Emma Jones - The bright spot...
Being asked to write this column got me thinking about how far home business has come over the past four years. It was in 2005 that I started to research the sector, having started and sold a business from my spare room. With research showing I wasn't the only one heading home to start up, I launched Enterprise Nation, the home business website in 2006. The sector has been growing and developing ever since.
According to our 2008 Home Business Report there are over 2.5m businesses based at home; a 16% increase on the previous year. In May 2009, we took a closer look at another aspect of home enterprise - what we call 'Working 5 to 9' - and estimated 5m people to be holding down a day job and building a business at nights and weekends. Taken together, the figures show just shy of 8m people earning some form of income from home in the UK. Wow.
What's driving this is people's decision to keep costs low, raise income, and have time left over for friends and family. Who needs to rent a second office when the spare room/attic/garden shed will serve just as well? Cutting out the daily commute means earning up to a whole extra day each week and what a wonderful working life when you can earn a living from doing something you enjoy.
Technology has been a key enabler. It's now possible to register a company in the morning and be trading with the globe by midday. Home businesses are growing by adopting low-cost technology tools such as Skype and Twitter that help to communicate your brand while acting as a virtual water cooler.
Home businesses are optimistic about the future. When surveyed in late 2008, 72% said they planned to win new customers in the next six months and 58% were working on developing new products and services. Home businesses are keeping costs low and operating in niche markets; adding up to lots of profitable and successful businesses.
This all has to be good news but the sector has to be encouraged and supported yet further. This can happen through telling the incredible stories of businesses being run behind residential doors. We do this through our annual Home Business Awards and we're delighted that this year the winners of these awards will be announced on the UK's first ever Home Enterprise Day.
Home Enterprise Day will be held on Friday 20 November as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week. The aim of the day will be two-fold; to encourage more people to start a business from home and support existing home businesses to grow. Enterprise Nation will be celebrating with a national conference in London and a UK roadtrip in the lead-up to the day.
It's a day that's been four years in the making and I hope you'll join us to celebrate a sector that has truly become the bright spot of the UK economy.
Emma Jones is founder of the home business website Enterprise Nation, www.enterprisenation.com, and author of Spare Room Start Up - how to start a business from home.