How I Became a Millionaire

I've received numerous emails from folks curious about the small businesses that I've managed from home. Here's the story of my entrepreneurial experiences.

When my husband and I married (at age 23), I was working as an office assistant at a veterinary hospital earning $7.50 per hour ($15,000 annually). Unsatisfied with my low wages, I brainstormed ways to generate extra income. I had worked as a volunteer dog trainer for the Humane Society (since age 14), so I combined my experience and youthful exuberance into a part-time side business. I offered dog-training classes and taught them in the veterinary hospital's backyard. It was a win-win situation: my employers had a new service to offer their clients, and I was self-employed, with very low operating expenses.

I soon added home and pet-sitting to the services I provided. Approximately one year later, my part-time business was earning more than my full-time wages at the veterinary hospital so I quit my job. Over the next few years, I expanded my business and hired a few part-time employees. It was at that point that I discovered the joys of working from home in my pajamas.

Meanwhile, my husband served as a company-employed plumber working for hourly wages, earning $30,000 to $35,000 a year.

At age 30, I sold my dog-training and pet-care business (for ~$75,000) and we launched a plumbing and heating business of our own. My husband served as the project estimator and plumber; I was the business manager and bookkeeper. Our customers quickly spread the word about our new plumbing company. Within our first year, we had generated enough business (via personal referrals) to keep us busy and profitable. Building a business based on personal referrals completely eliminated the need for us to spend a dime on advertising. (I'll share how we earned a referral-based business soon.)

We soon faced an important decision. Should we expand our services by hiring other plumbers? Here are the two options we considered:

Option A:
Continue to manage a small in-home business operated by:
1 full-time plumber (my husband; 40 hrs/wk)
1 part-time apprentice (20 hrs/wk)
1 part-time bookkeeper (me; 5-10 hrs/wk)
Earn $250,000 annual gross revenue with 50% net profit (low overhead expenses means a higher percentage of revenue remains as profit).


Option B:
Manage a storefront business operated by:
5 full-time plumbers (200 hrs/wk)
2.5 full-time apprentices (100 hrs/wk)
1 full-time bookkeeper (40 hrs/wk)
1 full-time manager (40 hrs/wk)
Earn $1,250,000 annual gross revenue (5 times more revenue, with 5 plumbers, than Option A above) with 10% net profit (higher overhead expenses means a lower percentage of revenue remains as profit).

Which business would you rather own? At first glance, most would likely say, “I'll take the business that makes one-and-a-quarter million dollars each year!”

Whoa now, let's slow down and do the math:

Option A: Small in-home business brings in $250,000 gross revenue and nets 50% profit
= $125,000 annual net profit.

Option B: Larger storefront business brings in $1,250,000 gross revenue and nets 10% profit
= $125,000 annual net profit.

Now that you've checked the math, which would you choose?

My husband and I chose Option A. Option A comes with less expenditures of time, energy and capital; and reduced risk. Option A nets the same profit as option B. As a bonus, option A allowed me to continue working at home in my pajamas.

Of course, if we hired 10 plumbers, we might make significantly more income. However, upon evaluating our priorities and values, my husband and I decided that we already made enough. We made the choice to work less rather than grow our business. In other words, a balanced lifestyle was, and still is, more important to us than money.

Since our plumbing business required only 5-10 hours/week of my time for bookkeeping tasks, I decided to learn how to invest on my own (without assistance from our broker). I dedicated almost two years to the study of equity investing via books, web sites, and conversations with investors. Once confident that I had acquired the knowledge, confidence and skills necessary to invest successfully on my own, I fired our broker; saving us thousands of dollars in commissions and fees.

Once we reached our crossover point (the average annual return from our investment portfolio exceeded our annual expenses, plus inflation), we scaled back on our business. My husband currently works only two or three days a week. Now, he can be selective in the projects he accepts. For instance, he no longer unplugs toilets, but he still enjoys creative remodeling projects. If he chooses to retire completely or do something entirely different, we'll sell our plumbing business.

Before traveling to China to bring our new daughter home, I hired a bookkeeper to replace me so that I could focus my time, energy and attention on parenting and pursuing my hobbies. Additionally, I've learned how to effectively manage our investment portfolio in such a way that this task requires just one or two hours per month of my time.

We have truly attained freedom. Whether it be work, parenting, or play, we wake eager to spend each new day doing whatever we choose. What a gift!

Question for my readers: Are you interested in being your own boss? Why or why not?

Relevant and Recommended Reading:
Getting Rich In Your Underwear: How To Start And Run A Profitable Home-Based Business (Paperback)
Making a Living Without a Job: Winning Ways For Creating Work That You Love (Paperback)


  1. Your story of how you became a millionaire sounds to me like you did it with your husband, not alone as a woman and mother as in single mother, because that is how your blog initially sounds. And you make it sound like you are a millionaire thanks to trading equities, which only take you one to two hours a month. Your husband is now working for fun, you not at all, besides the one or two hours of checking on your investment portfolio. If that was true, you must have several millions invested which I cannot imagine you ever made with those numbers, and best any professional broker. Because, if you can easily amass that much money with investing just an hour or two once a month, why did you ever fire your broker to save money? An hour of professional broker time is not that expensive. I have not seen all your articles yet, but I do hope you explain in a little more detail how you make so much money and how much you had to initially invest to have it at a level were it pays off at all, especially as a substitute income, or rather to get the means to buy a cheap child in China. I had a boss once, who started a company with his best friend. The story they are telling is that their initial plan was to go fishing most of the time instead of sitting in an office. And truly, they were hardly ever seen in their company, and if so, only for short hours per week. We are talking a successful, profit making company here. That is why I cannot understand the plumbing company decision. To decide that the boss is the only worker is a high risk and a lot of stress put on that man. He might love his job, but it is not a rich people decision. You seem to be very frugal. I am still bothered though by the first impression you are trying to make as millionaire mommy next door. You are asking if your readers are interested in being your own boss. You are not a boss. You are speculating, gambling for money. Your husband is the one who is a boss of his own company. I think you are mixing up a lot here.

    1. This sounds like the comments of nothing more than a bitter (and quite rude) investment broker to me...