CASHING IN ON YOUR LIFE EXPERIENCE
Forget traditional jobs where you earn a living working 9 to 5 at a desk or an assembly plant. You can tap into your own experiences, at your own schedule, and share your wisdom for a price.
Here are three entrepreneurs who have done just that and are enjoying the ride:
NINA KENEALLY: NEED A MOM
In 2013, after living in Connecticut for more than 30 years, empty nester Nina Keneally and her husband decided to leave their suburban life and move to the hip neighborhood of Bushwick in Brooklyn, N.Y. That led her to start Need a Mom, a site providing motherly-type support to young adults.
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This mother of two adult sons uses her experience as a theater producer and drug and alcohol rehab counselor to dispense advice and help millennials live their best lives — all for $40 an hour. She has clients as far away as Ireland, who she connects with via phone or Skype.
“It’s been a comfortable, small, side income,” says Keneally, 65. “A lot of people come to me just when they want help with one thing.”
The idea to start Need a Mom came after Keneally began rubbing elbows with twentysomethings and thirtysomethings at yoga classes, parks and coffee shops. Younger people gravitated to her, talking about their problems and challenges. “I was the older, wiser, maybe maternal figure right in front of them,” she says.
Keneally offers guidance for everything from relationship matters to practical skills that young people may have missed learning, such as budgeting. But she’s quick to say, just like a real mom, that she’s not a maid. “My mission is to empower and enable people to do things for themselves,” says Keneally.
GILBERT KNOWLES: KNOWLES WHAT TO DO
Although Gilbert Knowles grew up in a two-parent home in Miami, he says he feels he missed out having a real relationship with his dad. “All he knew was to work. He didn’t spend time with me,” says Knowles, 63, of Haymarket, Va.
That experience, coupled with 20 years in the Army and his work in higher education at a historically black university, prompted Knowles in 2007 to start a consulting business called Knowles What to Do that mentors minority youths.
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“Mentoring has always been my passion,” says Knowles, who has an adult daughter. “I wanted to start a company that helps young African-American males in particular — in uplifting, engaging, encouraging, educating and empowering them to help extract their own individual brilliance.”
Advising young people comes naturally to Knowles, who began informally mentoring younger counterparts when he was just 21. His passion for it grew while serving as vice president for student affairs at St. Augustine University in Raleigh, N.C. While there, he established a reputation among historically black institutions as an effective and personable mentor.
“Young brothers just tended to migrate towards me,” says Knowles, who is also author of the book, Help Them Pull Their Pants Up: How Mentors and Communities Can Empower Young African American Men.
Knowles has worked with black colleges, churches, social and service organizations and the Department of Education on programs for African-American males. He views mentoring as a way to help young people become more responsible. He hopes his newest initiative, Mother’s Helper, will assist single mothers in raising responsible men.
MONICA PARIKH: SCHOOL OF LOVE NYC
Who would think a business could be born in the aftermath of a painful divorce? That’s exactly what happened for Monica Parikh, founder of School of Love NYC, which aims to guide people looking for healthy relationships.
After her husband walked out on her about 10 years ago, Parikh was heartbroken and devastated. She started studying psychology and writing a blog about what she was going through — her journey to move forward and heal and return to the dating game. “I wanted to share wisdom that I felt nobody was teaching on how to pick a partner and be in a healthy relationship,” says the 45-year-old New Yorker.
Parikh’s musings struck a chord with others who were having similar experiences and questions. International websites began picking up her blog and Parikh quickly realized she had a global audience, reaching people from Spain to Dubai. She turned her writings into e-books, which led to private coaching, group classes and virtual telecourses on dating and relationships.
“I teach people how to be emotionally healthy with themselves first so that they can find healthy partners and have a realistic expectation of what a relationship is really for,” Parikh says.
School of Love has been so successful that Parikh has left her job as a social services attorney to focus on the business full time.
She believes her relationship work is her purpose in life and plans to hop on the public speaking circuit to reach more people with her message. She’s also nearing completion of Take Back the Power, a book about navigating breakups healthfully.
Parikh is excited about what the future holds for her, and for School of Love.
“My second half of life is going to be a cool ride,” she says. “The more people can share their lives and help other people, the better the world is.”