Moving Forward Positively
in Your Homebased Business
This historical yet timely article offers perspective from some of Barbara’s subscribers on how they were adapting to changing Covid-19 conditions in the fall of 2020 and their plans for moving forward. It features current home-business stats and business perspective with tips and article links of interest to anyone working at or from home base.
WHEN I PUBLISHED my Covid-19 story in August 2020, I asked my readers to share what they were learning from this life-shattering experience. In particular, I asked home business owners and self-employed individuals to tell me about the status of their business. The silence was deafening.
I could only conclude that most home-business owners had lost all or most of their business income and didn’t yet have a plan for moving forward. My hope then was that the determination they once had to start and succeed in a business of their own had not taken flight, and that they’d donned their “thinking cap” and were looking for new ways to use their special skills, ideas, know-how, and lifetime of experience in what was a totally different country than the one we had in 2019.
Today, as you continue to move forward in your business endeavor, you may need to repeatedly ask yourself how you might translate your “personal assets” into products and services others will need, not only in these uncertain economic times but for years to come. Now more than ever you also need to focus on finding all the POSITIVE things in your life that you can bank on emotionally until America finds its footing again and returns to something resembling “normal.”
In mid-2021, I began to believe we were almost there with the vaccine and facemasks coming off, but it seems like the future is likely to be two steps forward and then a step back a while longer—maybe, given the current economy and with Covid still hanging over our heads, for much longer than any of us anticipated.
Of course America and the world at large will never be the same as it once was, and the journey between now and what’s going to happen in the months and years ahead is as unpredictable as the next earthquake. But I was encouraged to learn that many new entrepreneurs were starting up companies as unemployment rose in 2020. According to the Census Bureau, 111,680 new applications were filed to start new businesses the week of August 10, 2020. (Source: “Pandemic Startup Surge, by the Numbers.”)
Something else happening then that gave us a clue about what the “new economy” would be like was that corporate America began to downsize office space to save money because more companies were finding ways for many employees to do their jobs from home. It was thought then that within two years 30 percent of workers would be working remotely multiple days a week. But I just found a 2020 article on the “end of the office as we know it,” stating, “34 percent of Americans who previously commuted to work report that they were working from home by the first week of April (2020) due to the coronavirus.” (A search for “end of the office as we know it” is now turning up an unbelievable number of web pages containing those words.)
With more people now working from home, there may be a greater demand for highly skilled office workers, which suggests that now is a good time for unemployed workers to become more proficient in some areas or add new skills to their resume. This might also lead some to consider starting a business at home. (For expert how-to guidance, see my Home Business articles archive for some of my best advice on starting, managing, marketing, and expanding a business at home.)
Home-Business Stats for 2021
THERE ARE COUNTLESS statistic-related articles for “small businesses,” but very few for “home businesses.” The SBA tells us there are now 15 million homebased businesses, which prompted me to check the stats I published in the last (2003) edition of Homemade Money. I wrote then, “Depending on whose statistics you wish to believe, there are 16 to 27 million homebased businesses today, and they are not only an important economic revitalization tool in both urban and rural areas, but also the lifestyle of choice for millions of Americans.”
You might find it interesting to compare the SBA stats I reported in 2003 to those being reported in 2021 in the two statistic-laden home-business articles I’ve linked you to below. In 2003, the SBA’s Office of Advocacy did a study that provided a detail-rich portrait of the homebased sector of the economy. Average receipts then were in the $40,000 range, and the SBA stated that 53 percent of all small businesses were homebased. The Department of Labor reported that “some 60 percent of all businesses” were being started at home. But no one knew then how many people were working at home for others versus how many actually owned part- or full-time businesses of their own.
Last year I could only hope that many home-business owners who were selling through their own website or some other web venue would report that they’d found ways to keep generating income by offering new products or services dealing with the new needs of folks in quarantine. And maybe some did that, but few reported to me what was working for them in August 2020 or what they were planning to do in the future.
Etsy Sellers and Shoppers
I DID LEARN that some Etsy sellers did very well, especially those making face masks. More than 12 million masks were sold during April, which doubled the company’s sales and caused its stock to rise significantly as people began to buy other things there, such as garden plants and seeds, sewing materials, and kitchen supplies.
With millions of people out of work and collecting unemployment insurance, the buying audience many business owners were counting on before the pandemic automatically dwindled a bit. But I reminded my readers then that America has always had millions of people who are well-to-do and shop online every day for every little thing their heart desires, even if the country is in a recession, a depression, or a pandemic.
