The past plays a hand in the new career paths these three entrepreneurs took on in midlife: A love of words inspired a coming of age story; a love for making what’s old new again blossomed into a side hustle; and a commitment to honoring the wishes of loved ones led to a niche business. In our ongoing Bank of Hope series, Do What You Love, Love What You Do,” see why it’s never too late to pursue your passion and recreate yourself. You never know where a gem of an idea will take you.
“I love the thrill of the hunt and buying and selling vintage goods.”
“Wander, Find, Make, Create.” When you go to Kim Dittrich’s website for her business, FOUND&Co, these are the words you’ll find on her “About” page. They truly capture her adventurous spirit and artistic heart. At her booth at the well-known “Antiques on the Farmington'' mall in Collinsville, Connecticut, Kim offers a carefully curated collection of gathered goods that celebrate vintage style, reclaimed and one-of-a-kind. Along with 50 other dealers, many who have been there for years, she showcases her treasures that can be viewed in a creative way and given a new life as something else. “I’ve always wanted to buy and sell antiques and make repurposed home decor,” Kim says. A talented designer with a keen eye for what could be, she spends a great deal of time on the layout and organization of her booth. “It’s important to me for my spot to look designed and well-thought-out.”
FOUND&Co’s booth is filled with everything from a stuffed coyote, vintage sox stretchers and plaid thermoses, to birdhouses and leather club chairs.
Kim’s weekends are filled with foraging trips to flea markets and estate sales. For her, searching and collecting are forms of creative expression. “I love the unpredictability of the road trip and where it will take you.” She keeps her Toyota Tacoma truck full, piling finds in the back to haul to her booth, with a storage unit for overflow. She is passionate about finding vintage pieces that have a story to tell, that are old and worn and beautifully patinated. At the sales she frequents, usually a result of a downscale or a death, there are many stories: “You walk into a complete time capsule,” Kim says, “You see an entire house filled with a life-long collection of things that a person lived with and cherished – wigs, false teeth, clothes, a lifetime of memories.” While at times this can be sad, she points out: “I'm here to appreciate what treasures they had and give them another chance to be appreciated by someone else.”
“Our mission is to create beauty out of found objects so we don't spoil Mother Earth by contributing to landfills.”
When she’s not happily foraging or manning her booth, Kim keeps busy repurposing some finds into artwork, and developing content and taking photographs for social media and her website. She admits one time-consuming challenge is researching how much items are worth and selling for, but “ultimately, something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.” Future plans include e-commerce and starting her own antique co-op with other dealers to have more control of the business. “This is a side hustle for me, but I’d like to take it to the next level.” At the end of the day, success “...is not about the money, it’s not what drives me right now. It’s doing something you love... I love my little booth and the cool people I meet along the way.”
And all the cool things she finds.
FOUND&Co breathes new life into forgotten items, giving them meaning and purpose so others can appreciate them again.
“I find myself wishing I could be at home with my laptop, writing away.”
Tree Streets Entertainment
Tom Leibacher named his business, Tree Streets Entertainment, after the neighborhood in Briarcliff, New York, where he grew up, and still lives. The bucolic area and his idyllic childhood were catalysts for his first book, A Gift Most Rare, that he published last year. His goal was to simply see if he could complete a novel. “The fact that it ended up being 84,000 words and 34 chapters – and got published” proved that his mantra of “Dream crazy, Pray hard” held some sway. The coming of age story, set in the 1970s at Christmastime, focuses on 7th grader, Charlie Riverton, his three best guy friends and a mysterious stranger, who inspire the entire town in heartfelt ways. As Tom says, “I write God-honoring Christian fiction that’s meant to uplift, edify and enrich people’s lives.”
Tom’s coming of age story has touched a chord with people, reminding them of a simpler time and place from their pasts.
Having never attempted fiction on this level before, Tom found it a fun and meaningful thing to do with his pandemic spare time. In his 35+ year career in advertising, he’s always enjoyed working with words. Even so, on his daily NYC train commute, the chapters just kept rolling out to his surprise. “No writers block, no heavy lifting at all.” Same was true for the charming, small town cast: “Once they came alive, their verbal exchanges would just flow. I’d often start a conversation between the main characters, not knowing what each might contribute, but I could actually hear their voices speaking – and I would just write it down.” At this point in his life, “there’s nothing I enjoy more than writing (not even golf!).” And, after years in the corporate sector, “there’s a wonderful sense of freedom – no corporate restraints, no conflicting voices that can stop or sidetrack progress toward my goals.”
