May 15, 2002 | By: Laura Skillman

Mary Ann Arnold decided to begin a home-based business as a cruise counselor after retiring from a job with the federal government.

Since starting her business, Arnold has joined the Greater Louisville Home-Based Business Association. Her brother, Larry Gatewood, who operates an investment business from his home, invited her to attend an association meeting. On Saturday, the siblings were among a large number of people participating in the association's second showcase.

"It's been very helpful to be a part of this organization," Arnold said. "It's a great avenue to learn things that home-based people really need such as how to access insurance. We have different courses, you can take back information and implement it. It's a wonderful opportunity to get out and meet with other people and realize that some of our problems are the same."

Saturday's event attracted home-based business owners, people interested in starting their own business and vendors looking for people to use their product to start a business.

"With today's activities we had three objectives," said Nelda Moore, Jefferson County Extension agent for family and consumer science. "The first objective is just to showcase the businesses, to allow them to network with other home-based businesses and to sell or recruit. Another objective is to introduce the association to home-based businesses. Also, the showcase is for people thinking about starting a business so they can get information and know where they can get further information."

Judy Leithauser of Louisville was at the showcase to get ideas about starting her own internet-based business. She is interested in selling some type of product.

"This is wonderful," she said. In Kentucky, more than 377,000 people operate home-based businesses which are equally divided between rural and urban areas.

The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service in Jefferson County works with home-based businesses and helped establish the association. Statewide, the Extension service provides educational programs, materials, networking assistance, research on home-based businesses.

Moore said she has used curriculum developed by Patti Rai Smith, UK Extension specialist for home-based business, to conduct home- based business workshops for the past six years. The association developed from a core group of workshop participants. It is the only one in Kentucky and surrounding states, Moore said.

Moore said Smith spent about a year meeting with the group to help them develop bylaws and a structure. They have been meeting steadily now for three years at the Extension office and this is there second showcase.

Ed York, the association's president, said he joined the association out of a need to get information for his home-based computer business. The association and showcases are successful due in large part to Moore's efforts, he said.

"I don't know that we could have done it without Nelda and Patti Rai," he said. "Nelda's always there, she keeps us on task and is a resource person."

Moore said she expects to be needed less as the association grows and becomes too large to meet in the Extension office. But she will always be there for support.

Anyone who would like more information on starting a home-based business can contact their local Cooperative Extension office.