For 25 years, Jennifer Hannaford was a forensic scientist, deciphering crime scenes with everything from fingerprint recovery to DNA analyses. But last April, no longer willing to deny her own genes, Hannaford left forensics to channel her inherent artistic talent into a second career.
“I’ve always wanted to be an artist, and just never had the time to do it," said Hannaford, 51. “And at this time in my life, I want to experience something maybe a bit lighter, too.”
So in May, she and her boyfriend, Karl Turkel, 48, opened Hannaford Studios, a gallery in Port Jefferson, to showcase her color-saturated paintings and posters. The pieces depict relatives, friends and customers floating beneath the sea in an evocative “endless, precious summer” spirit, Hannaford said. Her works have also been shown by Mills Pond Gallery in St. James and William Ris Gallery in Jamesport.
“I will never go back to forensics,” Hannaford said decisively.
After years of staying the course in an industry or profession — as employees or employers — many older Long Islanders are mirroring Hannaford in their resolve to reinvent themselves with a second career that is tantamount to their personal calling.
Hailing from various fields, including printing and education, these individuals are using their pensions and savings to launch equally diverse businesses, as in a life-coaching practice and a specialized car service.
“The push-pull of ‘now or never’ can become an important motivator” in driving people to turn their passions into midlife second careers, particularly as entrepreneurs, said Gayle Berg, a psychologist in Roslyn Heights.
Ready for challenges
By their mid-50s, Berg noted, they are generally ready to assume the challenges of entrepreneurship, having “shed those old insecurities and fears that may have hindered and guided choices earlier in life.”
And according to Phil Andrews, president of the Long Island African American Chamber of Commerce Inc., midlife career-changers know they have made the right decision if they are passionate about their new endeavor and it imbues them with a sense of renewal.
At Stony Brook University’s small business center, Ree Wackett, senior business adviser, said about 25 percent of its clients are 45 and over and “switching gears.” Their reasons include lacking sufficient financial resources to retire after losing their jobs or being bored with their longtime livelihood.
To their new ventures, later-in-life entrepreneurs generally bring the well-honed communication, networking and organizational skills that a new business needs, while professional workshops, continuing education classes and training programs provide the specialized proficiencies and knowledge that their startups also require.
Back in 2011, when she still viewed her art as a “backseat hobby,” Hannaford unknowingly began her journey to an artistic career. Visits to art galleries in the city led her to take painting classes with Alyssa Monks, whose figurative paintings appealed to Hannaford’s creative sensibilities.
Coming from the “controlled environment” of forensics, where imprecision is considered “catastrophic,” Hannaford said that Monks’ instruction freed her to make mistakes and learn from them.
After painting exclusively in Monks’ Brooklyn studio for 18 months and, with the work ethic she had brought to forensics, Hannaford started painting at home. Depending on their size, Hannaford’s paintings cost $300 to $8,000, while her prints run $25 to $1,800.
“I’m pretty dedicated — which is one of the things I took from forensics,” Hannaford said. “I put in the hours, which is why I was able to pull together a body of work and survive in this new little world.”
Using career skills
When East Meadow resident Rosa Yordan, 65, retired in 2013 from her 35-year career in education, she knew exactly what she would to do next — become a life coach and motivational speaker.
Yordan believed her experiences — including teaching children with disabilities in hospitals and at a Queens public school; creating a course that she taught to colleagues; and training teachers to become certified mentors — gave her the requisite communication and esteem-building skills for her new career.
At the outset, Yordan invested $800 in a multiday course to become a certified life coach. She also sought to elevate her stature in her new field with her self-published book, “Re-Imagine Your Life: Seven Secrets To Achieve Your Dreams.” Since then, Yordan’s profile-raising activities, including marketing her book on social media and attending networking events, have led to book signings, speaking engagements and guest spots on an online and a TV business show.
These days, she leads workshops on Long Island that attract as many 30 people, who pay $35 to $50 per session, depending on the venue and the topic, which focuses on love, leadership or happiness. Yordan also coaches individuals in the Rockville Centre space where her daughter operates a spa. For a one-and-a-half-hour session, Yordan’s fees are $100 for adults and $65 for children, which involves math tutoring and building esteem.
“I love doing what I do,” said Yordan, whose company is called Transformation+ Inc. and generated about $20,000 in gross revenue last year.
Determined to kick up her business, Yordan recently joined the John Maxwell Team. The training development and certification body gives coaches access to organizations seeking workshop leaders and keynote speakers.
Inspired by his parents
When superstorm Sandy submerged his 31-year-old Freeport printing company in 4 feet of saltwater, Rich Weiner called it quits. He didn’t think it paid to invest in new machinery and restore the operation since the firm had already begun to falter as a victim of the digital age.
For a short time afterward, Weiner was a print broker. He also started driving for a limo firm.
But six months ago, a trip to Florida to see his parents, who are in their late 80s and still driving, filled Weiner with angst about their future mobility. It also inspired the East Meadow resident to start the East Meadow-headquartered ElderCar, a limo service for senior citizens.
Initially, ElderCar transported passengers to and from medical appointments, including colonoscopies and endoscopies, but Weiner, 62, has since expanded it to encompass round-trips to supermarkets, libraries and card games with friends, among other places.
“The people I want to reach have lost their independence and have no social life because they can’t drive,” said Weiner, who promotes ElderCar on Facebook and visits as many as a dozen physician offices in a single day to leave business cards. “I want to actually help people.”
Weiner devotes 10 hours a week to ElderCar, filling gaps in his workdays by driving for the limo company that he joined after closing down his print business. ElderCar’s fees run $30 an hour for a round-trip excursion that involves a minimum three-hour commitment (“I wait in the parking lot”) for a total price of $90; a “like” or comment on Facebook reduces the rate to $25 an hour, the same price for first-time customers.
“I’m managing hand to mouth, with the business paying for my golf habit and supermarket bills,” Weiner said. “I’m not looking to get rich from this but to provide a much-needed service.”
Upon retiring in 2023 from Verizon in Garden City, where she works as a facilities assistant, Linette Gomillion-Ellis, 61, plans to focus on her string of small ventures.
Organized under the corporate name All In Reach, the Lawrence resident’s operation includes life coaching; Reiki and meditation classes; custom soaps based on recipes from her Native American mother; and ear seeding, which she is certified to practice and is based on acupuncture principles. Plus, as a certified wedding officiant, she owns Officiant On Call, which employs three others on an as-needed basis. Last year, All In Reach accounted for about $19,000 in gross revenue.
A meditation class — to help her deal with grief after her husband died in 1998 — ultimately pushed Gomillion-Ellis to create her mini-empire of feel-good ventures.
With meditation giving her a new outlook, friends started asking the mother of six for advice about surmounting their own challenges. That led her to become a certified life coach and Reiki master and, from 2005 to 2012, it motivated Gomillion-Ellis to get an undergraduate degree in psychology from Molloy College and master’s degrees in human resource management and in industrial organizational psychology from Adelphi University.
Looking ahead, Gomillion-Ellis anticipates her Verizon pension will serve as her safety net, while “All In Reach will make me feel content in my new journey in life.”
Tips for an entrepreneurial second career
Considering a new business as a second career? Here are tips to help ensure its success and sustain your passion for it, according to experts and career-changers.
• Work for a company that can give you pertinent on-the-job training — with pay.
• Read books, articles and websites about your planned venture’s industry.
• Take courses that provide relevant proficiencies and certifications.
• Seek business guidance at Stony Brook University or Farmingdale State College’s Small Business Development Center.
• Create a website.
• Promote your business on social media and at networking events.
• Set realistic and achievable goals
• Celebrate business accomplishments.