A deluge of people are creating home-based businesses and "virtual" companies with their colleagues working out of their own homes across the country oreven around the world. It can be heady stuff, but it also can be painfully isolating. The key to staying sane is to network.

Vivian Shimoyama, proprietor of Breakthru Unlimited, a jewelry business, in Manhattan Beach, Calif., is so busy making contacts, joining groups, chairingmeetings, collecting business cards, and augmenting her already voluminous database of names that she rarely has a moment to worry about it. "I don't havetime to feel lonely," says Shimoyama, who boasts an electronic Rolodex of more than 10,000 names.

"I have a database of every person I've ever met at a conference or meeting," Shimoyama says. Her process after meeting people is tofollow-up, call, get together for a meeting, then let the relationship germinate--or not. "It's got to be reciprocal," she says. "I've got to think, to whom can Iintroduce them?" The process is exhausting, but Shimoyama believes she wouldn't have a business without it. "If you go solo and you're not willing to dothis," she says, "you're not willing to be in business. You can't survive in solitary confinement."