Lynne Goldberg: OMG! I Can Reinvent Myself

Lynne Goldberg MeditatingIn a short period of time, Lynne Goldberg lost all the personas with which she had come to identify herself.  They fell away, one after the other. No longer expectant mother, daughter, wife, sister or businesswoman, she was left with only one face to look at in the mirror and she didn’t like what she saw.

Goldberg grew up in Montreal, Canada, and joined the family retail chain business where she spent more than two decades in charge of merchandising management. She was a typical type-A executive, stressed out and overworked, which wasn’t exactly helpful when she and her husband decided to start a family.

“We had a lot of trouble getting pregnant and went through numerous failed fertility treatments. I was overjoyed when I finally discovered I was pregnant with twins after four years of effort.”

“It really helped me. We wear so many masks all the time and when you finally get down to it, who you are at your core really doesn’t change. Knowing that helped me shift from meeting external identities to finding myself.”

Her joy turned to sorrow, however, when Goldberg’s mother was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. The stress, combined with her full-on work Lynne Goldbergschedule, forced Goldberg to take bed rest on her doctor’s orders to save her pregnancy. It was all in vain as she miscarried and had to deliver the fetuses. Within the year, Goldberg’s mother died and her world fell apart as her brothers pushed her out of the family business.

“My mind was just not there anymore. I couldn’t perform at work and wasn’t able to do what they needed done. It was a business after all, so they asked me to leave. And despite having adopted two children, my marriage unraveled. I lost everything in a few short months,” she recalls.

She threw herself into a new line of work, using money from her buy-out to launch a home décor importing business to support herself and her children. Nevertheless, it was hard, as she was constantly travelling to China and Europe. On a personal level, Goldberg was angry, disconnected, and generally unhappy. She carried around the feeling that there had to be more to life.

Seeing her struggle, a friend turned her on to meditation.

“It really helped me. We wear so many masks all the time and when you finally get down to it, who you are at your core really doesn’t change. Knowing that helped me shift from meeting external identities to finding myself.”

She continued running the business but was really drawn to meditation and signed up for more and more courses, trying to figure out how she could develop that aspect of her life further. She began teaching meditation at hospitals and schools, until she finally came to the realization that teaching was what gave her the most satisfaction. Although her importing business was doing well, with clients like Costco and Walmart on board, Goldberg decided to sell and focus full time on teaching meditation.

“It was an easy decision.  There wasn’t any meaning in what I was doing; it didn’t make me feel good. Teaching did. When you get out of your own personal drama and look at the world from a bigger perspective, what good you can do, your mentality shifts. It’s empowering.”

And her perspective did change. Goldberg reconnected with her brothers, with whom she is very close today. She remarried and – most importantly – she’s happy and fulfilled.

“I went from being consumed with anger to having family that I love. It’s like that expression says, ‘Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal withOMG I can Meditate! Poster the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.’ One of my biggest life lessons has been forgiveness. Now I choose to find the things that give me joy. Instead of feeling something was taken away from me, I shifted to what I have.”

But the Type-A exec still lurked beneath the surface, and Goldberg wondered how what she was doing could be bigger – how she could reach more people and give them the same joy she was experiencing. As it happened, Goldberg’s husband, a fellow meditation convert who had been in tech, was feeling the same way. His last business produced ringtones and mobile content, and his number-one selling app was the fart ringtone. So it’s hardly surprising, he too was having the sense there’s got to be more and wanted to help his wife in her mission. The couple teamed up with another husband and wife duo who also meditated and had experience building apps.

After one year in development, the result was OMG I Can Mediate, a mobile app targeted at people who have never meditated before. The app launched in March 2015 with 12 weeks of content (the first of which is free) and over 100 specialty meditations from helping you wake up in the morning or go to sleep at night to dealing with your kids. There’s even the wonderfully named “My Boss is a Jerk” which teaches compassion.

OMG I Can Meditate! Logo“If you live in NY or LA, then meditation is widely accessible. But in most other places, it’s still primarily just the early adopters. We wanted to give everyone the opportunity to meditate and make it less daunting and a little fun,” the 52-year-old explains. “The irony is that the very devices that have made us more frenetic can also be the means to finding peace and happiness.”

