Sheila: The Confidence to Try
The words “grateful and fortunate” aren’t generally the ones we expect to hear from the recently and abruptly unemployed. But they’re the exact words Sheila Koppin uses to describe how she feels these days.
After 30 years in the communications department at a high-profile company in Iowa, Sheila’s position was eliminated, leaving her unsure of what might come next. A few weeks later, she came across an ad for AARP Foundation’s Work for Yourself@50+ workshop at the Iowa Center for Economic Success. She was curious to find out more about the workshop and the possibility of striking out on her own for the first time.
Feeling nervous, and with her husband by her side for moral support, she attended the first information session. Looking back on that decision now, Sheila says, “I’m so glad I did, because that’s what introduced me to the Iowa Center and my journey towards self-employment.”
Encouraged, she continued through the series of workshops, which she says she would absolutely recommend to someone else in her position. “It really spoke to me, being in my mid-50s at the time I attended. It gave me a lot of optimism for things I could still do, things I could still be successful at without getting another traditional job, which I was finding difficult.”
She also talks about the value of attending the workshops with her peers. “It created a network of everyone helping each other. Everyone has something to offer, even if they don’t realize it. Everyone is there for a different reason and has their unique ideas and goals, and that’s a benefit to everyone.”
Through the workshops, Sheila discovered more classes and resources she could use to get closer to starting her own business. The DreamBuilder course, ran by the Iowa Center, helps develop business plans, provides one-on-one coaching and brings in experts to provide networking opportunities and give valuable insights into running a business.
The combination of Work for Yourself@50+ and DreamBuilder helped Sheila learn new skills and regain her confidence. Slowly, the idea of starting her own business began to feel less far fetched, like something that could someday become a reality.
In addition to giving her confidence and the tools to start building her business, Work for Yourself@50+ helped Sheila develop relationships. After she requested extra one-to-one assistance from an instructor, the two found they had a common background and have since built a friendship.
Sheila’s passion is writing, but she created her business, The Written Voice around editing and proofreading, areas in which she felt more confident. “I love writing, but I hadn’t really written in a couple of years, so I wasn’t comfortable with going out on my own as a writer,” she explains. Soon, though, she learned she could write again, and she found a market for that kind of work. “So while it started out a little differently,” she says, “I’ve landed primarily in writing, which I’m very excited about. The people I met through the AARP Foundation workshop and the Iowa Center gave me the confidence to try.”
“I had to be a little brave, but I’m glad I did.”
Venturing out on her own has been a positive experience — though it’s more than just her newfound freedom and flexibility. “You can be so helpful to others as an individual and not just a part of a larger company,” she says. “I feel like I’m doing much more meaningful work. Having time to write for individuals, not just on-demand for a whole department, allows me to really learn to write by listening to people’s voices.”
Since launching her LLC in August, Sheila has been able to reflect not only on her courage in taking a chance on herself, but on the support of those around her. “I could takes risks because I had people who believed in me,” she says. “I had to be a little brave, but I’m glad I did. I found I can still do what I really love to do.”