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A career can come in many forms.

Pet-sitting, computer repair, candle-making and housecleaning for servicemembers making a permanent change in station aren’t traditional vocations, but they’re among the many home businesses that operate on military installations in Japan.

Defined as an “enterprise authorized to operate from base housing,” home businesses offer products that otherwise wouldn’t be available on overseas bases while providing spouses with what can be gainful employment, said Kyna Weaver, career focus program manager at Yokota Air Base’s Family Support Center.

“For many individuals, employment opportunities are somewhat limited here,” Weaver said. “If someone with a special skill can’t find work in their area, a home business can help keep their skills current so their career isn’t derailed just because they’re here.”

While spouses are behind most home businesses, sometimes servicemembers moonlight off-duty, such as the active duty clown at Yokota who entertains children at base functions.

At Yokota alone, about 150 home businesses are licensed. There’s no limit on how many can operate, Weaver said, but some restrictions do apply.

A home business cannot compete with base organizations, such as the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, Navy Exchange, Defense Commissary Agency, and Morale, Welfare and Recreation.

“If someone does nails, they cannot use the same acrylic nails used at the beauty shop” in the Yokota Community Center, Weaver said. “You’ve got to have something that AAFES does not already provide.”

Home entrepreneurs may get their business approved if it differs slightly from the base’s. “Do they do it exactly the same way? Do they provide it in a shorter time? Are they available at a different time?” Weaver said.

AAFES, for example, carries storage containers, but people at Yokota Air Base are allowed to sell Tupperware products because AAFES doesn’t offer that brand, Weaver said.

“It’s really up to the discretion of the base commander” as to whether the service provided is needed and not already existing, she said.

Businesses in direct competition with base services “would detract from programs that benefit the base community directly and that put money back into programs for sailors and families on a community-wide basis,” said Lt. Vanessa Hopgood, Sasebo Naval Base’s staff judge advocate, who responded by e-mail to a Stars and Stripes’ query.

“Teaching English provides wonderful opportunities for SOFA personnel to interact with the host nationals and engage in cultural exchange,” the staff judge advocate explained.

Each military installation has its own approving authority. At Yokota, it’s the 374th Mission Support commander, while at Sasebo, it’s Commander, Fleet Activities Sasebo.

Before CFAS reviews a civilian employee’s or family member’s request for a private business, the sponsor’s unit commander must sign off on it, Hopgood said.

The unit commander considers whether the business would interfere with the civilian’s official duties or conflict with the Department of Defense mission or policies, she said.

A servicemember also must first get approval from his or her unit commander for a home business or to moonlight, to ensure the enterprise doesn’t interfere with his official duties and is compatible with military service, Hopgood said.

Those wishing to operate a business in government quarters must take an extra step before their request is sent to the base commander: The housing office must review it for compliance with housing requirements; residents must get housing office approval for any alterations they propose to conduct their business.

Other restrictions that apply, according to Hopgood, include:

• People may not use their government or sponsor’s employment to solicit business; door-to-door sales are prohibited.• Government resources may not be used either to promote a business or sell services or products, with few exceptions; each base has an approved means for advertising a business, such as bulletin boards in base housing.• Businesses may not purchase NEX or DECA goods and re-sell them. The exception is catering-type businesses, where one turns a product into a completely new product or service. An example of a violation would be a person who delivered bears and balloons on holidays, purchased from NEX.• Businesses or employment considered detrimental to U.S. interests or a source of embarrassment will not be approved.• SOFA-sponsored individuals may not sell to Japanese or other non-SOFA personnel any goods that have been imported duty-free into the country. This includes any item brought in through the military postal system or a household goods shipment. To sell to the Japanese, a person must have purchased all materials from the local economy or imported them through the Japanese postal system.• The military postal system may not be used to conduct business. The only exception is that customers may have products delivered directly to their post office box just as if they were ordering a product through a catalog or over the Internet.

To get a home business license at Yokota, a person completes an employment request package, which is reviewed by civil engineering, public health and legal offices, and AAFES, before the mission support squadron commander considers it.

“Very few have been turned down,” Weaver said.

The license is good for one year, at which time it has to be reauthorized.

Base residents who want to sell products over the Internet also must apply for a license, Weaver said.

If they intend to sell to customers back in the States, they cannot ship the product via the military postal system. Instead, they must use Federal Express, the Japanese postal system or another mailing system, Weaver said.

Someone who sells products from Pampered Chef, for instance, could take orders as long as the merchant mailed the items directly from Pampered Chef to the customer, she said.

For information about your base’s home business opportunities, contact the family support center.

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