Career Changes: 5 Success Stories

Last Updated Apr 12, 2011 12:39 PM EDT

While employment numbers are increasingly positive, many of those who have been laid off and looking the longest are still struggling. Analysts say imploding industries -- such as construction and publishing -- are one of the primary reasons for this unfortunate phenomenon.
But many people who lost their livelihoods when their professional path dissolved have paved a new way by starting their own businesses. To join them, start by taking a deep breath and thinking long-term, suggests Mike "Dr. Woody" Woodward, PhD and author of The You Plan. "Most people don't take the time to step back and really strategize their next move. Instead, they panic and start engaging in busy work that doesn't really move the ball forward," says Woodward.

So take some time to think big, and get inspired by these five small business success stories. Perhaps they'll spur an idea for your own second act?

Dan Nainan, of New York & Beverly Hills
Industry Switch: Tech Exec to Comedian
I was a senior engineer with Intel Corporation. My job was to travel the world with Chairman Andy Grove, doing technical demonstrations on stage at events. I took a comedy class to get over the fear of being on stage. When I got laid off from Intel, I used this as an opportunity to pursue my dream. Since then, I have performed at the Democratic National Convention, a TED Conference, three presidential inaugural events, and for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I just recently performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
Nicole Hunn of Westchester County, New York
Industry Switch: Corporate Lawyer to Nutrition Author
I practiced law in large international law firms for over twelve years before I was laid off in March 2009. I started a gluten-free cooking blog, and went on to write a cookbook based on it, called Gluten-Free on a Shoestring. The cookbook was just published on March 1, 2011, almost precisely two years after I was laid off.
Mike Schwarz of Santa Monica, California
Industry Switch: NetZero VP to undershirt entrepreneur
As internet access migrated to broadband and cable companies started taking the lion share of the business, NetZero had to downsize. While at home recovering from knee surgery, I saw a show called The Big Idea, and it inspired me to start my own undershirt company, RibbedTee, in 2008. Although I've helped build and launch products for other companies in the past, when customers tell us and others how much they love RibbedTee, I feel like a proud father. I never quite got that same feeling creating something for someone else.
Ariane Hundt of New York City
Industry Switch: Pharmaceutical Market Researcher to Personal Trainer
Four years ago, I was the Director of Global Research for a boutique pharmaceutical market research firm and I was in charge of supplying big pharma with information to boost their marketing and sales. The industry was changing rapidly and research money became scarce. I left my position to pursue my passion for fitness and nutrition and decided to go back to grad school and start my own company, the Brooklyn Bridge Boot Camp. I started out by training clients on the side while still employed and then made the jump a few months later. Within three months, I was matching my salary by doing personal training. I worked my marketing magic while working on my Master's degree in nutrition and a year later the Boot Camp exploded.
Eric Sedransk of Bergen County, New Jersey
Career Switch: Finance to golfing web entrepreneur
I worked in finance for four years (at Bear Stearns) and then was laid off. With my passion for the game of golf and the growing interest in collective buying websites, I knew there was a high demand for a niche site to target this demographic. I launched www.TheEarlyBirdie.com six months ago, where we offer a different golf course/business in the New York Tri-State area each week at a substantial discount. Instead of spending time slaving away in a cubicle for a large organization, I am at or around golf courses, and no longer dread going to work each day.
What small business would you love to start, and why? If you've already started your own business, what was the hardest part? Please sign in below and share. And for more career advice, follow @MWOnTheJob on Twitter.

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    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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