Career crossroads

About-facing on their careers in the midst of life, these neighborhood residents tell us what caused the one-eighty.

It could be a layoff that acts as a wake-up call. Sometimes it’s the arrival of new life or the tragedy of loss that shakes us up. And other times, it’s a period of introspection or even a moment of clarity.

The decision to pursue a dream takes courage because it often means derailing a career, risking financial stability, and saying goodbye to life as we know it. Even so, when two roads diverged, these neighbors were brave enough to take the one less traveled, and for them, that has made all the difference.

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Brad Weir
City Church International, citychurchintl.org

His grandfather opened Weir’s Furniture in 1948, and his father later took the helm. Brad Weir followed in those footsteps soon after college, eventually becoming one of Weir’s vice presidents.

Ironically, working in the family business was what ultimately led him away. It’s where Weir became a Christian, he says, and as he began working with ministries that gave drug addicts and alcoholics second and third chances, rehabilitated men were hired as Weir’s warehouse workers, and Weir began holding Bible studies for them before and after work.

“One day a guy asked me would I be his pastor, and that’s how it all started,” Weir says.

In 1999 Weir and his wife, Angela, decided to move their family from Richardson to Munger Place, closer to the East Dallas organizations they served. That way they could “come alongside the ministries on a day to day basis rather than touching from afar every once in a while,” Weir says.

Two years later, the Weirs began holding church services in their home and eventually moved into a storefront on Live Oak, attracting people from all walks of life. Weir tried to balance his roles as vice president of Weir’s Furniture and pastor of his congregation, City Church International, but he finally reached a breaking point.

“It was a passion that just grew until I couldn’t do both, and I had to make a choice. I felt like I needed to be a good steward, even for Weir’s,” he says.

“I saw that there was just a greater need and greater opportunity for me here because my time was so consumed with things that ultimately don’t matter, like buying and selling furniture.

“I have nothing against furniture, but I would much rather invest in the three things eternal — God, his Word and people.”

Soon, Weir’s congregation came up with $875,000 in three months, “a miracle,” he says, and moved into the former Central Congregational Church building on Carroll. The congregation now operates a food pantry and a clothes closet, and puts up tents where people can gather to receive prayer and brisket tacos.

It has been a year since Weir left the family business, and it hasn’t been an easy one for his immediate family, especially financially. But Weir says he would “not go back.”

“Stepping out of the Weir’s luxury liner was definitely a risky step,” he says, “but as Christians, we’re called not to a comfortable, easy path, but a risk-taking path.”

Bob Munro
Sacred Pause, sacredpause.com

As a boy, Bob Munro would spend Saturdays with his father in the Miami Herald newspaper’s darkroom, watching images appear on previously blank paper. In Munro’s eyes, his father, a photo engraver, was “the guy who makes the pictures in the paper.”

“On Sunday morning, that picture would be on the front page, and I thought: ‘Wow. Dad did that,’” Munro recalls.

He grew up and pursued a marketing career, with the last 20 years spent at JC Penney. During that time Munro developed the store’s private label for men’s apparel, a job that took him to the Far East, Europe and other exotic locales. Like his father, Munro always carried a camera around his neck, and the mystical low lights and chemical smells of the darkroom never really left him.

“People kept telling me there’s something here, you need to share these pictures. And I said, no, they mean something to me, but I don’t think to anyone else,” Munro says.

A still, quiet morning at a retreat woke him up, literally. Munro says he felt something nudge him at 5 p.m. to get out of bed, and he went outside to greet the minutes before the sun arose. He called it a “sacred pause,” and afterward found himself drawn to spiritual places — a monastery in northern Mexico, the deep woods of California — to freeze frame images that “shift people’s souls,” Munro says.

For years, Sacred Pause was his night job, but Munro slowly tired of the balancing act.

“In the back of my head, there was always the notion of, could I wake up every morning and do what I love?” Munro says.

“As I was getting older, I was either going to go forward and follow my dreams or not. The longer I waited, the less chance I was going to go for it. I wanted to get to the end of the road of my life and not look back and say, I wish I would have done it this way.”

Last year, at age 49, Munro quit his longtime gig at JC Penney. It was scary at first, he says, wondering whether the phone would ring, but from day one, it has “been nonstop.” Munro even found that his own journey inspires others, and he holds regular Sacred Pause retreats.

