- an ideal "work-from-home" solution

Despite what many think, starting a business doesn't have to deplete your life's savings. Many successful businesses have been launched from home with a little investment and a lot of determination. Several years ago I launched a Homeowner Referral Network (HRN) business with a $5000 loan from my husband's retirement savings plan. Not only was I was able to repay the loan in less than six months but my business has grown into a cottage industry nationwide grossing more than $2 million in revenue to date.

If you have the desire to start your own business but have limited resources, below are three tips to help you stay on budget:

1. What do you (really) need?

Before you head out to purchase the latest and greatest technology for your home office, assess your needs. Decide what equipment will be essential to your business start-up and then shop around at local retailers for the best price. Basic office equipment generally includes a computer, printer, fax machine, telephone, answering machine, desk and file cabinet. Unless your business is in a computer-related or hi-tech field, chances are that you can do everything you need with your existing equipment, last year's computer model or refurbished equipment that includes a warranty or service contract.

TIP: Computer and office supply stores often offer credit cards with 0% financing for 6 months to one year which will help buy you more time to launch your business and start generating some revenue.

2. Seek out free resources.

Whether you need advice on how to set up your business's legal structure, marketing strategies or accounting techniques there are numerous free resources available for entrepreneurs. Before you invest in costly outside advisors to help you launch your business locate and visit a local SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) chapter in your area. SCORE is a nonprofit association run by volunteer business counselors who donate their time and talent to provide free and confidential business advice to entrepreneurs as a community service. (To find a SCORE chapter near you, visit their website at

The U.S Small Business Administration (SBA) also offers the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Program to provide management assistance to current and prospective small business owners. Entrepreneurs can find an SBDC chapter by visiting the Small Business Administration's website at

Finally, the Internet is an amazing source of information and support. Search online for websites and other business owners in your field. Join chat groups where others in your industry meet to share ideas and offer support to those just starting out.

TIP: Not all resources are free. You may also need to hire professionals with a specific area of expertise (i.e. lawyer, graphic artist, website developer, etc.) to help you with certain aspects of your business. Decide what tasks you can handle on your own and outsource other tasks to people with training in that field. Colleges and Universities or Retirement Centers can also be great places to find new talent or part-time help for your business.

3. Don't overspend on advertising.

Many new business owners invest in expensive advertising campaigns that don't produce results. Paid advertising isn't always the best promotional tool. As a new business owner with limited start-up capital, seek out promotional opportunities for your business that are less expensive or-better yet-free!

For example:

- Contact the Business Editor of your local newspaper and pitch your business to them for a story or offer to serve as an expert for an upcoming story on a topic related to your industry.

- Donate your product/service as a giveaway at a local charity event.

- If you have a website, seek out other businesses with websites that generate traffic from your potential customers and offer to put a reciprocal link your site.

TIP: Networking is an effective and inexpensive way to generate business. Look for opportunities where you can meet other professionals who can help generate word of mouth referrals for your business. Make a list of trade organizations, merchant associations, Chambers of Commerce and/or networking groups in your target market and ask to attend a meeting to see if the group is a good fit for you and your business.

Debra Cohen is President and founder of Home Remedies® of NY, Inc. For more information about the HRN business, visit her website at


3/11 - Renovations, Remodels & Referrals
2/11 - Will Home Improvement Contractors Pay a Commission?
1/11 - Reinventing Your Career
11/10 - HRN Success Story
6/10 - Financing a New Business
5/10 - Busy Home Improvement Season
4/10 - Tax tips
3/10 - Your Way To Work At Home
2/10 - HRN Operating Costs
1/10 - Tips for Success
12/09 - HRN Success Story
10/09 - Work at Home Resources
9/09 - Running Your Business On The Go!
7/09 - Opportunity In Your own Backyard
6/09 - Starting a Home-based Business
5/09 - Finding the Right Home Business
4/09 - Good News
3/09 - HRN Success Story
2/09 - Pitfalls of Working From Home
1/09 Home Improvement Spending Increases
Winter 2009 - Recession Proof Business
Fall 2008 - What's in a Name?
Summer 2008 - Typical Day for an HRN Owner
Spring 2008 - Value of Prescreened Professionals
Winter 2007 - Top Ten Home Based Businesses
Fall 2007 - Finding Good Contractors
June 2007 - Misconceptions About HRN Business
Winter 2007 - Home-based Business Self Evaluation
Fall 2006 - HRN Business Fills a Contractor Need

For more information about starting a Homeowner Referral Network in your area, you may:

Fill out our online form to request more information. Or, call Debra Cohen at (516) 374-8504.

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