By: Aimee Taylor

Appearing in Posh SEVEN Magazine – Spring 2015

Photo by Angela Goodhart

“Do you work outside the home?” she asks.

“I work at home.”

“Oh, no, I wasn’t implying that being a mom isn’t work…”

“Yes, I know. I mean I work, but do so from home.”

“Wow, what a great arrangement! How did you find such a company?”

“I built it.”

More and more, women are starting their own businesses. A recent poll by PayPal shows that more than half of female entrepreneurs in the United States started their own business in order to achieve a good work/life balance.

The idea of a home business might seem like the best of both worlds: pulling a paycheck while the kids are at school; business owner until 2:30 p.m., then mommy until bedtime. The reality is that building a business from home and achieving that healthy balance is not so easy.

Here are the stories of four local entrepreneurs who have found a way to make it work:

Kim Edwards opened Clarity Health & Healing in October of 2014, providing whole health counseling and Reiki services.

Kim always wanted to start her own company and believes the entrepreneurial gene was passed onto her maternally. While helping friends and family with a variety of health issues, she realized the value she was providing was more than just a listening ear.

With her mother’s inspiration and the strong support of two women business mentors, Kim established Clarity Health & Healing. Initially, her biggest challenge was overcoming the feeling of being overwhelmed with the many tasks required to get a business running. Kim met this challenge by tackling at least one task per day and keeping track of every achievement. Kim’s advice to the would-be business owner is, “Step outside of your comfort zone, even if it’s just a small step. That is where everything happens and is an important part of becoming a successful entrepreneur.”

Susan Harsell started her photography business in November of 2011, providing services to families, kids, and high school seniors.

Having worked in the corporate world, Susan never considered owning a business. But when her kids started school, she wanted flexible options that would allow her control of her own schedule and keep the family as first priority.

Photography was Susan’s hobby. A photographer and friend noticed her talent and encouraged her to start a company, providing industry advice along the way.

As a self-described “recovering perfectionist,” Susan’s challenge of getting started was overcoming the feeling of needing to expertly fulfill all aspects of her craft. Quickly, she met that challenge by creating a niche and unique selling point for her business.

Susan’s advice for the entrepreneur-to-be: “1. Trust your instincts; 2. Do it your way; and 3. Don’t wait for the perfect time.”

Jennifer Arezzo started her own business in 2003. She took a break from 2011 to 2013 and restarted the company in 2013 under a different name. A New Leaf plans weddings, parties, and unique special events.

Jennifer never really thought about owning a business, but looking back she vividly recalls planning themed parties for friends from a young age.

Working as an events manager for her local Chamber of Commerce, Jennifer was surrounded by many small business owners, which sparked her own interest while giving her a good idea of what it took to make it.

As the youngest member of our group, Jennifer found that her biggest challenge was her age. Starting a business at 23 can be frustrating. She met that challenge by surrounding herself with supportive people and quickly proved her doubters wrong.

Brigitta started UNO Translations and Communications in 1998, providing translation and interpretation services in more than 100 different languages, as well as offering services in international business consulting. Brigitta’s love of her native language, combined with experiences seeing her parents struggle to learn English, inspired her to start her business. She turned to the Loudoun Small Business Development Center, as well as the Chamber of Commerce for advice. She also enlisted the services of a business coach, which she found very helpful.

After several years in the corporate world, Brigitta’s biggest challenge was the fear and uncertainty of transitioning from corporate to start-up income. But once the decision was made, she never looked back.

Brigitta’s advice to potential business owners: “Get a business coach, write a business plan, but most importantly, be passionate about what you are doing. Starting your own business involves a lot of ups and downs, and that passion will keep you going throughout it all.”

Setting your own hours to accommodate those volunteer hours for a field trip or being available to help out with schoolwork are benefits of running a business from home. Snow days, sick kids, and large work projects can derail the best-laid plans. Our panel of women entrepreneurs had some great advice for finding and keeping the right balance.

Set working hours. As Kim explains, “I have hours when I am at work and do not allow myself to do housework or errands.”

Manage your weekend. The temptation may be to catch up from lost work over the weekend, but save that time for family, Susan instructs. “The nature of my job means I do work weekends, but I limit it to only one photography session per weekend.”

Take a break when school ends. “I started my company when my kids were teenagers,” recalls Brigitta. “Looking back, that was a really good time to be home with them. I stopped working when they got off the bus.”

Take care of you. Jennifer adds, “Work and family duties can quickly overwhelm, but you should never forget about investing time in yourself. Only if you are healthy can you fulfill both your personal and professional duties.”

If you’re thinking about starting your own business, your best bet is to get expert help early on, according to Robin Suomi, Executive Director of the Loudoun Small Business Development Center. “Too many times, we’ve seen entrepreneurs come in for help after they’ve already established most of the business,” explains Robin. “Even before you’ve chosen your company name, come see us.”

Once you’ve made the decision, reach out to others in the same situation. The home-business owner can find herself in a sometimes lonely world nestled between the stay-at-home mom and the full-time office employee. Networking, trading advice, and exchanging ideas with other home start-ups are other great ways to help keep the balance.

The Secret of “Her” Success