“It’s not jumping in the deep end all at once, or maybe you never fully give up the so–called day job,” he says, “but you have to follow your dreams and feed your soul with what makes you tick.”

Nicole LeBlanc
Mon Voyage, monvoyagetravel.com

Don’t call her a travel agent. Nicole LeBlanc calls her new career “customized itinerary planning,” and when people tilt their heads to one side and ask what that is, she responds: “I plan your dream trip.”

Her previous career was another head-tilting title — head milliner, or ladies’ hat maker, for a women’s boutique in New Orleans. But LeBlanc spent years commuting between Louisiana and Dallas, so much that once she was featured as the frequent flyer of the month in Southwest Airlines’ magazine.

She was working in New Orleans the weekend of Hurricane Katrina. LeBlanc evacuated before the storm hit, but says the psychological effect was lasting. She watched as friends were separated from their families and decided that she didn’t want to be separated from hers so often.

Last year, LeBlanc decided to hang up her hats and try something different. She and her husband are world travelers, and LeBlanc describes herself as an “obsessive vacation planner,” someone who does mountains of research before arriving at a destination so she can maximize her time once she gets there.

Friends who heard tales of her journeys began asking LeBlanc for help planning their own trips, she says, “so I decided when I jumped off the cliff of my very secure 24-year millinery career that this is a thing I could do.”

It’s something most people don’t have the time or patience for, but LeBlanc enjoys dabbling in the details. She plans trips around people’s travel styles and personalities, like the avid sailor for whom she always finds boats to charter and seeks out lodging in marinas or yacht clubs.

LeBlanc says she misses the creative process of making hats and the feel of the textiles, but she doesn’t miss weekly trips to the airport at 5 a.m., having a perennially packed suitcase, and being away from her family.

“People from the outside always looked at my hat designs and felt that was my true calling because I was very good at that, and I was semi-famous as a milliner,” she says.

“But now I don’t ever sit there and think, I really want to make a hat today. Instead it’s: I really want to find a new destination today.”

Even so, the change has been difficult, LeBlanc says. She and her husband’s already modest lifestyle has become even more modest, and to help make ends meet, LeBlanc is making phone calls and doing data entry for a neighbor’s business. But she’s not looking back.

“Our roof leaked this summer and took a four- or five-foot chunk of the ceiling in my workroom,” LeBlanc says. “I took that as a sign that I wasn’t supposed to be making hats.”

Jere Reiser and Sara Guettel
Caregiver Support Systems, caregiversupport.com

After nearly two decades with Southwestern Bell and AT&T, Jere Reiser was ready for something new, but he was having trouble finding anything.

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“It finally became very clear that there wasn’t a whole lot out there for me,” he says. “Quite simply, I didn’t have a degree, and I knew a lot of my résumés got trashed.”

So at the age of 42, Reiser decided to go to college. He began reading University of North Texas course manuals and came across the Center for Studies in Aging catalog.

“Is the word epiphany overused these days?” he asks.

Reiser decided to earn a degree in gerontology, combining his managerial skills with his newfound love and becoming a nursing home administrator. But his plans changed during his final semester.

“The funny thing about education is if you pay attention, you learn, and one of the things I learned was that care was moving away from bricks and mortar and out to the community,” he says.

A professor pointed him to the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (Resier later founded the south central chapter), and at a national conference he was inspired to create the company that he and his wife, Sara Guettel, have run for nearly 20 years — Caregiver Support Systems. The premise of long-term care management for people with ongoing health issues, mostly the elderly, was fairly new at the time, and like any new concept company, the couple struggled at first.

Guettel worked freelance graphic design gigs, Reiser was a limousine driver and dispatcher on the weekends, and for several years they wrote down every penny they spent.

“It wasn’t that bad — now,” Reiser jokes, adding of his wife, “I gave up twice, and she wouldn’t let me.”

What kept them going was the belief that they provided a service people needed, illustrated by situations even in their own family, like when one of Guettel’s uncles fell and broke his hip while living alone in a small Kansas town.

“I asked my cousin, ‘If there had been somebody there who knew the nursing homes, who knew how to get him from southeastern Kansas back up to Topeka, knew how to deal with doctors, Medicaid and take care of it for you, and be there to check on what’s going on, what would you pay?’” Sara recalls.

“Her response was: Anything you asked.”

These days, it’s not unusual for them to attend a doctor’s visit with one of their clients, make grocery trips and dinner outings, and even drive cats to the airport when a new home doesn’t allow pets.

