May 7, 2010Whatever Happened To The Welcome Wagon?
Whatever Happened To The Welcome Wagon?
By Debra Cohen
My mother once told me a story about a group of women in our hometown whoused to ring the bell of new homeowners to deliver a welcome package ofproducts and flyers from local merchants as a way of introducing newcomersto their community they were called the Welcome Wagon. When my husband andI moved into our first home 6 years ago, I was five months pregnant andworking 50 hours per week. I longed for someone to knock on my door andoffer to help me find the best dry cleaner, restaurants and electricians inmy neighborhood.
I was curious about what happened to the Welcome Wagon concept and realizedthat changes in our society precipitated its demise. For one, manyhouseholds are dual income and generally there isn't anyone home during thedaytime hours. I was also told, that many women who stayed at home duringthe day, were actually afraid of opening their door to a stranger. Andfinally, with our newfound distrust of unfamiliar mail and packages(especially here in NY) I have a feeling that most wouldn't even bring thepackage into their home.
However, the need for the Welcome Wagon still exists and an ideal way tofill that niche is through a referral service business. I've seen referralnetworks set up successfully in hundreds of different communities across theUS (and even internationally) because they satisfy a universal need. Newhomeowners and even those who have lived in their community for severalyears are always interested in finding the best service providers in theirarea. Whether looking for a seamstress, a home improvement contractor or atutor for your child, a personal referral from someone who has taken thetime to do the necessary research is valued more than an ad in the YellowPages.
Another appealing aspect to referral services is that they save time. Mosthomeowners are too busy handling the day-to-day aspects of work, family,bills, etc. to take on another time-consuming task. In order to feelconfident in hiring a service professional, homeowners need to verify theircredentials, check references and most importantly, feel satisfied withtheir personal integrity. A referral service not only takes on theseresponsibilities for homeowners but it can serve as a personal conciergeservice that assists in booking appointments and tracking customersatisfaction.
For those who are searching for a unique business to run from home referralservices have emerged as a popular home based business for a variety ofreasons:
They require low overhead. As opposed to a business where you needto stock and sell merchandise, referral services sell information. Theprimary expense associated with operating this type of business is inpromotion such as direct mail and advertising. Because a referral serviceoperates on a local basis, promotional campaign costs are minimal and bestof all; a great deal of business is generated through word of mouth.
A referral service can be customized to suit your interests. If youenjoy renovating your home or have experience in that area, you can create ahome improvement referral service. If your background is in education,create a home tutoring referral service. There is also a niche for partyplanning referral services where homeowners can find entertainers, caterers,wait staff, etc.
A referral service can be operated on a part time basis and, inlarge part, by telephone. If you're a stay at home parent, this is a veryattractive quality.
While the Welcome Wagon as we once knew it may no longer exist, the need forthe services it used to provide to homeowners in communities across thecountry is still in demand. A referral service is an ideal way to fill thatniche while reaping the benefits of a rewarding and profitable home basedbusiness.
is President of Home Remedies of NY, Inc.--a Homeowner ReferralNetwork (HRN). Ms. Cohen is the author of a business manual entitled The CompleteGuide To Owning And Operating A Successful Homeowner Referral Network. For more information about starting an HRN in your area, visit the HRN website at
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