Karen Hellier is a freelance writer and eBay entrepreneur. She lives happily in the mountains of North Georgia with her husband and her dog.
How I Became an Entrepreneur
From the moment I became pregnant with my first child, I always wanted to stay at home and be with my children. But it was also important to me to contribute to the family income. So I decided when my son was born that I was going to find paid work I could do from home.
I wanted to be an entrepreneur and start my own business. But I wanted it to be something of my own and was not interested in hiring employees. I figured hiring employees could get tricky, and I liked the idea of a one-woman show, so to speak!
The following is a description of the many entrepreneurial ventures I have tried—some successfully, and some not so successfully!
Home Daycare (1991–1994)
My average earnings annually: $13,000
My first child was born in May of 1991, and after his birth, I left my job, determined to make money from home so I could be with him daily. I wanted to have a few months alone with him first, just he and I every day, so I didn't start my home daycare until he was six months old.
I had to pay a $10 licensing fee, then get approved by the state of Connecticut, which included a visit by a state daycare worker. This resulted in a list of items that needed to be changed in my home, such as having wooden radiator covers fitted onto the metal radiators in my 40-year-old home. Outside, in the backyard, a fence was needed so the children could play in an enclosed area.
As soon as those items were taken care of, I launched Little Lambs Christian Family Daycare. I was afraid the Christian label in the title of my business would turn people off, but nevertheless, I wanted the freedom to incorporate grace before meals, read Bible stories to the children, and have Christian values be part of our daily lives. I needn't have worried—once I got started, I always had a waiting list, and I never had to advertise.
I was never full by state standards, but I had between three and five children in my care each day so that I could give each child more individual attention. I had a routine that the kids and I followed every day. We also went on weekly field trips to get out of the house. This ended up being as good for me as it was for them, so we all had something to look forward to. I always had another adult with me when we went on field trips.
I loved doing daycare, but when my son was two years old, I had a miscarriage, which was devastating to me. I decided I needed to focus on my own family. I continued daycare until I got pregnant with twins and had to start bed rest at five months.
Although I thought I would go back to daycare once the twins were one year old, I found out that having twins and a three-year-old was already like having my own private daycare, so I tried to figure out another business to do at home. This led to . . .
The Joyful Heart (1994–1997)
My average earnings annually: broke even
I discovered the joy of making crafts when a friend taught me how to make dried flower creations. From there, I added clay pins out of Sculpey Clay and worked on them when the kids were napping or at night when they were in bed. I sold my creations at an annual craft show that my friend and I started doing each Christmas, and I would do three or four craft shows throughout the year. Although I loved creating things, by the time I lugged my wares to shows, paid the entrance fee, and sat there all day hoping people would buy my creations, the money just wasn't there, so I just about broke even.
Someone at this time taught me how to save money using coupons, and I started teaching friends and family how to do this, which led to teaching coupon classes and . . .
The Coupon Lady (1997–2004)
My average earnings annually: $1,000
I started teaching classes on how to save money with coupons in a grocery store, social service agencies, schools, and churches. I added classes on refunding, and making your child feel special. I loved doing this because people, most of whom were moms, were so grateful to learn how to save. Some moms saved so much that they decided they didn't need to go out and get a part-time job because they saved enough money from their budget by coupon shopping.
I met the owner of a grocery store through this business, and although I loved what I was doing, he offered me a position that he created just for me, entitled . . .
Consumer Advocate (1999–2005)
My average earnings annually: $15,000
This meant I would interface with customers at his new grocery store and ask what the owner could do to improve the store. I wrote up weekly reports offering customer feedback. I was also able to interface with many non-profit and social service groups and developed programs in which the store helped them. I became a whiz at marketing and promoting the store owner, and booked him on local radio and TV shows, and sent press releases that got him free press in local newspapers. I also continued to teach coupon classes in his two grocery stores.
While I was working as Consumer Advocate, I also continued to teach classes on my own as The Coupon Lady and started writing a national newsletter for frugal moms. I needed some samples for a Mother's Day Promotion, so signed up as an Avon Rep for what was supposed to be a short period so that I could purchase inexpensive samples. That led to . . .
