In 2003, DeSoto County resident Marynelle Taylor printed some personalized candy-bar wrappers for her family reunion. The wrappers were such a hit that she decided to launch a home-based business printing custom-made labels for weddings, businesses, or school groups.
Seven years later, that business — Many Neat Things — is as successful as ever. Though Taylor, a member of the local Home-Based Business Chamber of Commerce, also works a full-time job at FedEx, her side business supplements her income.
"In the last year or so, my business has grown, and that's kind of unique with the economy like it is," Taylor said. "I think it's because what I do is affordable, and I don't have minimums. People don't have to order a hundred wrappers at a time."
Taylor also credits her success to the increased networking opportunities provided by the two-year-old, Memphis-based Home-Based Business Chamber of Commerce, one of the first such organizations in the country.
Memphian Beverly Anderson, an independent bookkeeper for small businesses, community churches, and nonprofits, launched the chamber in November 2008 after she realized such an organization didn't exist. Though there's a Memphis chapter, the group Anderson launched was intended to be a national organization.
"There was a chamber to represent everybody except for the independent entrepreneur," Anderson said.
Two years later, the local chapter boasts 55 members, and four other home-based chamber chapters have sprung up in cities across the country.
This month, the national group is launching a Home-Based Business Institute, which offers training and development for new and existing at-home entrepreneurs. Classes will be offered in various physical locations as well as online. Dates are posted on homebasedbusinesschamber.com as they are announced.
"People are coming back to home-based businesses to survive, because the corporate structure as we know it is going out," Anderson said. "People still have to eat after they lose their job. They have to figure out how to make money to provide for themselves and their families."
Besides offering classes, the chamber also hosts networking events to encourage home-based business owners to meet others. It also offers entrepreneurs a chance to discuss issues unique to working from home.
"People who work from home often feel like most of the resources out there aren't intended for them. If you go to large chamber events, people with home-based businesses are viewed as the country cousin," said Brona Pinnolis, who writes web content, marketing materials, and taglines for businesses through her at-home company, Be Write There.
"I definitely think the exposure from the chamber has helped," Taylor said. "Home-based business owners refer each other to one another, and the chamber gives us that connection."