Taking Work Home

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RGV Business Owners Talk Shop About Vocations in Residences

A typical day for Bella Vladimirsky, a naturopath and certified nutritional consultant, consists of meeting with clients, developing health programs for them, and taking part in health-related webinars.

What isn’t so typical is that Vladimirsky runs her business, Advanced Holistic Health Services, in her McAllen home.

“It is a more relaxing atmosphere for me and my clients/associates,” she wrote in an email, adding the advantages of working from home include “no commute, flexible hours, no big expenses, I am my own boss, [and] I make lots of new friends.”

More people are telecommuting, a 2017 FlexJob report finds. A total of 3.9 million U.S. employees work from their residences at least half of the time, the report states, representing a 115 percent increase since 2005. 

There are a number of benefits of working from home, according to a 2017 Forbes article — from a boost in productivity to an increase in job satisfaction, among others. For some business owners in the Rio Grande Valley, working from home is a no-brainer.

John Zmuda, the semi-retired owner of Instrument Services Company, operated his calibration services business from his garage for 16 years. His business entailed visiting clients at their locations, so having an official storefront wasn’t important to him.

“Some guy had a calibration company here in Edinburg and I worked for him for about just short of two years and I realized that he couldn’t do what I could do,” John Zmuda said, recalling how he got the idea to start his own business. “All he knew how to do was collect the money, and I was like, ‘jeez, I can do that, too.’ So off I started.”

Success didn’t happen overnight.

“In the beginning, you really learn how to make a tortilla stretch,” he said.

But over the years, and with a little patience, the work paid off for him.

“You just gotta trust God and he’ll make sure it happens,” he said. “There’ve been times I’ve just been waiting and waiting on invoices and my checkbook is taking a dive to like 20 bucks and stuff like that, and low and behold, someone will pay an invoice.”

For other local telecommuters, it’s the flexibility of the work that attracts them.

Yolanda Zmuda, an independent health and life insurance agent, reports to an office in Pharr for appointments. Otherwise, she travels to meet clients or works out of her home.

“My time is flexible,” she said. “Because it’s flexible, I can reach my clients on their regular schedule.” Yolanda Zmuda sets her own hours based on the needs of her clients.

“Because you make your own schedule, everything is good. You are your own boss and you do it because you like it,” she added.

Brandi Kennedy, the owner and CEO of Compassionate Birth Services LLC, decided to quit her job after the birth of her son. After a couple of months, she said she felt the urge to do more.

“I took childbirth classes with my son when I was still pregnant with him,” she said. “So I thought, ‘oh, wow, I can absolutely do that and I can be at home with him.” As Kennedy’s services expanded to include doula work and placenta encapsulation in addition to childbirth education, she officially formed her company.

Kennedy cites availability for her family as one of the biggest perks, as well as working partly out of her home. But an initial decrease in salary and accompanying lifestyle adjustments make Kennedy offer a warning for potential telecommuters, particularly those looking to create their own businesses.

“I think that people have to have some realistic expectations of what that might look like and it might not be for everyone,” she said. “I would really encourage people to evaluate what their situation and what their needs and their wants truly are because there’s probably going to be some sacrifices that need to be made.”

For Kennedy, those sacrifices were worth it.

“I will say I feel like I really found something that I don’t feel like I’m going to work,” she said. “I really don’t feel it’s a job. It’s just what I’m meant to do.”

Vladimirsky, the naturopath, copes with setbacks of her own while working from home.

“I always feel that I am at work, even when I’m ‘off the clock,’” she wrote.

Still, it’s a small disadvantage compared with the rewards of her chosen career.

“It is worth it,” she wrote. “I love my business, I love people, I love working from home, I love McAllen, and I don’t have any regrets.”