Imagine being the Vice President of a Spanish-language aviation magazine in Manhattan; A remarkable quest which sends you all around the world for business. Hectic? Yes. Is it worth it? Hell yeah!
…Then you realize you’re pregnant.
20 years ago, on a business trip to Paris, Debra Cohen found that she was pregnant with her first daughter, and she faced the working mother’s dilemma:
A High flying corporate career or her daughter?
Be a Stay-at-home mom or Become Jane of all trades?
Cohen knew this was a thorny choice, she thought it was a matter of “All or Nothing”. But the decision she took at that time changed her life— she decided to raise her (now, two) daughters and grow a home-based business that has roughly made $4 million.
Take it or Leave it
The new corporate scenario embraces Motherhood more than anything else. Debra’s organization granted her a good long maternity leave and she worked from home after it was over.
The mother and her baby have a bond which goes beyond anything else, and Debra used to stay away from her baby for 12 hours every day. She was worried about her well being, what was she eating, and whether she missed mama bear.
Finally, Cohen and her husband decided that it would be best for the family if she stayed at home. “He said, ‘quit your job.’ It was about quality of life over quantity of money.”
The next three months were a beautiful disaster. Firstly, two bread earners were cut down to one, spare set of wheels were sold off, and daycare was no longer required. Despite all that, the bills kept piling up.
Turns out, boredom and joblessness do not gel well with motherhood. Debra was fed up with her full-time motherhood job and wanted to break the monotony. She finally started looking for jobs to jump back in the game.
Any part time job would require childcare and childcare meant no savings. Full-time work wouldn’t allow the flexibility she needed to be the mother she wanted to be.
Somewhere on the inside, Debra knew that she was going to come out of this real strong, and she had a plan to make it all work- Debra planned to start her own stay at home mom business.
A new family calls for a new humble abode, and after her daughter’s birth, Cohen and her partner in crime purchased their first home.
The problem wasn’t just the mortgage, but the home improvement professionals were a pain in the butt.
…And then a squirrel changed Debra’s life.
The house was as old as Robert De Niro (75 years old, really). A squirrel crept in from somewhere and no matter how much they shooed it out of the house, it kept coming back.
She contacted tonnes of home improvement professionals. Nothing helped. Cohen finally asked for a referral at the local hardware store and connected with someone new.
He educated the couple: Once a squirrel has a litter somewhere, she’ll return to it forever. To get rid of her, you can’t just shoo her out of the space. You have to displace her across a body of water.
He did just that — and 20 years later, he’s still their go-to contractor.
Cohen and family were so impressed with the man’s work; she wanted to spread the word. She asked him whether he’d pay a commission if she could land him jobs, and he said he would.
“The network grew from there,” Cohen says, and Home Remedies was born.
Home Remedies is a Homeowner Referral Network that pre-screens and refers a network of more than 50 home improvement contractors (i.e. painters, plumbers, carpenters, general contractors, architects, etc.) to local homeowners.
Contractors in the network pay a pre-negotiated commission for work secured — and the service is free to homeowners, and it is a stay at home mom business.
How did Debra start a Stay at home Mom business?
Debra Cohen’s networking skills and creativity very much inspired her to punch above her weight with Home Remedies. For someone who always had a thing for decorating homes and being a neat freak, not only did Debra find a way to do what she loves, but she worked around her daughter’s schedule.
Debra started this multi-million dollar empire in her basement; with a $5,000 loan from her husband’s retirement savings, an old fax machine, computer, and a telephone. Talk about making every buck count!
What about that $5,000?
Home Remedies operated under the family’s home phone number until it simply became too busy. Debra Cohen was too scared to subscribe to a second phone line because she thought she won’t be able to cover the costs.
Cohen worked at a friend’s decorating store to earn something extra. Not only did this ease up her financial woes, but she developed a network of local contractors, movers, painters and others involved in home renovation.
During the first year, expenses were minimal. Most of the business was built with Cohen’s own blood and sweat — networking in person and making phone calls to let the public know she was there.
This platform was launched in 1997, and it was completely offline. Yes, this means there was no LinkedIn either; just one single person calling and answering 50 people a day till the world ends.
Nobody likes change, and people thought that Cohen was crazy to even think on these lines. Whenever she discussed her business idea with others, the generic response was “Are you out of you mind? Who would use a service like that?”
But Cohen knew that Home Remedies was a thing of tomorrow and she pushed for it. Raising up a baby and squeezing in work during early morning hours and naptime, Home Remedies made $28,000 its first year and paid back her loan in just 6 months.
Home Remedies Today
Home Remedies is a nationwide Homeowner Referral Network, a cottage industry of more than 300 independent business owners who follow Debra’s original model. For a person who aspired to start a Stay at home mom business, Debra is now one of the most influential small businesswomen.
She believes that her inspiration is the people who communicate to her. The innovative ideas and new viewpoints of her arise from the feedback she receives, be it good or bad.
Now Home Remedies has moved online, but Debra is still very much bound to its grassroots of assisting her own community.
Networks are based on quality and trust, so each contractor is personally screened before she’ll make a referral. No one can pay an advertising fee for a preferred listing — they simply have to do impressive work.
How does it feel to be a stay at home mom?
Cohen’s daughters are all grown up and are ready to face the world. She believes that it was her stay at home mom business idea that made her family who they are.
She wouldn’t prescribe this lifestyle to other mothers, though. She believes that everyone has their own perspective towards motherhood and should do what they feel like.
“I see women who are so happy not working and being home, and I see women who crave work and are better mothers for [doing] it,” she explains.
Whatever might be the case, it worked out just fine at the end. Debra is now an owner of a $4-million enterprise and Home Remedies looks all set to scale bigger heights.
Debra is an inspiration, a role model, and visionary for all the women who wish to start doing something while they stay at home. She aspires to stay at home, spend time with her husband and children, and work at the same time. Home Remedies is not just at homeowner referral network, it is a beautiful tale of a mother with big dreams and two cute babies.