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Home-based businesses on the rise
home business
Cupcakes by Jo owners Marisa Santos (left) and JoAnna Oliva prepare a batch of their mini desserts for the Turlock Farmers Market event. The two women plan to run their business from home while building a client base, and then move into a storefront. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal

Marisa Santos and JoAnna Oliva were not afraid of the economic climate when they decided to start a new business this spring.

They were confident in their concept and product — a “cupcakery” that specializes in dainty, yet delectable treats made from the freshest of ingredients. And with Santos’ business and marketing experience and Oliva’s passion for baking, they knew they had the perfect mix for a successful partnership.

Instead of setting up shop in a storefront, however, the sisters-in-law chose to launch their enterprise as a home business and grow from there.

“When we open a storefront, we’ll be ahead of the game because we’ll already have a customer base,” Oliva said.

The two owners of Cupcakes by Jo have made large strides towards reaching their goal. They have a large and loyal repeat client list and are getting the word out about their business through community event participation and social media marketing.

“The momentum we’ve been able to create right now has been very motivating to us,” Santos said.

Santos and Oliva’s story is similar to many entrepreneurs’ who decide that opening a home business is the way to go.

“Most of new start ups are home-based,” said U.S. Small Business Administration District Director Carlos Mendoza.

Mendoza said that 90 percent of the participants in the SBA’s workshops are all thinking about opening home-based businesses. Many of those people, he said, are looking to create a job for themselves.

Being laid off from her commercial real estate job after 12 years was a motivating factor in Santos’ decision to go ahead with her Oliva’s home business plan.

“I said to myself, ‘I’m going to take this opportunity to push this forward,’” said Santos.

The double-digit unemployment rate and down-sizing trend has put many people out of job and motivated them to look for something, anything to bring in a paycheck.

“The hired employee positions, with benefits and pension, just aren’t there,” said Alliance Small Business Development Center consultant Alan Seaton.

As part of the Alliance, Seaton meets with people interested in starting businesses. He provides free counseling and research to help them get their enterprises off the ground.

“What I’m seeing with the downturn in the economy is people are thinking harder about what they’re doing,” Seaton said.

“We went for a long, long time where people were making money without having to think about it.”

Seaton said there are many benefits to starting a home-based business.

“When you work for a company, their mission may not always be yours. But the mission of a home-based business is always your agenda,” he said.

He recommends finding something you’re passionate about and then figuring out how to make money off of it. Finding people doing what you want to do in other areas of the state or country and asking for their guidance, is another tip Seaton offered.

“They will usually be more than happy to share their insights because they’re proud of what they do,” he said.

There are a variety of resources available for people looking to start businesses. Information about the Alliance and its services is available at or by calling 567-4910. Information about the U.S. Small Business Administration is available at

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.