The Avon Lady (2003–2010)
My average earnings annually: $4,500
When I started with Avon, my sales started to go crazy, and the catalogs sold the items for me. Before I knew it, I had $250—$400 orders every two weeks, and my manager suggested I start recruiting. Once I did that, not only was I an Avon representative but Unit Leader with a team of other Avon reps under me. At my high point, I had 52 reps signed onto my team and was making bonus checks based on their sales, as well as earning from my own sales.
After a while, I realized that while I loved the recruiting and training part of Avon and being a team leader, I really didn't like the selling part of Avon. I love Avon products but am not so fond of having to pack up individual orders, set up delivery times, and collect the money.
In 2005 I went through a divorce and then had to get a full-time job so I could get health benefits and provide better for my children. I got a job at a school, so I had summers and school vacations off to still be with my own children and kept at the entrepreneurial ventures to bring in extra money. While working at the school, I found Silpada Jewelry and became a . . .
Silpada Representative (2008 and 2009)
My average earnings annually: free jewelry
After the divorce, I decided I wanted something special for myself and thought I would give Siplada Jewelry a try. My initial idea was to do this to get a discount on the jewelry, which I love, but it's expensive. I bought my kit at 50% off the catalog price for anything I wanted. Then I would earn money on parties and get 30% discounts on the jewelry. Once I started doing a few parties, I realized I could make some money with Silpada, so for about six months decided to try it as an official business.
Calling people to ask them to have parties in which their friends were expected to come and spend money in such a bad economy was hard for me. Some hostesses would book a party, then cancel because none of their friends wanted to come since they had no extra money to spend. I stopped doing that after two years, very happy with the jewelry I had earned. Then in 2011, I discovered . . .
Macaroni Kid Newsletter (2011)
My average earnings annually: lost money
Macaroni Kid is a franchise newsletter where local moms can sign up to be Publisher Moms and list all the local events going on in their towns for children and families. Parents can sign up to receive this email newsletter for free. The Publisher Mom is charged a monthly fee (normally $99 per month, but there was a special of $59 per month when I signed on) as a franchise fee but can obtain local advertising for their site in the form of front page ads or a listing in the business registry. The Publisher Moms can keep all the money from the advertisers.
Because I had been successful in promoting the grocery store, I felt I could successfully promote this newsletter and earn money based on the advertisements. This, sadly, was not to come to fruition. Because I had three teenage children and a full-time job during the school year, I was unable to get out and promote the newsletter as much as I should have. I did this for nine months, lost money, and never was able to get more than 290 subscribers, which meant no one wanted to advertise to such a small group of subscribers.
Disappointed, but never one to give up on my entrepreneurial dream, I decided to write a blog because I have always loved to write, and if it weren't for my Dad telling me I couldn't major in English in college because there were no teaching jobs for English majors at that time, I would have majored in English and written my first novel by now (well, that was the dream anyway!)
My average earnings annually through Google AdSense: $136 (the first year, and now I do it just for fun)
HubPages (2012 and continuing)
My average earnings annually: approximately $250 per year (first year)
I write articles on everything and anything that comes to mind right now. I am so happy that I have found a place to share all the bottled-up words and stories that have been inside me for years. I plan to eventually settle down, though, and write mostly about motherhood, romance/marriage, and becoming a work-at-home entrepreneur.
Update: Spring 2015
I am finally working from home as my only way to earn money. From September of 2012 to June of 2014, I was a substitute teacher through Kelly Educational services, But a recent move to Georgia made that career obsolete as there isn't a Kelly Educational Services program near me. I live in the mountains of North Georgia with my husband and dog and am very happily freelance writing and selling on eBay. I love both forms of work and am finally living my entrepreneurial dream! I also have had a few writing clients since I have been in Georgia, so I write for them, for a few websites, and for my two blogs.
I have even found a way to combine my love of writing and my passion for finding deals at thrift stores and reselling them on eBay with a blog called "Thrift Shopping For eBay."
So that's my journey. I think I have found my niche now. I am finally writing and loving it.
Update, Winter 2015
I have come to realize that being an entrepreneur is a lifelong journey for me and that some of my entrepreneurial ventures will be thrown out the window, and some will be added to the pot as I go. I will keep what is working and throw out what is not in order to make time for more lucrative endeavors. Right now, I have two main streams of income.
