Is it Ever too Late to Re-Invent Yourself?
16 successful local professionals share the story of their re-invention.
Jason & Junie Roggensee
from: Owner/Broker of an Arizona real estate company, property sales & management (Jason) and assistant manager at an Arizona-based branch of Washington Mutual (Junie)
to: Founders of Farm 651, a farm market/ CSA
transition age: 33 (Jason) and 29 (Junie)
aha moment: We wanted an easier more fullfilling way of life. We wanted to see the fruits of our labor and be able to build something with our hands. Although I am very thankful for the life and experiences that real estate sales was able to afford me, it is extremely stressful and not part of my long-term plans.
most memorable moment in the transition: When we arrived last summer, we got in really, really late. Our furniture had not arrived yet, so we slept on the floor. The shower was not working yet, and a good portion of the house and kitchen was still under construction. It was an extremely stressful few weeks, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss the comfort we had left behind in Arizona.
Biggest Change: Seeing the natural beauty of northerm Michigan, we have really developed a better appreciation for recycling and sustainable construction. We tried to build everything on our farm with these earth-friendly principles in mind. It is now a big part of our life.
next dream: In the next five years, we would like to expand our farm market operations to include a working winery as well as a bed and breakfast for guests. In the winter months, Jason will be working on developing plans for affordable and sustainable housing. I am going to erect structures utilizing alternative building methods and have them available for all to see and learn from.
Reality Check: I don't want to lie and say we don't constantly wonder if we have made the right decision. It has been a real struggle to start a new business. The government of Michigan translates into a bureaurocratic nightmare for entrepreneurs, and the zoning officials and regulations are overly intrusive. Anybody who is considering a new enterprise in Northern Michigan really needs to take these factors into account.
from: Elementary Public School Teacher
to: Owner, Moomers Homemade Ice Cream
transition age: late '40s
most memorable moment: Before we opened, we spent an hour with two gentlemen from SCORE, explaining our ideas. Their advice was to not continue the project. In the middle of our first July, at the end of a long line out into the parking lot, stood one of those men. As he got closer to the cash register to order, his wide grin beamed, exclaiming that we must have written our business plan [as directed by them], and it had worked. I answered with a grin on my face that the only business plan we had was what he could see and feel around him.
Biggest Change: My life feels busier now, too focused sometimes on the business. I float with Moomers's varying schedule throughout the seasons, and no longer have a "summer vacation." Owning Moomers has shown me the importance and role of small business in America. It has been fun and challenging to learn new skills, unrelated to teaching. Because of the thousands of wonderful people I meet each year, I realize the importance of people in our lives and what a small world we live in.
next dream: No next career, just retirement. My dream is to see Moomers Homemade Ice Cream continue to prosper and grow in ways unknown right now. And, to have co-owners Jon and Becky continue to develop and believe in my passion, with continuing support of their siblings and my grandchildren.
to: Marketing Maven
transition age: 39
aha moment: After receiving a chemistry degree I spent 17 years in the chemical industry. I worked for Dow Corning, then after moving to Traverse City I worked at Coding Products in Kalkaska. At 39 with two kids at home, I was looking for a job closer to home. I examined which parts of my job I liked the most. I enjoyed online research, and I wrote articles for some industry publications and enjoyed that. Combining writing, research and creativity led me to marketing.
Biggest Change: Life has changed in many ways. Mainly, I have become much more resourceful and much more creative.
next dream: Can't say that I have one at this point. I feel fortunate to be working at a company that is growing despite the current economic conditions and that allows me to use both sides of my brain – creative and technical.
from: Graphic designer and illustrator
to: Yoga educator
transition age: 42
aha moment: I realized that just because I was really good at something didn't mean I had to do it forever. This insight gave me permission to change my place in the world, my lifestyle, and my mind.
Biggest Change: Becoming a yoga educator transcended and enfolded my prior career, in that everything I learned in the past could be used in the next – so I never felt that I lost or missed anything. Having a vocation now which has great meaning for every aspect of my life is fulfilling in a way that having a successful career did not fulfill. The upshot: I'm happier doing what I was meant to do rather than what I thought I ought to do.
