New association formed to put the case for home-based businesses

The lot of small home-based businesses can be a hard one but a new association is hoping to change all of that.

Gary Kleyn reports.

WORKING from home can be a sole-practitioner’s dream, however, there can be many bureaucratic hurdles, particularly from some local governments, that have to be cleared.

In addition, home operators also face negative perceptions from clients and suppliers.

A new group, The Home Based Business Association of Western Australia is being formed to foster the aims and aspirations of this sector through active lobbying and, through advice, hopes to remove some of the misconceptions about small businesses.

Association chairman Jose Navarro said he believed the industry provided important economic benefits to the suburbs.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveal that home-based businesses represent a sizeable chunk of WA’s small business sector.

Of the 126,000 small businesses in WA, 87,700 or 69 per cent operate either at or from their home.

These numbers have been growing at around 20 per cent every year.

More than one quarter of home-based businesses employ at least one employee and 46 per cent have been in operation for five or more years.

Mr Navarro said some local councils were clearly against home businesses and placed onerous licence fees on them, while other councils were already seeing the benefits.

The City of Wanneroo is viewed as a standout in encouraging home-based businesses.

City of Wanneroo mayor Jon Kelly told WA Business News that he expected the home-based business sector would service the booming local building and construction industry.

“The development industry will account for a whole range of businesses and I would expect home-based business to cater for that growth,” Mr Kelly said.

To capitalise on the sector, the council commissioned Edith Cowan University Small and Med-ium Enterprise Research Centre director Beth Walker to compile a study on the opportunities the sector presents.

Dr Walker’s work is now being used by the Home Based Business Association to promote the cause of home businesses.

She surveyed approximately 300 metropolitan small and home-based businesses such as account-ants, real estate agents, lawyers and secretarial services.

Dr Walker said smaller at-home businesses were more beneficial to their local community and helped to foster regional employment.

Together with ECU, the council has developed a regional electronic marketplace.

Wanneroo has also ensured that businesses that do not require employees, on-site parking or clients to visit the site are not subject to an approval process or council fees.

The council allows home businesses to employ up to four staff.

Mr Navarro said in many cases the home could be the nursery for larger businesses.

He said in many cases people knew when the time was right for the business to move out of the home in order to avoid conflict with neighbours.

“The biggest hassle we have is with the credibility that comes with working from home,” he said.

“It is often tarnished.

“They [home-based businesses] have a lot of trouble with suppliers, manufacturers and clients who view it as a backyard operation which is not legitimate.”

Mr Navarro said this led many businesses to hide the fact that they were run from the home.

Another issue is the problem of accessing finance from banks, which discriminate against home businesses.

“Essentially, the new association will be looking at the big picture for the home-based business sector,” he said.

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