By Tara Bozick Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)
Don't sell yourself or your home-based business short, one business veteran implores.
"We think that because we are home-based businesses, that people aren't going to take us seriously," women's business development specialist Zee Worstell said, later adding, "There are people running million-dollar businesses out of their homes. Don't let anyone else project on you what you are."
In fact, two-thirds of the 4,500 businesses in York County are home-based, according to the county's economic development department.
Worstell, founder of virtual business accelerator AccelerateHER, dispelled some myths about home-based businesses during a workshop at York County's first Home-Based Business Resource Fair Friday at the Victory Family YMCA.
Don't get an office space before you're ready, Worstell said, adding keeping costs down is a good thing. But don't devalue what you do because you're at home. Price your services correctly, and people will want to hire you, she said.
In fact, a small business can be a selling point, much like how Worstell, when running a "boutique" recruiting firm, told clients they would get one-on-one service working with her.
But Worstell didn't hide the challenges, either. As exciting as it can be to follow your dreams in starting a business or finding a way to work at home to be with the kids, Worstell urged attendees to be prepared for the downside, too.
No one will tell you how lonely it'll be in your home office, said Worstell, who's worked from a home office since 1991.
"It's very isolating to sit in your office and do your own thing and not have anybody to bounce ideas off of," Worstell said. "You have nobody to vent to."
Worstell advised home-based business owners to create a support system. For instance, Worstell set up a weekly lunch date to get human interaction. She would call another recruiting business owner for five minutes every day to swap stories to get a connection to the outside world.
And just like with any business, prepare for the worst-case scenario, differentiate yourself and give yourself the time to succeed, she added. Get out and network to gain a following and get the word out about who you are. Find mentors who can help you, and ask a lot of questions.
"Starting a business, it takes a lot of patience, it takes a lot of perseverance and you need to get out of your house every once in a while and talk to people," Worstell said.
Jeanne Fiocca, a York County mom who launched Cookie Text in October 2011 from her Tabb home, seconded much of Worstell's advice. Cookie Text sells and delivers cookie cakes with custom messages.
Networking helped Fiocca not only with emotional support, but in landing her first corporate order. The business and brand grew slowly, but is debt-free and making money, she said. Fiocca expanded by adding a commercial kitchen at home and launched a new website with improved online ordering system this past August.
"I wish I had capitalized more on all the free resources that are out there," Fiocca said, after attending a class at Old Dominion University Business Gateway's Women's Business Center this past summer.