Start a Work-From-Home Business

Our readers get down to business, offering advice on how to be your own boss.

| June/July 2013

Susan Welsand, Owner of The Chile Woman Mail-Order Business

Susan Welsand, The Chile Woman, grew her plant-propagating hobby into a full-time business.

Photo Courtesy Susan Welsand

Self-employment is a dream shared by many people, but finding the right work-at-home job can be daunting. We asked our readers to tell us their successful home-based business ideas. Despite their different ways of making money, these home-business veterans offer similar advice: Be creative, be patient, listen to your customers, learn from your failures, and have a backup plan for dealing with the inevitable setbacks.

Their stories provide inspiration for other start-ups. Many of our readers’ home-based business ideas grew out of a hobby, and these entrepreneurs urge you to choose something you have a passion for. They’re convinced that a work-from-home business will be rewarding if it provides a way to do what makes you happy.

Exotic Vegetables

I always describe my home business as a hobby that grew out of control. When I bought my current home, there was a handmade greenhouse that had become a giant litter box. I cleaned it up and started a huge garden. Friends began buying my pepper and tomato plants, and they encouraged me to sell the extras at the farmers market. So, I did.

People are always passing through Bloomington because it’s a college town. Out-of-towners asked how they could buy my exotic chile and tomato plants from their homes, and my mail-order business was born. I’ve operated it for more than 20 years, shipping pepper, tomato and tomatillo bedding plants across the country. My business, now at The Chile Woman, grew beyond my dreams and has become my full-time occupation. There is nothing more satisfying than the one-minute commute to my greenhouses.

Susan Welsand
Bloomington, Indiana

Internet Food Sales

A family friend gave me some chickens after I bought a 4-acre farm in 2009, and it was off to the races from there.

3/25/2016 9:09:35 AM

We haven't moved to our farm yet...still building our home on it. We do live on one acre at the time in suburbia where we raise meat rabbits for our own consumption as well as for selling. We also grow vegetable seedlings for ourselves and for selling during that season. We grow garlic on our farm for sale as well even though we don't live on our farmland yet. Garlic doesn't require constant maintenance so it can be managed from afar. I also sew and sell many hand crafted items through etsy, eBay and amazon. While we don't make our living 100% from these yet, it's getting closer to that and once we move to the farm, we'll be able to expand. Through this we are able to generate more income without me having to work for somebody else. My husband is employed and I stay home and take care of our small business and the household. Our business only makes me a part time paycheck but it has grown over the years from zero income to part time income and it keeps growing. I am also available to care for my family and home as well as take in the grand kids once in awhile. I don't have to waste gasoline on commuting to work, I grow much of our food so savings there (believe me, our grocery bill proves just how much we save compared to the past when we never grew our food). I can veggies for the winter and have plenty of jams to sell and gift. We enjoy doing all of this. It keeps our minds and spirit healthy and keeps us connected and grounded with our surroundings and what it takes to make food. You can do it too. Just start slowly and choose what you love to do.

9/12/2013 4:41:09 PM

Very well thought out article. I run a home based office and i can relate to what the writer is putting across. Kudos for the article. This should help a lot of our teeming unemployed youth to see the possibility of joining the labour force on their own terms by starting a business with little or no capital.. this is my blog please have a look ➜

7/13/2013 11:09:04 AM

We feel blessed to see other like-minded families and articles such as this. After husband losing our sole income from Corporate America last year, we have ventured full-time into eBay as "The Family Pickers". Though it hasn't provided full-time income to sustain all our monthly bills, it has been beneficial. It could very well be everyone's extra income at a part-time level or even primary. For us, the extra benefit is that we can do it as a family. From "pickin" the items, teaching the children basic finance, buying & selling, one taking pictures, one lisitng, etc. Of course there is always that extra excitement when we hear the "cha-ching" when a sale is made. This can be started with very low cost and packaging material is free through the USPS. You will need a internet connection but the great thing about an eBay business is that you can be located anywhere. Decide to move? No problem, your business can be operated anywhere. If your interested in getting started, feel free to contact us as we would help any way we can. Otherwise here is a link to a good source of direction for getting started if new to eBay:

6/12/2013 10:25:18 PM

I love that people can get back to the earth and make an income with it too! Until the time when I can get back to the earth myself, I have found a way to earn income that is totally compatible with homesteading. A company I've discovered has products that are not only environmentally friendly, safe and effective, I have discovered that they are beneficial for those with septic systems as well. The cleaning products contain no toxic ingredients or phosphates, making them safe for use around our children, pets, livestock AND septic systems. From those who use them, I know that septic systems need less maintenance because of them! And cleaning products are just the start!

There are 5 full lines of products from cleaning supplies, laundry supplies, personal care items, vitamins, first aid and so much more. And I DON'T HAVE TO SELL ANYTHING. That's the best part. All I do is introduce people to this company, set them up with their own account, and feel good that they now can have items they were going to buy anyway, but now they have the option of buying safer, more effective products - at about the same price they were paying for toxic ones.

How do I earn? The company does not advertise, but relies on word of mouth to introduce it's products. For doing this, I earn commissions. Much better than paying for advertising, and frees up the company to use top of the line naturally derived ingredients for all it's products.

Please feel free to email me for information, as I am always glad to share amazing things that help us live longer, healthier, more fulfilled lives.

5/28/2013 10:23:42 AM

There is one type of business that was not mentioned which has a lot of potential. Weddings! I talk to ranch and farm owners every day and they are getting phone calls from couples looking for beautiful places to get married. Barn weddings and farm weddings are extremely popular right now. 

Feel free to contact me with questions!

Anna Ogden - Novel Weddings

5/26/2013 1:12:48 PM

I am so happy there are people in this world who loves growing things.  I get to eat scrumptious foods because of their passion.  If anyone is interested in having an online store as a work at  home business, here's a technique you can use to get started==>

5/22/2013 8:34:14 PM

Thank you for updating this subject....I've been trying to do research on homestead based businesses, and most of your articles were old and outdated!  It's great to learn from others and see what has worked for them.

5/22/2013 9:48:57 AM

As a stay-at-home mom, I was looking for something to do with only a small investment of time and money compared to most businesses.  Although it doesn't totally fit a homesteading model, I decided to work for an energy supply company! I simply show people how to save money on natural gas & electric – at NO cost to them!  I chose the company that is largest direct seller of retail energy in the world, with an A+ rating by the Better Business Bureau, so the people I talk to can have confidence in switching to an different supplier.  (Although energy deregulation has been going on for many years, many people don’t even realize they have the power to switch and save!)  I love being able to help people save money on something they need and use every day!

Lori in NY
Regional Consultant, Ambit Energy
Do you like saving money? Every day I pay less for my electric!
Find out how you can too at



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