According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), more than half of all U.S. businesses are based out of an owner’s home.
According to Forbes Magazine, more than half of small businesses (500 employees or less) are home-based. In the Census Bureau’s most recent Survey of Business Owners, just more than half (51.6 percent) of the 2.3 million respondents were home-based businesses, including 58 percent of women-owned businesses. A new survey was completed last year, and results are scheduled for release later this year.
Home businesses are big. One may be right down the block from you.
NICK AND KRISTEN GOODELL own HR Resource Force, a human resources software company that tracks things such as employee training and companies’ compliance with training seminars on subjects such as safety, drug and alcohol use and harassment.
“The business lends itself really well to working from home,” says Nick. “We don’t need a physical location.” One of their clients is a limo company in Alaska—they do all of their business online or over the phone. Their biggest customer is in Atlanta. Most or all of the contact with those clients can be done over the phone or online. Another client, Medical Rescue Team South, is right down the road.
The Goodells say their business has a minimal impact on the neighborhood—very few deliveries, no clients or customers coming over for meetings.
“Actually, I think we have a positive impact,” says Kristen. “We’re always home. If our neighbors need someone to sign for a package, or something like that, we’re just about always here.”
The Goodells spend a good bit of work time in The Galleria, where the free Wi-Fi allows them to work from a table. They see several other home business people doing the same thing.
“I think the flexibility of our schedules is the biggest advantage,” Nick says. “One or the other of us can almost always juggle our schedules to accommodate our kids’ activities, or help out with something at school.”
According to Mt. Lebanon’s Zoning Code, home businesses have to meet a number of requirements. Business owners need to obtain a Home Occupation Permit from the municipality, following certification from the inspection department that the proposed business meets all of the requirements of the ordinance, including:
- The business cannot take up more than 15 percent or 350 square feet of floor space, whichever figure is smaller. Day care homes are exempt from this requirement.
- No merchandise may be displayed or sold on the premises.
- No outdoor storage of commercial vehicles, equipment or materials is permitted. One commercial vehicle may be kept in a garage.
- No equipment is permitted that produces noise, electrical or magnetic interference, vibration, heat, glare or other nuisance outside the building.
- A business is not permitted that is considered to be offensive or hazardous by reason of hours of operation, traffic, noise, vibration, smoke, heat, glare, trash, radiation or other objectionable factors.
Business owners are allowed one sign, unlighted, no more than two square feet, attached flat against the home and displaying only the owner’s name and occupation. Many owners, such as VIVIAN DIBRELL, owner of Chase Custom Creations, don’t need one.
Dibrell has been making custom draperies and window treatments out of her Brafferton Drive home since 2003. The impact on her neighborhood, she says, is almost imperceptible.
“No sign. I get one or two UPS deliveries a week. Very seldom will I meet with a client here.”
After consulting with clients and coming up with a design, Dibrell makes all of the material in her basement workshop, which houses a large, custom-built work table and three sewing machines.
“I chose this home for the size of the basement,” she says.
Dibrell loves the convenience of being able to stop and start work at times of her choosing. “I love what I do so much that it’s not like work.”
Although she works alone, she is connected with a large community of crafters who stay in touch online. She belongs to a Facebook group, WoMen of the Workroom, made up of women and men who make draperies and window treatments. “It’s a really good resource for problem solving. People are very generous with advice.”
CHRISTY UFFELMAN owns and operates Align Leadership, a company that builds mentoring programs inside organizations and coaches leadership. She leads a team—a designer, an operations manager and an administrative assistant—that is scattered from here to Denver.
“About half of our programs are virtual,” she says.
Like the Goodells, Uffelman loves the flexibility of a virtual work schedule, allowing her to spend more time with her daughter, a 12-year-old Howe student. Also, a lot of the work she does is with millennials, who she says are not as tied to a regular schedule.
“Millennials really love flexibility,” she says.
The flexibility can have a double edge, though.
“My computer’s right there in the kitchen. I’ll sit down and think ‘one more thing, just one more’…”
Uffelman’s only experience with an office job was the seven years she spent as vice president of human resources with Mascaro Construction. One thing she misses about the office environment is the connections with colleagues.
“You see someone at the coffee machine, or in the kitchen; you talk, share ideas, maybe find a solution for a problem.”
Although she tries to foster as much communication as possible among her team, “trying to pack everything into a weekly call can sometimes feel a little forced.”
Overall, she believes that working from home is a perfect fit.
“I couldn’t be happier,” she says. “I spend two or three days a week out coaching clients, and two or three days a week at home in fuzzy flannel PJs.”
STEPHANIE SCHULER, Edward Avenue, doesn’t spend any time in fuzzy flannel PJs. A sales executive for Stila Cosmetics and the founder of Rutz Skincare, she may spend all day without leaving her house, but she makes sure she is dressed for work before she comes down the stairs to her office.
“I need to be in work mode,” she says, making sure that there is a clear delineation between what’s work and what isn’t. “No TV or other distractions. I think classical music makes for great background noise.”
With her sales background, Schuler has had very minimal experience in a traditional brick-and-mortar workplace. Enough to know that it wasn’t for her.
“I like to pace, and walk around when I’m on the phone,” Schuler says. “Here, I do laps around the living room. Office people are probably happy to not have me there,” she says with a smile.
Rutz, which she started in 2013, is a line of natural and organic products. Much of the business is done online and through the mail. Schuler has an order and fulfillment distribution center in Carnegie where the products are shipped out. She also sells wholesale to spas and other boutiques.
“I’d say about 20 percent of what I do is in-person, and the rest is over the phone, with manufacturers and vendors, setting up events and finding venues. Sometimes it’s hard to put the phone down.”
Overall, though, Schuler, like the others, believes she is in the best situation for her.
“The pros definitely outweigh the cons. When I think of the time that I don’t have to spend in a car, driving to an office every day, when I can structure my day the way I want to, I feel very blessed.”