BIZStreet, Greater Spokane Incorporated’s small business program, has a message for home-based business owners: You’re not alone.
Home-based business owners met Tuesday at the organization’s new Home-Based Business Connection, a monthly meeting designed for networking and the exchange of ideas.
“There is temptation to go it alone,” said Suzanne Foust of Kindred Creative Services, the design company she has been running for 11 years out of her home. Foust, who helped develop the first stages of the meetings, said it is important for home-based business owners to connect with each other because it’s easy to feel isolated.
“The aim is to provide a resource for people with homebound businesses and a camaraderie that they otherwise might not have,” she said.
The meetings are set up to be informal gatherings with one speaker and a roundtable discussion. They will be held every month on the first Tuesday. The meeting this month was pushed back due to the July 4 holiday, said Dustin Woodhead, BIZStreet’s resource center coordinator.
Although BIZStreet does not have figures on the number of home-based businesses in Spokane, it does recognize that small business makes up a huge portion of the local economy. Of the 1,600 businesses in Spokane, 95 percent have fewer than 50 employees, and 87 percent have between one and 19 employees. Companies that have no employees make up about 9 percent.
“There are all kinds of possibilities for partnerships,” said Joni Woodwell, vice president of Business Resources for BIZStreet, and a former home-based business owner.After the merger earlier this year between the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Spokane Area Economic Development Council to create Greater Spokane Incorporated, BIZStreet was able to develop the home-based business program, an idea introduced by Woodwell.
“It was really recognized by our board, during the merger, that small businesses play a key role, and our resources would be directed toward small business owners because they are important,” Woodwell said.
The first forum, held last month, was very successful, Woodhead said, with 25 people attending.
About 20 people attended this month’s event, titled “A Marketing Plan on a Small Budget,” with businesses ranging from Foust’s design company to gift baskets, engine repair and sales. The speaker, Bob Robinson, is a home-based mortgage lender who went through marketing strategy and budgeting ideas with the group.
But the topic that sparked an immediate interest from the group was the stigma attached to home-based businesses. Patty Harrison, a retired school teacher who started running instructional writing workshops last year, said she has been told not to tell potential clients she worked out of her home. Other business owners chimed in that it was sometimes an issue, but they would never hide it from their clients.
“There is an image that a home-based business isn’t really as serious as a store front,” said Foust. “But it’s just a small business of someone whose office just happens to be at home.”
Robinson said there is a way to avoid having to address the issue.
“Spend $2.50 on coffee and have meetings at the Davenport,” he said.
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