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What if I were to tell you about an investment of less than a thousand dollars, that returned six figures each year that you could operate in your Spiderman undies…

These types of get-rich-quick online success emails clog up my inbox, but this week I met up with two young stay at home mums who have done just that. In between changing nappies, cooking, cleaning, and raising their husbands – have managed to build thriving online businesses.

What’s interesting is that both women seem to have stumbled onto their success – neither had any experience running a business (much less an online one). What’s inspiring is that you can do it too.

Let’s meet them.

The party girl

“We’re a bit like the Brady Bunch around here”, Kristy tells me.

When I call she’s in the middle of preparing dinner for her husband and four kids, but she immediately swings into action: her husband is marshalled to Masterchef duties, children are appeased, and the interview starts. Like most mums, this former newsagency worker takes multitasking to a whole new level.

Kristy stumbled upon her business idea by chance when she was planning her kids’ birthday parties. “They were at the age where they all wanted themed birthday parties: Spiderman, Thomas the Tank Engine, Dora the Explorer – but the party supplies were really quite expensive and in short supply.”

To keep her kids happy and her costs down, Kristy contacted some of her friends in America and had them buy her the party supplies from US mega-retailer Walmart and ship them over. They cost a fraction of the Australian price – even taking into account the currency and the shipping and handling.

“I realised that there were plenty of parents like me wanting the same thing, so I started buying more and began selling them on eBay and my site discountpartysupplies.com.au”, she says.

“Really, I was just a stay-at-home mother trying to keep busy. I figured if I could earn $50 a week then that would give me some extra cash that would help the family out.”

The business grew like when a kid sees their birthday present.

Without ever having to borrow a cent, last year Kristy turned over $380,000, and drew a tidy profit of $115,000, all generated operating out of her spare bedroom.

She tells that this year business is really booming: “We’re on track to turn over $800,000, which will give us around $250,000 in income.”

While Kristy is working ‘about ten hours a day’, she says what’s really important to her is that she’s able to run her business around her family – “and still make lots of money!”

The savvy shopper

Carolina has three young boys – one of which must either be very young or very grumpy, because each time I spoke to her on the phone he was screaming the walls down.

Barefoot: “Have I caught you at a bad time?”

Carolina: “No. Why?”

Just like Kristy, Carolina started her business a few years ago when she was shopping online for her son’s birthday, but couldn’t find what she wanted.

Ironically she was looking for Spiderman-themed party supplies. “I tried to order them from the US but the company wouldn’t ship here”, she explained.

A few hours of searching and she eventually found a company that would ship to Australia – but they wanted to charge her more than $200 for shipping a $25 purchase!

Sensing that she wasn’t the only person who’d run into this problem, she set up her website, Price USA, in 2007.

It’s a simple business: customers fill out an order form on the website indicating what they want (and from where). Then her US-based agents buy the goods, package them up and ship them to the customer’s door.

Carolina charges the buyer 5 per cent of the total order price to handle the transaction.

“My customers love it. They can buy rare items that you can only get in the US, and of course with the Aussie dollar so strong there’s huge bargains to be had. The other day a guy bought a $770 Armani watch through us and saved $350 from buying it here!”

Business is booming: three years after setting up shop, Carolina celebrated her 10,000th order through the site in February. By October 2010 she was celebrating 15,000 orders.

“Financially I’m making a lot of money – nearly six figures – and the best thing is that I don’t have any large costs, just a server, internet access, and my website.”

Internet riches

Neither of these businesses are the type that ‘get-rich-quick internet millionaire seminar’ dreams are sold on. They’re far too simple to be believable.

At some stage you’ve probably thought about doing something similar. So have I. The difference is that these two stay-at-home mums actually went out and did it, and in the process built real businesses with real (and growing) six-figure incomes.

And while the strong Aussie dollar has put the wind in their sails, ultimately their ship is being steered by stronger factors – like the retail battle between the clicks and the bricks.

As people grow ever more comfortable with ‘add to shopping cart’ – this will increasingly hurt capital-intensive ‘brick-based’ businesses.

In the (not too distant) future the hurdles to shopping online will be reduced further: the ability to return goods will increase (zappos.com ships two pairs of shoes with a return envelope), shipping costs will fall, and warranties are increasingly becoming global.

And when you factor in that the Government is spending tens of billions of (our) dollars on a superfast national broadband network, the stage is being set for many more moneymaking mums.

Tread Your Own Path!

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lunadirimmel/1411913488/