Along with working in your pajamas, setting up shop from the kitchen table is a cliché of running a business from home. But, for Shann Nix Jones, it’s literally where her idea for her gut health company Chuckling Goat was born.
The former American radio broadcaster and communications coach was looking for something to help her son, who suffered from bronchial infections and eczema, when her husband Richard suggested getting a goat.
The Welsh farmer, who Jones had followed back home after quitting her corporate job in California, explained that in the Welsh farming tradition, goat’s milk was believed to be good for a range of ailments. “So, with many tears and gnashing of teeth, I learned how to milk that goat,” Jones says. “It wasn’t easy – but it was worth it when we saw the effect on my son’s health.”
Upon further research, Jones discovered that excess goat milk (of which she now had plenty) could be turned into kefir, which in turn could be used therapeutically. So, in 2014, she and her husband launched Chuckling Goat from their garage, selling everything from probiotic drinks to soap.
Today the business has a turnover of $4.5m, having experienced 6,000% growth over the last four years. Jones now leads a team of 25 employees from a small factory on their farm, shipping their kefir to 62 countries around the world.
And while Jones’ entrepreneurial journey may be unique, her working arrangements are not. Self-employed women like her are consistently more likely than self-employed men to work out of their home. Perhaps this should come as no surprise, considering women do the lion’s share of childcare. The flexibility that working from home offers can help many women juggle business with parenthood.
In the US, more than 9.1 million businesses are women-owned – that’s 31% of all privately held firms. And now, thanks to the pandemic, more and more of those businesses are based from home. In the first wave of the pandemic in March and April, almost 60% of Americans were working from home.
Fortunately, an overwhelming majority of entrepreneurs appear to be happy to do so. According to a recent survey of 160 successful Americans who run their businesses from home, 97% said they ‘love’ or ‘like’ working from home. Most enjoy it so much that 54% of them would turn down an offer of free office space just one mile from where they live.
Pennsylvania-based Darla DeMorrow, professional organizer, designer and author of The Upbeat, Organized Home Office, is not surprised. The mother of two started her business from home 16 years ago and says it’s allowed her to work the hours when she feels most productive.
She says: “I’m a night owl. I’d much rather work until midnight or 1am and sleep a little bit later in the day. Even if I have commercial space a block away, I’d never be working in my most productive hours.”
Higher productivity has been repeatedly cited by professionals as the main benefit to those who work remotely. According to one study, remote employees work 1.4 more days per month than their office-based counterparts, resulting in more than three additional weeks of work per year. One California-based company has tracked a 47% increase in worker productivity.
For Christie Zwahlen, who founded the innovative waste bin startup Petal with her husband in 2015, running the business from home has helped them weather the economic storm of the pandemic.
“Our team is dispersed across North America – we’ve got people [working remotely] in Canada, Milwaukee, DC, Texas and New Orleans,” she explains. “So, not having to have the office overheads of paying rent or utilities allowed us to hit the pause button when the pandemic first hit and take stock. Normally, something like this would sound a death knell for business.”
Zwahlen says working from home has improved her work-life balance and mental health. “I love that I can make my own schedule, and prioritize the things that matter to me,” she explains. “I’m able to work exercise into my day. I do meditation in the morning, as well as journaling. Also, I have more time to cook and prepare healthy food for myself and my family.”
She says that working from home has also allowed her to reset her priorities. “In the past, when I had an office job, I hated bringing my work home, as I didn’t want to sully what I saw as a ‘sacred space’ with work obligations. Now I’m working from home regularly, I’ve realized how lucky I am to be doing something I love.
“I still want to keep my work and home life separate, but I don’t have the same feeling of dread about the two mixing. Instead, I’m energized by the work I do and the people I work with.”
Working from home can only be a good thing for female entrepreneurs in the long term, she suggests: “We can be more restful and content because we have the flexibility to incorporate things into our lives that make us happier and more fulfilled.”
Tips for female entrepreneurs working from home
By Shann Nix Jones, author of How to Start a Business on Your Kitchen Table
- Discipline is essential if you want to remain productive. Start by tidying your designated workspace of clutter, whether that’s bills or your kids’ toys. A clear desk leads to a clear head.
- To help you get into the right mindset during work hours, wear a uniform or professional clothes.
- Without a boss telling you what to do, you have to create a structure for yourself and stick to it. This might involve breaking down tasks into chunks, working for 60 minutes, then pausing to get up, make a cup of coffee and relax for a short period.
- Remember: breaks can be just as important as the work itself.
- Get your children involved if they show an interest – whether it’s packing boxes or stamping envelopes. Seeing you ‘at work’ sets a great example for their future.
Are you Thriving From Home and would like to share your story with the HomeToWork community? Email us