Author: Rebecca Edwards | Photographer: Denman Bennett
The game. The gig. The daily grind. No matter what you call you it, chances are, your nine to five is a big part of your life. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spends 8.8 hours working—as compared to 7.7 hours sleeping, 2.6 hours doing leisure activities and 1.1 hours drinking and eating. The immense popularity of the television show The Office was greatly due to how well we working stiffs related to its content—especially the tedium and adjustable chair travails of its characters.
In the wake of a depressed economy and high unemployment rates, economists often speak of an emerging American workforce and more creative work models and occupations. The Small Business Association reports that approximately 543,000 new small businesses are started each month, while the government-reported rates of people quitting their jobs now outpaces the rate of people getting laid off. Apparently, our Goonies-never-say-die, entrepreneurial spirit is building a new American Dream, and passion is leading more and more people to think outside the cubicle. Let’s meet a few of these modern day mavericks.
Even though Mike Majer of Majer’s Diving and Salvaging, Inc. grew up outside landlocked Cleveland, Ohio, he says he’s always been fascinated with scuba diving. In 1972, at age 10, he vacationed to Puerto Rica with his family and begged his dad to let him get certified at a local dive shop.
Throughout his youth he subscribed to all the scuba magazines, poured over books on the sport and took as many dive trips as possible from Lake Erie to Florida. As an adult, he joined the military to be a combat diver, trained in open and closed circuit diving. Once he left the military, his professional purpose bubbled to the surface.
“I was working on a house in Sea Pines and looked out at the dock and saw the growth under a boat,” Majer said. “I offered to clean it; the boat owner was happy with my work, and I started getting calls. Three months later I had so much work I did not need to do construction anymore.” Nearly two decades ago later, Majer joked, “We have the capabilities to fix just about anything. Any tool you have on land, we have for under the water. Pumps, drills, wrenches, chain saws, you name it. I’m an underwater problem solver.”
Every day is different for Majer, and every day he plunges into a new challenge. “I like to look at a situation where someone might have otherwise given up and come up with the solution. We are very persistent. If plan “A” doesn’t work, we go to plan “Z” and then, if need be, back to plan “2A.” Most of Majer’s skills—which include plumbing, engineering, construction, marine biology, oceanography and diving equipment—are self-taught. Equally impressive, this handyman fixes things with limited to zero visibility. “In the water, you have to use your imagination and work by feel. Most jobs I close my eyes and imagine in my mind what I am working on.”
For over 35 years, Dwanna Paul says she “has gone into an altered state of consciousness to access the world of spirit or other like dimensions.” But, with an otherworldly talent like hers, her résumé isn’t limited to the number of years she’s worked professionally. “As a child, I was very sensitive and saw spirits and thought everyone else did too,” Paul said. “Then as a teenager, I was the one people dared to go to the graveyard.”
As an adult, the supernatural continues to fascinate Paul. “I find hauntings, clearings, and blessings so interesting—so much fun,” she said. Mediumship training for her was a gradual, exploratory process. In her 20s, she studied new age practices such as massage, holistic healing, Reiki and polarity. She also “took classes on how to focus her mind and was educated by spirit,” she said.
Now, Paul has a team of spirits to assist her and her clients. These guides have names, personalities and jobs to do, too. They include her Native American guide, Two Bear, and the joyful crossover entity she calls Joy. On the phone or in person, she channels them, and with their help, Paul finds “great happiness in seeing spiritual healing take place, especially when it is a parent who has lost a child.” Taking an introspective pause, Paul added, “I watched the emotional transformation of a mom who lost her son 14 years ago. His spirit described the landscape on the other side and how he watched and wanted to help his family members.” Paul was able to provide an invaluable service that day—closure for a grieving parent.
“The more I see, the more it fuels my passion. If you are not working with your passion, you are missing out on the joys of your life,” said Paul, who also believes we all have guides we should listen to. “We all get signals around us such as feelings or sensations, and we need to take note of them.”
“Most of us are in our profession for most of our lives 40-plus hours a week. Just as dispassion is contagious, so is passion. Passion in your job creates an energy that translates in all aspects of your life,” said Brantley Crowder, director of E-commerce for Savannah Bee Company.
