Simonik, owner of FusionCreative. They formed astrategic partnership to boost both of their businesses. With aquarter of a million dollars in annual sales, Koziol is glad shemade the decision to join the WBDC. "Many people [in theseorganizations]," she says, "are homebased."

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