Sometimes a volunteer job can lead to a venture. When Caroline Yackery left her job trading over the counter stocks to raise her kids, she volunteered a lot. And her assignments centered on computer work whether it was desktop publishing, spreadsheet management, mail merging, or numerous other programs – Caroline was garnering valuable experience in an area that she excelled in and it was something that she loved to do.
One volunteer job taught her that there was an aspect of computer work that wasn’t right for her. Helping her daughter’s school design their web site, she was not thrilled with that type of work and vowed never again. But when her three kids caused issues with the family’s computers at home, she was so frustrated; “I wanted to throw the computers out of the window.” Her source for help was a technical wiz named Rafet. “I was so intrigued and wanted to learn what he did to make our computers work faster and without viruses. I would look over his shoulder as he did the needed repairs.”
Caroline built a relationship with Rafet and realizing she was quite proficient in software programs, he began to refer his tutoring clients to her. “I had people skills and Rafet was so busy with hardware type issues.” Most of Caroline’s tutoring clients were people over fifty who had not grown up with computers and they realized they needed to learn how to do things like set up their new computer, hook up a printer, manage an email account, or run an accounting program among other things. This was the start of a partnership with Rafet that evolved as their relationship grew.
“My son cut me off from help, so I had to figure things out myself, that’s how I learned the most.” Caroline’s venture grew as her children grew. Tutoring takes about 25 % of Caroline’s time, working with clients on an hourly basis. “I have some clients that I’ve been working with for years, and some that call me for specific projects.”
Partnering with Rafet, and naming the company CJ Gold ( her initials from her maiden name), Caroline manages their time and assignments. Her most frequent call is from someone whose computer is running slow. So a typical job is to upgrade hardware and programs, run virus protection, configure the wired or wireless network, and maintain all the family’s computers. It’s a total solution. She started in 2002 working about 10 – 20 hours a week but now as an empty nester, her kids ages 18, 22, and 25, she can devote close to 40 hours a week to her venture. She says, “I love it.”
Caroline’s real passion, though, is building computers. She and Rafet will access exactly what a client uses their computer for and tailor the components specifically to their needs. “There are lots of traders in our area who left Wall Street and have information needs unique to them. We have built custom workstations for a lot of businesses in this sector.” They also handle the IT department off site for several small companies.
And they have plans to expand. She and Rafet are working on offering a home media server for families and plan to launch their product in early 2012. So she’s a real computer geek now and it all started with teaching herself through her volunteer jobs.
Look around at where you can add value to someone who might need a partner in something that you really enjoy.