job loss as a form of freedom?

24 Mar

The economy sucks.  Talented, educated, awesome people are being laid off every day.  And yet it seems as though there is a thread of optimism amongst the younger people whose lives could be most affected by the downturn.  Is it possible that the silver lining to this unrelenting nightmare is that our generation is learning to take a chance on their dreams?  What do they have to lose?

I believe I have mentioned that I love, love my job.  And, *crossing fingers*, I believe I have pretty good job security.  But I’ve seen so many talented friends find themselves unexpectedly unemployed and what could be a crucial time in their careers.  After asking, “why?” and “how could this happen?”, you have to start thinking, “now what?”  I am so lucky that I haven’t found myself in this situation, but I have to wonder: will some of these friends ever look back and say, “thank goodness I lost my job that year”?

Of course, that seems a far stretch, but beneath all the doom and gloom, there are a few hopeful stories.  A January 2010 New York Times article covers several people with the same story line: loss of job, despair, decision to pursue a hobby or impossible dream, and success.  One laid-off architect, with dim prospects of finding a new position, set up a booth at a farmer’s market under the banner “Architecture 5 Cents“.  He now has several clients and makes more money than he did at his old job.   Another architect and her designer friend, both laid off, decided to start an ice cream sandwich company in an old postal truck.  With quirky flavor names, and indie cred, they’ve become very successful.

Another New York Times article, this one from December 2009, describes how hobbyists are becoming small business owners through websites like Etsy.

Several shop owners interviewed for this article, including Morgan Peterson, who runs a fashion label — Eliza + Axel — on Etsy, view their layoffs from traditional jobs as an opportunity to build a more fulfilling career online. In Ms. Peterson’s case, she lost her job as an assistant designer for Dillard’s and decided to create and sell her own line, made from reclaimed fabrics.

Of course, in order to do any of these things, whether it’s an Etsy business or a traditional business, you have to start a business.  Beyond the fact that it’s hard work (which most unemployed people I know would be more than happy to work hard), you have to know how to start a business.  All of the success stories mentioned had some catchy idea, or untapped niche market (knitting seems to figure prominently in many of these articles – who knew?)  On top of that you have to market yourself and/or your products, and the new world of social media can be daunting despite all the opportunities.

A group of young, crafty entrepreneurs have come up with something called Indie Business, a workshop to help start your own business.  They all have started their own business, and hey, this enterprise seems to be doing well, too.  (The first two sessions seem to have sold out, and there are plenty of happy customer testimonials.)  What an inspiring phenomenon – a business to help others start their own business!

I do know of several friends (who all happen to be women, and who weren’t necessarily laid off) who have recently started their own businesses.  [La Casa d’ Letras, Lucky Mae, Korcula, a couple of friends selling Arbonne or Avon, and another friend with a yet-to-be-named event planning company.]  In fact, after a completely unscientific, ten minute poll on my facebook status, I had 3 friends and family link their Etsy shops [Nana’s Shop, Maison de Lucille, MaeFair Vintage]  It’s so inspiring and exciting!

Rodeo baby dress, Nana's Shop

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2 Responses to “job loss as a form of freedom?”

  1. Heather March 25, 2010 at 3:33 pm #

    I saw a local news story about a guy who got laid off and so he started making toothpick sculptures (which he had done in the past as a side hobby). A museum in Spain bought some of his stuff, and now he makes his living that way—toothpicks!

  2. Mommy April 4, 2010 at 10:09 pm #

    I saw that too Heather! We all need to get creative!

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