Category Archives: How do Entrepreneurs do it?

Entrepreneurship is not for everyone, but those who want to succeed in this field can do it.

Debra Cohen


My first interview is with Debra Cohen she is owner of Home Remedies, which is as she describes it, “a personal concierge service for the home.”

How did you start your business, what made you decide to start it?

I had just left my career in Corporate America to be a stay-at-home mom and was struggling to find a way to remain productive and earn an income.

My husband and I had just purchased our first house and–like many homeowners– we were struggling to find reliable home improvement contractors. When I finally found a responsible contractor, I felt compelled to share his name with other homeowners in our community. That was my “Aha!” moment and I realized that if we faced this challenge then other homeowners must as well. I decided to try to create a business to fill this need in our community and launched Home Remedies of NY, Inc., a Homeowner Referral Network (HRN) linking homeowners with pre-screened, reliable home improvement professionals.


Home Remedies, fills two important niches in the home improvement marketplace: 1) It serves as a reliable source for homeowners looking for reputable contractors, and 2) its an outsourced sales and marketing force for pre-screened contractors.


I launched my business from an old farm table in our basement and in less than one year I had more business than I could handle. Rather than trying to expand too quickly, I realized that my business concept could be duplicated in other markets and I could refer work to other HRN business owners rather than handling it all on my own or franchising. I decided to document the HRN business in a comprehensive manual (The Complete Guide To Owning And Operating A Successful Homeowner Referral Network©) so that I could teach others how to start HRN’s of their own.


To date there are 300+ independent HRN’s like mine operating nationwide


Who helped you along the way?


My husband is my biggest cheerleader.   I turn to him on advice on almost all major business decisions. I got my start up capital ($5000) by taking a loan from his teacher’s retirement savings plan and my business has grossed almost $4 million to date.  He always says that “I’m the best investment he’s ever made!”


Where did you go for business related support?


Since I had no home improvement experience at all when I started, I decided to create a Board of Advisors who I could turn to for advice and guidance.  I invited a few of the contractors from my network to join as well as my insurance agent, a colleague from my  Corporate Career and my husband (of course!).


Maintaining a business is very difficult, why do you think you’ve been successful throughout these years?


Yes.  There are definitely times when things fall out of balance but I manage by keeping my priorities in check.  I launched my business because I wanted to find a way to stay at home and raise my children and therefore, I’ve avoided making business decisions that would require me to take on more than I can handle and jeopordize time with my family.


That’s actually one of the reasons why I decided to offer my business as an opportunity rather than a franchise.  I knew that if I franchised my business, it would require me to go back to work in an office 40+ hours per week, travel, etc.


What advice would you give to a new mom who wants to start out a business from home?


1.  Chose a business that allows you to do something you love on a day to day basis.


2. It’s impossible to be an expert at every aspect of your business. Maximize your time and abilities by focusing on what you do best and outsource or hire professionals to do the rest.


Any regrets?


No!  I’m so grateful to have a successful business that doesn’t require me to choose between my work and my family.


There you have it! Debra does a great job at explaining how her experience as a business owner has been. The key here for any mom out there trying to start a business from home is to do something that you love! This is important because when the going gets tough as it does in any aspect of life, you’ll be more likely to stick to your initial goal and see your plan to completion.

Welcome to the first installment of my Mompreneurs Series!

We all know how hard it is to find work/life balance, especially when we start a family. That is why I decided to interview mompreneurs, those women who decide to try to advance their careers in a business they own while also raising a family.

On a regular basis I will be interviewing moms across the country about how they came to the decision of starting their own business and what their experience has been.

One woman’s journey to the Olympics, motherhood and the business world

For most of us finding the right career path can take years but for Gigi Fernandez, her calling came when she was just 3 years old. She was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico on February 22, 1964. The third of four children, Gigi would beg her parents Beatriz and Tuto to take her to tennis lessons. After her unrelenting requests, her parents succumbed to her wishes and Gigi found her life’s passion. The rest as they say is history.

Gigi Fernandez went on to be the first female Puerto Rican to become a professional athlete, win 17 Grand Slam titles and ultimately win 2 gold medals in the sport of tennis.

“As a kid I loved playing tennis,” she says, “I didn’t feel pressured by my parents in any way; I just enjoyed the sport and was never forced into it.” 

Her main goal however was not to win gold. “What is different from tennis athletes and other athletes is people in our generation didn’t revolve our aspirations around winning gold like in track and field, swimming and various other sports,” she adds.

