Thursday, June 26, 2008

Over 40 and Redefining Unemployment through Entrepreneurship

How Three Women Took the Chance of a Lifetime

By Cambridge Who's Who Contributing Author Cheryl Nordyke

Cheryl Nordyke is no stranger to adventure when it comes to finding employment. Nearly 10 years ago, after going through a divorce and losing the grandmother who raised her, she and her 5-year-old daughter packed a moving van and made the trek from southern California to New England to start a new job and a new life.

She was recruited for the job and, since she had been a customer of the Massachusetts-based software company for four years already, she knew the product and knew that she could sell it. So, with a cut in pay, but the promise of big earnings if she worked hard, she decided on a fresh start.

It didn’t take long for Cheryl to reap the benefits of what she sowed. She was the top producer during her first year at the company. For the next nine years she continued to be the top producer and brought in more than $15 million in upfront sales revenue in addition to a high percentage of ongoing revenue in monthly support fees, add-ons and the like. So when her employer eliminated her position as New Business Development Director, it came as a total shock to her. For the first time since she started working at the age of 17, Cheryl was unemployed.

During the last 20 years, unemployment rates have gone up and down as this country watched the dot-com era boom and then fall to recession before it slowly recovered, only to see a country wage a war it could not afford. During all of this, Cheryl and others just like her have had to adjust. But adjusting and coping was not enough for Cheryl. What made her successful in sales was her different outlook and approach to problem-solving, and it is what has turned her unemployed status to that of entrepreneur.

During her time at the company, Cheryl was able to help long-time friend, Carrin Torres from California, obtain consulting work at the same software company in the finance department. When that ended, Carrin went back to being a stay-at-home mom and when her struggling marriage ended, Carrin needed to look for work again. The work turned out to be much less than she needed to support four children; not only the future looked bleak, but so did everyday life. The issue of underemployment is as much of a financial shock to families as unemployment.

Faced with a search that could take months to land her a job at her previous six-figure salary, Cheryl took a chance. She put all of her life savings and retirement account on the line and decided that if she could make a good living for someone else, then she could certainly do the same for herself.

Teaming Up

While working at the software company, Cheryl met Kim Wierman. Kim was re-entering the workforce full time after spending 12 years at home raising three sons. Her husband’s health issues, plus the high cost of his health insurance, had Kim looking for a job with good benefits and time to spend with her family. She thought she had found the ideal situation when a marketing job presented itself. She was able to cross-train for several weeks to build her skills and confidence since she had been far removed from corporate life for more than a decade. The marketing job turned out to be more than she expected, but Kim welcomed the opportunity and worked hard to reach the goals set by the company. Ultimately her hard work did not pay off and her job was also eliminated. A managerial position was created in its place with the same description. Kim was not offered the new position or any other at the company and became involuntarily unemployed. Three weeks later, Kim’s husband died suddenly of a heart attack, and she was faced with being the sole provider for her family.

The expression, “Success is when preparation meets opportunity,” rang true with this trio. In the years before moving East, Cheryl and Carrin had dreamed of becoming writers and had started a book of reflections on everyday situations. Cheryl was able to introduce Kim and Carrin to each other, and the three of them went on to finish the book.

In the search for a reminder to be grateful, Cheryl, Carrin and Kim decided to wear a bracelet representing gratitude. “We were off on our quest to find the perfect piece of jewelry, but nothing out there spoke to us,” said Cheryl. Kim knew of someone that might be able to make them a bracelet and doors that they never imagined began to open.

“We met two women and worked with them for over four months and had nothing physically to show for our efforts. In the middle of working with them, another door opened and someone offered to introduce us to a jewelry designer named Jessica Fields. When our first road came to an end, we decided maybe the other road we had been offered might be worth pursuing. Jessica was exactly what we were looking for. We shared our vision and our story. We wanted jewelry that was beautiful and something you actually would want to wear and give as a gift. However, we also wanted something that would have meaning; one that would say to a recipient, ‘we are grateful for what you do’ and for the wearer it would say, ‘remember to be grateful.’”

A new business, Wavelet Productions, LLC, was born out of this search for the perfect reminder and with it Waves of Gratitude jewelry, apparel and an online community were launched. The entrepreneurial spirit with which these women approached unemployment is a mind-set that some people do not dare choose when faced with job loss, divorce, or any other new or unforeseen situation.

“We are flooded daily with negative information from our employers, the media, rude drivers and other unhappy, angry people,” comments Cheryl. “The jewelry, and the whole business we’ve created, is meant to remind us that we have a choice to not react in the same way when in a similar situation. We can choose to be grateful and not experience whatever it is that is making others so unhappy.”

The company was founded on the premise that there is something to be grateful for in every situation and in each day.

Giving Back

Waves of Gratitude will be giving a percentage of all sales to carefully chosen charities and causes. “We are going to be giving a percentage of our profits for 2008 to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure (a charity focused on breast cancer),” said Kim. “However, our cause will be wellness. We may be focused on cancer, but we will represent the positive statistics related to breast cancer survival.”

There is good news and much to be grateful for in the quest for improved wellness. Almost 80% of women between ages 50 and 69 will survive at least 10 years beyond treatment for breast cancer today, while data from the early 1990s shows just 59% of women in that same age group survived for 10 years after a breast cancer diagnosis. “If we can focus our energy on the positive progress and fight for the cure rather than against what is wrong, we can create a shift of energy,” added Carrin. “This approach can be taken to any situation we are presented.”

In the future, the Wavelet women plan to celebrate other causes, including the recognition of heroes – firefighters, soldiers, policeman and other everyday heroes. They hope to raise enough profits to give to quarterly causes. This includes showing their gratitude for all they have and what the future holds by supporting the environment, underprivileged children and education.
One of the jewelry pieces created is called "Branches of Hope," and it is meant to symbolize survival. “Every woman has survived something,” Cheryl says.

“It could be an illness, loss of a loved one, divorce, or a move – and sometimes all of those at once! For anyone who has displayed courage or strength this is a great gift to say, ‘I am proud of you; you made it.’ For you, it is a reminder that as the seasons sometimes weather a tree, it is those same seasons that bring out its true strength and inner beauty. It says that, no matter how life has been, there is hope for how life can be. The seeds of hope lie within us the same way they were in the tree before it became the symbol of strength it is today.” will also have a blogging section and forum serving as a social network where visitors can write their own gratitude stories, send pictures of the people to whom they have given jewelry and share pictures of themselves wearing it and what it is that has them feeling grateful. Giving hope to the other millions of people who will find themselves unemployed or underemployed this year, the Waves of Gratitude founders hope to reach 6 million people by June of 2009 and send a message that their focus on gratitude can shift not only their own lives but the lives of those around us. “We cannot control the world, but we can control how we choose to live our own lives. We chose to live in gratitude.”

About the Owners

Cheryl Nordyke is a native of Arizona who relocated from California to New Hampshire in 1998. Cheryl has been writing since the age of 10, consistently recording her thoughts and ideas about different situations along life’s path. She is the co-author of But What Do We Know and has written several children’s books. Cheryl is the mother of one daughter.

Carrin Torres resides in Southern California. Carrin’s background is in motivational training and personal coaching in the business arena. As a mother of four and also the co-author of But What Do We Know, she has been able to contribute many examples to the different approaches one can take in raising a family in today’s world.

Kim Wierman was raised on the North Shore in Boxford, Massachusetts and makes her home now in Derry, New Hampshire. Kim has worked as a professional writer and editor since 1986, having published work as a ghostwriter for more than 10 eBooks and printed books. She too has contributed to the book, But What Do We Know. Kim is the mother of three boys.

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