Several years ago Debra Cohen was riding high as the VP of an Manhattan publishing firm–large salary, executive office and international travel. After the birth of her first daughter, Debra soon realized that living a corporate lifestyle was taking too much time away from her new family. She decided to leave her six figure job, but after just a few months of full time motherhood the bills began to pile up and her self esteem plummeted. She needed to do something different. “I’m a networker by nature with a passion for decorating and home improvements and I decided to put all of my talents to work and create a business that would fill this need in our community”.
Shortly before she left her publishing career, Debra and her husband had just purchased their first house and–like many homeowners– they were struggling to find reliable home improvement contractors. “When I finally found a responsible painter, plumber, carpenter, etc., I felt compelled to share his name with other homeowners in our community. From that humble start and with a $5000 loan from my husband’s retirement savings plan, I launched Home Remedies of NY, Inc., a Homeowner Referral Network (HRN) linking homeowners with pre-screened, reliable home improvement professionals”. Contractors in the network pay a pre-negotiated commission for work secured which means that the service is free to homeowners.
Home Remedies is like a personal concierge service for the home and it fills two important niches in the home improvement market: 1) It serves as a reliable source for homeowners looking for reputable contractors, and 2) Its an outsourced sales and marketing force for pre-screened contractors.
“My business was successfully up and running in less than 3 months and after it’s first year in operation, the HRN business took a unique turn when I realized that my business concept could work in other markets. I decided to document the HRN business in a comprehensive manual so that others could benefit from my experience. *The Complete Guide To Owning And Operating A Successful Homeowner Referral Network*© was published in January 1998 and provides a turnkey system for anyone interested in launching a successful HRN in their area”.
In the beginning Debra pursued every opportunity and not all of them were right for her or her business. “I took on too much work and spread myself too thin rather than focusing my efforts on a manageable market and growing slowly. Eventually, I figured out that I didn’t have to handle all of the work on my own but I could duplicate my business, set up other HRN businesses like mine and refer work to them. It was one of the smartest business decisions I’ve ever made”.
One of the keys to Debra’s success has been outsourcing. She tries to focus on the most important (i.e. money making) aspects of her business and outsource the jobs that don’t fall within her expertise. “I also organize my day into blocks of time. I devoted the hours when my children weren’t home exclusively to work and took a break for an hour or two in the afternoons after school It’s also possible to get a lot done during the early morning hours and late at night. Work hard, play hard and always keep your priorities in focus.”
Recently Debra has expanded in a new direction by launching her own Public Relations firm and Home Based Business Consulting company. “I’ve become a PR and home based business pro over the years and so many colleagues have asked me to help them launch and promote their companies. I love working with new businesses, helping them generate more income and promoting their message to the press and have had a great deal of success so far. I’ve secured coverage in The New York Times, Better Homes and Gardens and numerous TV stations over the past year”.
To date there are 300+ independent HRN’s operating nationwide and Debra’s business has grossed almost $4 million to date. While Home Remedies has reaped both personal and financial rewards for Debra and her family, the most gratifying aspect of her business has been escaping the 9-5, spending more time with her family and helping other parents find a more equitable work-family balance. “I love the flexibility of my schedule and the financial freedom running my own business has afforded me. I’ve been able to save for college, pay off our mortgage and still stay at home and raise my two daughters”.
Catch up with Debra on her website at http://www.hrnbiz.com