Gigi says that when she was growing up there were no Olympics in tennis. The first year was 1984 as a demonstration sport and in 1988 it became a full participating sport in the Olympic Games. “I didn’t grow up thinking I would go on to win an Olympic gold metal because that was not an option when I was starting out,” she says.

Wining was a great achievement and Gigi says she was incredibly honored to have won, but she still wanted to go on and do more.

 The road to motherhood

“When I was playing, having a child was never an option because it was kind of impossible,” she said.

 After being in a stable relationship for 5 yrs, Gigi and her partner Jane Geddes decided they wanted to be parents, but the process would prove to be a difficult one.

“Because of the volatility of the fertilization process, going through an adoption process that wasn’t successful, and going through the ups and downs of medications and hormone treatments to get pregnant via an egg donor, I was exhausted, but it was well worth the wait,” she said. Now she has two precious children, boy and girl twins who are currently 22 months old.

 “They are the priority and I work around their schedules,” says Gigi.

 A new business venture

 After having her twins, Gigi got the idea to start a company that sold instructional videos teaching the fundamentals of sports to children when one day her nanny brought home the video Baby Einstein. She says her twins started watching it and were quiet for about 20 minutes, “Wow this is great, I thought to myself, I could actually step out for a minute and go to the bathroom,” she said. So she started looking for a sports video to introduce her twins to but to her surprise couldn’t find anything. “I just couldn’t believe it!” she adds.

That’s how Baby Goes Pro got started. Gigi set out to create the instructional video by interviewing psychologists and experts in the field of sports. The videos, she says are for kids to start learning basic sports skills, like how to kick a ball. “It gives them an early introduction into sports and more knowledge than the kid next door who’s never been to a soccer field,” she adds.

The DVDs have had a great reception so far according to Gigi. “Last year we were invited to the Annual White House Easter Egg Roll as part of the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign to fight childhood obesity and we are invited again this year. We love being part the childhood obesity campaign,” she said.

Gigi says her company is also part of the many organizations that help the First Lady promote the message of active lifestyles.

The motivation behind Baby Goes Pro is to keep kids active and moving. As for her twins, she says that she and her partner just want them to be athletic and hopefully they will find a sport that they like, that way their kids could have the benefit of sports like she did.

“Not to say that they are going to be professionals but just to be able to play a sport in the high school level or college level is such an advantage because sports teaches you so many things about life. It’s important for kids to have that tool for learning more about themselves, sportsmanship, respect, honoring the game, courage, character building, determination, and perseverance,” she said.

 A controversial product?

Baby Goes Pro DVDs have been welcomed by parents and reviewers, but some skeptics think starting a child in sports might not be such a good idea for their development. 

“Yes, its controversial the way its been presented,” says Gigi, “Because of my athletic background, I know how difficult it really is to become pro and it’s a bit insulting to our profession to have people think that just because they watch a video, their kids will turn out pro.”

Gigi says that the advantage offered by the DVDs is similar to when a child goes to pre-k to learn the basics of reading and writing and then goes on to first grade having that knowledge versus the child who enters first grade and has a difficult time with these subjects. She says the DVDs are meant to do just that, offer a way for kids to get introduced to sports and know how to swing, kick a ball and the basic rules of sports so that when they are initiated into sports through a class or camp they will already know the basics and be better prepared with the knowledge. “It’s great for kids who watch these videos because it gives them the knowledge before others,” Gigi said.

Photos courtesy of Gigi Fernandez

Successful Businesses

What is the hallmark of a solid successful business? Longevity. With small businesses having a limited success rate and most predicted to fold within the first 3 years of launching, it seems like there is a dim outlook for those who want to venture out into such a risky endeavor. However, there are many small businesses around the nation that succeed and go on to produce great profits and have sustainable growth.  What makes these businesses stand out in the herd? What is the “key” that unlocks the success of these businesses? Interviewing several successful business owners gave me insight into what has enabled their business to stay in the market and what major aspects they attribute their success to.

It all starts with an idea, that spark of ingenuity that gets the mind racing. Most business owners have in common that initial spark of an idea that will either fill a need or help consumers make their lives easier. Whatever that idea may be, it helps initiate the beginnings of a small business for entrepreneurs. Whether or not the idea turns into a successful business depends on many variables ranging from maintaining accurate finances to providing excellent customer service. Providing quality services and products is essential to any company but that is just one part of the equation. Starting and maintaining a great business is comprised of a whole package that will help determine the outcome of the companies’ longevity.