Everyone’s talking about making money on the Internet. But in the rush to build an online business, many people overlook viable business opportunities right in their own backyard. Today we’ll take a sneak peek into the lives of real people with community-based home businesses.
Drema Morris is a licensed massage therapist from Mooresville, North Carolina. She operates Just Relax Massage and Wellness Center from her home. She began her massage therapy business eight years ago in a retail center by leasing shared-space with another business partner. Not long after opening the doors, Drema found the overhead costs quickly accumulating, stifling her profit margin.
“When my lease expired, I knew I could offer the same types of services out of my home, and maybe even add a more personal touch,” said Drema. “But I was really worried my clientele would not follow me from the shop to my home.” It ended up not being a problem at all. Almost 100% of her clients stayed with her, and through referrals, her business continued to grow.
The decision to bring the business home proved not only to be a wise financial move, but it was also a perfect fit for her family. Drema set up a comfortable studio in the basement of her house and created a special entrance just for her customers, making coming and going from her studio easier. It also made the atmosphere feel more professional, because clients didn’t have to travel through the personal living space of the house. “Having the separate entrance and exit really helped my children learn to respect my work boundaries,” said Drema. “When I’m downstairs in the basement, they all know that Mom’s at work.”
But massage therapy is not the only thriving business at the Morris house. Drema’s husband, Phil Morris, owns and operates Morris Media Group, a web-development and consulting firm. Phil, who started as a web-developer for NASA, decided to branch out on his own in order to spend more time with his family. In 2006 he began consulting and designing from home.
Phil is a beginning to end web developer with over 20 years of professional development experience. While at NASA he was part of the team that worked with NCSA to create the first web browser and has continued to work in this highly specialized field while performing 90% of his business from home. He has recently shifted his focus away from government and military applications to commercial projects such as Lowes Home Improvement and numerous small businesses.
As if running two profitable businesses wasn’t enough to do, the Morrises also teach their two children at home. Together, Drema and Phil homeschool their children, ages seven and five. According to Phil, making it all work involves a little bit of scheduling acrobatics. “You need to have an-up-to-date calendar for every family member, even the kids,” acknowledges Phil.
Running two businesses, while teaching school each day, has gradually become the natural rhythm of their home. The Morris’ oldest daughter keeps a desk in Phil’s home office so that she can get one-on-one help with school when necessary. Phil schedules his important conference calls when he knows Drema can keep the children occupied. Likewise, Drema schedules her massage appointments during times she knows her husband or a trusted babysitter will be on hand to watch the kids.
Running their off-the-grid businesses has turned out to be a dream for the Morris family. They’ve quickly seen the benefits of choosing to work from home. When asked what they would have done differently, Drema quickly responded, “I only wish that I would have started working from home sooner!”
The Morrises are just one family of many choosing to pursue this lifestyle. Husband and wife Chad and Brandy Coggins run two successful businesses from their home as well. Chad owns and operates Yard Dawgs, a full-service lawn maintenance company in Archdale, North Carolina. From March through October, Chad provides typical lawn care services such as mowing, mulching, and landscaping for residential and commercial clients. During the off-season, Chad provides leaf and snow removal services. For a seasonal income boost, Chad is also for hire to help hang Christmas lights or haul away Christmas trees. “In the slow season there’s really no job I won’t do,” says Chad. He even has a stand-by job assisting a local electrician if things ever get too slow. “It’s all about providing for my family and taking care of them,” says Chad.
Chad’s wife Brandy owns a small but successful photography business, Brandy Coggins Photography. Brandy schedules most of her photo shoots on weeknights and weekends. She caters to families and specializes in children’s photography. One of Brandy’s most popular services: quick weekend mini-photography sessions for just $75. This allows her fill her day with a constant stream of clients from 8am to 8pm. Her customers love it, because they get a CD of all the photos taken, free of copyright. Brandy’s evenings-and-weekends schedule makes her appealing to many working families and allows her to work when childcare is available. It’s a win-win situation for Brandy and her clients.
“Both Chad and I get most of our work by word of mouth,” says Brandy. “We’re both Christians, and believe in doing things right the first time. If we don’t take the time to do a good job, people will talk about it. But they’ll also talk when we do a great job, and that brings in new business.”
Next time: successful online businesses.