By Michelle A. Unger
I started my home business, PC Fundamentals Computer Training, in February 1997, 13 months after the birth of our first child, Matthew. I had always wanted to be my own boss since a very young age and often told my parents how one day I would start a business. I was the kid on the block who had to be the organizer, whether it was the neighborhood lemonade stand or our latest "off-Broadway" production in my best friend’s garage. In many ways, the decision to be my own boss came about quite naturally.The job I presently held was uninspiring. Although I worked alone muchof the time without direct supervision (that’s the part I enjoyed), I never really gained acceptance by my colleagues who did not understand what I was responsible for. Most of them were career insurance people for most of their lives. The company was in the process of re-organizing and really did not know what to do with the talent right in front of them. My position as a Sales/Marketing Coordinator allowed me flexibility and creativity. I was responsible for promotionalmailings, some cold calling and also had the opportunity to get my hands on the latest and greatest software at my request. The position wascreated by the person before me after she was promoted to Sales. Still, something was missing. A challenge, maybe. Also, it was annoying when Iwould get stuck with receptionist duties because my job was more flexible than most. So I just worked, not really with my whole heart. I became pregnant with my son and was eagerly awaiting motherhood. I knew I wanted to nurse him for as long as possible so I began to make plans for my return and a revised schedule about a month before my due date. I also trained someone to take my place while on maternity leave and I notified all pertinent parties of my due date and anticipated return. After my son was born, I was hoping to have some flexibility with my hours, allowing time to pump my milk and I suggested four -10 hour days with Fridays off, since that day was usually the slowest of the week. A friend at another of our office locations was able to do that after her son was born. I was dumbfounded when my human resource manager told me they were going to eliminate my position. First it was to be in 4 months. Then, it was suggested that I accept a layoff. Part of me still feels that my position on nursing my child had a direct influence on what they were willing to do. So, I accepted it as a blessing in disguise and took my layoff and happily spent the summer at home with my son. I received information of an interesting program about 2 months into my unemployment compensation. The New York State Department of Labor was sponsoring a pilot program on how to start your own business. They would continue sending my benefits while I would be relieved of looking for work. I had to participate in numerous workshops and seminars and was able to meet many fascinating people who started their own businesses, many on a shoestring. We also had to seek business counseling and I attended several sessions with a counselor at the Small Business Development Center at the college where I had received my B.A. in Sociology. Thirteen months later (and many ideas later) I was in business. I decided to become involved in Computer Training because I felt I was good at it and also at making people feel comfortable while learning. I knew many of the popular programs and was pretty savvy at learning what I didn’t know. I also took a few classes at a local University to brush up on some advanced topics. I also started teaching at the elementary school my husband attended as a child this past September to supplement our income. I am the computer teacher for grades 2 - 8 for 2 ½ days a week. Very challenging but also very much inline with my home-based business goals. To date, I have had 2 major jobs of 20 or more students at two local businesses. I have also had some luck with smaller offices of 3 - 5 staff personnel. I have recently decided to focus in on Moms as a target group for training. I developed the school’s first-ever technology plan and we will be hooking up to the Internet soon. Many of the parents I spoke with are terrified of the Internet but would like to be able to know what their children are doing. I am busy preparing flyers and contacting local parenting organizations and mom’s groups to see if I can put on a presentation at an upcoming meeting. I enjoy what I do, and I enjoy the time I have with my husband and family. I feel we have the right balance of home and work. I schedule my training for when my husband is at home to care for our son, if at all possible. We also send Matthew to a children’s center twice a week and my mother-in-law is always there in a pinch. My husband enjoys his work and helps me with mine, when he can. Sometimes, it is difficult to take or make phone calls when my son is home and awake but I do the best I can. We struggle a bit financially, and would like to own our first home soon. I am hopeful that money will not be much of an issue in the not too distant future. My husband supports my dream and is thrilled that our son is so happy and secure and that we both get to spend as much time with him. A word to the wise - make sure that you plan carefully. I made the mistake of having great ideas but not having a business plan. It’s like taking a trip across the U.S. without having a road map. It’s spontaneous, but not very practical. Especially when unexpected bills crop up and you have to withdrawal from your personal checking account. I am in the process of revising my business plan and hope to have it completed soon.
Thank you for letting my tell my story.
Michelle A. Unger