In 1997 when jobs were plentiful and the workplace was considered stable, Julie Englehardt left her career in broadcast television so that she could join a different sort of work force: stay- at-home moms (SAHM).
Julie loved being home with her son and freelancing part time as a writer and PR rep in Hollister, Calif. Then the inevitable happened. Her son grew up, demanding less attention and time from Julie. She found herself wanting more work but having a hard time finding it.
So this entrepreneurial mother of two found multiple ways to generate work for herself -- and now she has three different jobs, that when combined, fulfill all her needs.
Letters from Santa
"It was around Christmas time in 2008 and I was not getting as many freelance writing jobs as I wanted to, so I got online and did some research and found a lot of articles about writing letters to Santa Claus. I thought, I could do this. I love kids and it's creative."
Through e-mails to friends and family members and word of mouth, Julie's business was born. For $10 per letter, Julie will send your child a personalized letter from Santa. So for the holiday season and a minimal amount of work, Julie pulls in about $1,500.
Her system is unique. She sends the parents who request the letter a questionnaire about their child so that the letter can be as specific and as personal as possible. For extra touches, Julie sends all of her Santa letters, via bulk mail to the North Pole, where each letter is stamped "From the North Pole," to enhance the holiday effect.
Julie also uses holiday postage stamps, and holiday decorations on the letters themselves. "I like to put good list stamps in there, or glitter or little thoughtful presents like a picture of the child's favorite animal," says Julie. "It's not about making the money so much as making the kids happy and really personalizing the experience. It's been very rewarding from the feedback I am getting."
Story Time Adventures
Almost 10 years ago, Julie was at her local library and she met an inspirational man named John Zickefoose. John grew up illiterate and couldn't even read his high school diploma, but learned to read through the community outreach programs at his local library. Years later, John overcame his problems with reading and still does a one-hour story time at the library where he learned to read.
After meeting John and learning of his story Julie felt drawn to the issue of literacy, and this past year she launched another freelance gig -- Story Time Adventures (STA). Julie picks themes for each story time and will dress up like a character to go along with that theme. She also has little games or songs that she sings to go along with the set theme.
She does these story times at local coffee houses, YMCAs, and various bookstores. Like her other businesses, the start-up costs were minimal, because Julie makes many of her own costumes from what she already owns or from the fabric store. Best of all, most of these story times are during the hours when her own children are in school so she doesn't miss out on being home with her own kids.
Visits from Mrs. Claus
For the first time this year, Julie has combined her STA work with her letters from Santa work and has started doing visits from Mrs. Claus. For $50 per hour Julie dresses up like Mrs. Claus and will come to your home, day-care center, or school, where she will read holiday-themed stories to the kids, sing Christmas carols, and will help assist the kids with writing their own letters to Santa, which she will deliver to the man himself. "I try to do things where I can still be at home with my kids. I really enjoy this and it's a little different and creative."
For $100 Julie purchased an authentic Mrs. Claus costume and was easily able to promote her Mrs. Claus business since it combines the other two businesses she already has established. "My husband even asked why I bought the Mrs. Claus suit because it was a hundred dollars, and I said that I had to at least try."
Pros and cons
Julie loves being her own boss and being able to work on things that are creative. "I never to have ask if this is OK or if that is OK. I can come up with whatever ideas I want."
The only drawback is that there is some uncertainty out there and there is not a consistent paycheck.
Julie admits to being more of an introvert -- "I am not a real 'out there' type of person, but I'd rather try than sit at home all the time" -- and encourages other entrepreneurs to "go for it."
Santa's little helper is making life as a SAHM work for her. When there was no work to be found, she made work. How have you made work work for you? We'd love to hear your story.