The growing importance of home based businesses – why local and national policy makers should consider our importance.
The dynamics of home based businesses have drastically altered since the turn of the century. Whilst the definition of a ‘cottage industry’ may remain stable (a small business run from home) the service or product delivered by these businesses does not resemble that delivered in previous centuries. The drastic difference is electronic communication. Today, more than ever in recent history, it is possible to build a business empire from your favorite armchair or kitchen table. Put this fact together with the 2008 subprime bubble burst which gave many suppressed entrepreneurs permission to change their income sources by establishing their own businesses, working on their own terms, at the times that suit them and their personal priorities and a mushrooming phenomena has occurred.
From loan workers operating as e-bay traders through to folk like myself employing c.20 staff, home based businesses are making use of 21st century resources and are earning far more than ‘pin money’. We also earn ourselves the ability to honor our priorities on our own terms, for me being at the school gate morning and afternoon, attending all school stuff was top of the heap for a few years, now it’s about having the energy and attention span to tackle algebra and learn French verbs. Home based doesn’t mean isolation. We are active business beasts, networking face to face as well as on line, embracing community social responsibility as an essential part of our ethos and assuming influential roles within local trading associations which serve as our sounding boards. Whether micro or small in our size, we are more influential than is often acknowledged.
There is another genre of home based business emerging, those who are taking ownership of the fact that the current working generation will never retire. These people are tentatively forming income sources based from home, generally whilst still in long standing employment, which will be sustainable in their later years. This is such a practical solution and perfectly reflective of our country’s entrepreneurial culture. My observation is that there are more home based businesses than ever and more to come, yet we are not counted, we are ‘under the radar’ in terms of policy making and provision. In some respects this suits us, this can be the stuff of suffocation for entrepreneurs. However, because of our home based locations we deter burglars (reduces crime costs), we keep an eye on the elderly near by (keep them living at home, reduce care costs), we prefer to buy from other local based businesses (enhance local community), we travel less (good for the environment), we have time to keep fit (reduce NHS costs) and sit to the table for an evening meal (ensuring sanity of next generation) etc etc etc. We are valuable. Whilst we can’t be counted easily by the normal methods (ie who is registered for VAT) to fully assess our quantity and therefore our precise value to the economy, policy makers locally and nationally will just have to accept our existence and provide accordingly. To ignore our evolution is to underestimate our potential and latent-potential positive medium to long term impact on the UK socio-economic well-being.