“We’re stepping in as a surrogate for the family,” he says. “We carry out the things they can’t be here to do.”

Roshi Muns
Society Bakery, societybakery.com

With a degree in marketing and an MBA under her belt, Roshi Muns was moving up the ladder. She launched an internet company, promoted electronics companies, and eventually landed at the Goody Goody Liquors corporate office.

Then she began asking herself what it was that she really wanted to do. When the baked treats she brought into the office went like, well, hotcakes, the dots began to connect.

“When people would say, ‘These cookies are really good; you should sell them,’ I would just brush that off as a nice compliment. I never thought I would make a career path out of it,” she says.

But the avid cookbook reader and Food Network watcher suddenly realized that she turned to the oven for solace no matter her mood — vanilla cake to celebrate, chocolate chip cookies to unload her stress.

Once Muns pinpointed baking as her passion, she cut her hours to part-time and began spending vast amounts of time in her kitchen. Her marketing background gave her a head start, and Muns was “shameless” about promoting Society Bakery, she says.

She took cakes with her to parties, proclaiming her new business to everyone she met. She sent treats with friends to their workplaces, with a phone number and menu included in every box.

“At the time, it’s what I needed to do,” Muns says. “When you start a business, you have to give it your all. It’s like a baby — it becomes all-consuming, but that’s what it takes to keep it alive. I started to eat, live, breathe, sleep the business.”

Her social life became almost nonexistent, Muns says, especially considering that bakeries’ busiest day is Saturday. For about three years, she cut out any football games, picnics, baby showers and weekend social activity in order to grow her business.

Within a year, she moved into the storefront on Greenville and McCommas, and now, four years later, Muns says her bakery has moved past the toddler years and grown legs of its own. She’s back to hanging out with family and friends, and even found enough time to have a baby.

Her next project? Writing a book on how to balance work and personal life.

Suzy Moritz Rawdin
It’s All Good, itsallgooddallas.com

She remembers being 8 years old and holding her mother’s skirt out of the way while she painted murals from a ladder. Later on, Suzy Moritz Rawdin would head to college to study art, but she never earned her degree.

“I was 18 or 19 and an idiot,” she recalls. “I just had to go to Houston to get a job, make money and get away from home.”

Moritz Rawdin wound up spending years as a legal secretary and administrative assistant before moving back home to Shreveport, La., where she parlayed her skills into a successful real estate business, eventually becoming the top salesperson for Shreveport and North Louisiana.

“Of course, anything I undertake I have to be No. 1 at it,” Moritz Rawdin says.

This also proved true when she switched to the mortgage business in the ’90s and eventually was promoted to regional manager and vice president. She worked for big names like Wells Fargo and Wachovia, traveled extensively, and “ran the territory money-wise and numbers-wise,” she says.

Though Moritz Rawdin was reveling in her corporate successes, she began feeling drawn back to art, and in summer 2003 took her first art class in 40 years. She was “freaked out,” she says, and that first painting came out completely black. But Moritz Rawdin pressed forward, even moving to a house in Hollywood Heights with a backyard studio shed where she and her mother could paint.

Two weeks after they moved in, her mother died. Nearly three years later, when the mortgage industry went south, Moritz Rawdin’s division was the first her company decided to shut down. So she delved into art full-time, naming her company with the same phrase she had formerly used to coach her salespeople — “It’s all good.”

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“When all this happened, it was like, you’re supposed to be on this path, and the path was clear and straight ever since I’ve been on it,” she says.

Moritz Rawdin began spending her extra time as nanny to her grandchildren, “whom I adore,” she says, while trying to get her business off the ground. She began creating wall murals in children’s rooms, sketching pen and ink drawings of girls and boys, and painting pet portraits. She even has a whimsical line of paintings called Suzy and Flo, named for her and her mother.

“I know that mother and God are pushing me big time,” she says.

A big break came when her toes were in the pedicure bowl at Nails by Jamise, and the  owner Kim asked Moritz Rawdin to take over the retail space. She held her first open house in October.

“All those years spent in the corporate world, I had mean bosses and was dealing with numbers. Do what you love and the money will follow. It’s so true,” Moritz Rawdin says.

“I mean, I’ve got 35 suits in my closet that I haven’t worn in a year and a half. I dress in jeans. I’m so happy.”


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