When the economy got rough, these five women got tough by creating their own successful companies. Feel free to steal their secrets.
By Ellen Parlapiano
Janene Jaroscak, 46
New Albany, Ohio
Business: Trending Solutions (trendingsolutions.com), customer service and order fulfillment, launched July 2007
Investment: $12,000 for equipment
2009 earnings: Around $100,000
Three years ago Janene was logging killer hours as director of customer service for a medical supply company. The job left little time for husband Tom and son Nick, 12, but she felt she had no choice. "We needed my salary," she says. In early 2007, though, Janene was rushed to the hospital with chest pains, which turned out to be a rapid heartbeat exacerbated by stress. She soon returned to work but started thinking about another way to earn a living.
Launch time: Flying home from vacation a few weeks later, Janene chatted with her seatmate, a restaurant executive. She described her past experience setting up call centers; he told her how restaurants could use her talents to handle guest feedback. "I thought this was something I could do," she says. At home she went online and scouted call-center costs and fees, and realized she'd have to raid savings and might earn only half her corporate salary initially. But working from home would save the family $12,000 annually on clothing, commuting, and after-school childcare; plus her home work space would provide a tax write-off. She gave two months' notice and finalized her business plan, including a switch to servicing small businesses instead of restaurants. "Women business owners who can't afford full-time staff still need help answering phones and fulfilling orders," says Janene. She found her first two clients by lunching with local businesswomen, who referred her to others. "Word-of-mouth marketing, referrals, and social networking have been more effective than paid advertising," she says.
Payoffs: Today Janene assists mostly work-from-home moms. "It's particularly satisfying to help women build their companies," she says. She did so well that during the 2008 holiday season she had to work 24/7 packing orders and put prospective clients on a waiting list. After funneling half her earnings toward a bigger warehouse, she's now able to handle more business and afford staff. She doubled her income between 2008 and 2009. Best of all, she's off the heart meds and has more time with her husband and son. "We're a much more relaxed family now," she says. "I have better balance in my life."