They are constantly updating and adding new content to the app. After the launch, they were the number-one app in India – an unexpected but pleasant surprise. And AppPicker.com called OMG I Can Mediate “best meditation app available in the app store.”

Looking back at how her life has changed, Goldberg is effusive “I feel blessed, truly grateful. I cannot believe how lucky I am. We wonder why tragedy happens. Sometimes the explanation takes 20 years to figure out. If I knew back then how everything would turn out, I would have been a lot happier. But at least now I have this sense of trust that when stuff happens, it’s meant to happen and it’s going to be OK. It takes the drama out of the day-to-day stuff.”

Test drive the meditation app.

Tips from Lynne Goldberg

  • Building a business process requires a great deal of perspective.
  • Do what you are passionate about. You’ll find success, if you truly love what you’re doing. But remember, you can define success in many ways. Happiness should be the baseline.
  • If you’re thinking of launching an app, keep these things in mind: Keep it simple; Be patient. It takes time to build a brand; Believe in it and let go of expectations; Breathe!

 

 

Seven Lessons to Becoming Your Own Boss

Ethel BaumbergMy name is Ethel Baumberg and I’m the co-founder of FLYAROO Fitness, the first nationwide customizable preschool certification fitness program created for children ages 18 months to 6 years old. This is the story of how I arrived to where I am today, the lessons I learned along the way, the people who have inspired me, and how you can benefit from reading my story. (more…)

Tammy Dunn: From Travel Agent to Agent of Relaxation

Tammy Dunn

Tammy Dunn thinks she always had a massage therapist somewhere inside her. Still, she spent twenty years as a travel agent before she figured it out.

Regarding her career in the travel industry she says, “It was a job. When I went to school for it, I really thought it was what I wanted to do. But it never became anything more than a job to me, even after 20 years.”

She did consider massage therapy back in high school during the 1980s, but at that time it didn’t seem like much of a career option. There was little regulation of the industry and massage, fairly or not, was seen as something not-quite-legitimate. So Dunn never pursued the idea and largely forgot about it.

But later, well-entrenched in the travel industry, she experienced some stress-related health problems and began seeing a chiropractor and a massage therapist. Dunn worked with these professionals over the course of a year and saw the benefits of the work they did. “I realized how much I wanted to be part of that. It improved my life on so many different levels that I wasn’t expecting.” (more…)

Julia Erickson: Pirouetting Her Way to a Better Barre

ericksonSo many little girls dream of becoming ballerinas, and Julia Erickson was no exception. But unlike most of us who eventually shed that dream, Erickson trained from the age of seven and worked her way up to become a principal dancer with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.

Unlike many of the stories we share at Career 2.0, this one is not about leaving a job to pursue a passion, because dancing is Erickson’s passion. “Ballet is the love of my life,” she explains. “I would not leave my dance career for anything at this point.” Unfortunately, a ballet career is a finite thing, and there will come a time when Erickson will have little choice but to hang up her pointe shoes. So when inspiration struck, she was not about to look the other way. (more…)

Caren Magill: Flexing Her Muscle with the Perfect Protein Pancake

Caren MagillIt began, perhaps, with a fitness competition, which Caren Magill did not win. She finished, she says, “in the middle of the pack”.

Or maybe it began further back, when Magill was a teenager. “Growing up, healthy living was not a part of our general household conversation. I sustained myself on canned soup, white Kaiser buns, and processed cheese. From the time I got home from school until the time I went to bed, I was on the couch eating. By the time I left high school, I weighed over 200 pounds.

“I realized in my early 20’s that not only was being overweight uncomfortable, but it was going to limit me in all sorts of ways. When I finally lost the weight it made me realize I could do anything I set my mind to. It raised my level of self-efficacy, my pride in myself. It really did change the course of my life.”

(more…)

Sonnika Coetzee: The Sweet Smell of Success

IMGP1309 (2)There is no such word in the dictionary, but Sonnika Coetzee calls herself an “Aromateur”. She knows, for example, that it takes about 9,000 pounds (4,000 kilos) of rose petals to make just 35 ounces of pure rose essential oil. It has taken Coetzee 16 years to turn her childhood love of fragrances and interest in science into a viable business, but today she is the owner of a successful aromachology enterprise.

