More people seeking home businesses in Houston County

bpurser@macon.comApril 5, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- Lakeithia Basley has a passion for baking and creating desserts.

“I’ve been baking cakes since I received an Easy-Bake Oven in my childhood,” said the 29-year-old mother of two and sales support manager at an automotive retail business. “My grandmother used to always bake pies and cakes on special occasions, so I kind of picked it up from her and expanded.”

Basley is among 24 people so far this year who have submitted special exception applications with Houston County to operate a business in their homes.

“We’ve seen an increase in the number of persons applying for home-based businesses,” said Tim Andrews, the county’s planning and zoning administrator. “They may be generated by just a change in the economy, or they’re looking for some additional income to supplement their income.

“The Internet and mass media opens up so many avenues of information and generates, I guess you’d call, people’s desires to become entrepreneurs. They’re taking that information that they receive by the way of the media or Internet and going into businesses of their own.”

A growing trend

The number of applications for a home business exception in Houston County nearly doubled from 2012 to 2013. A total of 70 applications were submitted in 2013, compared with 37 in 2012. Go back to 2009, and only 18 applications were submitted. Most applications are approved.

The most common form of home business is a lawn care service, with at least one application for such a business submitted about every month, said Andrews.

Also common are home child care applications in which six or fewer children are cared for within a home, while dessert and home bakery businesses are becoming popular, he said.

An unusual home business that came to mind, Andrews said, is that of a licensed massage therapist whose office is the home, but massages are performed off site.

“The biggest thing is if you want to operate a business in your home, you don’t want it to distract from the neighborhood,” Andrews said.

The most suitable home businesses are ones in which the home serves as the office, and the service is provided outside the home. No more than 25 percent of the home should be used for the business, Andrews said.

Exceptions such as baking from home, for example, are allowed as long as orders are primarily taken off-site or by telephone or Internet, and most of goodies are delivered by the business owner, he said.

But advertising with signs of fresh-baked goodies from the home, operating as a store front and receiving frequent deliveries of supplies in a residential neighborhood is not acceptable, Andrews said.

“You don’t want a semi-truck coming in once a week delivering supplies,” Andrews said.

But baking a few cakes a week and allowing some customers to pick up their orders is all right, Andrews said.

“We encourage small business diversity ... but to do it in an orderly way,” Andrews said. “Once a business grows beyond the scope of the home, then it’s time to transition to a commercial site.”

Home businesses most recently approved ranged from a carpet cleaning service to a yard and home restoration venture to a mobile drug and alcohol testing business. In the mix was also a lawn care service that was a bit unusual, Andrews said, in that the business owner also offers clearing services of homes that have been vacated after foreclosure.

Also, the Houston County Commission recently changed its rules to allow for operation of a business from a home through the Internet. However, the code amendment prohibits conducting any business on site.

The code review and change came after an application was denied to Shawn Smith, an aircraft mechanic at Robins Air Force Base, to operate a home Internet business in which he served as a middle man for after-market Jeep products. Smith wanted to take orders online and then have the products shipped directly from the manufacturer to the customer. The former regulations prohibited home sales unless the items were made or modified in the home. The change cleared the way for Smith to reapply.

Basley’s dream

If her application is approved, Basley plans to bake cakes, cupcakes and chocolate-covered desserts from home while she continues to work full time.

She’ll be able to keep her overhead low while allowing herself time to build up a clientele.

Through the home business, Basley hopes to demonstrate her commitment and ability to operate a business to eventually qualify for a business loan for an off-site bakery.

Her dream is to open up her own “brick and mortar” bakery and live her passion.

Basley’s marketing plan includes Facebook, Instagram and giveaways in which she takes her home-baked goodies and drops them off at businesses along with a few business cards.

“Word of mouth is really the most powerful form of advertising that I have right now,” Basley said.

She’s dubbed her business, “K & L’s Dessert.” The “K” comes from the names of her mother, sister and children whose names all start with a “K.” The other initial is from her first name.

Although she’s the one doing the baking, her mother and sister baby-sit for her, and her entire family is supportive of her dream.

In addition to baking the desserts, Basley talks with her customers and then sketches out a design for her culinary creations. She’s been baking one to two cakes a week from her double-oven at home as a hobby and wants to legitimize her dream into a business.

She expects to deliver most of her goods but would like to be able to have people also be able to come to her home and pick up their orders, if possible.

“Baking and creating desserts is my passion, and it’s what I hope to aspire to do in my life,” Basley said.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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