Some started before the crisis caused by Covid-19, as if they had a crystal ball that told them what was going to come in 2020. Others started because the emergency paralyzed companies and they had to use their skills –and even hobbies– to survive. Here are some examples of home-based businesses.
Firstly, these are the result of people’s homes becoming the center of operations for their work. Thanks to this model, many have been able to earn an income and withstand the attack on their daily activities caused by SARS-CoV-2.
Tec Review spoke with three people who have turned their homes into places of business in order to overcome the crisis. They talk about their experience of starting a business, the characteristics of their operations, and the advice they give to those who want to start a business from home.
The garden that flourished because events were canceled
Jorge Bonaga says that his business Jardín de las Orquídeas (Orchid Garden) began when the fairs he used to go to each year couldn’t open any more. That was where he used to make sales to those orchid collectors and enthusiasts in search of the most exotic varieties.
However, constant cancellations of events meant he had no choice but to set up his business in his own home, in order not to throw away the investment and effort he had made in his plants.
“We organized ourselves and asked for help from specialists in other areas, such as social media, design, and photography. Just before February 14, we jumped in at the deep end and we made it!” he says excitedly.
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Bonaga describes his business as one of happiness, because he grows orchids and delivers them to people’s homes.
He says that one of his satisfactions –in addition to earning an income– is seeing smiles and beautiful moments with the little plant pots they sell, even more so in these times when so many people have stopped seeing each other due to the pandemic. They can now use the plants as a way of expressing love and affection.
“We’re helping people to show affection. A lot of couples ask us for orchids but also daughters want them for their mothers and vice versa. We also get requests from boyfriends, friends, and colleagues,” he says about his customers.
He says that they had to learn about digital marketing. “We got into promoting online, through social media and the support of friends, as well as sending information by WhatsApp. We opened an Instagram account and asked those people who were close to us with a lot of followers to be our ambassadors.” It was a success: they sold all their merchandise in five days.
As to the logistics for sending their flowers, he says that they teamed up with other friends who had launched the courier service En Fá, who have been very professional in their work.
They started by offering free shipping to gain the trust of customers, and they were flexible about payment: users could pay before or after the shipment, either by bank transfer or in cash.
Using his garden at home (hence the name Orchid Garden), Jorge Bonaga decided to catalog of each of the plant pots in his inventory.
Now, they send photos and details of the flowers, as well as measurements, species, and colors so that customers are completely sure and well informed about the product they are going to receive.
He says that teamwork has been vital to complement his skills as a biologist, as he has needed the contribution and perspective of the design group and partnerships with friends who have many followers on social media. “Without them, this effort wouldn’t have been possible,” he concludes.
Based on his experiences, he also reflects, “I think we’re very versatile in Mexico. The world is never closed to us and that is something that makes me feel proud of my country. Nobody here gives up!”
Dolce Vita: a ‘word of mouth’ patisserie
When she was dismissed in 2016, Berenice Castillo decided to dedicate herself to what she liked the most and promised herself that she wouldn’t go through that experience again.
That was what led to the creation of Dolce Vita, a home-based business focused on personalized patisserie and confectionery, which makes cakes for birthdays, anniversaries, or events with various themes and decorations according to the tastes and wishes of customers.
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Berenice says the pandemic forced her parents to close their premises, so she could no longer go to work with them. That meant she had to dedicate herself fully to working from home.
“Since the beginning, my idea was to make Dolce Vita an online business. Our customers find us through social media. However, we had to use paid advertising to reach more people during the pandemic, since the market had become much more competitive and there are more people dedicating themselves to patisserie,” says the entrepreneur.
With the certainty that she is one of the best at what she does, Berenice says that she also had to resort to printing adverts on cards so she could share them with her neighbors and acquaintances.
This is how she understood the need to start using digital platforms to edit her photographs and differentiate herself from the competition, in order to make her products more attractive to potential customers.
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Neither Didi nor Uber
Regarding the logistics of sending the products, Castillo says that platforms such as Uber or Didi were never an option due to the high fees they charge, which would force her to increase her prices.
That is why she chose to do the home deliveries herself. For an extra cost (which is actually to pay for the gas she uses), she either delivers the products herself or her parents will do it, depending on the customer’s location.
She says that there is also the option for people to go to her home to pick up their cakes if they wish.
Berenice explains that when she takes the product herself, she is 100% responsible for the state it arrives in. That’s not the case when you send it through a platform.
She says that, due to the nature of her business, she always charges 50% of the cost of the product in advance to start the production process, with the remaining 50% to be paid upon delivery.
Love… and patience
Berenice says that she is happiest when she gets customers who have been recommended by someone else, which is an advantage.
“The photographs we publish on our social networks are of our real work. We don’t use outsourced photographs to sell a product,” says Berenice Castillo about the quality and service her company offers.
Her advice to anyone who wants to dedicate themselves to business is: “define your line of business very well; always try to stand out or differentiate yourself from the competition to have more clients; and have patience and love to grow your business. Don’t be afraid to start a new business. It isn’t easy, but it can make you very happy.”
Brasa de Patio: a photograph that makes you want more
Iván de la Luz is a professional photographer with 20 years’ experience. He specializes in product, food, and portrait pictures. However, his workload plummeted dramatically due to the pandemic. As the weeks spent in lockdown passed, he wondered what else he could do to stay active.
He took advantage of one of his favorite hobbies: barbecuing. Iván says that by using his grill on his large patio (hence the name), he has been able to share unforgettable moments with family and friends, trying different cuts of meat, marinades, and cooking styles, and many other dishes.
Later, he decided that this hobby could be turned into a home-based business, which he named Brasa de Patio and he describes as a ghost kitchen (also known as a dark kitchen). The main idea is to take the flavors from the grill and be able to share them in other places and times.
“What we do is marinate the cuts of meat that have been prepared with different recipes. Afterwards, we sear them on the grill, then wrap them in banana or maguey leaves and put them into iron stew pots to be cooked until the meat falls apart. This last process can take six or seven hours,” Iván says about the quality of his food.
He explains that later, the meat and broth are separated to be vacuum-packed. Like this, they can be refrigerated or frozen and stored for a long time.
“The point is that when you reheat the meat together with the broth, you revive all the smells and flavors of the meat that has been seared on the grill and then slow cooked in an iron stew pot,” he says.
He says he’s had to go through the entire process of sourcing supplies, cooking, packing, distributing, and promoting alone.
For the logistics part, he has had to make use of some applications to deliver the products to customers, such as Dostavista and Uber.
He says that –at the beginning– he accepted only cash, but later received electronic transfers, in addition to the cost of shipping being covered by the customer.
Iván emphasizes that his edge has been to compete using his own talent. “As I’m a professional photographer, people who’ve known me as a photographer my whole life wonder if the taste and quality of what I sell now is of the same quality as the pictures I make to promote the products. Then they realize that it is.”
Iván says that he could have started his own business some time ago, but it was the pandemic that got him to the point where he actually went ahead with it.
“Along with all the bad things that the pandemic has brought us or taken away from us, Brasa de Patio is one of the best things that could have happened to me,” he points out.
What’s your advice for those who want to run a business from home? “It’s important to take a little time to be able to imagine what business you’d like to start and then you’ll begin to see the real possibilities and opportunities. These are very difficult times for dreaming in, but as much as possible, imagining something can be the beginning of a project with unimaginable possibilities.”