Welcome to Second Act Stories, a podcast focused on life and career change. In each episode, we bring you the story of a courageous individual who has made a decisive career pivot and is pursuing a more rewarding life in a second act.
The stories are in their own words and the words of friends and family that helped them find a new path. Each episode examines the “before” and “after” phases of a life or career relaunch and offers lessons learned.
Puppy Love: Tara & Jess Leave Big Pharma To Form DIG Labs
In 2015, Tara Zedayko and Jessica Chu were both employed at Johnson & Johnson, one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies with $82 billion in annual revenue. They bonded over their work launching new healthcare products for humans but also a mutual love of dogs.
Four years later, Tara and Jess departed J&J and founded a start-up company called DIG Labs. Their focus is on the use of technology to provide personalized health care for our furry friends. Tara is 36 years-old and Jess is 32 years old.
As you'll hear in the episode, DIG Labs is developing an app that would allow pet owners to photograph their dog’s excrement, text it for immediate analysis and receive feedback in just 10 seconds. Yes, we may now conclude, there is an app for everything.
Click here if you'd like to learn more about DIG Labs. You can also sign-up for the wait list for the launch of their new app. And make sure to bring your cellphone along on the next walk with Fido.
He Advised Major Companies...Now He Works With Aspiring Athletes
Mike Huber had a 20-year career as a top consultant with Ernst & Young, Cushman Wakefield and KPMG. His focus was in the area of site selection consulting – helping major companies like Samsung, Time Warner and Bausch & Lomb find new business locations. He worked hard and made a very good living. But over time he became frustrated with the corporate rat race and began to ask, “is this the right career for me?”
He went back to school, got a masters in Sports Psychology and became a mental performance coach. Today he works with middle-school and high school athletes helping them improve their mental fitness and game performance.
Mike took a major cut in compensation to launch Follow The Ball, his new consulting practice. But he is so much happier in his new line of work.
Single Mother & 16-Year-Old Daughter Launch "One Hot Cookie"
Bergen Giordani was a single mother working a full-time job during the day and bartending at night in her hometown of Youngstown, Ohio. It was tough road.
So back in 2013 and with the help of her then 16-year-old daughter Morgen, she opened a retail dessert shop called “One Hot Cookie.” She put all of her savings, $2,500, on the line.
The mother-daughter team have proven to be a formidable partnership. And in the age of COVID-19, they have dramatically expanded the online portion of their business shipping both cookies and a “do-it-yourself” cookie decorating kits all over the country.
If you’d like to sample their cookies and perhaps order a “One Hot Cookie at Home” decorating kit, I’d encourage you to visit www.OneHotCookie.com. Of course, you’re also welcome to drive to Youngstown, Ohio if you want a hot, gooey, chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven.
Special thanks to Kerry Hannon for suggesting this story. Kerry is the author of “Never Too Old To Get Rich” which includes a profile of Bergen and Morgen. She is an amazing writer and great friend of Second Act Stories.
Best Of 2020: Fraidy Reiss' Unorthodox Second Act Story
As we start the new year, we’re pleased to share the episode named by Second Act Stories listeners as the “Best of 2020.” Fraidy Reiss’ story is among the most inspiring tales we’ve profiled on the Second Act Stories podcast.
Part of the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, New York, Fraidy was married at the age of 19. It was an arranged marriage to a man she barely knew. He demonstrated a violent streak within a week of the wedding punching his fist through a wall and threatened to kill her. Over the next twelve years, she feared for her own life on a daily basis. But she eventually she found a way to get a college education, achieve financial independence, divorce her husband and escape with the custody of her two daughters.
Today, she is the Founder and Executive Director of Unchained At Last, the only organization in the United States dedicated to ending forced and child marriage through direct services and advocacy.
Want to learn more about Fraidy Reiss and Unchained At Last? Check out her TED Talk on YouTube or visit the Unchained At Last website. Fraidy is also featured in Bruce Feiler’s book “Life Is In The Transitions” (which is how we first heard of her) and Hillary and Chelsea Clinton’s “The Book of Gutsy Women.”
A Navy Veteran Launches A Winery (And Yes, It's In Cleveland)!
Right after high school, Destiny Burns enlisted in the armed forces as a cryptologic officer. She had an exciting, 20-year career traveling the globe with the Navy. And when she retired from active service, she settled down in Northern Virginia and worked for a range of defense contractors.
But in her early 50s and after a divorce, she decided it was time to move back home to Cleveland, Ohio and launch her own business called the CLE Urban Winery. CLE purchases all of their grapes from California and Washington but the wine – about 50,000 bottles a year – is made in Cleveland. “Good Wine Made Fun” is Destiny’s mantra.
Launched in 2016, the CLE Urban Winery was growing and thriving until March 2020. The COVID-19 Pandemic forced a three-month shutdown ("it was like a dagger to the heart") and continues to challenge her business on a daily basis. Despite this difficult environment, she couldn't be happier running her own company.
Special thanks to Kerry Hannon, author of "Never Too Old To Get Rich," for sharing this story idea.
Goodbye Executive Recruiting... Hello Furniture Making
Sheldon Myeroff is a true entrepreneur. He launched Direct Recruiters, Inc. at the age of 31. And over the next 37 years, he successfully grew the business into major executive recruiting company.
In 2011, he began an exit plan from Direct Recruiters – turning over the management of the company to a group of partners. And that’s when he installed a rather elaborate woodshop in his basement. And over the past 7 years, he has turned a hobby of work working and furniture making into a booming business called Chagrin Valley Custom Furniture.
Success has come from specialization with a focus on designing, building and selling custom-made river tables. A "river table" is two pieces of natural wood with a river of epoxy resin flowing down the middle. That’s become 80% of his furniture making business.
He is now turning the day-to-day operations over to a 32-year-old mentee named Zach Schulte (who we’ll also hear from in today’s episode).
Click here for a look at more river tables and other wood products produced by Sheldon, Zach and the team at Chagrin Valley Custom Furniture.