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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Homepreneurs doing it their way

By Linda White
Special to The Toronto Sun

Trading in an executive position with one of Canada's leading clothing retailers to launch a new business was a decision of the heart for Theresa Chan, who sought a creative outlet that would afford her independence and freedom.
"It has given me the flexibility to work in family things when I need to," says Leslie, homepreneur and founder of LASH Communications Group.

For Leslie Hetherington, operating a home-based communications consultancy company was more of an evolution, as she took on more and more freelance projects in addition to working full time at Hunter-Lavigne, a public relations company. She continues to juggle both roles.

Chan and Hetherington are among a growing number of 'homepreneurs' -- entrepreneurs who create and manage home-based businesses. According to Human Resources Development Canada, more than two million Canadian households are involved in home-based businesses, due largely to the affordability of personal computers, modems and fax machines.

The reasons for starting a home-based business are as varied as business ideas themselves, reports Ed Hobbs, general manager at the Toronto Business Development Centre (

Whatever your motivation, the viability of your venture is key to your success. "Is your idea a growth idea?" asks Hobbs, who advises you to conduct market research.

Determine if you can support yourself (through your spouse or savings) for up to two years as your venture gets off the ground, Hobbs recommends. Take courses that will help you tackle the many challenges you'll face along the way.
Homepreneur Theresa Chan, founder of Fruition Sense, a keepsake company specializing in wedding planning books and shadow boxes.

"The seed was always there to have my own business," says Chan, who took career counselling and entrepreneurship courses before launching Fruition Sense (, a keepsake company that specializes in wedding planning books and shadow boxes.

Like many entrepreneurs, Chan recognized the economic benefits of running a business from home. "I had already invested quite a lot of money into the development of products, so it was an economical decision," Chan says.

While Chan appreciates the flexibility that comes with operating her own business, she is mindful of its many demands. "You need to be very self-motivated and be able to juggle because you wear all these different hats," says Chan, pointing to her roles as Webmaster, accountant, marketer and writer.

Balancing those tasks often means long hours. "You need to build your schedule not around what you want to do but what you need to do," Hobbs says. "You also need to let your family know that there is a division between your job and family life."

That division is best achieved with a separate office, where you can focus on the task at hand in a professional environment. When Hetherington established LASH Communications Group, she set up an office in the basement of her home, but didn't feel most productive there.

"I found it too dark and gloomy,"

Hetherington says. "I've moved to a front room where there's a lot of sunlight. If I wanted to bring a client in here, it would be okay." Having a separate office allows you to close the door at the end of the day.

"It's hard to shut it off," says Hetherington, who makes a conscious decision to leave her work to spend time with her family. "There's a perception that you're not really working when you have a home-based office, but I think your clients get better value because you're so focused."

Admittedly, being able to motivate yourself when you feel overwhelmed or dejected can be a challenge. "Fortunately,

I thrive off the satisfaction of my work," Hetherington says. "You have to dig into your reserves. You don't have those sounding boards there when things get tough. And when you want to celebrate, you don't have that camaraderie."

But for many homepreneurs, the pros of working from home far outweigh the cons. "It has given me the flexibility to work in family things when I need to," Hetherington says. "For me, the best time is when there's a snowstorm. I enjoy a certain degree of happiness when I know I don't have to spend hours in traffic to get to work."

(Linda White is a freelance writer based in Brooklin, Ont. and can be reached at

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