By Julie Raque
Since my husband had been killed in an automobile accident in October of 1994, I found myself at the age of 29 (in 1994) being the sole provider to our two children, at the time ages not quite sure what it should be 2 ½ years old. At the time of his death, I was working at a publishing company as their Advertising Manager. I had been promoted twice and was doing quite well. It was in this position that I discovered I was quite good at being a salesperson and my clients loved me.
Four years later I moved me and my two children back to me and my late husbands' home town of Louisville, KY. Where I started freelancing out of my home for a financial planner. It wasn't long until he decided what he really wanted was an office manager. I had become spoiled and enjoyed the freedom that came from working out of my home. No one looking over your shoulder, being in charge of your day, etc. I sat down to read the February '99 issue of Parents Magazine where I saw a story of a woman who started her own community greeting service and was running it out of her home. I had been trying to find a biz that would provide an adequate income as well as allow me to be in control of my day and work around the school schedule. My children (in February '99) were 5 and 7 years old. I had been searching for the "right thing" for a year or so. After reading this article I decided that I could do it too. But I was scared to death! This particular article gave you a number to call to get information on how to buy your individual rights to her company and start your own community greeting service. I called the number and followed the steps to receive a small packet of information. After reading it, I was still scared! I decided to set it aside and come back to it later. About 2 months passed and I was cleaning up my desk area when I stumbled upon this packet. I decided it was time to do it. I sent my money off in an envelope to the instructed address. Thinking I had just sent my hard-earned money off into "no-mans land" , I spent the next week sweating and not eating or sleeping while I waited for my start-up kit to arrive.
Finally it arrived and I was so happy I sat and cried. Included in the start-up kit is a manual that literally lists every step necessary. I decided to follow it step-by-step and when I stumbled upon an obstacle I would take a step back and decide if I should proceed with this venture. That was more than a year and a ½ ago and I'm still going strong! Sure there were obstacles…but nothing big enough to make me rethink my decision. I have never been sorry that I started my home-based biz. There have been days when the kids were sick and couldn't go to school. I was able to simply readjust my biz schedule and dealt with their illness. I didn't have to worry about calling in sick to my employer. What a wonderful feeling! My kids also help me when I'm packing the gift bags full of goodies and making my deliveries. One bag that we delivered to an engaged couple, my kids went with me to the door. After the bride-to-be answered the door and I explained why she was getting the gift bag, she thanked me over and over for it. As we walked back to our car my son said, "Mommy, are they always so happy to get the gift bag?" I answered, "Yes!" I realized at that point how happy this service was making people and I couldn't wait to deliver the next one!
I have found that my best marketing tool has been self-promotion. I have joined two of our local chambers and two other business groups. Most of the groups meet monthly and their main purpose in meeting is to network and pass on WARM, FUZZY referrals. Another one of the groups meets weekly for the sole purpose of networking and referrals. These groups have produced most of my long term clients. I have also found that making my community greeting bags available for door prizes at business functions such as golf scrambles, trade shows, etc. is another GREAT way to market my services and products. It has been through the suggestions of my clients that my business has grown and grown with stability.
I believe whole-heartedly in working a business from your home. If you have the chance or opportunity….GRAB IT! It may take you a few years to generate the income you need, but you will be glad that you got started when you did. My daughter now tells me that she wants to be a Best Wishes lady when she grows up. It was with her comment that I realized I could be creating and setting the foundation for her professional future as well. Not to mention setting an example for both of my kids. That not only do you finish something that you have started but that you can be or do anything that you want! You just have to set your mind to it. Its been six years since my husband passed away, me and my two children have come a long way. Our son is 8 years old and in the honors program at school and our daughter is 6 years old and wants to follow in my footsteps (for now anyway). I know he's proud of us and is supporting my efforts from above. He's been my guardian angel through this whole thing and I'm not about to second guess his guidance.
I hope I have helped someone who is out there debating whether or not to start a home-based biz. All I can say is that its been a decision that I haven't regretted and don't believe I ever will. One measurement that told me that I was doing the right thing is when my friends, clients and family tell me that they are jealous of what I do. I figure if people want what you have, then you must have something pretty good. I am one of the few people that I know that can't wait to get up in the morning and go to work! Can you say that?
Julie D. Raque
Best Wishes of Louisville
Your Community Greeting Service