“If I look back at the growing years I can see hours, days and months ticking away, developing products that never really brought in the money I expected. A lot of time was sacrificed that could have been spent with family or friends and spare cash that could have used to pay off car or home loans. But I’m a strong believer in not looking back at the business failures of yesterday lest you stumble over your successes of today. Keep moving forward.” (more…)

Tina James: Championing Women on and off the Dance Floor

Tina James_ballroom compressedTina James’ heart and passion lie with women’s empowerment and, in case you doubt her credentials, she’s got two businesses to prove it. FemTECH, a support program for women-owned tech-enabled start-ups, helps African women take charge of their destinies by creating growing businesses. On a lighter note, Dancing Divas, a non-traditional dancing school targeting more “mature” ladies, builds confidence on the dance floor that translates into clients’ daily lives.

“I am so fortunate to be involved in two businesses that I am absolutely passionate about. The dancing caters to my creative side and through femTECH I can offer support services to women that inspire them to make their visions a reality. Out of what was not a very nice situation seven years ago, so many wonderful things have happened.” (more…)

Brooke Gehring: The Path to Pot

brooke1Like the Gold Rush that drew people California in the 1800s, there are indeed many people in a rush to capitalize on the biggest and most burgeoning business in our country since the birth of the Internet – legal marijuana. But for Brooke Gehring, it wasn’t so much a rush to make a profit, as it was being in the right place at the right time and being ready to apply her hard-earned skills in an industry she cared about passionately.

At only 34 years old, Brooke has a full and successful career in commercial banking behind her and is now one of the preeminent pot entrepreneurs in the state of Colorado. But her journey began in the conservative Midwest, growing up in Columbus, Ohio. Although she became “socially familiar” with marijuana around the age of 15, she never imagined she’d turn it into a career. Initially her sights were set on law. And after graduating from Miami University of Ohio, she moved out to Boulder, Colorado, hoping for some good skiing to fill her free time while she put away some money for law school working for a national mortgage brokerage firm. (more…)

Ann Marie Cassella: From Selling Books to Housing Seniors

ann marie headshot

Sometimes our career paths feel winding and unpredictable, and yet in the end they seem to lead us exactly where we’re supposed to be. Such was the case for Anne Marie Cassella.

With a public relations degree in hand from Utica College in upstate New York, Cassella’s  first job was as PR Director for The Arc, or the Association for Retarded Citizens, as it was known at that time. The job was a good fit and Cassella enjoyed her work, but soon decided to go back to school to earn a second degree in graphic design.

In order to keep her on while she went to school, The Arc offered her a position more compatible with her student hours. “The Arc owned forty residential care homes, and I became a floating manager, going to various facilities to assess their needs and make sure they were being properly run. I had no experience in this area, but they gave me all the training I needed.” (more…)

Tiina Zilliacus: From the Security of Tech Giants to the Competitive World of Gaming

Tiina ZilliacusTiina Zilliacus’ last name brings to mind the long-gone days of gladiators and Greek warriors. And in many ways, the Finnish tech entrepreneur has launched herself into a battle of sorts. Leaving the security of the corporate world, with three years of hard work and preparation behind her, Zilliacus has suited up to enter the male-dominated fray of gaming. “What I have initiated is not currently in the scope of most game developers. Within the next five years, instead of Coke and pizza, I hope more of them will become genuinely interested in health. When this happens, we’ll be there with cool employee opportunities,” she adds with a smile.

Following the career path her parents valued, Zilliacus knew she would go work for the big brands. After receiving a business degree from the Helsinki School of Economics, Finland, the dutiful and driven daughter did just that and spent 11 years at the Finnish tech giants, Nokia and Sonera, focusing purely on business-to-consumer (B2C) services such as management of online shops. A consistent thread of supporting consumers in mobile, online and digital environments has run through all her positions.

And yet, despite a clear future of fulfilling and secure corporate opportunities, Zilliacus knew her personality type was meant more for the smaller start-up environment. “I’ve always had something of a fearless adventurer attitude and love a certain amount of risk, so by my early-to-mid 30s I started seeking out CEO roles in the start-up world.”

For the next five years, she moved seamlessly among three start-ups, one mobile phone photo and video service (Futurice) and two gaming firms (Apaja Online Entertainment and Ironstar Helsinki), where she was Managing Director and CEO, respectively.

