Dreaming of Baby Entrepreneurs Segment
A conversation with Mompreneur Debra Cohen, founder of Home Remedies
Debra Cohen left her job to be with her daughter full-time. Soon enough, she started to long for the positive challenges a career brings with it, but at the same time did not want to miss out on time with her daughter. With an office at home also doubling up as a playroom, Debra managed to build her business whilst still being there for her daughter’s every milestone. She shares what she’s learned with Dreaming of Baby.
CJ DeGuara: Hello and welcome to Dreaming of Baby – With you on your journey to parenthood! Today we have with us a Parentpreneur that has kindly offered to share her journey with you! We hope to help you in making your own decisions as to whether entrepreneurship & parenthood together are a good fit for you. Welcome Debra Cohen! Would you be so kind Debra as to tell our readers about yourself and what you do?
Debra: I own Home Remedies of NY, a Homeowner Referral Network (HRN) business that pre-screens and refers home improvement contractors.
CJ DeGuara: Wow ok so similar to Angie’s List but more local and direct?
Debra: Yes and no. Angie’s List which was recently bought by Home Advisor, is an online company and national, yes. Now that they are owned by Home Advisor, contractors pay a lead fee regardless of whether or not they get the job. My business is more like a personal concierge-type service for local homeowners. And, contractors only pay me a commission for work secured.
CJ DeGuara: That is excellent. For our readers, can you tell us a little about the start of your business? What was your parent status when you started, how old was your little one and how did you get started?
Debra: After the birth of my first daughter, I left a career in Corporate America to be a full-time mom. In just a few months, our bills began to pile up and my self-esteem began to plummet. I longed for the stimulation (and income) of a full-time career but still wanted to be at home to raise my daughter. At the same time, my husband and I had just purchased our first home and I was having a hard time finding reliable home improvement contractors to work in our home. It occurred to me that, if I was having this problem, then others must face the same challenge. I decided to create a business to address this need in our community and launched my business six months later. I pre-screened a network of more than 50 home improvement contractors ranging from painters, plumbers, and carpenters to general contractors, architects, and decorative painters and established a fair commission with them.
CJ DeGuara: That is amazing, so this was your venture into the business world? What were some of the first things you needed to learn to be able to start your business successfully and how did you educate yourself on these matters?
Debra: I created a Board of Advisors and invited an attorney, insurance agent, some contractors and a few other professionals with business expertise to join so that I could turn to them for advice.
CJ DeGuara: That is a smart move. How important would you say surrounding yourself with the right people was and how did you convince them to help you? How did you find them?
Debra: I did a lot of networking to find people I could turn to for advice. It’s important to surround yourself with trustworthy advisors who have expertise outside of your own. As a business owner, you can’t be an expert in everything. And I found that people were more than happy to help me. Because I know, first hand, how challenging it can be to start a business from scratch, I started helping other entrepreneurs (mostly moms) start HRN businesses like mine in their areas.
CJ DeGuara: You said you did a lot of networking so am I correct in inferring these weren’t people in your immediate circle? How did you network? Do you recommend any methods to parents-to-be?
Debra: If you’re interested in starting a business, it’s important to network with industry-related professionals. For example, in my case, I networked with real estate agents, decorators, contractors, etc. I sought out people who were in a position to refer me to good contractors in my area.
CJ DeGuara: Where did you seek these people out?
Debra: I called everyone I knew and asked for recommendations. I went to local paint stores and lumberyards. My aunt, who was a decorator, gave me a few names of contractors to start and then they referred me to people they knew. My list grew from there.
CJ DeGuara: Ok so you didn’t go to meetings and events – just straight to the bull’s eye so to speak.
Debra: I had a newborn at home so going to meetings wasn’t that convenient:) I did attend a few networking events later on though.
CJ DeGuara: Excellent, so you mention the little bundle of joy; how did you go about juggling the two responsibilities? What challenges did you face?
Debra: I worked in the early morning hours when she napped and after my husband got home from work. I also worked on the weekends. We set up my home office in our basement which was also a playroom so that I could multitask.
CJ DeGuara: Nely Galan was interviewed by Daymond John, Author of the new book Rise & Grind; one of the quotes from her has a lot to do with determination and stick to it-iveness. Can you tell us a little about how you relate to the quote and what challenges you overcame to make your business succeed?
Debra: I completely agree. When I set my mind to getting something done, I can’t rest until it’s complete. I’m also a very creative thinker and don’t take no for an answer. I created a business that capitalizes on what I love. Home improvements, helping people, etc. so work didn’t seem like a chore. Also, when I first started my business and I had moments of doubt, my husband would say “then, don’t do it” and that made me realize that quitting wasn’t an option. I was more afraid of not trying at all then I was of failing.
CJ DeGuara: So to parents-to-be thinking about diving in, now that you have been there and done that, what advice would you give them?
Debra: Do an honest self-evaluation and ask yourself what you’re willing (and able) to invest timewise and financially because running a business and raising a family is challenging. Then, evaluate what your talents are and what interests you and look for a business that will capitalize on what you love.
CJ DeGuara: That is excellent advice, you have been a star today! On a final note for our readers in NY, and those interested in learning more about you and your business where can they find you?
Debra: I work with people nationwide. Feel free to visit my website at www.hrnbiz.com. And thank you, CJ!