More Women Becoming Net Entrepreneurs The Buzz


Starting an online business can be a great way to work from home. It can be an especially appealing option for women with children.

Women such as Rose Elliot. She has two children and sells foot jewelry on her Ladybead.com website. Her success shows that an original product that's well marketed can be the foundation for a profitable online business.

"I didn't want to work outside of my home and thought, 'If only there were a way that I could make money from home,'" says Elliot. "I went to the local video store and this girl there was selling beaded jewelry, and I thought, 'I can do that.'

"I started beading for something creative to do with my kids when they were young and found I really had a passion for beading," Elliot adds.

Working from home means you don't have a boss looking over your shoulder. But that doesn't mean you can slack off.

"When you work from home, it is more than full time -- for me it was all the time," says Elliot. "I had to learn not only how to make and promote my website, I also had to create products. I was fortunate to have a husband who supported me."

There are many challenges to having an online business. After deciding on a product or service, you have to reach potential customers. And you still have to pay the bills while your business becomes profitable. That's when it helps to have a supportive (and employed) partner.

"Making ends meet is a big [challenge] for most people," says Elliot. "Another challenge for me was finding something to sell that was unique. I also had to figure out how to get my website listed so that people could find me. When I first started making what I now call barefoot jewelry, people did not know such a product existed, so I had to call them something that people knew existed -- 'anklets.'"

Elliot now sells many different styles of foot jewelry. Her designs are all original, so no one can copy them without her permission.

Elliot is just one of many millions of women who own their own business. There are over 9.4 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. according to the 2015 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report. These women-owned firms employ almost 7.9 million people and have sales totaling $1.5 trillion.

Online businesses can be an especially good fit for women with children.

"I feel personally that they are [well-suited for women], as more women want to be at home with their kids, but with the high cost of living are not able to unless they find a way to make money," says Elliot. "I know that is why I started my home-based online business. Even though times were tough, being able to be there for my children made it worthwhile to me."

Often, an online store can be a great addition to a bricks-and-mortar store. This was the case for Sarajane Fillmore. She already had a physical storefront, selling children's clothes, when she launched her Planet Kid website.

"The storefront still does more sales," Fillmore admits. "When we decided to start the website, it was obviously as a way to expand our sales."

Fillmore has found that many customers use the website as a catalog. They check out online what items the store has to offer. Then they go into the physical store to touch and feel the clothes and make the purchase.

Fillmore spent between $10,000 and $15,000 on her website. "It was a big investment, but it was entirely worth it," she says. "And I think anybody who's starting a business of any type, whether it's a store or a blog, they have to make a big investment in their web presence.

"It's the old adage -- you get what you pay for," Fillmore adds. "It's like having your child make your business cards for you. It's going to look like a child did it and doesn't present a very professional image. In this day and age, it's absolutely necessary to put forward a professional image."

Fillmore estimates that her online sales have earned back the money she spent to build the website.

"I think I've done at least that much in [online] sales since it's been launched," she says.

"What makes it worth it is the face that I'm presenting to the world. People open that website and automatically assume it's a huge, professional, high-end company. It's not as huge as it might appear to be. It's a small store..., but we've got this beautiful, well-executed website."

It's hard for Fillmore to know just how much her online presence has increased her offline sales. But she often gets calls from people who have questions about a product that they're viewing on her website.

"The amount of inquiries I get from the site these days is colossal [compared to] the first few weeks when we were running around to everybody and sending out e-mail blasts to people," she says. "It's amazing how over time, without even doing much work at it, it has seemed to exponentially grow."

Creating websites for people like Fillmore can be a great online business in its own right. And by providing a service rather than a product, you have the advantage of not having to store inventory or worry about shipping.

Sherice Jacob has a website design business. She's been designing websites since high school. She started by marketing herself online and in web design forums.

"Back then I just did purely website design, and I did that for several years, until the competition got really saturated and I had to find a way to differentiate myself from everybody else out there," says Jacob.

"So I kind of shifted from being an all-purpose design person to a website improvement person. [I'm] like a consultant that helps people either take their existing website and make it better, or just start from scratch using the best possible practices."

Jacob now gets a lot of work by word of mouth and referrals.

"All you really need is a handful of really happy, really successful clients, and they'll tell everyone else about you," says Jacob. "And that's primarily the way I get business now. But I'm also in certain marketing forums and places where I know my ideal client would tend to hang out."

Jacob says she often works 12-hour days. But like many people who have their own business, she says the flexibility and satisfaction of being her own boss make it worthwhile.

"With the job market being what it is, I think a lot of people are coming to realize that an online business is not something wild and exotic, it's something that people use to pay the bills, be their own boss, and have a good time at it."

Working at home is not for everyone. Without someone else providing the structure, you need to provide your own. And mothers of small children have additional challenges to deal with.

"I tell every woman who's dissatisfied with her job that she needs to seriously consider taking things online, doing things online," Jacob says.

"I don't have kids, but I can tell you that parents of young children who think that they're going to be able to do this full time have got to be able to manage their time well and have the self-discipline to put in the extra time when it's called for.

"But, absolutely, I think any woman -- anybody -- can make a go of it if they try."

Links

10 Reasons for Women to Start an Internet Business (And One Reason NOT to!)
Read these good points from About.com

Starting an Online Store: The Essential Checklist
Check out these helpful tips

Tips on Choosing a Good Domain Name
How to choose a name that gets results

National Association of Women Business Owners
This association has more than 7,000 members and 80 chapters across the U.S.