During her corporate life and especially the stressful years of start-up management, Zilliacus turned to yoga as a form of release. “First it was just a hobby, but quickly became a way of life. I’ve always made time for yoga and been on a lot of retreats. I’m even certified as an instructor.”

The gaming sector in Finland, as in most places around the globe, is male-developer driven. While this bothered Zilliacus, who herself is not a developer, she saw a clear opportunity: “They make games that they would like to play although 55% of casual and mobile game customers are female. I realized that I actually could use my professional competence and understanding of what women like in terms of entertainment to fulfill the needs of a major target audience that the market was not addressing.”

Zilliacus decided to start a business driven by her own values and her devotion to yoga provided the spark of inspiration. “Not many people have the digital and management experience that I have and understand yoga and the well-being world as much as I do. I decide to merge my professional knowledge with my passion to create a gaming business targeting women 25 years and older.”

And so as the next iterative step in her career, she set out once again but this time to found her own gaming studio focusedTiina Zillacius on fun mobile “free2play” games aimed at women with the unique underlying theme of wellness.

The last three years have not been easy. They were spent building a strategy, laying the groundwork, seeking angel and seed investment, and recruiting former colleagues to the team. As the 40-year old Zilliacus explains: “I’ve been married to this company. It wakes up with me on Saturday morning, my weekends, my nights…when you are so invested in bringing something like this to life, you give up not only your time but your mind space. As a yogini and wellbeing enthusiast, it took me two years to accept that there is a time that I just need to let all of this happen to me even though it’s work. But because it relates so much to my personal experiences, I can never describe it as work. It will simply take as long as it takes as long as I am where I want to be. That’s the attitude and mental model I needed to adopt and once I did that, everything fell into place.”

But the hard work has paid off. Gajatri Studios’s first simulation or management game, Yoga Retreat, is just recently available from the Apple App Store. Along the lines of Animal Farm, the mechanics of the game are familiar. Zilliacus has intentionally aimed to keep it accessible and not so difficult that it becomes hostile for the user. Players can access yoga poses, unlock small daily meditations, and challenge friends as they manage, expand, and customize their very own yoga retreat on a paradise island.

Zilliacus’ company has attracted the support of two Finnish female angel investors and a family-owned investment office that are drawn in by the health features within games. Her two co-founders are from Rovio, the makers of Angry Birds: “Games guys are open minded. They like to do stuff that reaches out to people so the first motivation is that they like the plan that there is a different type of business strategy and therefore also leadership style in what you do”.

Gajatri Studios’ business model is sustainable and incorporates a wide theme of health and wellness that can molded into different content. Future games will look at food for instance and there is an opportunity for synergies with the forthcoming IOS8 platform and its Health Kit. “As the Apple platform evolves, we plan to utilize different opportunities in our games. For example, we could offer yoga challenges that we can verify have been completed because the user is wearing an iWatch or something like that. Essentially integrating some real life activity into a game, that’s the wider idea,” Zilliacus explains.

The female gaming entrepreneur, one of few in Finland, is optimistic of what lies ahead but acknowledges with these types of companies, funding must be sought out all the time. “It’s a continuous process and depending on which stage you are in, you know the sums are dependent on that. That’s part of the entrepreneurial life, until you are successful, you are every once in a while almost out of funding and when you are successful, you don’t need it any longer. You just need to go on until you reach that certain critical point.”

Zilliacus will know in a few weeks if she has hit that critical point as sales stats from Apple App Store are reported. But regardless the journey is what counts and of that she can surely be proud.

Tips from the Finnish gladiator of gaming:

  • Really be clear that the core of what you interested in is what you strive towards. It’s so much hard work to launch a business, make sure you like what you do and that you are good at it. Understand your strengths and weakness. If those elements are present, then it will be easier. Be grateful of what you get to do, not many people have the same opportunity.
  • Be persistent. Don’t get easily discouraged. There are so many people who are not going to help you, you need “sisu” (uniquely Finnish expression for grit) to get past the non-believers and be able to do things on your own. You won’t always get approval, but you must sustain.
  • Surround yourself with people with integrity.
  • Find a way to relax every day, clear your head in an efficient way. This enables you to focus on what is essential the next day.

