Home business boom: Economy prompts many locals to try own enterprises
The teacher aide at North Park Elementary School in North Logan makes jewelry a staple in her everyday wardrobe, but it’s not the traditional flair — whether it’s beads or earrings — from Paparazzi Jewelry. You might say it’s “jazzy.”
“Jazzy,” as in Jazzy Jewelry, is the name of the business run entirely by Merrill. She started her business last year with just 150 pieces of jewelry and to date has sold approximately 8,000 pieces as a Paparazzi independent consultant.
The pieces were sold at parties, boutiques and popular community events like the annual Cache County Fair.
“I started it because it’s really cute and inexpensive,” Merrill said at her Smithfield home Friday, adding that some of her jewelry goes for as little as $5.
The business, she said, was started because of her passion for jewelry. Her daughter, a teacher in Provo, said she first saw Paparazzi at an open house. When she told her mother about it, it wasn’t long before Merrill got the gears going to start her own franchise.
But there was also another motivating factor: To help pay the bills while her husband looked for work.
Merrill keeps at least 45 percent of everything she brings in through sales, in addition to bonuses from customers.
“It’s necessary for me to do it, but I have a lot of fun,” Merrill said. “It’s probably the easiest thing I have ever done. Plus, women love jewelry; you just put it in front of them and they’ll love it.”
Merrill’s not the only one who’s found a niche with her start-up business. With the national unemployment rate at 9.1 percent and Utah’s unemployment rate at 7.6 percent, the downturn in the economy has been the spark that’s caused many in Cache Valley to start up their own businesses in the most familiar place to them — home.
An informal survey of a handful of cities in the valley found there is an increase in the number of people who have applied for permits in the last two years, according to business license officials in the area.
Logan city generated 491 home businesses from 2009 to 2011, and the number is growing, according to requested figures from Joyce Creech, Logan’s business license clerk.
But the total number of home businesses in Logan is approximately 750, said James Olsen, a former Logan business clerk.
“There’s always a steady stream coming in,” Olsen said. “On the other hand, there were a number (of home businesses) dying off. I think a lot of times, people try their hand and then they find out it was more than they bargained for.”
Creech said it’s not standard practice for Logan or other cities in the valley to ask about the home business license petitioner’s personal situation, but a lot of people volunteer that a layoff has led to starting a home business. She said they often say they stop after finding permanent work outside the home.
Char Izatt, Smithfield deputy recorder, said there has been a “noticeable increase” in home occupation businesses in the past three years and, based on that fact, attributes it to the economy.
Of the 418 active business licenses, Izatt said, home occupations make up more than half of the total number, at 251. Of those home occupations in the city, 200 of them are non-disruptive (Internet sales, consulting, general contractors, crafts, etc.), while 51 of them are potentially disruptive. They include beauty salons, child care, preschool, miscellaneous instruction and some small manufacturing that requires zoning clearance.
She noted that many home businesses do not renew the following year because they’re not able to stay in business.
Nibley has 154 business licenses, and in 2011 alone, there have been 31 licenses issued.
“People are clever; I think we have some younger people that are trying to start a business out of their home, which is different in the past where the mentality was ‘go get a job,’” said Cynthia Fredrickson, Nibley business license clerk. “People are thinking outside the box, and we’ve got a lot of successful business.”
Several individuals contacted for this story said even though they did not start up their home business to help offset hard economic times, they are now relying more on the cash earned than before.
The idea of starting a home business is also gaining popularity nationwide. There were 21.1 million self-employed businesses in 2009, the Census Bureau reported in July. Those businesses generated $838 billion in sales that year. In Utah in 2009 there were 176,338 self-employers with $6.3 billion in sales, down from highs in 2007.
Merrill keeps an inventory of all her sales, but says it’s hard to estimate just how much she makes yearly.
Customers often come to her to help coordinate jewelry with their wardrobe, especially for special occasions like proms and weddings. Some days she’ll see one person; other days it’s 10 or 20.
She doesn’t use Facebook, Twitter or MySpace, but does have an active blog. She also has an email flier and sends text message alerts. She keeps roughly 200 people informed regularly — and the list is growing.
She puts a business card in every bag of jewelry sold.
“After that, it’s word of mouth,” Merrill said.
Her taxes are pre-collected because she sells another company’s product and is not selling her own, she said.
The only challenges with Jazzy Jewelry are keeping up with demand and finding enough time to work. She jokes that she should be able to find more time now that her three children are grown.
“I can be as busy as I want to be,” Merrill said. “I control my own stress level.”
Merrill is confident of her future.
“I’m looking forward to growing my business and getting the word out. This jewelry sells because in this economy, everyone can afford $5 for something cute.”
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