It is February of 2015, and I have a booming eBay business and continue to write. I have two blogs, write for four websites, and have two private clients that I write weekly articles for. I am loving both the writing and the eBay and am having a ball being my own boss. And I am tracking my income weekly, monthly, and annually, and during each segment, I am happy to report a growth in earnings.
I believe I will truly be able to support myself 100% from my earnings from these two ventures by January of 2016.
Making a Living Without a Job
This is a book that has given me the most encouragement as an entrepreneur. I loved the book Making a Living Without a Job by Barbara Winter, and have read it at least five times. It's very encouraging for those who want to create their own work and have that work be fulfilling but also financially viable. One of the things I like best is that she gives examples of people that are out there living the entrepreneurial dream on their own terms. I have always enjoyed reading stories of other successful people and learning from what they have done. Every time I read this book, I get excited about creating my own work all over again!
Consumer Advocate, My Dream Job
- Coupon Lady to Consumer Advocate: The Story of Finding my Dream Job
The story of how I went from The Coupon Lady to becoming a Consumer Advocate for Shop Rite. Includes why I loved being an entrepreneurial mom.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2012 Karen Hellier
williams Bisola on August 25, 2017:
My name is Bisola from Nigeria. Really appreciate your writings. It really encouraged me. Just started an home school myself and must confess its just not there yet but am encouraged reading your story. There is light at the end of the tunnel for me. Thanks for your story...you will make it!
Karen Hellier (author) from Georgia on December 27, 2012:
I'm so glad you stopped by. I keep jumping around in my head trying to come up with the home business that will really work for me, and I have to remind myself that I have already found it with writing, and I just have to give it time. It's a bit frustrating because I want success NOW!But I know good things come to those who wait, so I will keep plugging along, writing online and working on a book I have an outline already written for, and in time, I am hoping that I will be successful financially with it. But I need to not let myself be distracted by all those other ventures out there! Thanks for commenting.
stephanieb27 from United States on December 20, 2012:
I was looking at the Macaroni Kid information on the web and it brought me to your hub!! Your journey sounds like mine! :) Thanks for the heads up about the monthly cost!
Karen Hellier (author) from Georgia on August 03, 2012:
Thanks for the comment. I love entrepreneurial stories too. As far as Avon, I did love the products and I enjoyed being a unit leader. I recently left the company because I realized I would much rather recruit and train new reps than sell and bag and deliver the orders. That was hard for me. I am trying to find my niche with online writing. I LOVE Hub Pages. I am starting a new series of hubs called,"Work at Home" where I profile people who work from home. I published my first one this week, about a friend of mine who is a college consultant with a home office. I am working on my second one now.
Lovelovemeloveme from Cindee's Land on August 03, 2012:
Thanks for sharing! i'd like to be updated. :) I love entrepreneurial stories. I'm all for it. if you keep trying, one of these days you'll hit something that works and make good money doing what u enjoy. u go girl! =) Avon is a tough one though. It's a popular MLM marketing company , but i find their compensation to be rather low. try other MLM companies with bigger incentives and rewards, and better training/support. =)
Jayne on February 09, 2012:
Good stuff. Keep on writing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Finance Hub from Portland, Oregon on February 07, 2012:
Great hub, I loved it, I may have something in my marketing hubs to help you earn more as well! Great read, voted up and interesting, hope you enjoy mine as well!
Karen Hellier (author) from Georgia on February 07, 2012:
Yes, and that's a good thing Esther. If we did, we wouldn't be able to reach our dreams for sure. At least this way, we have a chance!
Esther on February 07, 2012:
I really enjoyed reading this, Karen, and although our entreprenaural ventures aren't quite the same ones, I sure can relate. The neat thing is, that just like Edison, we don't give up!
Karen Hellier (author) from Georgia on February 07, 2012:
What's the saying about Edison? He didn't believe he had failed...each experiment that didn't work out was one step closer to finding the one that did. Maybe writing will be "it" for us. Let's hope we both make some $'s at it! Thanks for commenting.
Lizam1 on February 07, 2012:
LOL - we have similar stories - I am also glad to be able to write/share and hopefully begin to earn some $'s. Failed Discovery Toys/Mary Kaye seller and former daycare provider:-)