After more than 20 years of rearing children and managing a household, Helen Kay plunged into the world of entrepreneurship last year.
The British native, who married an Emirati with whom she has six children, sold her gold and her car to gatherabout Dh50,000 (US$13,613) to start a jewellery business from her Dubai home.
"It started as a hobby to keep my children off television, but now it is a serious business," Ms Kay said of her enterprise, Helen Kay Gifts.
She has generated Dh500 to Dh2,000 a month, selling beaded bookmarks with metal handles, misbahs (worry beads) and jewellery sets at art fairs and 12 Emirates National Oil Company (Enoc) outlets in Dubai over the past year. This month Ms Kay won a contract to supply 40 Enoc outlets for National Day.
Only Emirati women, or those who qualify through marriage such as Ms Kay, can start a business from home licensed by the likes of Dubai's Intilaq, but they cannot employ anyone.
While this offers the independence of working from home, such business owners are advised to adopt a disciplined approach to their affairs.
They should ensure invoices for every transaction are kept, tap the internet as a marketing tool and join a professional organisation to make the most of their limited resources.
In the second quarter of this year, 41 Intilaq licences were issued in Dubai and 75 were renewed.
Home business is the first step in gauging the viability of an enterprise, says Joseph Ponnou, the chief executive at Prosum, an online payment technology company, and a former executive with Al Ansari Exchange. He likes giving free advice to budding entrepreneurs who might be looking for home business ideas.
"In many cases, for such activities one may want to move from the concept to trial-and-error [then] to the money making stage before formalising the activity with a business licence," he says.
Ms Kay, for instance, expects to scale up her business by next summer and eventually have six outlets in Dubai.
In the Emirates, where clients for home businesses are contacted mainly through networking, belonging to a professional group is important. Ms Kay belongs to the International Business Women's Group (IBWG) in Dubai and it has helped her spread the word about her business, especially as she attends monthly arts and crafts fairs.
"All of our events have an element of networking, some more than others," says Sue-Sharyn Ward, one of the founding members of IBWG, which she helped to start in 1983.
At the group's monthly breakfast meetings, every member is allowed to talk about her business then contribute to the discussion topic of the day. Home businesses must also keep receipts of every transaction.
That helps to keep a record of "what is coming in and what is going out", says Ms Kay. "I did not keep any record and do not know what I made altogether this past year."
With the internet, marketing and sales has never been easier. And a website articulately describing its services to fully optimise the site's visibility can make a big difference.
Apart from printing out 30,000 flyers and banners, Ms Kay has invested Dh5,000 in a website even though her company is run on a tight budget. And the word has spread. She has filled orders from Australia and the United Kingdom.
A website also pays off for potential domestic clients whom she approaches for business.
"They can see what I do on the website and window shop," observes Ms Kay.