In his home studio, Ron creates and draws cartoons and illustrations that have been published and circulated around the world.
Weekday mornings are pretty typical in Ron and Cindy Wheeler's south Kansas City home. After breakfast with the family, he heads for the office and she takes the youngsters to school.
Ron's commute is just up the stairs to his cartoonist's studio. And Cindy, Audrey and Byron go downstairs to a home-school classroom.
"Burglars know better than to come around our house," Ron joked. "It seems like we're here 24 hours a day."
Most people are trading the pressures of the rat race for the comforts of home. According to Link Research in New York City, 12.9 million workers earn their primary income from a home business; 13.8 million earn part-time income from home; and 7.9 million telecommute, or work a salaried job from home. More than 200 home occupancy permits have been issued in Lee's Summit alone this year.
"Within the next five years, half the work force will earn at least part of its income from home," said Paul Edwards of Santa Monica, Calif. Edwards and his wife, Sarah, have written a series of home-based business books.
Why trade the security and steady paycheck of a regular job for the uncertainty of a home-based business? The reasons are as varied as the cottage industries springing up across the Southland.
Peggy Feagins, a Grandview potter, was looking for a way to combine her lifestyle with her interests - and make more money in the process.
"I was a stay-at-home mom and wanted something that would allow me to remain at home and still make money," she said. "I had an interest in working with clay, and my business grew out of that."
Ten years later, she has a profitable business producing functional stoneware, such as bowls, lamps and crocks. She markets her pottery through retailers and selected shows.
Wheeler's business grew out of a lifelong interest in cartooning. His cartoons are used widely in Sunday school literature and other materials from the Nazarene Publishing House in Kansas City. His Jeremiah comic strip has long been a regular part of the church's youth magazine.
"Working at home fits my nature, because I'm a self-starter," Wheeler said. "I can set my own schedule and work as hard as I like. There are times I work until 2 in the morning. Or, I can back off if I'm not up for it that day.
"I get to be around my family; sometimes for brief periods and sometimes for extended periods. I'm not just seeing my kids at the end of the day, when I'm worn out and they're worn out."
Family consideration also motivated Kristi Nielsen, senior sales director for Mary Kay Cosmetics in Lee's Summit.
"By working at home, I can design my career around my family instead of the other way around," she said. "I can take my kids to school and join them on field trips. Also, this allows me to work 20 or 25 hours a week and make as much money as most women do working 40 hours."
Of course, these benefits have tradeoffs, which become more apparent around April 15 each year. Home entrepreneurs bear the full brunt of taxes, insurance, retirement plans and other benefits.
"The down side is that you're in business only as long as you earn the next paycheck," Wheeler said.
"I figured out once that I could make a fraction of what I make now and have the same earning power if I were working for a company such as Hallmark. Much of my time and resources go into activities that don't produce income."
Working from home can also put a strain on relationships. Beth Smith of Home Office Management Services, a consulting company in Lee's Summit, has met people whose families actually want their business to fail because it detracts from their relationship.
"I tell people they can neglect cleaning the house and doing the laundry, but they can't neglect the people in their lives," she said. "Personal relationships should never come second to business."
Drawing this line between family and business is essential, workers say.
"There are a lot more distractions at home, so you have to discipline yourself," Feagins said. "Before you get started, talk over how it will affect your family life."
Although working at home is not for everyone, the success rate is higher than that of storefront businesses. So, apparently, is the satisfaction.
Surveys show that nine out of 10 home-based entrepreneurs would not want to go back to a regular office setting, said author Edwards.