When Dennis Anderson was asked if he considered himself more of an artist or an entrepreneur, he thought for a moment and replied, “Well, somewhere in between. I like creating things.” Anderson has achieved what so many Americans crave: he has turned his craft—organic soap making, or saponification—into a profitable business from his home. Anderson Soap Company launched in 2007 in his California apartment, and has since moved into a rented house in Portland, Oregon, where he lives with his fiancée and children. Anderson, who started out as an accounting major in college, fell in love with soap making after taking a chemistry course that taught him the process. He has sold soaps to buyers in all 50 states and distributes internationally to Malaysia, Singapore, France, and Sweden.
The children’s clothing industry is a multi-billion dollar market, and a recent surge of interest for specialized kid's gear has given companies like Monkey Toes, a Colorado-based venture run by Jenny Ford, a niche in this burgeoning market. Monkey Toes is a line of animal and insect-themed footwear for children. Ford started the company in 2002 after drawing designs on her daughter’s shoes. “I thought, ‘Oh, that’s cute,’” Ford recalls. “I fell in love with it.” She chose to keep her business at home to be able to spend more time with her two young daughters, but lack of an office hasn’t stymied the growth of the brand. Ford currently distributes in stores all over the world, and recently signed a new distribution deal that will take the product into the hands of 100 representatives around the country.
Kene Turner understands the value of building a better business. After all, that's his job. The mission of EpiLife is to help organizations achieve social responsibility by implementing special project-based initiatives within their communities. Before launching EpiLife, Kene worked for the YMCA of New York, where he taught youth entrepreneurial programs. EpiLife is based out of Turner's home in New York City, and represents his desire to give back to the community that helped him in his own childhood. “When I was a teen I lost my mom to cancer,” he says. “I never knew my father. I was a child in transition. I had family, but not much. The ones that really helped me were members of the community...and it was that message that I want to implement into a venture or business.”
Ann Whitley Wood is an attorney-turned-entrepreneur who saw a market for designer goods and collectibles on eBay nearly 10 years ago. In what started out as a hobby, Wood now manages over 350 listings on eBay through her store Willow-Wear, and works with about 40 clients on any given day from her home in Texas. In 2010, Wood sold over 1,100 items for about $450,000—making her one of eBay’s true “powersellers.” Though she does not keep inventory in her house, working from home has been an integral part of her business. “I had to be able to sell on eBay from home, in between taking care of my children and managing the rest of life,” Wood says. To be successful as an eBay entrepreneur, Wood says you must have an acute understanding of your product, as well as your competition.
Wedding dresses are bought (one hopes) only once, making them one of the most expensive purchases in a woman's life. So Emily Newman thought, why not buy second-hand? “I saw a need where women my age were dealing with a lot of the same things,” says Newman, the founder of the Once Wed, an online wedding community, based in Atlanta. “They didn’t have a huge budget, but they still wanted to wear a beautiful dress.” So Newman and her husband, who works in online advertising, teamed up to launch Once Wed, a site for brides-to-be. The site has grown from a used dress listing service to the be-all resource for brides, similar to TheKnot.com. Once Wed puts together inspiration guides and a popular blog, which helps drives traffic to the site.
NetFoliage is a web development company that creates web sites for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and artists. It’s also one of a growing number of web development companies that specialize in building e-commerce sites and online stores for social networking sites like Facebook. Nizam, who is originally from Istanbul, has been based out of his Brooklyn apartment since he launched the company in 2007—and plans to stay in his home, too. “Honestly, it didn’t even occur to me to rent an office,” he says. “I didn’t have the time or the need to think about. I would never do it—it’s becoming a lifestyle. I can go on vacation without worrying about anything. I turn off my phone and the business is closed.”
You don't need to attend a BlogHer Convention to realize that "mommy bloggers" are a force to be reckoned with. Michelle Mitton was one of the first "mommy bloggers" to make a name for herself and her blog Scribbit, almost six years ago. In 2008, she was selected by The Wall Street Journal as one of the top ten blogs about motherhood, and her site attracts nearly 60,000 page views every month and 2,300 daily subscribers. Mitton publishes recipes, household tips, product reviews, and has even written a book about blogging, all from her home in Alaska. “With so many blogs out there, you have to be the ‘purple cow' as Seth Godin talks about. I try to diversify my topics a bit—I even have a few men [readers].”
Chris McCann (pictured) and Brendan McManus launched StartupDigest.com as a resource for entrepreneurs looking to get involved in their community and connected with other entrepreneurs. The site has seen remarkable growth; in just a little over a year, the site has grown to 100,000 subscribers and has spread to over 50 cities. And though the content reaches people all over the world, McCann and McManus rarely have to leave their house in Palo Alto, California. “When you’re on a shoestring budget, and if the deciding factor is to spend money to get the office or spend money and do the marketing and get the product out there, do all that stuff first,” says McCann. “An office should not be high on your lists of priorities.”
Ann Gaffigan felt that there needed to be more mainstream media coverage of women’s sports. So, about two years ago, she teamed up with two co-founders to launch WomenTalkSports.com, an online network that has become one of the most thorough purveyors of women’s sports news. “We didn’t research the market for this,” Gaffigan says from her home in Kansas. “It just came from our belief that something like this really needed to happen, and we want the next generation to see positive female role models.” There are over 100 websites that link to WomenTalkSports.com, and about 70 bloggers on the site. While the site's traffic varies depending on the season, the site swells when national competitions are brought to the spotlight. During the Vancouver Olympics, for example, the site had over a million visitors.
Who said custom designed shirts had to be expensive? Blank Label is a Boston-based start-up that allows users to design custom dress shirts, choosing the fabric, pattern, buttons, and size, for a modest price under $100, depending on the extras. Blank Label was created by Danny Wong (center) and three co-founders (and classmates) in the summer of 2009. After a brief period of incubation by their college, Babson, the team chose not to take on an office lease. “It worked better for us,” says Wong. “We didn’t want to pay for office space.” The founders lived together in Shanghai for several months, developing relationships with suppliers and working out of their living room. At one point, they were operating with members based from home in three different time zones around the world, but Wong says it’s never been a problem.
Stacy Blackman knows what it takes to get into one of the nation’s top MBA programs. Blackman, a who received her own MBA at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, turned her passion for helping students gain admission into MBA programs into her full-time job after years working in private equity. “When I first started my business, I wasn’t trying to start a business; I was just doing something I really enjoyed.” Now, Stacy Blackman Consulting has turned into one of the premier MBA international consulting firms, with clients and consultants based all over the world. Blackman has even graced the cover of Fortune, and published a book titled The MBA Application Roadmap.