One on One is a weekly feature offering excerpts of interviews conducted by The Evening Sun with newsworthy business leaders. Cynthia Brower is regional director of the National Association of Home-Based Businesses, which markets its services to people who operate or want to start businesses at home. She works out of her home as an independent contractor for the Baltimore-based company.
Q.Is there a trend now toward home-based businesses because of economic conditions?
A.There are a number of reasons why there's a trend toward home-based businesses. The economic factor is one of them . . . the overhead (for outside-the-home locations) is much too high. They're saying, "I want to stay in business; I like being in the business but I want my profit margin to be a lot larger." They are going back home . . . So now not only do you have people starting their home business for the first time, they're returning home.
Q. What are the other reasons that people establish home-based businesses?
A. For women, a lot of times it's because they don't want to leave home. They have had a successful career. Nowadays women are starting to have families a lot later in life. And once you've had a successful career, you want to figure out a way to take care of a family and raise what you consider to be a successful child that has had all the advantages that you could possibly give him. But still you need to earn money because again the economy says that you need two paychecks. So they tend to opt for home-based business.
You're finding that men are staying at home for two reasons. One reason being that men nowadays feel that, "If I have something I can do from home, fine, stay home and enjoy some of the luxuries of being able to help take care of my kids and raise them and watch them grow up and they actually know me." And the other thing is that whereas normally a consultant would have gotten an office in an office building, it's now too expensive.
Q. What is the fee for belonging to your association?
A. There's a $65 fee for an affiliate members, which is a one-time fee, and it's $4 a month membership for those. There's a home membership for a person that already has a home-based business. That $125 and $4 a month membership dues. The $125 is again a one-time fee. And for professional consultants, $350.
Q. How do you function? Do you work at home?
A. My business is based at home because as the regional director I'm an independent contractor; it's based from my home, as well as the company. The umbrella company for National Association of Home-Based Businesses is a small business network, and they do offer independent contracts and certifications in international trade. I've become a certified international trader with them, which means that's another part-time business to have going with the association.
Q. How many members do you have?
A. We have 5,000 active members and don't count and hold people on the books that are not active. There is a high attrition rate in home-based businesses, especially beginner businesses, and that's because it's not what most people have expected.
Q. What does it take to start a home-based business?
A. It takes deciding what you want to do, number one.
Q. What would go into that decision?
A. You need to get a checklist of things that are your talents, your skills -- things that you like doing as well as things that you don't like doing -- because you don't want to get caught with starting a business in the area of something that you don't like doing.
Q. Once you decide on what you should do, what's next?
A. Once you decide what you want to do, you have to ask, can you make a profit with it?
Q. What does that involve? How would you know that?
A. Well, if, for example, I had somebody to call me and say "I like tutoring, group tutoring. I'm tutoring people for the GED (Graduate Equivalency Diploma)." Well, that's a noble cause; however, most people who don't have a high school diploma also don't make a lot of money. So how are they going to pay you?
Q. Does it take a lot of money to start up a home-based business?
A. Depending on what it is, it doesn't take a lot of money. I would say that you need at least $3,000 if it's not something where you need a lot of inventory or equipment.
Q. What are the factors one must consider before launching a business at home, such as zoning laws and tax laws?
A. You do have to consider them. Zoning is different from county to county. It just changes based on the occupation and the county.
Q. What about tax considerations?
A. There's a booklet that the IRS has prepared for home-based businesses and you can get that free. The main thing you'll need to do is have to have a record-keeping system and pay the taxes.
Q. What are the advantages of working at home?
A. First advantage is the low overhead. It's the biggest advantage because the low overhead does allow you to make mistakes and come back from the mistakes.
Q. What are some other advantages?