Joy Magazine

Working at home

The recession has spurred some local women to start their own businesses

With unemployment rates still high in Oregon, many people are looking for ways to replace or supplement lost wages. For many Rogue Valley residents, home-based businesses are proving to be a key for their future.

"I'm a product of the recession," admits Judith Galindo, owner and founder of Homemade Confections in Medford. After being laid off early last year, Galindo found the job market to be even tougher than she'd thought. "I couldn't find anything," she says.

After trying a variety of industries and options, Galindo eventually decided to found a candy company based on recipes she's spent more than 20 years perfecting. A typical business day now finds Galindo preparing and packaging her award-winning English toffee and peanut brittle, all from her kitchen at home.

Rosann Johnson, a professional organizer, also found a home-based office to be the right choice for her Medford-based business, Organize It Right. But, Johnson points out, there are advantages and disadvantages to running a business at home, and she recommends that budding entrepreneurs should be aware of them before they strike out.

What are the advantages? "You're the boss," says Johnson. "You make all the decisions."

Disadvantages? "You're the boss," Johnson laughs. "The buck stops with you."

Other benefits include having a flexible schedule, no commute, some tax benefits and low overhead costs. It can mean more family time and also provides unique ways to partner with the community. But ultimately both Johnson and Galindo agree on the same thing. "You get to do something you love — something you are passionate about," says Johnson. "(That's) the first big thing."

The biggest challenge both Galindo and Johnson have found is finding the balance between home and business life.

"You can become a workaholic," cautions Johnson. "Because you're working at home, all your time can be spent at work."

Part of her solution is to have a designated office space, she says, "preferably some place where you can shut the door.

"If I don't want to work, I don't go in there."

A separate space also simplifies things if you plan to take advantage of some tax deductions available to home-based businesses.

For Galindo, management and organizational skills top the list for success with a home-based business. "You have to be able to think forward," she explains, especially in her business — where things like keeping the family out of the kitchen during working hours is a business requirement.

"You can't be preparing your product and be making a batch of pancakes over here," she says.

A good support system is also critical. Both women credit their husbands with helping in various ways to get their businesses up and running. The Internet led to a number of professional associations that provided sound advice and continuing education.

Johnson advises prospective business owners to learn who else is offering a similar service or product in their area, make an assessment of the demand and, most importantly, how they can uniquely fill that niche.

Owning a home-based business means you will have to wear a few different hats. "You have to look for marketing opportunities," says Johnson, and be proactive in building your business.

Be realistic about the time and space your business will take up in your home, the women say. The type of business you choose may have some specific requirements.

Johnson, for example, maintains bonding and liability insurance. Galindo needed a kitchen inspection from the Oregon Department of Agriculture and a food handler's license. Both women required a city business license.

"Think about what it's going to cost you " and not just monetarily," Johnson advises, — and can you live with that?"

These women decided the costs were worth it.

"I love it too much," says Galindo. "Make sure your ducks are in a row and go for it. I say take your dream and run with it."