House Calls

Oldham entrepreneurs
find success from home

Home-based business owners find pros, cons

Debra Maylum
Staff Writer

(January 2005) – Kelli Stein, owner and founder of Kelli’s Gift Baskets, started her home-based business after she began putting together gift baskets around the holidays for her family and friends. She found that she had fallen into a great opportunity when they started asking her for more to pass along as gifts to their friends.

KY 2005 Cover

January 2005
Kentucky Edition Cover

Nine years ago, she left her job at General Electric to pursue her talent and begin her own gift basket business. Like many who have gone before her, Stein has never looked back.
The benefits of a home-based business are becoming increasingly appealing to many people. The $1 trillion-dollar-a-year market has been growing steadily in the United States since the 1980s, and today a business is operated out of more than 6 million U.S. households.
The trend is nationwide, and home-based businesses in Oldham County are booming as well. While there are many different types of businesses, the typical home-based business is service oriented.
A home-based business requires a lot of hard work. The majority of them do not have any paid employees, leaving the business owner with many responsibilities. For many entrepreneurs, however, the work has led to a rewarding career.
The advantages of working out of a home are abundant, but flexibility is near the top of the list for most business owners. Along with a flexible schedule comes the opportunity to earn an income while still being available for family.
“Today my son is sick, and I was able to stay home with him. I didn’t have to ask anybody,” said Karen Bonura, a senior sales director for Mary Kay Cosmetics.
In 16 years with the company, Bonura says she has never been asked to put her job before her family. She is able to earn an executive income while remaining a stay-at-home mom.
Bonura is among a large number of stay-at-home moms who have become stay-at-home businesswomen. Chris Malin stays at home with her son while running Backyard Bounce, an inflatable rental company. Malin and her husband, Robbie Malin, began their business after they could not find anyone to bring a “bouncer” to their son’s birthday party. The lack of availability prompted the husband-and-wife team to purchase a couple of the inflatable party toys for themselves.

Kelli Stein

Photo by Don Ward

Kelli Stein of Crestwood stays busy with her made-to-order gift baskets.

They rented them out at some local events for churches and schools, and people went nuts for them, Chris Bonura said. From that point on, they began purchasing more bouncers and now have a three-car garage filled with them. It took some time, but as word got out about their business, it grew. In its second year, the Malins were out nearly every weekend through November setting up bouncers.
Businesses such as Backyard Bounce have no need for a storefront, but even for those who could sustain a retail store, sometimes it is more profitable for the business to operate out of a household.
Stein notes that it is important to have a dedicated work area. However, it is easier for her to get out and sell her gift baskets if she does not have to be at a store.
Charlene Claycomb operates her business, Remembrance Porcelain, out of her home workshop and found similarly that it would not be cost effective to open a store. Creating a piece is so time consuming that someone else would have to run the store while she worked to pay their salary. It works better for Claycomb to sell her jewelry at shows, gift shops and arts centers.
She is one of the many business owners who took advantage of an opportunity to make a career out of doing something she loved. “It is not a lot of income; if you don’t love it, don’t do it,” she said. “It is a slow process, and the satisfaction lies primarily in turning out a nice piece.”
Although the advantages tend to outweigh the difficulties, a home-based business owner faces many challenges.
“So many people think it looks so easy, but they do not realize everything that goes on behind the scenes,” said Malin. “It is not quick cash.”
Even when all of the resources are already in place, venturing out alone can be difficult. When Bonura became a Mary Kay consultant in August 1998, the company provided everything she needed to become successful, from support to training materials to taking care of each consultants personal website. With the company already in place, Bonura said she still faced the personal challenges of staying motivated, becoming a good money manager and developing excellent people skills.
Another obstacle faced by many at home business owners is the problem of separating home and work space.

Diana Polsgrove

Photo by Don Ward

“Eventualities” owner Diana Polsgrove accepts her 2003 Oldham County Chamber award for home-based business of the year.

When Diana Polsgrove decided to operate her event planning business, Eventualities, out of her home 10 years ago, she worried that her corporate clients would not be impressed. It turned out, however, that they enjoy the fact she is more readily available than if she were working out of an office.
“I am available morning, noon and night,” she said. “The disadvantage to that is that you never leave work.”
Whether doing it to make money, gain flexibility or to have fun, there are a number of things to consider before jumping onto the home-based bandwagon. Malin recommends that people be patient and think through all of the different aspects and ways a business will affect their life. “It takes more time than some might think,” she said.
Polsgrove said, “One of the biggest misconceptions about working out of your home is that you will have more free time, but you don’t. You still have to balance your schedule.”
One of the challenges Stein faced in her departure from corporate America was the loss of contacts inherent in the business world. Becoming a member of the Chamber of Commerce can help home-based business owners network, she said.
“A lot of people join the chamber for networking opportunities. Home-based businesses sometimes struggle because they do not have a place to be visible from,” said Joe Schoenbaechler, president of the Oldham County Chamber of Commerce. Membership at the Chamber of Commerce provides a place for business people to meet other business people.
It can help make up for some of the face-to-face interaction that is often missed when one operates a business from home.
Meeting with business groups can aid a business owner in finding new customers and can also offer valuable advice.
Bonura points out that it is important when starting your own home-based business to listen to those who have gone before you. “They are successful for a reason.”

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