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SOHO

I never really knew the meaning of SOHO until I started one myself. SOHO basically means Small Office Home Office and I was surprised to find out that there is dynamic market out there with people leaving their cushy jobs to start all over just like me!

An excellent network that provides advice to start up a SOHO business is eHomemakers (http://www.ehomemakers.net/en/category.php?id=9) which I accidentally stumbled upon when searching for Single Mum's associations in my objective of organizing an event to help raise funds for them after a brainstorming session with a couple of friends.

I managed to speak to the founder, Ms Chong Sheau Ching (who I had the opportunity to meet this week) and she explained that she started this business during the 1997 recession. After 10 years, we are now experiencing the economy downfall again and we can choose to feel positively or negatively about it. Those who choose to feel positive will see that this is the time of opportunity to rethink their career paths and make positive changes.

The eHomemakers network supports more than 12,000 registrants with its trilingual website. Members use the site to exchange ideas, get advice on business and family matters, and keep up-to-date with issues that affect stay-at-home mothers and caregivers. The free membership also allows them to post online ads and job notices, and receive monthly e-newsletters and printed quarterly bulletins.

Over 400 businesses are advertised on their website, www.ehomemakers.net. The website advertises administrative, accounting, and translation services as well as sales of homemade quilts, baskets, and organic soaps. In addition to online tools, members are invited to attend seminars on entrepreneurship and new developments in ICT.

The Canadian High Commission gave a grant to eHomemakers in 2000 to publish a “how-to” guide for women who want to start home-based businesses. The guidebook, entitled Working @ Home, is available in English, Malay, Chinese, and Tamil. Twelve thousand copies of the book were donated to NGOs and other organizations that help disadvantaged women.

Working @ Home: A guidebook on how to start home-based businesses The Malaysian Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment gave eHomemakers a grant in 2001 to further develop the eHomemakers’ website. This transformed the organization from a completely voluntary mothers’ group to a social enterprise that began to take on community-based non-profit endeavors.

Support for eHomemakers’ aims has enabled it to expand its mission to address the needs of home-bound individuals, the disadvantaged, and the urban poor.

In 2002, eHomemakers launched a program called Salaam Wanita, which means ‘Recognizing Women’ in Malay. The purpose of Salaam Wanita is to provide women who are homebound due to illness or disability with basic technical and business skills so that they can work from home and network with others.

Last year, eHomemakers moved into the international spotlight when it received one of the prestigious Gender and Information and Communications Technologies (GICT) Awards. The award recognized eHomemakers for its innovative use of technology as a way to empower and elevate the status of Malaysian women.

eHomemakers survives primarily through online advertising revenue, corporate sponsorships, gifts, and grants received for the various projects it champions. Though the network has gained international attention and has drawn more visitors to its site, the need to address increasing traffic is the primary issue eHomemakers has to concentrate on this year.

Since many poor women rely on help through Salaam Wanita and other eHomemakers projects, Sheau Ching and her team have been innovating ways to continue operations without cutting programs.

This year, eHomemakers is looking for private and public sector partners to take this knowledge across international borders so that it can replicate its proven model in Indonesia and Thailand. I see this as my opportunity to help my business grow so with with the resources that I have, I try to contribute to their cause of helping the disadvantaged and the urban poor.

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