Using a Home to Incubate Start-Ups

I’m currently thinking about this question:

How may start-ups can you incubate at home?

NOTE:  A start-up is a new company that’s pulled together to tackle a business opportunity.  It doesn’t have to be an Internet social media venture with aspirations of being the next Facebook.  It can be small, modest, and fast to market.  An incubator is a company that helps entrepreneurs launch start-ups, usually by housing them and giving them a bit to live on.  

The reason I’m asking this question (and yes, it is a question that’s a bit new to the ear), is that I think the BEST workplace of the future is the one that you create for yourself.

Fortunately, the barriers to becoming an entrepreneur are lower than they were even a decade ago.  Some recent innovations have made creating a “start-up” easier than at any time in the history of the world.

I also believe it is even easier to become successful (attaining the dream and doing it in a way that makes you and your family better off for doing it) if you leverage your home to incubate numerous start-ups, and keep the goals of each start-up modest and attainable.

For example, a start-up in this context can be as simple as building a chicken coop and selling some of the excess eggs to neighbors.   Neighbors that currently buy organic eggs but would love to buy organic eggs that are also local and fresh!  Given the price for eggs of that quality, it wouldn’t be hard to make an extra $2-3,000 a year from that business w/o much effort.

It would be easier to set-up, find customers, and keep customers happy if there was a site that connected people that wanted fresh organic eggs to source of neighborhood supply (there is).  Using software like that, most of the uncertainty and management associated with operating the business could be minimized.

It could also be a product business, that uses the home as a place for product R&D, prototyping, assembly, and shipping of a product start-up.  For example, a novel take on an irrigation system that automates some of the work involved.  The financing of this modest start-up isn’t likely to come from traditional channels (they wouldn’t find it interesting, and even if they did, they would charge too much for the money).  However, it could be a strong candidate for customer financing from a site like Kickstarter or Indiegogo (one of the best ways to raise money since it tests the concept against the marketplace before it gets built).

So, now that you have the basic idea, how would you answer the question:

How many start-ups can you incubate at home?

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Discussion — 8 Responses

  • Javier October 28, 2013 on 4:03 pm

    I think it would depend in part on how many people
    your house houses.

    • John Robb Javier October 28, 2013 on 5:04 pm

      More people = good thing. As long as they are all willing to contribute. If not, it isn’t.

  • Don Marti October 28, 2013 on 4:33 pm

    That’s the same question that Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton ask in the book “Microbusiness Independence” —

    The book has good numbers on comparing profits from mail-order-based startups with traditional “homestead” business such as selling eggs and produce. It’s how “The 4-Hour Work Week” would look if it appeared in “Mother Earth News”. Anna and Mark have at least two homestead-based businesses: chicken watering devices for small-scale flocks, and the publishing company.

    It would be great to see a review of “Microbusiness Independence” on this site. It’s the first thing that I thought of when I read the intro, and you seem to be thinking along the same lines as Anna and Mark.

    No connection, just an interested reader.

    • John Robb Don Marti October 28, 2013 on 5:03 pm

      Don. Thanks much for the link. Definitely on the same track. I’m working on updating the concept and integrating it into a larger conceptual framework to make it possible to grow quickly. Thanks again. JR

  • Melvin Hall October 29, 2013 on 2:35 am

    Currently short sited regs in our (small) town do not allow businesses. So… flying under the radar the number would need be lower while addressing the regs.

    Have worked with several Enterprise Facilitation projects (Sirolli Institute) with great results with start-ups incubating at home.

    Thanks. You are the best.

  • Dustin October 29, 2013 on 4:27 pm

    Those kinds of start-ups need to be much higher margin to support a household. Selling eggs is so low margin that it barely make sense to spend the time doing it! You would have better benefit having eggs for you own household use and saving money by not buying from the store. It’s difficult to think of a high enough margin home business/startup to make sense with the high costs of owning a car, having a mortgage, etc. They exist, but they are rare indeed.

  • Penses October 30, 2013 on 6:15 am

    I don’t think there is a fixed limit, except via the normal constraints of time and capital.

    It also depends on how “physical” vs. “digital” the businesses in question are (both in terms of production and distribution), which also potentially impacts “local” vs. “non-local.”

    FWIW, I like your thinking (on this blog) thus far.

    • John Robb Penses October 30, 2013 on 7:26 pm


      True. It’s important to understand that digital networking changes everything. It makes businesses not possible in the 80’s and earlier, viable and profitable.