Tracey Pontarelli: Honing Messages and Muscles – From Bold Brands to Buff Bodies

Tracey PonterelliTracey Pontarelli sweat her way through college – not because she was anxious over grades, but because she realized early on in life that working out was key to her happiness and overall well-being. “My husband jokes that I’m nicer when I’m working out, and I am.”

Despite her love of the gym and devotion to a healthy lifestyle, her desire to put her Seton Hall University joint degree in journalism and business to use was stronger than the call to make a career in fitness. And inspired by a fortuitous meeting with a PR big wig when she was in high school, she was led down a path to a career in Public Relations.

Pontarelli, a native of Coventry, Rhode Island, was awarded the prestigious Horatio Alger award during her senior year of high school. The award, which honors students who excel in spite of adversity, matched Pontarelli with Harold Burson, the founder of global PR giant, Burson Marsteller, as her mentor, a friendship that continues today. Known as the Godfather of modern PR, Burson looked at the practice almost as a science, coaching his staff to analyze how to influence their client’s target customers through a carefully constructed process.

Throughout college, Pontarelli maintained contact with Burson, and while he surely helped illustrate what a career in PR would look like, he never offered her a job upon graduation and – true to the spirit of Horatio Alger – she never asked for one. She wanted to earn her own way.

“I thought I wanted to go into PR, but I didn’t fully know what it was until I got into it.  Luckily it played to a lot of my strengths and I think I was meant to do it,” says Pontarelli. She landed her job first in New York City at Golin Harris and then at Ketchum PR first working on clients such as Nintendo, Evian, and Wisk Laundry Detergent.

As a counterbalance to the stressful working pace, Pontarelli continued her love affair with fitness and – spurred on by a YMCA director who was impressed with her natural ability to lead others – she got certified and taught fitness classes at the Hoboken, NJ, YMCA. By day, Pontarelli wrote corporate messaging and pitched reporters and led step classes by night. It was a balance that worked.

When her then boyfriend, now husband, moved to Boston, the moonlighting fitness instructor made another jump. This time she landed at Mullen PR and continued teaching at several gyms in the Boston area. Burson was there throughout as a sounding board. “He was just so amazing and told me to keep in touch, so I did, but neither of us ever discussed a job until I was ready to move back to NYC.”

At 26, the newly engaged Pontarelli returned to NYC, and now, with four years of PR experience under her belt, she was ready to show off her skills at her mentor’s namesake firm. Burson sent Pontarelli’s resume to the human resources department and Pontarelli did the rest. “Obviously it helps when Harold Burson calls you his protégé in public, but at that point in my career, I knew I would make him proud.”

She landed a position as a manager in the Consumer Brands division and started managing accounts ranging from Kellogg’s to Fidelity Investments.

Those who worked with Pontarelli understood that indeed she was destined for a career in PR – she thrived in the environment where she was able to creatively help clients through their communications’ challenges, while mentoring and training younger staff all while working towards the agency’s goals. The job was exciting and, at times, all consuming. Pontarelli worked her up way from Manager to Director and finally Managing Director.

Seven years, and two children later, Pontarelli got a wake-up call. It was a Saturday and she was heading into the office to finish a global new business proposal. “I got ready to hop out of the car, and my three year old said to me, ‘Happy Valentines Day, Mommy.’”

For Pontarelli, who loved her job, that was it. “You know that saying, ‘You can do it all, just not all at the same time’?  That was the moment I realized something had to give.”

She resigned from Burson, but continued to use her skills by launching a consulting business. She did PR and branding strategies for friends who were starting small businesses and for a group of former colleagues who needed outside help with bigger clients.

“The nice thing about working in PR is that your skills are really useful for a lot of things, so I was able to pick up a lot of work.”

In 2012, one of those friends, Catherine Goodwin, came to her for PR help for the new gym she was opening, Exceed Physical Culture. Pontarelli had long ago let her fitness certification expire, but she dove into the project helping with branding and media relations. Much like the YMCA Director 20 years earlier, Catherine recognized talent and encouraged the 41-year-old to get re-certified which she did, this time in group fitness and personal training.

