Fulfillment Through Work
According to a recent career satisfaction survey, only 50 percent of American workers are content with their jobs. And approximately one-quarter of the workforce is simply “showing up to collect a paycheck.”
One of the reasons behind the alarming statistics is that today’s workers have different attitudes and expectations about the role of work in their lives. We want more out of our daily grind, and are often willing to take great risks to get it. The best-selling book, Soloing: Realizing Your Life’s Ambition, by Harriet Rubin, addresses the mass desire of corporate defection. Most people dream of creating a life for themselves that involves being their own boss, but many feel trapped by jobs that offer health insurance, pensions and job security (all of which are rapidly vanishing commodities).
The women profiled in this article desired a truer identity through work that offers creativity, flexibility and provides a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment at the end of the day. All left “good” jobs to go out on their own – and each were told they were a tad off their rocker. Luckily, all three dismissed the naysayers and stumbled into niches in the marketplace that no one else saw.
As National Marketing Director for a seafood products company, Elise Vincentini was on the corporate fast-track. “I loved my career, made really good money, and had super opportunities. I traveled first-class to Chile, Scotland, Japan, and Asia.” But when her dog Lily became gravely ill, everything came to a screeching halt.
The ailment forced Vincentini to question her priorities – and brainstorm ways to keep her dog healthy and herself employed. While sipping a latte in Belltown one morning, she witnessed people hurriedly walking their dogs before rushing off to spend the next 8 to 10 hours away from home. The resulting epiphany led her to quit her job, cash in her 401(k) and buy a book on how to write a business plan. It took six months to open the doors of her innovative doggie daycare known as Downtown Dog Lounge. The home-like atmosphere offers services such as doggie adventure hikes, spa treatments and organic foods.
“There’s a whole generation of people with no kids whose dogs are family, and who have disposable income. In a way I’m in my element because I’m around people who don’t think I’m nuts,” says Vincentini, who also promotes proper nutrition and behavior training. “It’s very different than when we were kids. Dogs stayed in the yard and ate the cheapest stuff. They weren’t trained but were disciplined if they did something wrong.”
One of Vincentini’s most difficult hurdles was getting financial support for the unusual concept. Banks were reluctant to offer loans for the unheard-of business idea, not to mention that her estimated costs were quadruple those of a typical kennel construction. The award-winning enterprise is now so successful that Vincentini is franchising the concept both locally and out-of-state. She claims “it’s the most challenging, frustrating job I’ve ever had,” but clearly loves what she’s doing and being an innovator in the field. Oh, and her dog Lily is now doing fabulously.
To Box or Not to Box
Laurie Lamoureux’s job as a paralegal paid the bills but didn’t fit her ‘people person’ personality. It also didn’t offer the flexibility she needed while moving around the world with an oft-relocated spouse. As a self-proclaimed “organizing geek” she resolved to find a career that incorporated the adage “do what you know,” and what she knew was how to unpack.
Lamoureux is Owner/CBO (Chief Box Opener) of Out of the Box Unpacking Service, which helps families or individuals who are moving pack, unpack or downsize. “When I first started this business in the late ‘80s people thought I was nuts; they couldn’t understand why anyone would hire someone to do what I do, but nowadays you can’t call others to ask for help [moving]; everyone is too busy.”
Clients contact her in various states of distress. Some call before the move, some when they realize they’re too overwhelmed to handle the additional burden of setting up new digs on top of careers and childcare. Clientele is a mix between high-end customers who have money but no time, and seniors who need to eliminate excess while relocating to smaller living situations.
“People are ready to outsource, especially the aging population. There’s going to be a very large market with this,” claims Lamoureux, who is hoping to get her procedures in place so she can license or franchise the concept. “I’d like to teach other women how to have their own business too.”
Children (and Moms) at Play
At the ripe old age of 21, Yvette Blauvelt knew that the 9-to-5 routine was not for her. She left her first job to do freelance magazine layouts, designed and sold jewelry using African Zulu beads, invented her own style veggie burger and started a vegetarian catering business, all before opening Child’s Play Café, an Eastside destination spot for busy mothers who need an hour or two to unwind with their kids.
Blauvelt, who has an 18-month-old daughter, felt disempowered after becoming a mother. “Your life is turned upside down when you have kids. You’re sleep-deprived, food-deprived; you can never complete a sentence.” Her desire to “make a difference in women’s lives” led to the development of a café where she could incorporate her interests in food service, childcare and helping to empower women. Catering to kids under 5 (and parents of all ages), Child’s Play offers a supervised area that allows Moms to eat, sleep, read or check e-mail while someone else takes the reins. Other rooms feature toy cars kids can “drive” and clothes to dress up in. A lounge allows privacy for nursing.
Although she claims that most men “don’t get this business,” she knew she’d struck a nerve when her Web site received 5,000 hits after a single advertisement ran in a local magazine. Blauvelt believes word-of-mouth was largely responsible. She continues to get e-mails from customers thanking her for being there for them, and for recognizing the little details a non-Mom would miss, such as pre-cut toddler meals, and the flower- and fish-themed restrooms chock-full of breast pads, heated baby wipes and a fully stocked array of diaper-related products.
“I’m not doing this to get rich; I’m doing it to be fulfilled and have a sense of accomplishment,” says Blauvelt. “It’s incredibly rewarding when I see a need has been filled. It makes me feel like I’m on the right track, seeing a gap that needed to be filled and I filled it.”
While Crossing Over
Harriet Rubin, the author of Soloing, claims, “In Solo Land, work and freedom are synonyms.” She refers to the exodus from a structured, predictable life to one of excitement and challenge as “crossing over.” While looking for what they needed, Vincentini, Lamoureux and Blauvelt discovered something others needed too. Filling those niches will make each woman rich – financially or otherwise.
©2006 Caliope Publishing Company
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