Laid-off workers turn dreams into businesses

Shaken up, but not out.

If she can’t do what she’s used to doing, Rhonda Mumby of Grand Junction at least wants to do something she’s passionate about doing.

So, she’s starting her own business. And Mumby is not alone in the Grand Valley, where others are taking similar initiative, trying to defy the economic recession and tight job market by getting enterprising.

Mumby spent two years searching for another job as a pharmaceutical representative after being laid off by Pfizer in 2007. The jobs either weren’t there, required too much travel or paid a fraction of what she’d earned before.

With two kids in college, she needed to do something before the search stretched much further. For the past year she has worked on developing a driving school, which she plans to call Drive Right. She wrote her own curriculum and will submit it to the state for approval. She has cars picked out to use, and she’s looking forward to working with teenagers and teaching them how to drive responsibly.

“Some people say, ‘You must be crazy,’ but I’m used to identifying with teens.

Everybody wants to do their best,” she said.

Mumby said getting laid off hurt, but she knew the layoff was more about corporate money juggling than her performance. She analyzed what industries were thriving or would survive the recession and came up with the driving school.

“I’m not scared at all. I have a highly motivated personality,” she said.

Grand Junction resident Drew Hanlon said he is a bit scared about his venture into entrepreneurship, but he said getting laid off in May was a “stroke of luck” because “it did force my hand when I probably wouldn’t have forced my own hand” to start a Bloody

Mary mix business called Delixirs.

Hanlon was given five months notice before his job ended at a fishing line company, and he said he received a generous severance package that he’s using to start his business. He’s perfected different flavors of Bloody Mary mix and plans to make, bottle, label and sell the mix at fairs and farmers markets before expanding to liquor stores.

He submitted his business plan to the Business Incubator in June and shares an office with another person in the incubator’s technology building.

Having a place to go everyday has helped him stay on task, he said.

“I knew if I tried to do it from home, I’d sit around drinking red wine and watching Nickelodeon,” he said.

Hanlon said the layoff allowed him to follow his pipe dream, but his job helped him get to where he is today. He worked in marketing and plans to apply those skills to selling his product.

His experience working in liquor stores didn’t translate much to opening Hometime
Models and Gifts in February in Clifton, but unemployment did inspire Jack Murphy to try something new. His store sells signs, ceramic figures, posters, dioramas and train models. He started his business with tax return dollars and believes it’s “recession proof.”

He wanted to start his first business to help kids growing up in Clifton have more to do, he said. Plus, it’s fun for him.

“If you don’t have a job you like, it’s just work. And who wants that?” he said.


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