Get ready for your second act
Meet five former corporate climbers who've left the cubicle behind to follow their lifelong passions.
by Anne Fisher, FORTUNE Magazine

(FORTUNE Magazine) - Look up "retire" in Webster's and the first definition is "to withdraw, as for rest or seclusion" - or maybe for just going fishing. But more and more, people bowing out of long corporate careers are doing anything but. AARP surveys show that 70% of Americans want to work as long as they're able to. Other polls reveal a startling optimism about just how long that might be. When Yahoo surveyed thousands of would-be entrepreneurs a couple of months ago and asked, "At what age do you think it would be too late to start your own business?" 72% of respondents aged 55 and above answered "never."

The five people profiled here have each embarked on an adventure that combines a long-standing passion with a profit motive. Who knows? Maybe their experiences will spark an idea or two to help you start planning your own second act.

Amy Hilliard, 53

Founder and CEO, Comfort Cake Co., Chicago

Was Senior vice president, marketing, L'Oreal USA (Charts)

How she got the new gig

Hilliard's pound cakes were so famous among friends, they'd beg her to bring a cake or two to parties - even if she couldn't stay. A light bulb went on in the brain of this Harvard MBA and product-development veteran. Hilliard quit L'Oreal, sold her house, and rededicated her life to making what she calls "pound cake so good, it feels like a hug."

Making money?

Yes. United Airlines once bought 550,000 individually wrapped slices. The cake is also sold at stores in Illinois and online (www.comfortcake.com). Try the Luscious Lemon.

Clarence "Chuck" Wildes, 56

Founder and president, Rolling Wheels Training Center, Kansas City, Mo.

Was Engineering manager, Sprint (Charts)

Now Runs a motorcycle riding school in Missouri.

How he got the new gig

Wildes learned to ride in his teens, and in his 30s worked as a weekend riding instructor as a hobby. When Sprint laid him off at age 52, he raided his 401(k) to launch Rolling Wheels. "My account balance was down so low," he recalls, "I started calling it my 101(k)." Three years later, Rolling Wheels has more than 800 students, 20 instructors, and three full-time employees, including Chuck's wife, Pat.

Making money?

Enough that Wildes has been scouting locations in Florida to open a second school. Who will run that one? "Well, I want to manage it from September to May and send Pat down there from June through August," he says. "But so far she's not buying it."

What he rides

A 2002 1,800cc, six-cylinder Honda Goldwing touring bike, "but we've also got 14 training bikes and eight loaners, so I can always find something to sit on."

Tattoos

None.

Carlene Reinhart, 73

Professional nature photographer, Vienna, Va.

Was Manager, computer-based training, Xerox

How she got the new gig

A lifelong swimmer, she tried underwater photography in 1995 while on vacation in Fiji - and was hooked on the gemlike colors of anemones, parrotfish, and coral reefs. She has since branched out into shooting landscapes, houses, and faces.

Why she loves it

"Sometimes just the way the dew on a certain flower looks, close up at dusk, can take your breath away," she says. "I've learned to look at light. When the light is exactly right and you know you've got something, it's exciting."

Most thrilling Kodak (Charts) moment

Taking pictures of battling lions from a Land Rover in South Africa's Londolozi Game Reserve. "It was heartstopping."

Making money?

Yes. She sells her wares online (www.reinharts.net) and at craft markets and gallery showings around Washington, D.C. "I love doing this," Reinhart says. "But I wouldn't trade all those years I spent in corporate America for anything. It has all been a blast."

Jamie Jaffee, 50

Founder and CEO, Jamie Jaffee Enterprises, Boston

Was Executive vice president, private wealth management, Fidelity Investments

Now Runs a consulting firm that brings together nonprofits and donors. She also coaches businesspeople who want to make the leap to the nonprofit world.

How she got the new gig

At Fidelity, Jaffee spent her career working as a go-between for nonprofits and philanthropists. She started Fidelity's charitable gift fund, now the largest in the U.S.

Why she loves it

"It's so exciting to see the public becoming aware of these vibrant cultural resources," she says. "Exhibitions that used to attract 50 people now draw closer to 1,000."

Proud achievements

Building buzz for the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Mass., whose operating budget has doubled in the past year; wooing corporate and individual donors to help expand the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, Mass., where she serves as a trustee.

So what's with the giant baby?

It's by Nina Levy - yes, it's a little controversial - and sits on the roof of the DeCordova.

Jim Stevens, 59

Founder and CEO, Dutcher Crossing Winery, Healdsburg, Calif.

Was COO,Coca-Cola Enterprises (Charts). Back in the 1970s, co-founded a venture that became the first U.S. importer of Perrier.

How he got the new gig

Stevens has always loved wine and bought 35 acres in Sonoma County in 2001, planted vines, and hired a full-time winemaker. Stevens financed the venture with his and a partner's savings and investments from friends.

Typical day

Stevens and his wife, Linda, play host to a constant crowd of visitors. "It's more work than people usually picture when they think of retirement," says Stevens. "A couple thousand people come through our tasting room every month. It's all about tasting and enjoying and hospitality. You promote your product by throwing parties."

Vacation time

Lots. Until the end of July, Stevens and Linda are away on a ten-week cruise around the world.

Making money?

Amazingly, yes. After a year in business, Dutcher Crossing is profitable, thanks to a middleman-free business model: It sells direct to wine lovers, mostly online.

But is the wine any good?

17 competitive medals and counting. Top of page

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