Young: One aspect of economic picture is not in focus

Now, almost seven years after coming to the Okanagan, I continue to not experience a game plan of help for home entrepreneurs.

Homepreneurs—OK, I admit I love this coined label for home-based entrepreneurial ventures of which I’m told there are thousands in the Okanagan Valley.

For the first few years after we moved here in 2006, I was informed that studies were commissioned by the Economic Development Commission and Business Development Bank that displayed several thousand home-based ventures occupied our regional communities.

Pretty impressive except I have not discovered what collaborative regional assistance and guidance has arisen to assist these genuine entrepreneurs in their travels.

Now almost seven years later, I continue to not experience a game plan of help, which prompts me to ask why?

Let’s be honest—homepreneurs, small business venturists running viable enterprises out of their homes, are always going to be in need of entrepreneurial resources.

Some such as interior designers, musicians, personal care, electronic programmers and marketers perform their core services elsewhere.

Others like writers, artists or online retailers, do the majority of their work at home.

In either case, they seem to share a key common denominator—their headquarters, their operational control centre is based in their home.

Anything new hompreneurs I have discovered over the years in my Canadian travels is based in their homes, bedrooms, garages to barns, or a studio.

What’s more, they’re building successful ventures that provide at least 50 per cent of their household income by selling products and services not just locally in our Okanagan region, but both nationally and globally.

I have been told by various small business organization gurus that homepreneurs total over 43 per cent of the total mass in the small business world. In the past, homepreneurs were rarely regarded as significant players in the Canadian economy. Boy, how that has changed!

Instead, the common perception that I have heard many times in my adult life across this nation is that home-based ventures  are merely “hobbies or side businesses” contributing little to the owner’s income or the overall regional economy.

I, for one, do not agree with this outlandish statement.

Home-based ventures are important for a number of reasons in our beloved Okanagan region.

First, homes increasingly serve as a do-it-yourself step in venture creation incubators, providing a low-cost and convenient home to test-market the plethora of venture ideas that fall its way.

Most knowledge-based small business venture ideas can be started at home with just a personal computer, printer and an Internet connection.

For unintentional entrepreneurs in particular—people who turn to self-employment due to job loss—small home-based ventures provide a way to get their ventures actually going and off the ground.

What’s more, entrepreneurs hoping to build larger ventures also often start their businesses at home.

A recent study in North America, about 50 per cent of the growth-oriented small businesses started were initially home-based.

Even smaller, part-time hobby or sideline ventures play an important part in the overall Canadian economy.

Believe it or not, but even if not generating a majority of the household income, these hobby homepreneurs still augment family income and provide opportunities for work/life balance that might be unavailable elsewhere.

A number of trends and Canadian economic shifts are likely to accelerate the growth of home-based ventures particularly in the Okanagan.

1. The lower costs and risks associated with launching a home-based venture. The global Internet and new, lower cost technologies have truly made  beginning home-base businesses easier and cheaper than ever before.

2. Demographic and social shifting—aging baby boomers, women, Gen Y and others are all seeing home-based ownership as an increasingly viable work option.  An interest in achieving work/life balance, flexibility, the opportunity passion and working for yourself are some of the reasons for launching a home venture.

3. Lack of corporate jobs. Large corporations have been battered by the recession. Even if the economic recovery is strong, it is unlikely that these companies will dramatically increase hiring. Instead of hiring full-time personnel, they will stay flexible and lean through the increase use of technology, contractors, partnership and outsourcing. As a result, starting a home- based venture will be the best, and in many cases, the only option for corporate refugees.

I am seeing clearly, my regional economic development homies, that homepreneurs play a crucial role in income, jobs, and venture creation. It is truly time they got the respect they deserve.

Below are some statistics produced by a recent study that help illustrate who makes up Okanagan homepreneurs:

• tend to be male, middle-aged

• 69% male, 31% female

• 88% are non-minorities, 11% minorities

• 52% over 55 and only 6% under age 35

• 46% completed university or college

The upshot of all that is an analysis of the index revealed that homepreneur ventures are truly as competitive and, yes, successful, as businesses located outside the home.

Homepreneurs and non-home based entrepreneurs scored roughly the same across the sub-indices of competitiveness

Now, we know that homepreneurs ventures provide employment and income to their owners, but more than that, they also provide a significant number of jobs.

In fact, half of all homepreneurs have employees.

So homepreneurs are operating significant ventures that are as successful as non- home-based ventures.

Even more noteworthy, their home-based businesses are important contributors to employment and the overall Okanogan economy.

Please believe it, because it’s true.

And, due to everything from advances in technology to demographic and economic shifts, the number of homepreneurs is likely to surge dramatically over the next few years.

What a powerful statistic here at home to consider a tremendous abundance of home-based venturists that are here to add value to our region and, yet they’re not being synthesized to our existing economic development organizations.

Frankly, that saddens me.

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