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Home is where the office is; Arkansas entrepreneurs find success in the comfort of their own homes.

Look around your neighborhood.

You might notice a neighbor offering graphics design services.

The couple down the block is growing and selling exotic plants.

A busy mother of four is starting a day-care service.

Everywhere you turn, people are abandoning traditional jobs to operate home-based businesses.

No more commuting to work, no more business dress code, no more 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. routine.

For those reasons and more, an increasing number of people are growing tired of the hard, cold pavement of the fast track. A recent article in Good Housekeeping estimated almost 25 percent of the American work force earns extra or full-time income from home-based businesses.

The Department of Labor predicts that in a decade, the number of people working at home will have jumped to 50 percent.


Not to Sharon Heidingsfelder of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. Since 1985, she has organized seminars that advise prospective home business owners on strategies and regulations.

"Most people who want to start home businesses have great ideas," Heidingsfelder says. "They just don't know how to promote and manage the business details."

Betty Lacy, a former special education teacher, had no business experience when she attended one of Heidingsfelder's seminars. Lacy, like most home entrepreneurs, wanted to aggressively market her product while maintaining her home-based status.

Two years ago, Lacy began preparing spiced drink and vegetable dip mixes in a snow cone stand. She now uses a Memphis, Tenn.-based company to manufacture her products.

Distributing orders to 400 clients from a spare bedroom became almost impossible.

"We were growing too fast," Lacy says.

When a distribution and retail center being constructed in her back yard is completed, Betty Lacy's Heavenly Creations will be ready to again expand.

Because Lacy's 4 1/2-acre residence is outside the Hot Springs city limits, her building permit was not regulated by the city's zoning commission.

Many zoning commissions will not approve building or remodeling in a residential area for business purposes. Others require a special permit with restrictions.

Government Regulations

Heidingsfelder says home entrepreneurs often don't realize the regulations that must be complied with.

In some cases, special privilege licenses must be obtained and sales-tax permits must be approved. Depending on the type of business, other regulations such as zoning laws must be followed.

When Janice Shrum and her mother-in-law's business, Classy Creations of Monticello Inc., grew too big to maintain in Shrum's home, the two were forced to give up the convenience of being a home-based business.

"When you can't open the doors to rooms anymore, you know it is time to move," Shrum says of her fabric accessories business.

Classy Creations now has a 2,000-SF business location, but Shrum's seamstresses work at home.

Work contracted out by businesses is a popular twist on the home-based theme.

"We've found people like working at home," Shrum says. "They work at their own pace and can still take care of things around the house."

Still, most businesses won't allow employees to take their work home, especially if they pay by the hour.

During the two years Classy Creations was based at a home, the partners managed without the help of computers. Today, Shrum says computers are a necessity.

Classy Creations didn't use computers until after finding a business location. Robin Steves, however, is one of the many home entrepreneurs who have benefited from the increased affordability and ease of operation of office machines.

Her free-lance graphics design business, Studio B, wouldn't be possible without computer technology.

Steves equipped her renovated storage room with a computer, printer, scanner, facsimile machine and copy machine for less than $20,000.

Steves purchased her equipment all at once because she felt her business would be handicapped without a fully equipped office.

The former art director began a home-based business because she needed a break from the fast-paced world of advertising. Steves says her North Little Rock home studio gives her the ability to "walk out and enjoy the dogs and cats and flowers when I am struggling.

"People say I have the life of Riley. But I'm staring at seven unfinished projects and an all-nighter."

Still, as a mother of one, Steves admits being in her own back yard makes it easier to work long hours.

Caring For The Kids

Child care is especially difficult for parents who have careers. Terry Childcare in Maumelle was formed after Lynett Terry, a working mother of four, couldn't find adequate child care in Little Rock.

The Terry family moved to Maumelle in 1987 with the goal of starting a home-based child-care service in a family-oriented community.

In 1989, Terry expanded from a 10-child to a 16-child capacity. She and her husband, Mike, had to renovate their house to meet strict regulatory guidelines. The Terrys own the only house on the block with exit signs and an emergency light system.

"You can't get rich," Lynett Terry says after 4 1/2 years in business. "But that wasn't the main reason we started the business."

Even though the typical home entrepreneur likes the lifestyle and flexibility of working at home, the consensus is that it is no walk in the park.

Heidingsfelder says most of those who work at home prefer to keep their businesses small, but smaller dreams do not decrease the work load.

Successful home entrepreneurs must be self-motivated. Procrastination is a danger when there is unfinished housework or a television nearby.

What's more, substantial profits typically are not generated for the first three years of operation.

Erma Bombeck, the syndicated columnist, had this to say about her home occupation: "I read one story that said a home office can offer you exactly what you have always wanted: A challenge, efficiency, effectiveness and fun ... You will do well to get one out of four."

Heidingsfelder warns prospective entrepreneurs, "Home businesses are easier to start than to keep going."

Experienced home entrepreneurs agree. They say optimism seasoned with realism is the key to success.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Journal Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:home-based businesses
Author:Harper, Kim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Oct 21, 1991
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