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Virtually Possible

By Moushumi Chakrabarty
Posted Sunday, December 26, 2004

This article deals with a business idea that can be run from home.

Shifting gears mid-career from lawn-care to a virtual office any seem too unnerving for some. For Janice Byer, MVA (Master Virtual Assistant), it propelled her on the road to success. Winner of the Most Successful Start Up 2000 and Home based Business of the Year 2000 awards, Janice’s Virtual Assistance and Web Design business continues drawing in clients across North America.

“For most of my career I have provided administrative support, in one way or the other. So while I was researching and came across the idea of a Virtual Assistant, it just seemed to click. Why not do what I had been doing my whole career but provide the services to numerous clients rather than to just one boss?” she reasoned.

Janice, a Work-At-Home-Mom (WAHM) based in Caledon, Ontario, started Docu-Type Administrative Services (www.docu-type.net) in the summer of 1998 after her father’s decision to retire from his lawn-care business. Up to then, she was running the entire administrative side of his business. She was doing everything an office manager does - purchasing, payroll, marketing and sales. But she knew it wasn’t something she was willing to do for the rest of her life.

“Though I learned everything about running a small business from those years, I wanted to spread my wings. But I was not ready for corporate culture. I felt I had to do something from home and got on to the Internet. There I came across many others who were home-based word processors. That seemed the perfect solution. It just felt right,” she recalls.

She applied for and was accepted to the Self Employment Assistance (SEA) programme sponsored by the HRDC. That was a very smart step she thinks in retrospect, since the programme offers hands-on training for running a small business. Janice’s business offers virtual office assistance to small business owners. The company’s mission statement reads: ‘To help small business owners meet and exceed the needs and expectations of THEIR customers. We want them to succeed and stay successful.’

She points out that small business owners do not have huge elastic budgets and she offers them creative solutions.

When Janice started out, she realized how important it was to have a website. While designing her own, she fell in love with the creative process. She added web design services to her business and built up a portfolio of websites she had designed. A major chunk of her business is now designing websites for small business owners. On her own website, she produces a newsletter called ‘Virtual TidBits’ which is chockfull with tips, links and articles for her clients.

It has not been an easy ride to the top however. “Anyone can be a small business owner, but to be successful it takes passion for what you do and a dedication to make it successful. When I started my business, I kept one thing in mind - I wanted to succeed! I worked more hours in the first two years of my business than the rest of my professional career. But I loved every minute of it,” says Janice.

Her typical day starts off early with a cup of tea and the over 50 emails that she responds to. After seeing her daughter off to school and her husband to his job, she is ready to tackle the business of the day. She does all the minor updates to her client’s websites and the administrative work required. Scheduling the day is important and on top of her list are projects that take extra time.

The afternoon is a busy time for Janice as she works straight hours on her latest client’s websites. By the time her daughter Megan is home at four, she still has an hour of two of work to be done. Janice believes in the power of mentoring and credits her mentor for being there whenever a glitch arises. She met Kathy Ritchie, another Virtual Assistant, online, three years ago and they have helped each other through the highs and lows of home business life.

“You have to be willing to learn from your peers. If they recommend that something may not work, heed that advice. They have been there, done that,” she says.

Without hesitation, Janice observes that being a small business owner has been (virtually!) her most unique and wonderful experience in life.

About the Author
Moushumi Chakrabarty has been writing for over ten years now and has been published in the print and electronic media. Her ebook, 'Positive Thoughts for Writers' is now available from (http://www.echelonpress.com). She lives in Ontario, Canada and encourages those interested in get in touch with her on mou18ca@yahoo.com.