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Home ? The heart of a good business

Cover of  by Emma Jones

Shropshire entrepreneurs have been turning their passions into money-making ventures, as Amy Bould discovered.

Walking into a Shrewsbury book launch in heels and a smart suit, Gwen Howell looks every inch a glamorous and capable businesswoman.

It?s only the tray of sausages that gives away that Gwen is one of the new ?five to niners? ? entrepreneurs holding down a day job and turning their passion into profit at night.

The trend of people starting a business in their spare time was spotted by Shrewsbury entrepreneur Emma Jones, the author of Working 5 to 9, a book which is currently flying off the shelves.

It is a guide to turning a hobby, a passion or a skill into a business and features tales of entrepreneurs, many in Shropshire, working a full day in the office, before embarking on an evening running their own venture.

Gwen, featured in the book, is an estate agent by day and a rare pig breeder at her home in Cardeston by night.

She founded Pigs in Clover in March last year after she and her husband put ten saddlebacks on spare land they owned.

Now Pigs in Clover has more than 100 pigs of a variety of breeds and sells sausages, ham, pork and bacon to local restaurants and online.

She is just one of a number of entrepreneurs to inspire Emma, who started her first home business at the age of 27 before successfully selling it two years later, to write the book.

Emma is the mastermind behind Enterprise Nation, the country?s top website for home businesses which she set up in 2006, and this is her second hit book for kitchen-table entrepreneurs.

Sparked idea

The entrepreneur who held her Shropshire launch at Staples in Shrewsbury this week following a nationwide book tour, says it was the website which sparked the idea for the new book.

?I spotted a trend coming from people on Enterprise Nation who were working a day job and then coming home at night and working on their own business.?

Joining forces with Staples, Enterprise Nation researched the phenomenon and was surprised that only around 51 per cent of ?five to niners? were planning to give up the day job in the next 12 months.

?Research showed that 49 per cent wanted to build up their businesses gradually. We found that 80 per cent of these businesses were selling online and 100 per cent of them were using social media to help build their business.

?I think everyone has an idea for a business and what I?d say is that you are never too young, too old, you?re never too anything to start a business.

?For many the appeal is that they can build a business at night and weekends from a spare room, whilst holding on to a salary. This is low cost and low risk and the very best way to start.

?Our research suggests that by the end of 2010, more than eight million people in the UK will be making some form of income from home ? which is incredible.?

Business planning

As well as a practical guide to running a business in your spare time, the book also features ideas on home business types, opportunities presented through franchises, and tips on business planning.

But Emma says the feedback she has been receiving from readers of the book is that they are inspired by the real-life stories of home entrepreneurs holding down the day job and turning a passion into a business at night.

North Shropshire-based finance director Barbara Steadman is one of the profiles in the book.

By day she?s in the office running the figures, by night she runs Another Gorgeous Day, an online business which sells gifts containing quotes.

From notepads with inspirational words on the front cover, to caps announcing the wearer as a ?Grumpy Old Man?, Barbara?s business is making a profit, but its hard work.

?It?s been lovely setting up the business, it?s a challenge and its a real learning curve.

?I?ve been going seven months and this month I?ve made a profit, which is brilliant.?

And her advice to people wanting to set up a business in their spare time: ?Get your family support in place, realise you can?t do everything all at once, and love it with a passion.?

Shropshire photographer Derek Houghton of Houghton Images is also featured, as is Harriet Easton, an undergraduate running The Rushing Dolls Company promoting Harry?s Beer, a light ale brewed for the female market.

Also in the book, and speaking to an audience at the book launch, was Shropshire-based automotive engineer John Batchelor, who set up as a family business in his spare time.

The website is a one-stop-shop for anyone wanting to learn to drive or find out the best way to go about buying their first car.

?We?ve been doing this for three and a half years and it?s been a slow climb.

?We had a business plan which was wildly optimistic but business is now steadily growing.

?The website provides cars to families, with guides on getting your driving licence, to getting lessons, from choosing your first car to how much it is going to cost.?

Emma, who is already planning a third book, says Working 5 to 9 is also a celebration of what people can achieve by loving and believing in their passion and turning it into a money-making venture.

?There are so many great stories of people building beautiful businesses, I wanted to celebrate the people working this way and help others to do the same,? she says.

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