Tene Wells didn’t expect to lose her job at age 56 in 2009. She was the decade-long president of WomenVenture, a nonprofit in St. Paul, Minn., that offers business expertise and consulting services to women-owned enterprises. But economic times were tough all over back then.
When Wells suddenly had to depart, she decided she needed to get away to grieve and clear her head. Fortunately, a friend in Seattle came to the rescue. Wells’ pal handed her the keys to her car and home, said there was plenty of wine in the house and noted that she’d be back in several weeks.
Wells read, relaxed and thought about what her encore career might be – the type of meaningful work people increasingly do in the second half of their lives to bring in income and serve the greater good.
How Your Friends Can Direct You
Wells ultimately settled on becoming a social entrepreneur, bringing her business skills to bear on an issue involving enterprise, women and poverty. Upon returning to the Twin Cities, she tested out various ideas with friends and acquaintances. “I used the wealth of contacts I had built,” Wells says. “I met lots of people for coffee.”
(MORE: A Manual for Encore Careers)
Today, she’s a Bush Foundation fellow, part of a two-year program largely focused on developing leadership skills. Her social venture exploration led Wells to realize that she wants to write, teach and bring others income-generating opportunities to break the cycle of poverty — perhaps, she says, becoming “the Suze Orman for poor people.”
I learned about Wells’ story while moderating a fascinating panel on encore careers last month. The other participants were Marci Alboher, author of The Encore Career Handbook: Making a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life; social entrepreneur Todd Bol, co-founder of the Little Free Library (small, handcrafted book exchanges in neighborhoods around the United States and abroad) and Jodi Harpstead, a 23-year veteran of the medical device company Medtronic and currently chief executive at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota.
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