Jobless Long Islanders who became entrepreneurs

Some of Long Island's unemployed talk about the pros and cons of being an entrepreneur: 

Bob Rosenberg, Great Neck
Rosenberg was earning a six-figure salary as a vice president of sales at a wholesaler in Manhattan that sold men's licensed, small leather accessories such as belts and wallets.

He lost his job in January 2009 after the retail slowdown and after 3½ years with the company.

Rosenberg decided to look for another job while also exploring going into business. In fact, he said his job search continued up until he and his wife, Danielle, signed a lease in April for a location for their self-service frozen-yogurt bar in Merrick. The couple opened the shop, moolala, on June 19.

"I always wanted to do it," said Rosenberg, 53. "This [the job loss] pushed me over because there were no other opportunities. There were no other options." 

Nilka Hendricks, West Hempstead
Hendricks, a chef, said she lost her Manhattan restaurant job in March 2009 after a six-week leave to participate in a "Hell's Kitchen" competition, which has been airing on Fox.

The restaurant had said it would hold the job open but later said it needed to fill it, she said. And it had nothing else, Hendricks said. She looked for a job for about six months then thought about opening a catering business.

She went to Black Women Enterprises, a Hempstead-based business-support group, for help with a business plan last year. She began a private catering business in February and uses the kitchen in the local catering hall of a former boss.

Later this year, Hendricks, 30, plans to open in the Vibe Lounge kitchen, which she plans to redo. She said she has always wanted to work for herself.

"I'm tired of working for other people," she said. "If they can do it [own a business], I can do it." 

Jennifer Takacs-O'Shea, Calverton
Takacs-O'Shea lost her human-resources job in at financial company in Calverton in December 2008, amid a meltdown in that industry.

It was the second time in just over a year that she had lost a job in a recession-distressed industry. Takacs-O'Shea, 38, previously worked as a recruiter for a mortgage company.

After she had no luck landing a job in 2009, she thought about opening a business capitalizing on her skills as a recruiter.

She said she asked herself, "How can I take what I know . . . and bring that inside knowledge on recruiting to the public?"

And she was informally helping people, free of charge, to deal with interview stress and salary negotiations, anyway. So in May of this year she officially opened Caterpillar Career Consultants.

"I never felt like it was over," she said of the job search. "But I felt like where I was channeling my energy, it wasn't coming back."

Kim Beckers, Middle Island
Beckers, 32, lost her job at a family-owned commercial-construction company in June 2006, when business slowed down before the recession.

She had worked there for five years as a bookkeeper and office manager. She couldn't find anything that would match her salary despite months of looking.

"I could have gone from making $26 an hour to $12 an hour," said Beckers, who has a bachelor's degree in computer science and mathematics. "It would have been impossible to try to pay the mortgage," said Beckers, who is married and the mother of a  boy, 2.

So in October 2006, four months after being laid off, Beckers started Elusions Plus, an Internet marketing company that builds websites for small businesses and offers marketing services.

She said that being her own boss will help prevent the pain of another job loss, which she said, "felt like my heart was torn. . . . I just never wanted to feel that way again."

Josephine Amplo, Farmingville
Amplo is proof that you can go from losing a job to being someone who creates jobs, something she has done since she lost a job as a bookkeeper 16 years ago.

The founder and president of Josephine's Shopping Service, which delivers groceries, prescriptions and dry cleaning, says she has 16 part-time employees, four vans and thousands of customers.

Amplo, 62, became jobless in 1994 after her former employer, a supermarket that delivered groceries in Westhampton and Southampton shut down its East End stores and she lost her bookkeeping job. At the time, her husband had just switched jobs and their twin boys were going to college.

"I panicked," she said. "What do you do if that income is not coming in?"

She decided to fill the void left by her former employer.

"I immediately saw the opportunity and jumped on it," she said.

Amplo had her doubts along the way, though. "But it did work out," she said. "We've kept our home and our boys all went to college."

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