LaShanna Alfred: Turning Adversity into a Strength

2014112795161105Often at Career 2.0, we write of women who have left one successful career to start a new one or perhaps launch a creative enterprise midway through a career.

This story is a little different.

LaShanna Alfred’s first “career” involved running and selling drugs and time spent in jail. She didn’t leave a successful career in order to find fulfillment, she left a life filled with tragedy and hardship, a life that many of us would have been unable to find a way out of. But Alfred did find a way.

Alfred was only two years old when her mother was murdered. Her mother was, as Alfred puts it, “basically in the wrong place with the wrong people.” About four years later, when she was in second grade, her father was in a fight and stabbed to death. An only child, Alfred went to live with her grandmother and uncles. When she was 12 or 13 her grandmother moved out, leaving Alfred with her uncles. “They turned the house into a drug house,” she recalls matter-of-factly. “They began selling drugs out of the house, having house parties. Even as a young girl I knew that I didn’t want to live like that. But most of the time I didn’t see anyone around me that I wanted to be like.” (more…)

Deb Stanzak: A Brother’s Dying Wish Launches a New Career


Deb StanzykEven though there is nothing funny at all about what she has to say, Deb Stanzak laughs sometimes when telling her story because people don’t believe it’s true. Sometimes, she doesn’t even believe it herself. “It feels so far in the past, it’s as if it had never happened and then sometimes it feels like it was yesterday. I look back and the reality of what I went through hits me, and all I can say is ‘wow, how did I get through that?’”

Stanzak swears that everything that led to where she is today began when she was ten years old. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, the young Stanzak was crazy for sewing. It started with dolls’ clothes that were given to her by a relative; she was intrigued they were handmade. She even made a bathing suit that held together for an entire summer of days in the pool with friends. That bathing suit started her love for sewing.

Her career got a kick start at 16, when she applied for a job at Sears during high school. “I was turned down when they saw how old I was but as I was walking away the lady called out to me. ‘I see you like to sew. Are you any good?’. I told her I had made the clothes I had on. ‘Can you show me more?’ So I ran home and gathered all the clothes I had made over the years, and promptly got a job as the assistant to the sewing instructor in the Sears Sewing School. It was like winning the lottery!” she recalls with a laugh. (more…)