NEXT DREAM: We live long enough now for three 23-year careers. I have had two, so far. The next will "transcend and enfold" (philosopher Ken Wilber's terms) this career, I am sure. It will entail education, art, spirit and beauty. I'm excited!
from: Real estate investor/developer
to: Owner/operator/designer, Roth Shirt Co.
transition age: 48
Best Moment: Every time a passerby stops and says, "These are cool," then feels our shirts and says, "Nice shirts!" Reminds me every day that I am on the right track.
Epiphany Time: I am totally content, right where I am meant to be. In a career I NEVER imagined myself in, but following my gut has meant everything, and I couldn't be happier.
next dream: No career thoughts beyond current. I dream of growing my business, employing many, getting involved more in my community, and enjoying customers.
from: Professional football player
to: Insurance agent, Farmer's Insurance Group, Leland
transition year: Football career ended in 1974
Biggest Change:Not traveling and staying overnight away from home 3 or 4 times a week.
next dream: Build up my agency as an investment
Martha "Marti" Johnson
from: Media sales/marketing
to: Stand-Up comedienne and motivational speaker
transition age: 47
most memorable moment in the transition: I have been telling jokes and one-liners at gatherings and parties for a long time. My friends had been encouraging me to do an open mic night in Traverse City. My first performance was on a Monday – May 17th, 2010. About 80 or 90 people were at Lil Bo, cheering my name. I knew I had found my dream. Recently, I was asked to open for a nationally-known comedienne, Leanne
Morgan, at the Corson Auditorium at Interlochen on July 24th, 2010.
Biggest Change: I feel alive again. I feel that I have inspired people to try new things and step outside their comfort zones. I feel grateful to be given a gift that I can share with others. I have incredible support from family and friends to continue to follow my dreams. I am being sought after for speaking engagements, and people stop me wherever I go and ask how my new comedy career is going. I love to make people laugh and have fun. Laughter is truly the best medicine!
next dream: I am currently working on a website: martijohnsoncomedy.com. I hope to be a part of the 2011 Traverse City Comedy Festival and perhaps try out for Last Comic Standing in a couple of years. I hope to travel to motivate people to re-invent themselves, be positive, think outside the box, take risks, surround themselves with good people and get involved in their communities.
from: Professional golfer
to: Banker, Bank of Northern Michigan
transition age: 27 years old
how life has/you have changed because of that switch: In the summer of 2003 I was playing at the Savannah Lakes Resort in what is now called the Kandy Waters Memorial Classic on the Hooters Tour. I shot a one under par 71 the first round and was in decent position to make the cut. I came to the last hole on Friday feeling that I would need to make a par to make the cut. If you make the cut, you play Saturday and Sunday, and are guaranteed to earn a check of some kind, depending on where you finish. I hit a good drive and an equally good second shot into the hole, leaving about a 15-foot putt for birdie. I missed the birdie putt and had about 2 feet left for par. As I was low on funds, I knew there was a chance that putt could be my last putt as a professional golfer if I missed it.
I got over the ball to hit it but had to back away and start over because the thought of it being my last putt crossed my mind – which isn't the best thought to have if you really have to make it. I got back over the ball and hit it. The ball spun around the rim of the hole, doing a 180 … then came back at me. I tapped the ball in for a bogey, and sure enough: I missed the cut by one shot. It was indeed my last professional tournament and last professional putt.
Epiphany: Looking back, I am so glad I took the chance at golf, rather than not having tried at all. I can't thank my parents enough. They were so encouraging and stood by my decision to try and follow my dream of playing golf professionally. I realized shortly thereafter that there is no way I could have done what I did, or be where I am today, without them. I am also very thankful to have a great friend who assisted me in getting my first job in banking.
next dream: I look forward to continuing my career at The Bank of Northern Michigan and am excited about the future. Being a part of the office here in Traverse City since it started in July of 2006 has been a lot of fun and hard work at the same time. It has been a rewarding experience to be part of such a hardworking group of people.
from: Broadcast meteorologist (TV/Radio)
to: State representative (R-Kewadin) 105th District
transition age: 48
aha moment: When a member of a state agency told me that I was "the public" and had no right to ask questions, and that if I wanted answers, I would have to be a state rep or senator.
