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.
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.