In 2000, Crowder studied microbial ecology at Northern Arizona University and earned a master’s degree in biology. After clocking in some hours as a research biologist and biology teacher, his yoga practice led him on a new career path, and he launched namasteyall.org—a database of 1500 yoga studios from Texas to D.C. “The idea was that if you were visiting a town you could get the address and directions to the studio, class times and class descriptions,” explained Crowder, who taught himself the ins and outs of site-building, blogging and e-commerce. Due to the popularity of Crowder’s site, a larger yoga company bought it, and Crowder soon found himself buzzing with opportunity after meeting Savannah Bee company owner Ted Dennard and combining his biology background with his newfound talent for online development.
“Ted sets the tone,” Crowder said. “He’s a beekeeper through and through.” Like the Savannah Bee Company’s arthropod population, Crowder thrives by writing the blog, managing the Honeybee Educational Resources page, prompting beecause.org (a clever educational project you might want to check out), working in the bee garden and, of course, taking diligent care of his own beehive. “No matter what, bees will always be part of my life. Even my two daughters love them.”
Crowder can’t imagine a better pollinator to work with. “Bees are awesome. They don’t have a lazy bone in them and are more industrious than people. Seventy percent of the U.S.’s crop products are honeybee pollinated. If we lose the honeybee, we will see die off and attrition in crops. Yes, the hummingbird might pick up some of the slack, but he can’t beat the bee.”
Jennifer Grafdyke is a certified colon hydrotherapist and owner of Oasis Life Spa. For those of you who are unfamiliar with colon hydrotherapy, it’s essentially as the name implies and a session is called a “colonic.” With her Australian accent (that sounds so smooth that even words like “fecal” sound pretty) Grafdyke explained, “A colonic is the irrigation of the large intestine with pure water. It is an ancient therapy that eliminates fecal matter and toxins from the colon in a non-invasive procedure.”
Grafdyke is also a Reiki master, massage therapist, and holistic practitioner who holds multiple certifications in holistic spa management, essential oil and flower remedies, and other holistic modalities like chakra clearing. “I was built for the holistic field,” Grafdyke said, “but I did not know until I was older how to make a career of it.” Like many of us, as a young adult, she felt steered toward a conventional occupation. “Because I was creative, I thought the design industry was a more suitable way to make a living and started off early as a floral designer, event planner and interior decorator in Melbourne.”
That all changed in 1999 when she was introduced to her mentor Kalama St. Germain. “From the moment I met her, I knew what I wanted to be. Kalama gave me the ability and space to groom my gift, to put it in a framework that was useable and empower me to help others.” In short, Grafdyke’s career path and spiritual path finally coincided.
“Having seen a real shift in my own wellness, and having been privileged over the years to see changes in other people’s wellness, I feel honored to do what I do. I don’t consider what I do a job. It is a lifestyle,” Grafdyke said.
Given the fact that for many people talking about “number two” is taboo, you might guess her profession’s glass ceiling is a bit different that the norm (even though Grafdyke says that is lessening). “When I tell people at a dinner party what I do, they may make fun. But then they get me alone and they will say they have constipation or irritable bowel. I appreciate them talking to me. The more awareness about the body in general, the better.”
For Michelle Adams, co-owner of the family business Hilton Head House of Jerky in Coligny Plaza, what goes in your body is really important. “I’m very involved in health, wellness and nutrition, and I wanted a business that fell along those lines,” Adams said. “Our jerky is grass fed, free of preservatives, and high in protein.”
Adams started school to become a pharmacist but admitted, “I decided I did not want to be cooped up in a hospital.” She became a food store manager at age 20 and worked for Vitamin World starting in 1998. Even though she truly enjoyed working for her employer, like a true entrepreneur, she felt something was missing. “As a family, we ran a seasonal store during the holidays, but we were ready for more and I was ready for a drastic change. I wanted to live by the beach, and I wanted to be my own boss. I took a leap of faith, drew out my 401(k) and used the money to open up the business.”
Adams also devoured everything there was to learn about jerky—from its health benefits to its flavor profiles. Walking into her shop is like entering a Paleo dieter’s fantasy. Wall to wall, rack to rack, there’s trout, wild boar, venison, kangaroo, buffalo, beef, turkey, salmon, bacon and pork, as well as gluten-free options and diverse flavors, to sample and buy. “I love to see how excited people get when they come in the store,” Adams said. “They’ll say, ‘I’m in heaven here.’”
Adams then added the ultimate elevator speech to why we should think outside the cubicle: “Being a business owner or carving out your own niche, you own your mistakes and your victories. You have to take a risk—it just makes the rewards even better.”