Last year I chatted with a friend specializing in prints who originally sold through her own website for years. She greatly cut her overhead costs (and stress) by closing her website and setting up an Etsy shop focusing on a new line of prints appealing to a targeted market. Clearly this is a time when all home-business owners need to think about how to keep doing what was successful for them in the past, but changing directions a bit either by selling in a different way and/or offering a different line of products or services.
Consumer Online Shopping Habits
I DIDN’T BUY MUCH ONLINE until Covid forced me to do this. Previously I’d only bought office supplies, cat food and litter, and an occasional gift online, with frequent book purchases from Amazon. But I quickly learned how to order groceries online for drive-by pickup, and when Amazon started offering free shipping with any order over $25, I became a regular shopper there, buying many things I used to buy at Walmart, Home Depot, Hobby Lobby, Joann, and other retail stores. Now I’d feel lost without the ease and comfort of shopping online because it has changed my life and been a real blessing to me. This not only kept me safer during the worst of the pandemic but was easier than going out and then lugging everything to the car and into the house. Now I just drag boxes into the garage from the front steps.
Of course many retail shops and stores closed in 2020, with 14 iconic retailers falling into bankruptcy. For some eye-opening statistics and other articles on this topic, just search for “how many companies went out of business in 2020.” One article I noted said that in an ordinary year, some 600,000 establishments close each year, but in 2020, there were 200,000 more than usual, with the good news being that “Federal Reserve economists suggest small-business failures due to the coronavirus pandemic were fewer than some predicted,” which suggests to me that most business owners who were already working at or from home base fared quit well.
As I updated this article, I wondered who was shopping online this year. In searching for the latest stats, I found an article on how Covid has transformed consumer spending habits (article link below). It offers interesting perspective on what people bought most (and stopped buying) during the lockdown and how e-commerce has surged worldwide and prompted many businesses to rethink their e-commerce plans.
The Comeback of Sewing and Crafts
I TALKED TO Terrie Kramer of Moose Country Quilts in late 2020 about her online sales situation. “Not much happening with classes,” she said. “Taught a few women about their sewing machine and gave them some lessons, but I don’t have much to sell now. So I’m trying to get more products online and figure out how to set up online quilting classes and offer some PDF patterns that can be downloaded.”
2021 UPDATE: When I called to see how much progress Terrie had made, she said, “My local students struggle with internet connectivity, so most are not able to even consider online classes. I am looking to expand my student reach to a new audience and teaching in person as COVID restrictions allow. The theme is continually to adjust and adapt.”
It was my first chat with Terrie that led me to research what was happening in the world of sewing. Interestingly, the pandemic-fueled demand for face masks reignited interest in home sewing in both Canada and America. That’s when many women like me took the cover off our sewing machine and went online to look for face mask patterns and had fun making them for ourselves and friends. In so doing, I suddenly realized how much I’d missed sewing.
I made all my dresses and suits for ten years when I was working in offices in Chicago’s loop in the 50s and 60s, then sewed countless things throughout my life with Harry—all on an Aldens portable machine I bought in the fifties that came with a lifetime guarantee. (It still does all I need it to do and will outlive me.) I stopped sewing when Harry died and didn’t pick it up again until last March. I’ve since purchased several sewing aids and have a stash of fabrics and some patterns for things I want to make as time allows.
Many women in self-quarantine began to grab older machines their owners no longer wanted while others suddenly decided they wanted a new one. Soon retailers were running out of new machines to sell and sewing machine manufacturers were rushing to build new ones. As explained in the article, “Sewing and Crafts Blossom during the Pandemic,” sewing machines were in short supply in 2020, “even those that were relegated to the trash or donated to Goodwill.”
By the way, 2020 was dubbed “The Year of the Sewing Machine.” This article says “the sewing machine may soon become as common as the computer.”
Bottom line? Anyone with something to sell online to crafters and sewers will likely find a good market now and for years to come. And if you can offer personal sewing, quilting, or how-to craft lessons in your home, you might be surprised by how many women in your area would like to take lessons from you.
Covid Perspective from Readers
MY HIGH SCHOOL CHUM, Glen, wrote: “I just read your latest bulletin and must tell you that I found myself nodding and bobbing in agreement to all you said. In the 1970s the Air Force invested in me with a year of education at Air University, Maxwell AFB, AL and at Auburn University for a master’s degree. We were then in a thing called the ‘Cold War,’ and part of our studies were about the Soviet Society—i.e, state-run media and the propagandizing of the citizens by Pravda and Izvestia. I now feel like Soviet Citizens must have felt: ‘highly propagandized.’
“Life in North Texas sounds similar to yours. Today is the 142nd day since the shut-down order, the 92nd day since Governor Abbot’s partial open-up, and the 34th day since the Governor’s pause order, but who is counting? I continue to research and write about the past and write short stories for my kids. I have attached one for your amusement.”
