February 1995 // Volume 33 // Number 1 // Ideas at Work // 1IAW4

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Home Is Where The Business Is

Home-based businesses are a growing segment of the U.S. economy. A Home-Based Business Network group was developed by a four-county cluster team of Extension professionals in Northwest Ohio. Extension faculty, along with volunteers, plan and conduct educational networking meetings. Educational programs are conducted monthly on topics relevant to home-based business owners. Evaluation of the network shows that the information and networking are valuable. The Home-Based Business Network provides avenues for building new business relationships, motivational opportunities, opportunities to address common problems, and educational sessions related to the needs of a home-based business owner.

Susan Zies
Extension Agent
Home Economics
Lucas County, Ohio
Internet address: zies.1@osu.edu

Doris Herringshaw, C.H.E.
Extension Agent
Home Economics
Wood County, Ohio
Internet address: herringshaw.1@osu.edu

Home-based businesses are a growing segment of the U.S. economy. A 1993 study by Link Resources revealed there were 39 million people working at home either full or part-time (Braus, 1993). This trend continues to gain momentum as men and women realize the benefits of working at home, such as being their own boss, working at something they love, having a sense of accomplishment, and having a flexible work schedule.

In 1989, a needs assessment was conducted by Ohio State University Extension faculty members from a cluster team of Wood, Ottawa, Lucas, and Sandusky counties. This assessment revealed a need for information by persons who had already started a business. In addition, it identified the lack of opportunities, outside of formal degree programs in business, for entrepreneurs to gain practical knowledge about business fundamentals and strategies.

Extension home economists organized a planning session with business owners, Extension representatives, and Extension specialists in small business to gain insight on how to start a business support group. The Extension faculty took the initiative with help from volunteers to organize meetings that offered assistance on topics indicated as needs. The needs, in order of importance, were (a) marketing, (b) developing a business plan, and (c) networking support system.

A division of responsibilities was formulated defining the Extension role and the volunteer role. A steering committee was formed to develop specific goals, guidelines, and policies and to conduct networking meetings. The six volunteer steering committee members meet quarterly to determine programs, speakers, and delegate responsibilities. One home-based business owner has volunteered to maintain the mailing list of the 150 member group, and to write and send news releases of each meeting to all the newspapers in the four county area.

The Home-Based Business Network holds monthly educational programs on various topics including developing a business plan, demographics and marketing, pricing, time management, insurance issues, taxes, pro's and con's of a home-based business, public relations, practical technologies available for a home-based business, goal setting, and services available from the community. Since the inception of the Network, the frequency of meetings has been increased from quarterly to monthly at the request of participants.

This effort demonstrates the effectiveness of working as a cluster team. Each agent shares responsibility in working with the volunteers and in planning, conducting, and evaluating the educational programs. There are no program boundaries: The small businesses cross the county lines and the agents operate as a four-county team.

An evaluation of the Home-Based Business Network shows, in rank order, that the information and networking are valuable as:

  1. Avenues for building new business relationships and generating leads. The breadth of the background provided offers a basis for making more informed business decisions.

  2. Motivational opportunities for development of personal confidence and job growth.

  3. Opportunities to address common problems and share ideas for solutions.

  4. Educational and training sessions directly related to the needs of a home-based business owner.

Home-based businesses have a definite impact on the economy. According to Bureau of Labor statistics, the average salary for workers who work at home is $14,306 per person (Braus, 1993). By offering leadership and educational information to home-based entrepreneurs, Extension professionals can assist clientele in their survival, growth, and making more knowledgeable business decisions.


Braus, P. (1993). Homework for grownups. American Demographics, 15, 38-42.