A Career Renegade Story: Howard Karp Rides Again!

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This week, Howard Karp, the owner of Jersey Defensive Driving,  reached out to me on Facebook and shared his renegade journey. It captured so much of what people have been dealing with over the last year and it was a great example of what happens when you rise above the victim mentality, take control and go renegade. So, I asked him if  could share it with you guys and he agreed.

What follows are Howard’s words…

Around January of 2009, I was working as an IT Project Leader for UPS in Northern New Jersey. My plan was to retire from UPS around age 55 (that was 3.5 years from then), but I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. My wife forwarded a copy of the Firefly Manifesto, which led to me to purchase your Career Renegade book and get enrolled in Flight School. I’m not sure if you remember the flight school teleconference session where you were talking about meta tags and had the young person who was involved in BMX riding. During that teleconference session we were exploring how key words worked and how they affected search results.

I am a motorcyclist by hobby and during that session I started to type in motorcycle related keywords. Well, up pops the website for Fairleigh Dickinson University, and it just so happened that they were looking for people who were interested in becoming riding instructors. So I submitted an application and was accepted into the trainer, training program which was a very grueling 9 day program over 3 consecutive weekends. I passed the program and in May of 2009 began teaching Beginner Rider Classes on the weekends.

Move forward to August of 2009, and the economy is tanking and after 18 years with UPS I get laid off.

Not the first time in my life that I have had a career bump but certainly never expected it 3 years away from retirement age and from such a large and respected company. Just to give you the full flavor, my wife, who is a marketing specialist in the newspaper industry got let go a month earlier, so now we are flying without a net.

She starts a marketing business that specializes in social media in addition to traditional marketing and it takes off pretty quickly, and it is still the summer time and I am teaching classes at FDU so we are keeping the wolf away from the door. My dilemma is what to do next? Meanwhile all the time I am following your web site and listening to podcasts of your guests who have had successful career transitions.

Now the other thing you need to know is that I am somewhat of a history buff. I enjoy the history channel and going to battlefields and even took a multiday motorcycle ride to Gettysburg to see the battle re-enactment. So I decide that I am going to open a motorcycle touring business that specializes in tours to historical areas in the Hudson River Valley and NY/NJ area. Combining motorcycle touring with history, what could be better?

So I create Patriot Motorcycle Tours and start to figure out how to market it. I develop a 5 part tour series for new riders called the Practical Skills Riding Tour Series and try to market it to the university, I create various routes and rides over the winter of 2009/2010, I come up with a bunch of ride concepts, three cities baseball tour and Cooperstown, a Fort Ticondaroga tour, and Washington’s Crossing Tour, I create waivers and launch a website, and I work the motorcycle show at Javits where I meet up with a guy who runs a touring company in the Georgia area who is looking to expand up north to New England.

Things are progressing slowly. All the while I am still reading your blogs and listening to your podcasts. I get the book Escape from Cubicle Nation and start going to some of the networking events and meet Pam.

Then in around March of 09 I meet up with a guy who runs a defensive driving classroom course. Now this guy is based in NY and is looking to move into NJ. The course is a 6 hour multi-media presentation that gets you a discount on your car insurance and 2 points off your license. You can take it in an instructor led group session or as an Online course.

Turns out that a portion of the content is similar to what I teach in the classroom portion of the beginner motorcycle classes, and I have already passed the background check because I had to be fingerprinted and investigated for the university as part of getting the instructor job.

So, I make a deal to become the exclusive provider of this course in New Jersey, and anyone else who comes in does so under my umbrella. So I go back to some of your concepts in the Career Renegade book and I get onto Go Daddy and find out that Jersey Defensive Driving is available. So I register the URL, license the curriculum from the sponsoring agency that created it and got it approved by the NY and NJ DMV, have a JerseyDefensiveDriving.com web site hosted for taking the course online and start a Jersey Defensive Driving Face Book Fan Page.

I revamp the content and put it in a PowerPoint format a la the kind of presentations we would give at UPS, I create a marketing kit, get a fellow instructor who works for a gym oriented throw away magazine to get me some press, and start leveraging the career transition network groups I have been attending to get the word out on the business.

I started marketing it April and as of today I have 3 classes scheduled, one partnering with a local insurance agency and the others with a local YMCA. I also pitched the course to both Bergen Community College and FDU, and got a bite from BCC to be in their Fall Catalog.

So now, I am getting some momentum up, and am transitioning from career transition networking venues to start up and entrepreneurial networking events. I joined a bunch of linked in groups and hooked up with an attorney in South Jersey who specializes in DWI/DUI cases. Just had a conversation with a small start up radio station in the Newark area who via linked in is offering a deep discount on a radio marketing package for their station.

To top off the whole life is a circle thing, my wife just landed a full time senior position with a newspaper in South Jersey so we will be relocating down to the shore, but the good thing is Jersey Defensive Driving can be run from anywhere.

