Nelson city councillor Anna Purcell conducted an online survey through social media to find out about the scope and the issues of home-based businesses in Nelson.

Nelson councillor Purcell surveys home-based businesses

Survey asks home businesses anonymously about their location, income, employees, and issues.

There are at least 268 home-based businesses in the Nelson area. Almost a third of them are in Uphill. About 17 per cent of them are artists and craftspeople and another 14 per cent are in the media (writers, graphic designers, film-makers, etc.) Sixty per cent of them make less than $50,000 per year. What they want most from the city is broadband internet.

Those are some of the results of a survey that Nelson city councillor Anna Purcell conducted on social media over the summer. She got 268 responses.

“I has hoping for good response and I am delighted,” she said. “I am really grateful to people for answering as many questions as they did.  Most people actually answered the income question, so they were really trusting, even though the survey was anonymous.”

Purcell’s full report on the results of the survey is attached below.

She says home-based businesses are an invisible but important part of the economy.

“There is a bias,” she says. “When we think of businesses we think of stores on the street, but we don’t think about the home business community. It is not advocated for and it is not well understood.  But it might be one of the biggest employers in town.”

One of the questions on Purcell’s survey asks how many people the home-based businesses employs. The 268 respondents employ 395 full- or part-time people (including the person completing the survey).

She says she was impressed by the diversity of the businesses that responded. “Yoga teachers, caterers, plumbers, programmers, dog walkers . . .”

The top five categories of respondents in Purcell’s survey were: Artist/craftsperson, 47; media, 38; professional services, 33; consulting, 32; and computer, 28.

Asked what the city might do with the survey information, Purcell said she was not sure, but the purpose of the survey was to find out how many people were out there, what kinds of work they are doing, and what they need.

The top response to the question about needs was broadband internet, followed by improved air travel, help with business marketing, and organized networking.

She said a networking group could be one result of the survey because about three quarters of the respondents said they would be, or might be, interested in going to a meeting. She agreed that many home businesses that do not have business licences might not want to attend a meeting put on by the city.

Purcell created the survey (which she says is “not scientific”) on Survey Monkey, a popular survey construction site, and then publicized it on Facebook. She took advantage of Facebook’s post-boosting feature to get it out to more people.

Asked why politicians don’t use social media more often to find out what their constituents think, she said, “Maybe it is comfort with the medium. I love Facebook. For people who are not so familiar with it, there are questions about what is private and what is public.”

Purcell said the purpose of social media is not to simply dispense information.

“People need to get something out of what you are putting out there. You should not just badger people. I am still figuring it out, figuring out what to do on my public page, trying to find the balance.”

She says the real usefulness of social media for a politician — to create conversations and find out what people think — is right up her alley.

“I love hearing from people and knowing what they think.”

Summary Self Employed Home Business Survey

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