Biggest Change: The joy of being on TV and radio was meeting the public, and now I get to do it every day. It's certainly more demanding but very rewarding.
next dream: Right now I just want to be an effective statesmen and represent my district honorably.
from: Cost analyst for Craft House Corporation/co-owner of Fitch's School of Dance
transition year: 2000
aha moment: My employer left Kalkaska.
Biggest Change: Went from an office with no window and very little interaction with others to a career working outside, working with many people – and in an office with a window.
next dream: To keep enjoying working with others and finding them their dream home.
from: Restaurant/hospitality industry
to: Printing Industry
transition age: 34
aha moment: My wife and I were living in Seattle when my Dad called from Traverse City to ask if I would be interested in taking over The Copy Shop. When I got off the phone, my wife said, "When are we moving?" After three months of discussion, we decided to make the leap. When else would I have the chance to own a business and be back in Traverse City?
Biggest Change: The best thing was being able to raise my two children in my home town. I have learned to wear many hats – from janitor to CEO. In a small business there is only you, and you have to figure it out. You learn that a telephone can be your best tool – like a lifeline to help.
next dream: Working with youth in some capacity – for example, as an Upward Bound leader.
from: United Methodist pastor
to: Owner of The Black Swan women's boutique in Glen Arbor
transition year: 2001
Epiphany: I did know something about customer service and business – however, going to shows and buying goods for the store was a very new experience. Exciting but exhausting. I really enjoy working with people in my store but was surprised by how much behind-the-scenes work it takes to keep the business going and thriving. I love the fact that anytime I shop while I travel it now is considered "research."
Biggest Change: I am probably in better physical shape because of being on my feet all the time and lifting those heavy boxes rather than sitting at a desk! In my work in the boutique, I get to help people, listen to their stories, and make friends with a wide variety of local and tourist customers – and that is what makes life fun and interesting.
next dream: Excited grandmother!
Bob LaMontagne aka "BOBO"
from: Co-owner of The Sound Room, retail sound and video business
to: Owner/operator of racing business
transition age: 40
aha moment: During this first eight months of selling my store I built – by hand – my race car that I campaign now on the vintage circuits all over the East Coast and Midwest. Then I started Boss Crank Racing. I race a vintage BMW car; restore, rebuild and work on cars as an enjoyable hobby. I worked for the BMW dealership and though I left the dealership I still do contract work for them for special events and new car launches, golf outings, driving schools and events that I host in the area. I now manage a private race shop and car collection.
Biggest Change: I now run this shop from all angles: cleaning, track prep, building engines, etc. I am very relaxed and have time to do other fun things that make money and offer great services to others.
next dream: I do my dream career now and will always be expanding on this.
from: natural foods restaurateur
to: Earth-friendly building product company owner
transition age: 40 years old
aha moment: March 2006. When we determined that the building industry was going to crumble, and we could be at the forefront of its recovery.
Biggest Change: I'm leading a healthier lifestyle. As a restauranteur, I worked about 72 hours per week. I don't as the owner of Eco-Building Products. So, I have time to be with my children, exercise and live a great northern Michigan lifestyle.
next dream : I want to successfully produce a Green Plate Challenge and a Back-to-the Basics Workshop Series.
from: Auto Industry
to: Owning and building a mold remediation company
transition age: 47
aha moment: Understanding that I can really help people by doing this type of work and that life is not all about money – plus traveling all over the United States, meeting with people who aspire to do the same thing I am trying to accomplish.
Epiphany: If you never have run your own business, the change can be overwhelming. It seems like it all falls on you. There is so much to do: learning all the rules in running a business, asking for help and, most importantly, knowing that sacrificing for the good of the goals – keeping your clients and employees happy, remaining humble and grateful, going one day at a time – makes it all worth it.
next dream: My dream is that my children who work with me can take this opportunity and move it to the next level while I sit on a golf course somewhere trying to lower my handicap!