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No business like mom’s business

With two children, a husband and a house, Karen Zemitis of Hummelstown
wanted to quit her full-time pharmacy technician job and be a
stay-at-home mom. But she also wanted to bring in some income.

With two children, a husband and a house, Karen Zemitis of Hummelstown wanted to quit her full-time pharmacy technician job and be a stay-at-home mom. But she also wanted to bring in some income.

During a shopping trip in Lancaster, she noticed soy candles and purchased a kit for making them. After a year of research, formulating and testing to create her own product, Zemitis got a business license for her company, Countrytrail Soy Candles, which she now operates in her home.

“People started buying the candles, and my business grew just from family, friends and word-of-mouth,” Zemitis said. “I’m surprised at how the business took off.”

Women are finding ways to have it all — taking care of children as well as working to supplement family incomes. But the ideal situation for some is the ability to have a home-based business and be available when family needs arise.

Zemitis said she had to make a choice of working outside the home or diving head first into the candle business.

“I knew I couldn’t do both,” she said. “My husband, Peter, supported my decision.”

Countrytrail Soy Candles’ revenue has grown 18 percent each year since the company started in 2005. From September to December 2009, Zemitis sold more than 2,700 candles at fundraisers, with a portion of the proceeds going to the charity. She also sells soy candles on her Web site.

“I ship all over the United States,” she said. “This year I got my first order from Puerto Rico.”

More important to Zemitis are the personal benefits. She’s able to work around her children’s school and sports activities, and the children, now ages 14 and 12, go with her to craft shows. A separate room in their home is dedicated to the candle business, where family members lend a hand. Her children and the neighborhood kids give her feedback when she creates a new scent.

“When Craig and Dylan were little, I had them putting on the warning labels,” Zemitis said. “My husband picks up supplies and wicks hundreds of jars.”

But a home-based business can present challenges.

“The challenge is balancing work and life as the business grows,” Zemitis said.

Lizzie Jordan agrees. Jordan started her floral designing business, Lizzie Jordan Flowers, from her home in April. She just opened her bricks-and-mortar shop in Lower Allen Township, Cumberland County, this month.

Jordan rents the 850-square-foot shop from her husband and father-in-law, who own the building. There’s a separate room inside where her children, ages 6 and 3, can play.

“Trying to balance two young children, two dogs, my husband and a house is a challenge,” Jordan said. “I do a lot of volunteering, and that’s been the biggest challenge. That’s still very important to me. But you can’t do everything really well.”

Jordan was a teacher but knew she wanted to start her own business. Her husband persuaded her to try.

“It was terrifying,” Jordan said. “My great-grandmother was a florist in Philadelphia, and my mother was an amazing floral designer. I’d go to the flower show with her and get in before the doors opened up for the public. I’d watch the designers getting ready.”

Jordan realized she had the talent and began doing floral designs for family and friends. She approached a local florist about doing work for them, but never heard back. That’s when she decided to do it on her own.

“I set up a sawhorse in the basement with industrial lights,” she said. “Sometimes I’d be working on a design with my son hanging off of my leg.”

Edyta Hutchman of Harrisburg is a certified doula, lending support to mothers and fathers during the birth of a child. She started her business last year and already is booked into April 2010. Hutchman works with parents months before a home or hospital birth.

“The idea of making it a profession was wonderful to me,” Hutchman said. “The role of the doula is growing in this area. I get e-mails from women in Lancaster, Mechanicsburg, Camp Hill and Harrisburg. Without my husband fully supporting me, the crazy hours and unpredictability of when I go and for how long would have been unbearable.”

Hutchman, mother to an 11-year-old girl and a 4-year-old son, can sometimes be away from home for several days until the baby is born. Her husband will stay home to watch the children, or she’ll make arrangements with a friend.

“I can’t believe it’s a job,” she says. “But you have to juggle your home life.”

Sarah Mock of York began her business, Responsible Wraps, six months ago in her home. Mock makes decorative sandwich bags that can be reused. The bags are lined with polyurethane laminate, which makes them easy to clean and prevents leaks.

“I wanted an economical way to do things, plus a way to save the Earth,” Mock said.

Mock sells her bags from a Web site and from Kimman’s, a small gift shop in downtown York.

She and her husband have two young daughters plus a baby on the way in June.

“I’m going to have to wait and see what happens when the baby comes,” she said. “I may ask other people to help out with the business.”

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