Home business owner Mona Mesereau

(WOMENSENEWS)–For Kirsten Thomas, 40, owner of a children’s computer enrichment franchise, delegating is the key to running her home-based business in Lake Forest, Calif. With three children, ages 3 to 11, Thomas hires an assistant to baby-sit and take the kids out so that she is able to concentrate on her work. This also gives her the freedom and flexibility to leave her office and visit clients.

“You can’t be a full-time mom and full-time businesswoman and grow your company,” said Thomas, whose business now boasts 50 clients using her Computertots/Computer Explorer. “You also need to get out of the office and mingle in the business world; after all, home-based doesn’t mean homebound.”

For the estimated 9 million home-based female entrepreneurs like Thomas, launching a business presents unique challenges. In addition to the usual concerns of marketing a start-up and developing a reputation in one’s field, women grapple with two main issues: balancing work and family needs and coping with the isolation of working totally alone.

“You’re not going to be able to be truly successful, especially in the beginning, if you’re running little Johnny to soccer practices and taking Susie to ballet classes during the workday,” said Rudy Lewis, president of the National Association of Home-Based Businesses. Lewis estimated that 70 percent of women entrepreneurs working out of their homes have children living with them.

“You also have to make sure you get out of your office and obtain a circle of colleagues,” he added.

As a rule of thumb, any owner of a business who spends 10 hours or more a week, as do owners of most start-ups, should have pre-school or day care, or at least a baby-sitter, who will take the child or children out of the house, advised Leslie Spencer, founder and director of Home-Based Working Moms. The national organization, based in Austin, Texas, is a professional association and online community of parents who work at home, including about 600 women. It advises: Run your business, don’t let it run you.

Involving Children Helps Them Understand the Importance of Mom’s Business

Some of the most popular fields for new home-based entrepreneurial mothers include coaching, marketing and public relations, World Wide Web design, desktop publishing and career recruiting and consulting, Spencer said.

One way to help children understand the importance of mother’s business is to involve them in some of the tasks. This, of course, will depend upon the child’s age and the type of business. For instance, Mona Mesereau, 40, co-owner of Mesereau Public Relations, pays her children, Mariah, 10, and Michael, 12, to help out. They earn $5 an hour to put labels on envelopes and run them through a postage meter when she has large mailings for clients.

“My kids know that it’s my clients who pay for their clothes and food,” said Mesereau, who has been working out of her Parker, Colo., home for four and a half years. “This allows them to appreciate what I do for a living and not come screaming into my office when I’m on the phone with clients.”

To deal with the second issue, isolation, women need to network and find others to bounce ideas off in order to break up the stretches of working alone, Lewis added. This is especially important if women are leaving a corporate environment, where they were accustomed to working in teams.

Getting Out of the House and Away From the Kids Is Rejuvenating

For Tricia Cetrone, 38, president of Classic Communications Marketing, a home-based public relations and marketing firm in Orinda, Calif., meeting with colleagues and clients at least once a month is essential to maintaining a healthy state of mind.

“While I hate to deal with the traffic of driving into San Francisco, it rejuvenates me to get out of my home and deal with clients in their surroundings,” Cetrone said. “It reminds me that I’m still connected to the outside world.”

Attend classes or seminars as a way to interact with others in your field, recommended Maureen Homenick, 46, president of Any Angle Framing Studio in Huntington, N.Y. In addition, she converses each week with other custom framers through an e-mail network. Homenick has gone one step further, by bringing the public to her door. With a home studio and environment that is appropriate for entertaining, Homenick has hosted fund-raisers and informal classes on home design and decorating.

“Creating these kinds of events has given me a whole new group of friends in my field, whom I can bounce ideas off,” Homenick said. “And, it has helped bring me incremental business.”

Since she started her company five years ago, Homenick also has joined the board of her local chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, which holds monthly evening meetings.

Most organizations, like the national association, have regular meetings and various committees and boards to join, noted Seattle career consultant Deborah Arron. Check the business section of the local newspaper for listings of meetings. Offering to chair a committee or organize a special event means commitment, follow-through and no backing out at the last minute.

Arron also advised women to pay in advance to attend events so that they will feel obliged to go, despite their work, family and other distractions. And, knowing there’s a function to attend will help in better budgeting time during work.

“Many new entrepreneurs have to contend with both isolation and the tendency to work nonstop,” Arron said. “Going to business-related events is both constructive for your business and can keep you from burning out at your desk.”

Laura Koss-Feder is a free-lance business writer in Oceanside, N.Y. She is an expert on small businesses and career and workplace topics. She has written for The New York Times, Business Week, Money, Time and Family Circle.

For more information, visit:

National Association of Women Business Owners:

National Association for the Self-Employed:

Home-Based Working Moms:

National Association of Home-Based Businesses:

WEnews Brief

New Independent Senator Jim Jeffords Is Pro-Choice

(WOMENSENEWS)–New Independent Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont is pro-choice and a strong advocate of reproductive rights, contraceptive coverage and U.S. aid to international family planning programs.

The Republican Pro-Choice Coalition expressed regret Thursday that Jeffords had decided to leave the Republican Party, saying that he was a much-needed voice of moderation. A statement called Jeffords one of the strongest pro-choice voices in the Senate and a valued member of the coalition’s advisory board.

“He is one of the Senate’s strongest supporters of reproductive health issues, and has been a leader in the fight to restore moderation to the Republican Party,” said coalition co-chair Susan R. Cullman. “His departure leaves a big hole in the party.

“His voice and his votes in support of a woman’s right to choose, for equity in prescriptive health coverage and on behalf of the need to lift restrictions on international family planning programs will be sorely missed in the Republican Caucus.”

Executive Director Lynn Grefe of the coalition said Jeffords’ departure “means that GOP moderates will have an increasingly smaller voice in the party. Republican leaders must learn from this if they truly want to stay in the majority.”