CONTRIBUTED BY SARAH FORTE
Job security. It’s one of the benefits of military life, but this job security does not roll over to the dependents. In many cases, each PCS may mean a new job for a working spouse. Unless you can take your job with you!
The number of home-based businesses is growing in the United States and with that comes an increased number of you bringing your business with you to Okinawa. Some of you may choose to start a home-based business while you are here. It’s a good partnership: if work is where your home is, it doesn’t matter how many times you PCS, you can take your job with you.
There are so many kinds of home-based businesses. There are beauticians, photographers, home cleaners and caterers. There are also the independent consultants. You are the party-throwers! You throw parties and sell cookware, candles, scrapbook supplies, baskets, books or practically anything else. If you are making money doing something from your home, then you have a home-based business.
What about here on Okinawa? There are special rules and guidance for your home-based business, both if you live on or off base. Hopefully this post will set you off on the right foot. First, let me start with a little disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer. I can’t take the place of good legal advice. But I can hopefully steer you in the right direction.
If you live on base, your first stop is the Okinawa Military Family Housing on Kadena (Building 721 Douglas Ave, near Merek Park) regardless of branch. They will provide you with form AF 3902. Fill it out with as many details as possible. I believe that this form includes obtaining your sponsor’s unit commander’s signature. If your home business is based on something you are licensed to do in the United States, such as cosmetology, manicurist, aesthetician, etc…, then you will be required to provide your state license number, and may be required to carry the appropriate insurance.
If you live off base you need to go to the legal office for your sponsor’s branch of service. They will have a similar form for you to fill out, in fact if you are sponsored by the Air Force it’s the same form.
There are some limitations. You cannot compete with AAFES or other on base services (18FSS for Air Force, MCCS for the Marines…). You cannot resell any items from AAFES. Further approval is needed for any business dealing with invasive procedures, medical or psychological services, and food preparation. Your customers must be other people with SOFA status. You are not allowed to solicit door to door or operate in a common area or federal work place. It is illegal to sell “sex toys.”
If you are interested in doing in-home daycare for other children you will need to become licensed. The Family Child Care (FCC) office for MCCS is in building 100 on Foster. The FCC office for Air Force (including Kadena Chibana Housing, Camp Shields, and Torii Station) is in building 1860 on Kadena .
Also, we take our PSC boxes for granted, but really they are a privilege. They are for our personal use and not for mass delivery of commercial items. If you have a business that sells items to customers the items can be directly shipped to your customers. Your other choice is getting a box at a Japanese post office which comes with a price and a loss of convenience. I have heard of people with a home-based business getting a warning slip with some of their bigger shipments.
Your base legal office can help answer general home-business on base questions. For most of you, completing, filing and having your initial form approved will be all you need to start working from your home sweet home-business.