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A FRIEND IN CALIFORNIA who requested anonymity wrote in August: “I come to the present time from a place a bit different than most Americans. English is my second language, and I’m a naturalized citizen. In recent days, I’ve had a rather personal reminder about the depravity of human nature.
“When I was four or five living with my parents near post-WWII Munich, one day they pointed out to me the main Munich train station. It had been a great hub for travelers all over Europe. On that day it was empty. Charred concrete and steel beams rose up from the black ground. It had been targeted by Allied carpet bombing and still sat ‘as is’ five or six years later.
“About a month ago, we had a peaceful protest in a suburb of San Diego that I visit often. It’s a town called La Mesa, middle class with a nice downtown area of various businesses. Two of those are banks, Wells Fargo and Chase. By the end of the peaceful protest, many stores had been looted empty, many windows had been smashed, and several people had been beaten within an inch of their lives. And . . . the two whole blocks on which the banks sat had been burned to the ground, except for blackened concrete and steel sticking up. Later and today when I drive by, they remind me of the bombed out Munich train station.
“Good people must respond. Often bad people will scatter like cockroaches when the kitchen light goes on. A lumber yard sits across the street from one of the burned out banks. The yard called in some of the workers, and they stood on the perimeter, no doubt each holding a tool or board of choice. The lumber yard, literally across the street from one of the burned out banks, remained untouched.
“I hope we find our bearings and check the ugliness. I am heartened by the TV ratings of the opening games of the NBA and MLB. Those businesses have been pandering to BLM and/or China for months. But it seems sports fans don’t want to watch. I’m a rabid sports fan but have not watched a single minute of NBA or MLB games this season.”
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IN MAY WHEN CHATTING with my friend Gayle, I told her that I’d felt called to start phoning old friends I hadn’t talked to for a long time. At that time, I found that several were having serious medical issues, some were dealing with loved ones with Alzheimer’s, and three widows had recently lost their spouse and were in deep grieving mode. Some of my older women friends were simply lonely because they’re living in isolation and couldn’t have people in their home or go out without fear of catching the Virus. The worst is over now, but I continue to call those on my special-friends list periodically, and it’s always uplifting to me to hear the surprise and delight in their voices when they answer.
I ask them to tell me how they’re doing, and I update them on my activities as well. I’ve found that some people just need a listening ear once in a while when they’re dealing with a new problem or “life development.” I always try to have a little story to share with them—something that might make them laugh—and an encouraging Bible verse too. After receiving my “Reflections on Covid-19” Bulletin last August (linked to below), Gayle encouraged me by writing:
“I think you’ve documented a significant event in history through your August Bulletin, and I liked that you used the song lyrics in it. I do thank you that I was one of the people you called last spring. It was so good to hear from you. During the summer I started seeing signs of stress in myself from being isolated. Then I met with a woman I didn’t know very well and was able to encourage and pray with her. It gave me a surprising lift and helped me feel more normal again. We need each other. Remember that your words have power. Often what you say to someone is like throwing a rock in the water and seeing how it ripples the water.”
How to Change the World
WHAT BETTER WAY to close this message than with something that will make wading through it worth while. I’m linking you to an outstanding and uplifting, motivational six-minute video excerpt from a speech by US Navy Admiral William McRaven for a graduating class in Austin Texas in 2014. It begins, “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”
This is a powerful reminder that the little things in life matter, and as Admiral McRaven says, “If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never do the big things right.” I guarantee that his words will inspire you to the point of bringing tears by the time you reach the end. It will give you renewed hope for the future and a way to look anew at your life as you move forward.
Thoughts to Ponder
as you look back to 2020 and ahead to a future you cannot yet see clearly
“Whether you are happy or not depends to some degree upon outward circumstances, but mostly it depends how you choose to look at things yourself, whether you measure what you have or what you have not. Before you pity yourself, take a great deal closer look at others and then decide with whom you would, or could, change places, and what sacrifice of your nature you would be prepared to make in order to do so.” – Anne Perry, The Face of a Stranger (the first William Monk novel)
“What changes the world? The only thing that really changes the world is when somebody gets the idea that love can abound and can be shared.” – Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood)
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths”
(Proverbs 3: 5-6; NKJV).
Adapted from Barbara’s October 2020 Brabec Bulletin.
Copyright © 2020-2021 by Barbara Brabec.
Related Article by Barbara:
Reflections on Covid-19: My Story of Adaptation, Change, and Acceptance. Adapted from the August 2020 Brabec Bulletin.
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