24 Sep 2014

Headquarters is home, literally, for many

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Solon resident and entrepreneur Greg Rosenberg doesn’t have to travel far to get to his world headquarters.

In fact, the office for his home-based business is just steps away in the basement of his Longview Drive home. There, he has operated Business Communication Solutions Inc., a full-service marketing communications and advertising firm, since 2001.

Mr. Rosenberg is one of about 1,300 home-based business owners in Solon, a surprisingly large number, according to city officials.

“When you figure there are 800 plus businesses in the industrial, commercial and office districts, that is a significant number,” Solon Economic Development Manger Peggy Weil-Dorfman said.

Ms. Weil-Dorfman said the city appears to follow national trends, with job loss attributed to the recession fueling the creation of home-based businesses. Highly educated employees with experience and financial resources can also foster entrepreneurial activity, she said.

Mr. Rosenberg, with 30 years of experience in marketing and communications, took the path toward a home-based business after leaving a job in the field right around the time the “tech bubble burst.

“I decided to go on my own,” he said, beginning to work in his den before constructing with his own two hands a 400foot office space in the basement.

“It was a great move,” he said. “I have my own little world. It’s a really nice space, and nobody bothers me.”

There are also challenges to being a home-based business, Mr. Rosenberg continued.

“If you don’t have any employees, you have to do everything,” he said. “I’m the IT guy, the administration guy and the guy who sweeps the carpet at night.”

Mr. Rosenberg contracts with freelancers for help with graphic design and advertising.

”Because I don’t have employees, I’m able to pick the right people for the job,” Mr. Rosenberg explained. “I buy the time I need.”

Also, his business does not require much in terms of face-to-face meetings, although he does have a conference table that seats six in his basement – just in case.

“I’ve never gotten to a point where I thought I would need to move out of the home,” he added.

In addition to paying taxes, Ms. Weil-Dorfman said, one of the ways homebased businesses are a benefit to the city is that they have the ability to grow into commercial space.

“Hopefully they find space here in Solon,” she said. “When they are ready to graduate to it (extra space), we can help them.”

That was the case for entrepreneur John Steidley who saw growth with his home-based business Intelligent Mobile Support Inc., and needed more space.

The business-to-business service involves mobile cloud computing that connects field employees such as sales and service to their respective company experts. He began the business in 2009 at his kitchen table and ran it from his Blue Pond Trail home until last June.

“At that point, we had three employees working for us, and we would literally meet at different Paneras around town,” Mr. Steidley explained. “It was working OK, but there was no collaborative team spirit, just one-on-one meetings.”

The business hit a growth spurt, obtained equity funding and was set to bring on four more people.

“That’s eight people – we needed some space,” he said.

It was a natural fit to remain in Solon, where he and his family relocated to in 2005 from Seattle. “We chose Solon because it was a great place to live and the schools are great.”

The business moved to 31320 Solon Road in the Solon Business Campus where they have 1,800 square feet of office space.

Mr. Steidley saw as one of the greatest benefits of a home-based business a short commute, “20 seconds from bedroom to kitchen,” but a disadvantage of being “right in your kitchen, literally and figuratively.”

Now, he is just 2 miles from home, with a separation of space to allow for more focus, he said.

“I’ve always wanted to have my own business,” Mr. Steidley said. He worked in big business for 25 years, moving all around the country. He brought in five investors to branch out on his own and received a development loan from Jobs Ohio.

“I’m excited to have some great space in Solon,” he said, adding that he employs interns from the Solon schools.

“We want to create a thriving tech company that can hold onto some of the great talent that comes out of the Solon school system,” he said. “My thought was: put the company right here in Solon.”

City Planning Director Robert S. Frankland noted that, for home-based businesses, there are regulations such as how many deliveries they can receive per week and how many employees they can have. Also, there can be no signs or exterior indication there is a home business.

He said the zoning office only receives a couple of complaints about home offices each year. “It is a trend where people want to work out of their homes,” Mr. Frankland said. “From a planning and zoning standpoint, there is certainly no problem with it, as long as it doesn’t harm the residential character of the neighborhood, then it’s good for everybody.”

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