So to wrap up this letter, I have to thank you for giving me inspiration and a road map of sorts to think about what the possibilities could be rather than getting into a depression about why me and what did I do wrong (nothing), and all the other negative blah, blah, blah that you can get into with a job loss.

I hope to eventually get back to the historical motorcycle thing, but for now the Defensive Driving Course and the Motorcycle Instructor work have a good synergy and I think the earning potential is better with this venture.

I was down in Washington DC visiting my daughter who at the time was an undergraduate at American University. She had gotten a job at the National Archives and I went to see where she worked and get a behind the scenes tour of some of the cool documents.

On the steps of the archive carved into the cornerstone of the building is the saying….

What is Past is Prologue.”

I have adopted that as my personal theme!

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Feel free to share your thoughts, ideas and questions in the comments below…

Also, I LOVE sharing renegade stories like Howard’s!

If you’ve got one, please email me at jonathan at jonathanfields dot com or Facebook message me.

Who knows, your story just might hit the blog!

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17 responses

17 responses to “A Career Renegade Story: Howard Karp Rides Again!”

  1. Karen Putz says:

    Howard, what a life path! I’m guessing you don’t miss your days at UPS and you’re enjoying this career path to the fullest. Thanks for sharing!

  2. There are so many ways to earn money. We just need to think outside the norm (renegade) and do something different.

    I think the best lesson in this story is Howard didn’t get down on himself. He was already building toward something on the side and made the leap when he was laid off.

    We all have talents and passions we can build on the side and when we are ready (forced) to make the leap we have a foundation to work from.

  3. Great story! You can never quite tell where you’re going to end up, can you? Howard was able to take opportunities as they came up and make something out of them. There are some good marketing tips buried in there, too, like getting referrals from non-competing businesses who serve the same customers.

  4. Great renegade tale.

  5. Jesse says:

    So I’m reading and thinking of my friend the motorcycling history buff, and he happens to send an email at the same time. I’ll forward this to him.

    My grandpa would say, “And there’s another interesting way to make a living.”

    And all these interesting ways to make a living are brought to us be creativity, inventiveness, perseverance and, in a lot of cases, the internet.

    Jonathan, you are a marvelous conduit in the whole process.

    We all can be. That’s so cool.

  6. ami says:

    Wonderful story Howard, and thanks to Jonathan for sharing it on the blog.

    Love what your story shows about keeping an open mind about what a ‘job’ looks like, making your own way when your company stops making your way for you, and working hard and thinking creatively to create a grand new adventure – that happens to pay the bills. Great lessons!

  7. MattT says:

    This is a great story. The only bummer part I found in it was the bit about Howard’s wife landing a “full time senior position with a newspaper in South Jersey.” I can’t help but think her marketing business that specializes in social media would have been better to stick with in the long run. But these comments are based on no more knowledge about them than the little bit of info in this post, so what do I know?

  8. Tamara says:

    Great story, thanks for sharing!

  9. What a great story, thanks for sharing! I’ve suggested that my mom and her husband start a motorcycle touring company… it would give her something to do with her empty evenings and weeekends, and she would love it. I’ll be passing this along in hopes that she receives some inspiration.

    Howard, I know it’s not luck, but “best of luck!” Enjoy your journey and keep sharing those passions.

    Keep it shiny side up!

  10. ocbenji says:

    Great perseverance Howard! Thanks for sharing a part of your life story and inspiring others with it!

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  12. Pamela Slim says:

    That is an absolutely beautiful story Howard, you are SO inspirational! I love the detail about how you started on one path and through testing and trying found another.

    Rock on with your bad self, you will really help a lot of people with your story.

    All the best,

    -Pam

  13. Dale says:

    the human spirit, let it be the driver and be amazed at the results. Love stories like this, thanks for sharing.

  14. Julie says:

    Wow – Thanks for the great story Howard!! I’m in Renegrade Transition and loved reading your story! It truly is about having the faith and following your dream pursuits and opportunities. And, you must be feeling so free and excited and wake up every day with joy! I know what it feels like to leave the corporate world and the ‘freedom’ that comes with pursuing one’s new pursuits! Best of luck to you – I am SURE that you, your wife, and new biz venture will be successful! And, kudos to your wife as well – for helping you pursue your passion and giving you so much support to find a new path!

  15. […] a man who was laid off and had to find a way to develop his passion for motorcycles into a job. Click here to read […]

  16. […] A Career Renegade Story: Howard Karp Rides Again: I loved this feel-good story for a couple of reasons. First, Howard is an awesome example of how […]

  17. Dena says:

    Excellent post. I really enjoyed & shared it with my readers in this week’s Carousel – http://evolutionyou.net/carousel-05-28-10/

    Thank you so much for sharing.

    Cheers,
    Dena