Mobile Entrepreneurs Meet Clients at the Coffice

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"I specialize in generational differences (in employment)," says Kitagawa, "and I think mobile work gives people the sense of freedom and the balance they're looking for. Generally speaking, the younger generation does prefer it. … They want to stay in their sweats all day."

Flying often to meet with clients in both Hawaii and Washington, Kitagawa decided it made no sense to rent office space here. Now that she and her husband have moved back to Hawaii fulltime, the spare bedroom has become the ideal office, though much of her business is done in their car that is equipped with plug-in Bluetooth accessibility. Oftentimes, she'll handle an important conference call on the road or after pulling into a shady parking lot where she can also work on her laptop between meetings.

"For me to make my business model viable, I can't afford office space. … At my last job with AT&T, they were really open to working from home, so I had already been doing it on an as-needed basis."

While tax breaks exist, especially for entrepreneurs who use part of their home for work, they can be tricky and require study to fully understand the ramifications. For instance, if you sell your home, you may need to pay back all the home-office tax breaks you took.

Working from home can keep costs down during a business's uncertain startup. Kleeman had to trim costs to the bone when he started his own mobile accounting firm almost a decade ago after three years in a downtown office.

"No way could I afford a commercial space," he says. "If I went that route, I wouldn't be able to survive. From there, I found a niche with clientele that appreciated the fact I went to them. This has just been a good fit for myself and my clientele, especially my clients who are older and may not like to drive. When I visit someone in their home, 99 percent of the time any missing papers are in the next room and immediately accessible. That's just the opposite of working out of an office. Sometimes it would take days or weeks to consolidate all the needed papers."

     Accountant Sean Kleeman talks to clients from his car
     or meets with them at their homes.
     Photo: Rae Huo

Carol Kozlovich, an interior designer with her own firm, has watched her business and personal needs change over the years, and, with them, the necessity of office space.

"In all my career, we always went out to the client," says Kozlovich. "The offices were a place for the staff and samples, not a place where clients came. So when the recession hit, I realized it wasn't necessary to carry on with the office anymore."

There was also a time when Kozlovich needed to marry care-giving of elderly parents with her work schedule. Working from home made that possible. "It gave me peace of mind," she says. "Having an office in the home made it easier to do the care-giving."

It was a particularly delicious challenge for her design skills to divide her small studio into living space, office, entertainment area and bedroom. The results of working from home include savings on gasoline and safety (she likes working late and used to walk home from the office at night).

"One of the challenging things about life is finding new ways to do old things," says Kozlovich. "This is just another way to conduct business."


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