“Even when I wasn’t teaching classes, I was sort of a ‘half teaching’ because I just naturally want to help other people through things … I’ve always loved group fitness because it’s motivating to be in settings with people who are struggling along with you, but I also find working one-on-one to be motivating.”

In addition to maintaining her PR consultancy, she now teaches at least two group fitness classes a week and coaches a set of at least six personal training clients at Exceed on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

While Pontarelli came full circle to fitness, this time around she’s using her PR skills to guide her through the process.

“One of the  first steps in PR is understanding your audience and getting to what someone’s true underlying motivations are – their anxieties and their desires.  That’s how we started every assignment at the agency, and that’s how I come at every single person I work with – what caused them to come in the first place and how do we get them to a place we want to be?”

Pontarelli, now a 44-year old mother of three, finds the work particularly gratifying when she’s coaching midlife women. “We’re really hard on ourselves as a gender, and I am passionate about the fact that women should focus on being strong, happy and supportive of each other. That’s what’s really important.”

Citing an email she had received that morning that boasted proven methods to shrink thigh fat, Pontarelli, not a fan of spot reduction, practically shrieks. “You are never going to have someone else’s body, but what you can have is a strong and healthy body and be proud of your workout. I try to get people to focus on that, and then the other stuff tends to fall into place.”

For women trying to get into the habit, Pontarelli suggests a fascinating book she read this year, The Power of Habit, which unlocks the secret of how habits are formed and broken… hint:  you have to replace a bad habit with something else to truly break it. But the upside to exercise? “The book has a whole section on it – exercise is a “keystone habit,” so when you exercise regularly, it creates other positive habits like eating better and working harder.”

The best part of Pontarelli’s Career 2.0? “I’m helping people, one on one. In consumer PR, I didn’t always feel this way – I was doing things that were fun and interesting, but now I feel like I’m really helping people and it’s very gratifying.”

While she continues to bring out the best in her clients, she’s working ceaselessly on herself as well. Next stop? Her first New York City Marathon.

Tips from Tracey Pontarelli

  • Do what you like and be open to where it leads you.  There are endless possibilities for you out there, but the right ones can be found where your passions lie.
  • Get out of your comfort zone. That is where Career 1.0 was. Career 2.0 is probably going to require a bit of a leap!
  • Believe in yourself. You are a capable, smart woman.  As one of my favorite instructors says, “Why not be this amazing?”  Why not indeed!

Julie Eisenberg: Letting Community Guide Career

JE profileRemember those friends in college who incited envy because they had their career path all worked out … in eighth grade?  Well, relax. That’s not Julie Eisenberg.  “I had no plan,” she shares. “Really, no plan! I don’t think I ever thought about the future when I was in college, or even now,” she insists.

But despite her claim that she was never one to look to the future, when you listen to her story it’s clear that she always paid attention to the, perhaps subconscious, need for community participation in her schooling and career choices. Lending her voice and skills to those in need and helping build communities is a thread that’s woven throughout her varied career, one that goes from union organizer to yoga studio owner.

In the early eighties, after the Linguistics and Women Studies major graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Eisenberg spent a year backpacking through South America, getting up close and personal with the people and politics she had been studying the past four years. Her attachment to the region deepened and she headed back to Madison, Wisconsin, to add a Master’s Degree in LatAm studies to her resume. Shortly thereafter, she returned to South America, this time to Chile.

Eisenberg cites a string of family and friend influences that led her to work in the union movement but it was her own experiences that played the biggest role. “I got a job on campus my freshman year at Madison and signed my first union card then,” she says. She felt strongly about the issues and felt close to that community. So when she went back to Chile, she landed a job as a community organizer, where she began to hone the skills she had begun to develop in her union.

“By the time I came back to the States three years later, I had been a card-carrying member of a union for years,” she added. “So it seemed like a natural fit to take a position as a union organizer for a teachers’ assistant union.”

She was young and had lots of energy for the job and she excelled at it. She would stick with this career for nearly 20 years. After five years in Millwaukee, where she worked for teachers’ and other unions, she was offered a job in DC working for a division of the AFL-CIO that represented some of their affiliate unions. Her division assisted unions seeking analytic research to secure financial data and anything else necessary to make their case in negotiations.

“It was a fantastic job. I loved it, but it was also very high pressure.”