How did this new career happen? The “original spark” came about a few Thanksgivings ago. When watching the “Making of It’s a Wonderful Life” DVD bonus section, Tom learned the movie was based on a short story by Philip Van Doren Stern, who gave printed copies to family and friends as a Christmas card. He decided then and there to do the same thing. He woke the next morning thinking of the basic gist of the story, and then “it was just a matter of finding the gumption to put pen to paper!”
Being a local author, people drop books off for Tom to sign; he takes his time: “It’s a special honor... I’m compelled to personalize it in a meaningful way.”
Driven by “a desire to honor God with the life I’ve been given and to simply express myself through these stories,” A Gift Most Rare is part of a planned trilogy. To help market the book, he’s done some grassroots promotion: book signings, book club Zoom readings, dropping copies off at local bookstores, gift shops, libraries, and churches. He’s also appeared on the “Conversations with Father Chris” radio show on WVOX and online with “The Author Show,” where he loved answering questions from call-in listeners. That the book has received a very positive reaction from a wide range of readers and critics (the movie rights to the first book are under consideration) has all been pleasantly surprising for Tom. He is constantly seeking to learn more about his craft to keep this new chapter going.
“It’s exciting to come across a find or asset the family wasn’t aware existed.”
Estate Organizer and Administrator
Legacy Estate Organizing
Losing a loved one is never easy. Compounding the shock and grief is the responsibility of a family member or friend to take care of the deceased’s affairs. This is where Eileen Moynahan steps in. She created Legacy Estate Organizing to help executors do the hands-on work of administering an estate. Through a mixture of onsite visits and virtual work, she gives clients a roadmap to move forward. She does the research and investigation to help them save money, minimize attorney fees, feel less stressed and more confident. “I can help with everything from searching for lost monies to creating a spreadsheet of all assets and writing the claim letters to financial institutions,” she says. The goal is to identify and preserve assets for beneficiaries, and prevent estate “leakages” in the form of extra property taxes, utilities, and maintenance.
What made Eileen switch careers after years as an analyst working international criminal investigations (and yes, those skills are infinitely indispensable when you need to ferret out financial information)? The simple answer is that like most entrepreneurs she saw a need that wasn’t being met. The more complicated one is that she learned firsthand how difficult it is to close up a life. When her parents were killed in a car accident in 2012, she was named their executrix. While they had fortunately arranged most everything years in advance, it was still a daunting task to collect assets, divide belongings, and prepare, empty and sell the house. She did much of the paperwork herself, consulting with an estate attorney for legal questions and tax filings. The whole experience motivated her to leave her full-time job and become a solopreneur in 2016.
While closing up an estate can be a numbers game, there is an intensely intimate side to it as well. “I see people grieving and also feeling guilty because they’re not making progress in taking care of their loved one’s affairs, which makes them feel even worse.” Eileen partners with them to handle things more efficiently and compassionately. “My ‘client’ is the deceased, not the living family member. I feel that I am working for them, speaking for them, honoring them.” It’s exciting when she comes across a “find,” looking through paper or online records or any evidence, that leads to an unknown asset. She’s found it interesting how some families fight over an inexpensive trinket but completely ignore a six-figure, life-insurance policy. “On the positive side, most families behave much better than you might expect – thankfully, most estates don’t devolve into bickering and greed!”
To spread awareness of the need for estate planning (before death) and estate administration (after death), Eileen’s wrote “After the Funeral: A Practical Memoir for Administering Your Loved One’s Estate.” Full of valuable advice and checklists, and personal reflections, she walks the reader through what to do and not do, with her sassy humor making a difficult task easier to navigate. She also sells the life-and-legacy planning system, My Life Packet, puts out a monthly e-newsletter, participates in conferences, and recently guest-hosted on the Positively Living podcast. She’d like to develop an online course and has short-listed ideas for a second book. Her clientele continues to grow, with personal referrals being her #1 source.
For Eileen, it’s been very rewarding to help people who don’t have the time, energy, or knowledge to resolve an estate – and getting a “virtual thumbs-up” from the deceased.
“I really do want them to rest in peace and know that their family has tied up the loose ends of their lives.”
Meg Schutte is a Bank of Hope Blog contributor.
The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Bank of Hope.