Thousands of Americans start home-based businesses, many times just for a hobby. But occasionally one of these businesses grows into a major corporation.

Lillian Vernon began her mail-order business in 1951 by investing $2,000 she received in wedding present money. She purchased belts and purses and took out an ad in Seventeen magazine. That $495 ad netted her sales of more than $30,000.This year her mail-order catalog company will sell more than $150 million in merchandise, which puts her company in the same league as Sears and Montgomery Ward.

Her tips for success:

- Make time for yourself and your family.

- Like what you do and what you sell.

- Stand behind your product.

- Be open to new ideas and better ways of doing things, including learning new technologies.

- Take risks.

- If your business does begin to grow, pace your growth. Be sure you have the systems and people in place to support your growth.

- Surround yourself with the best possible people.

- Recognize a job well done and promote from within.

- Give back to employees, customers and your community. Provide good employee benefits.