Eisenberg was on the road a lot, working long hours, and representing everyone from airline to healthcare workers, but she spent the most time with meatpackers.

As real evidence of her passion for worker’s rights, the life-long vegetarian worked with the meatpackers union for years fighting for better work conditions. “It was challenging for me for sure. The smell of death around the meatpacking plant is brutal, but it’s a horrifically dangerous job for the workers and there are lots of injuries. When you talk about workers that need a union, meat and poultry workers are at the top of the list.”

Eisenberg’s Spanish-speaking skills were vital to help her communicate with many workers and get a real sense of the conditions. Despite the long hours and challenging conditions, Eisenberg didn’t consider a change. “That would have involved thinking about the future,” she jokes. Instead, she found another outlet – yoga.

Soon after she moved to DC, Eisenberg reluctantly started practicing yoga thanks to “a hippie neighbor from California who taught classes out of her apartment.”  The natural athlete was skeptical at first: “I sort of went kicking and screaming … there was lots of stretching and I wondered if it was really doing anything, but I kept going back.”

After four years of practicing yoga, she realized she was getting more serious when she sought out classes on the road while traveling for work.

“I went to a class in Omaha, Nebraska, once that I loved. It totally resonated with me. I also had a teacher in North Carolina. I was practicing all over the place.”  So, Eisenberg began taking teacher-training modules on weekends and immersion yoga weekends whenever her schedule allowed.

Upon moving to the Petworth neighborhood of DC, she found a new studio teaching Kundalini yoga. “It beat the crap out of me,” Eisenberg recalls. “It worked on postures but also a lot of breathing and chanting. It was very powerful and different from anything I had ever done. I found it so challenging but I loved it.”  She loved it so much she became certified as a Kundalini teacher.

It was right around this time that Eisenberg’s longtime employer decided he needed a change. “He was a wonderful boss and had given me so much opportunity, but when he decided to shut down the office, I realized I was tired too, and I didn’t want to go work for another union. It had been nearly 20 years and these campaigns really sap you.”

So Eisenberg decided she was just going to teach yoga and see where it led her.

“The financial transition? Oh my gosh — it was crazy. The things you take for granted when you have a full-time job, like going out to dinner, that all had to go, but the teacher training itself is powerful and gives you the sense that you can go off in a different direction and make it work.”

Eisenberg, who was single at the time, realizes she was very lucky to have severance and unemployment to get over the transition hump. She had a very low mortgage which was also a help but, “without the severance, I don’t think I would have been able to make a go of just teaching.”

It was just enough of a cushion to give her a couple months to develop a steady slate of classes.  She picked up students whenever she could at a variety of locations and then – fortuitously – a friend who worked at Miriam’s Kitchen called and asked if she’s be willing to teach yoga to the homeless there. She loved the volunteer time trying to “bring a little bit of peace and tranquility into the lives of the homeless men and women.”

It was through her work there that she connected with another instructor who was launching a non-profit to provide outreach yoga to underserved areas. Eisenberg was offered the executive director position and took it. Finally, through the combination of the office and the teaching jobs, she felt like she was back on her feet. But fundraising, a key part of her new job, was not really a natural fit. So, eighteen months later when a friend mentioned a space in Petworth that would be perfect for a yoga studio, she jumped at the chance.

Eisenberg initially partnered with a friend, but now runs Lighthouse Yoga Center on her own. At first, the overhead and rent were low, so the transition was smooth. After two years in the first location, she has moved the studio to a more central space in Petworth and expanded its offerings.

And in a way, Eisenberg has come full circle: no longer an official community organizer, her business has become the heart of her community: “My favorite thing right now about running Lighthouse is that we are becoming a great part of the community. Our students say all sorts of people feel comfortable coming here and we take that role seriously. We want to be there for the people in our neighborhood, providing a break from the stress of everyday.”

 

Tips from Julie Eisenberg:

  • Let go of your material needs. Stop shopping for things that aren’t critical, for example.
  • Develop a good network of friends and colleagues who will support you in your new venture. Don’t be shy about emailing them to invite them to classes or events.
  • Don’t get overly hung up on how much income you need to bring in each month. Build a little cushion and then realize that some months may be better than others, so you can make it through the slower months without freaking out.
  • In fact, try not to freak out in general. Everything works out in the end.