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March 2011

When your business takes over your home

Home OfficeToday's WSJ.com article "Squeezing a Small Business Into Your Home" reminded me of the early days of one of our businesses.  Some of the memories are fond and some...not so much. 

It started with a few extra commercial mower parts stacked on the basement floor, a little catalog (typed using a typewriter), a tiny desk and a little spare time.

The few parts became hundreds.  The hundreds became thousands.  The basement quickly filled up with custom built heavy duty shelves to hold our growing inventory.

The little catalog became a little bigger catalog. The little bigger catalog became a lot bigger  and quickly took over our first floor living and dining room.  We used our first floor as our bulk mail room where we sorted by zip, bundled and bagged and hauled them off to the post office knowing that they would make the phone ring.

Our front porch became the UPS shipping/receiving site with boxes piled high and that's where the not so good memories start to come back.  Hauling incoming product downstairs and outgoing product right back up got old fast.  Giving up most of our first floor to our catalog mailing projects frustrated my partner and spouse when guests were quickly escorted past the home based business.  The neighbors began to ask what was going on with all the deliveries and finally, the incoming phone orders just couldn't compete with our barking dog and two young boys in the background. That was the beginning of the end of our homebase business as we knew it. 

We outgrew our little world and had to move out into a real warehouse and office.  That business continues on to this day.  Now though the incoming parts come on semi trucks and outgoing orders can account for thousands of pounds daily.

With mixed emotions we said goodbye to the little home that was the birthplace of the business almost two years ago now.  I'll never forget the final walk-through with my wife.  It had been over ten years since we moved the business out, but the shelves were still in the basement, the desk was still there and the scratches on the walls leading up the stairs all brought back memories of our early start.  It was a day I will never forget and memories that I'm sure many successful entrepreneurs can relate to.  If only those walls could talk...