Personal Finance

Monday, December 17, 2007

Career Makeover

Couple pours cup of success

Brian O'Connor / The Detroit News

Five years ago, Nancy and Jim Goodwin discovered that coffee was the perfect pick-me-up -- for their careers.

The couple was living in Flint and working demanding careers. Nancy, now 60, was director of marketing for a credit union, while Jim, 63, was CEO of a treatment center for abused children.

After years of working, the couple decided to try something completely different and opened Goody's Juice & Java, a coffee shop in Manistee.


"Neither one of us had ever waited tables or even worked in a restaurant," says Nancy. "We were just ready for a change."

• Where they came from: The couple had moved to Flint in the late 1960s, so Jim could accept a two-year graduate placement in social work. That two years into 38 as they developed careers. Jim became president and CEO of a treatment center for abused children, while Nancy moved through executive positions with the Chamber of Commerce, a substance abuse treatment facility and a credit union.

Along the way, they discovered the town of Manistee, on the shore of Lake Michigan. They bought a small house in town as a weekend retreat. But as much as they loved the idea of moving to Manistee, transplanting their careers seemed impossible. "Both of us were very established," says Nancy, "but there weren't jobs here for our skill sets."

• What changed: Although he loved working with children, the grind of fund-raising and dealing with the reality of child abuse became wearing for Jim.

"I said to Nancy, 'If I stay in this field until retirement there's going to be nothing left of me,' " he says.

Nancy was growing frustrated in her job, too, so the couple started weighing other options.

Moment of truth: The idea of a coffee shop seemed like one that would work in the town. The Goodwins talked about it to local merchants but thought they might have to postpone it until retirement. Then one Saturday in March 2003, they ran into the owner of a local CD shop who was closing down and moving out. The location, they realized, would make a great coffee shop.

"Before the weekend was over the owner of the building was in touch with us," Jim says. "The next thing we knew, we were signing a lease."

• Stumbling blocks: Over the next six months, the couple spent weekends going back and forth, toting files in the car and developing plans for the business, from choosing a name to creating the menu, as they drove.

They arranged a bank loan and put up some of their retirement money, even hired a consultant to get expertise on setting up.

The Goodwins even attended an international coffee trade show in Boston to find suppliers and pick the brains of hundreds of people in the business.

"That was like having all the resources we needed in one spot," Nancy says. "I believe in doing things right the first time. "I didn't want to learn by mistakes."

By the time they opened six months after the CD shop moved out, the Goodwins already had things percolating.

"Everything just fell into place like this was supposed to happen," Nancy says.

• Words of wisdom: Overall, the Goodwins say a new business owner can't be too prepared.

"Do more research than you think you ever should do," says Nancy. "Make sure you do it right the first time. Don't open up prematurely."

Another key they stress is making sure you can not only run the business, but finance it, too.

"You should never go in under-capitalized," says Jim. While the shop has never lost money at the end of the year, "It's not the same kind of money we were dealing with before," he says.

Another commitment is time. The shop is open every day, and even though they have 16 full- and part-time employees, both owners take different days off. It's only now that they are thinking about hiring a manger so they can have time off together.

Most of all don't be afraid to try something new. Nancy notes that before they opened the shop, she didn't even drink coffee.

"I never had good coffee," Nancy says, "and I just love espresso now."

You can reach Brian O'Connor at (313) 222-2145 or

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Nancy and Jim Goodwin jolted their careers by opening Goody's Juice & Java in Manistee. (John L. Russell / Special to The Detroit News)

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    Have you remade your career?

    Did you switch from engineering to sales? Escape the boss from hell? The Detroit News wants to hear from readers who've successfully remade their jobs, professions and careers for future stories. To tell your story, e-mail Personal Finance Editor Brian O'Connor at

Nancy and Jim Goodwin

Home: Manistee, married with two adult children
Born: Walden, Mass., 1947 -- Nancy; Gloucester, Mass., 1944 -- Jim
Education: Saugus (Mass.) High School, 1961; Michigan State University, 1967 -- Nancy; Alexander Ramsey High School, Roseville, Minn., 1965; University of Michigan, 1978 -- Jim
Old career: Credit union marketing director -- Nancy; president and CEO of treatment center for abused children -- Jim
New career: Owners of Goody's Juice & Java, Manistee

Work tips

"Nancy and Jim clearly did their homework," says career coach Prudence Cole of Grosse Pointe, co-author of the book "Finding Power, Passion and Joy Being at Work" and author of the Web site "They talked to experts, researched the market, got clear about their priorities, found capital, developed a plan and then leveraged their business knowledge. This is also a great example of preparing for retirement, which is the ultimate career makeover."
Cole adds these tips for others making this kind of change:
Understand your commitment: As the Goodwin's point out, starting and running a new business consumes a lot of your time. Beyond that, how much time do you want to commit? Are you up for a full-time job or are you interested in cutting back. What would make each day fun? I believe you can have it all in retirement if you are clear about what "all" is.
Put your plan in play: Does your new direction require an investment in education or capital for a new business? What support or contacts do you need to have to make it happen? What are your next steps? If retirement is less than five years away, now is the time to start planning for this next phase of your life.
Find your purpose: This can be your opportunity to do something you have always wanted to do and for some to go a little further. You can choose to pursue a dream career, open the business you always wanted to have, share your skills in a new way and make a contribution. Think about what can you do to make a difference or how do you want to be remembered? Anything is possible.