Are you fascinated with entrepreneur stories? I am. It's been a huge part of the Mom Boss book launch this year, getting the chance to celebrate women who've built amazing things. Like Debra Cohen who started a Homeowner Referral Network that's had huge growth.
I've been addicted to podcasts this holiday season. On all of our road trips I've had How I Built This on a loop. I'm fascinated by Founders and doers and makers.
Which leads me to our latest Mom Boss interview with Debra Cohen. Debra is the CEO of Home Remedies®. It's a home based business that pre-screens and refers local home improvement contractors. After she started her referral business in 1997, she branched out to train other moms on how to start their own home referral network.
How a Homeowner Referral Network operates
Clients call her up with an need for a contractor. Debra looks at her contact list of more than 50 contractors (ranging from painters, plumbers and carpenters to electricians, handymen and General Contractors) and recommends one. Contractors in the Home Remedies® network pay a pre-negotiated commission for work secured which means that the service is free to homeowners.
Not only is she helping families get great service for their homes, She's helped launch and train more than 400 moms who wanted businesses that were flexible and lucrative. You can get more details on this opportunity here http://www.hrnbiz.com/order/home.php
I wanted to find out more about this Mom Boss...
What did you have to give up to get where you are?
I made a lot of financial sacrifices in the beginning. When I started Home Remedies, had just left a full time career in Corporate America and my husband and I had just purchased our first home. We had a new baby and had to make due on his teaching salary. We gave up dinners out, lived with one car and we budgeted to the last penny. Even after my business started to turn a profit, I saved as much as possible because I always wanted to have enough saved so that I could afford to stay at home and raise my children. We never upgraded to a bigger house and I passed on a few personal luxuries but the sacrifices were definitely worth it.
Do you ever feel like you get in your own way?
Not often. I'm not a procrastinator. I know what I have to accomplish in my workday and am pretty disciplined about not letting anything get in my way. If anything, I'm a little too monomaniacal about work when I know that I have something on my To Do list.
How do you prioritize what gets attention at any given moment?
In business, my clients are always my priority and I spend the majority of my day on the phone making sure that I give them the best customer service possible. Paperwork, billing, email, etc. are all done after hours.
In my personal life, my children are my priority and when things get busy at work and I find it hard to take a break, I remind myself that they are the reason that I wanted to work from home in the first place. When they were little, I set up my office in the basement where they played and I always took a break in the middle of the day to take them to a playdate, the park, etc. Once they started school, I ended my workday at 3pm. And sitting down to dinner together is always a priority, although I can't say I always cook!
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Have you ever had to turn down a business opportunity because it interfered with family time? Or have you had to disappoint your family for something you believed was critical for your business?
Yes. I turned down the opportunity to franchise my business because I knew that it would force me to work full time outside of the home again and I wasn't willing to make that sacrifice. Ultimately, I opted to market my business as a business opportunity and help other people start Homeowner Referral Network (HRN) businesses like mine nationally but they are all independently owned and operated.
When the school nurse calls or you get that dreaded lice letter - who in your family handles that?
That would always be me since I was at home. My husband couldn't leave work in the middle of the day and, I was happy to do it.
If an investor gave you $50k to spend - how would you spend it?
I would license my business and HRN Management Software to real estate firms and teach them how to incorporate contractor referrals into their existing brokerage businesses.
What's holding you back today from hitting your next goal or desire with your business?
I think finances hold me back. I have two daughters going to college (and one who wants to go to medical school) and I feel like it's time to invest in their education.
How do you recharge?
I exercise every single day for at least an hour. It is the most relaxing time of my day and leaves me refreshed and ready to work. I also feel like it helps me think more creatively.
Do you work traditional hours. When do you log off for the day?
I really don't work traditional hours. I'm always in my office at 6am to get a handle on my day. I go to the gym and am generally back by 9am. I sometimes take a break to run an errand but, even then, I call forward my business line to my cell phone. I'm also usually in my office in the evenings after dinner for at least an hour. That's the beauty of working from home. The commute is so easy!
(Big thanks to Clorox for sponsoring this book tour, they teamed up with us on this last one...)
What’s the most terrifying mess you’ve ever come home to?
Oh wow- that is a good one. Once, I got on an earlier flight coming home from Peru. My husband had no idea I was coming home at 8am, so when I opened the door and found traces of chocolate stains all over the house I was less than thrilled. He had given them a chocolate bar so that he could snooze for an extra 10 min (he had told them that Santa had come just for that day- which they enthusiastically told me). My youngest son was only 20 months at the time, so there were traces of tiny chocolate finger all over our beige couch sheets and on the walls. Not a happy mama or wifey.
Mom Bosses like me and Debra have to have tools to power through the messes. I keep Clorox® Disinfecting Wipes in the kitchen, bathroom and office. These wipes help kill germs and bacteria, and remove kitchen grease and countless other nasties you find lurking in your home. Clorox powers through the mess to reset so the next moment can begin. Stop worrying about the mess, enjoy the moment, and let Clorox take care of the mess. The next time your kids want to make brownies in the kitchen, don't stop them, join the fun and worry about the mess later.
Get more information about Mom Boss and the book tourand meet more Mom Entrepreneurs in the series: Happi Olson & Lisa Carrol
Clorox is a generous sponsor of the Mom Boss book tour and these mom entrepreneur profiles