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Turning Lemons Into Lemonade

Turning Lemons Into Lemonade

Karen Herzog | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Turning Lemons Into Lemonade Finding ingredients for success: When faced with major changes in their lives, three state residents searched for the best business plans to market their food products and begin new careers

Rebecca Scarberry got divorced and lost her job in the same week last December. She turned to her kitchen stove, a source of comfort since childhood, and cooked up a caramel business.

Pilot Jeffrey Meyer hit midlife turbulence a year ago. He took a partially paid leave of absence that his employer offered as an alternative to a layoff, and reinvented himself with a potato salad recipe he always thought could fly.

A signature rum cake that Marlene Squires-Swanson traditionally baked for Christmas gift-giving became her salvation after she was laid off.

Life threw them lemons. And they made rum cake, potato salad and caramels.

They networked at the gym, at church, at the mall – even on an airplane – striking up conversations with strangers and casual acquaintances about their ideas. Scarberry and Squires-Swanson tapped technical colleges for advice, and sold their creations at farmers markets. All three set up Web sites.

Instead of spending Thanksgiving Day depressed and unemployed in a tight job market, these Wisconsin entrepreneurs are focused on creating their own success. They hope to tap the Internet holiday shopping bonanza.

Scarberry, of Pewaukee, and Squires-Swanson, of Green Bay, coincidentally were laid off on the same day – Dec. 2, 2008. Squires-Swanson’s husband, Paul, six months later was downsized out of his quality engineering job. Meyer, of Sister Bay, did not lose his livelihood, but saw the writing in the sky: an uncertain future with a grueling schedule.

“You can cry, but it doesn’t do any good,” said Squires-Swanson, 48. “It’s scary to do this – to put yourself out there, and draw down your savings. But I want to demonstrate to my daughters: ‘You don’t wait for something to happen; you have to make it happen.’ I still have my little pity parties every now and then, but I know this has made me stronger, and will make us stronger as a family.”