Today I would like to introduce a couple who has found their niche and are completely following their passion: Laura Chegwidden Jacobs, a close friend of mine from high school, and her husband Joe Jacobs. Over the last three years, I have seen Laura and Joe take something they love and turn it into a career path.
In high school, Laura was part of my circle of friends that included John Gianonne (day 3 post) and Russ Bloodgood (day 7 post) and many more. She also was a star athlete who played field hockey, basketball and track. Running is in her DNA as she comes from a running family of four other siblings that all went on to run either cross country or track and field as well in both high school and college.
The same is true for Joe. Joe and his brother, Pat, ran for Butler High School. Joe then went on to run for UNC - Greensboro. After college, he knew he had to find something in the running world and was lucky to have worked with several running companies like Mizuno. That’s why Laura and Joe are perfect for each other. Running is in their lifestyle. It’s their passion, their calling. They even named their first child Miles.
Laura, being as active and disciplined as she is, went onto earn a Bachelors and Masters from Montclair State University where she played field hockey. When she graduated, she landed an amazing job at Kinnelon High School as a PE teacher. Because she had so much energy and a love for sports, she had to get into coaching. Of course, she didn’t just coach one sport, she has gone on to coach three sports: cross country, basketball and track. Let’s just say there is no rest for her from August to May, but to Laura that is ok. The thing is, is that it doesn’t feel like work and I’ve never heard her say she’s “tired of it.”
When you do something you love, success follows. For Laura, she was named North Jersey’s Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2011 and in September 2013 she organized a fundraiser with her team to raise money for Alex’s Lemonade Stand for every mile they ran. She also organizes a 5k every March to raise money for the Kinnelon Education Board - a project she initiated and does completely voluntarily.
Now Joe may love running more than Laura. As I mentioned he worked for a few running companies, but a few years ago he took a job with Sneaker Factory, an up and coming running store in New Jersey. He started from the ground up by working in their Millburn store then becoming manager of their new store in Basking Ridge in 2011. In 2013, Joe (and Laura), took took their passion for running even deeper: they went “all-in” on opening the fourth Sneaker Factory store in Florham Park, NJ. Opening up a brand new store and going into business for yourself can be a huge risk. Not for Laura and Joe though. They will succeed because of their work ethic, love for running and incredible family and friends around them.
As I mentioned in my day 15 post, the closer you get to finding your niche the more you may be pulled away from what really matters. You would think that the busy lifestyle they lead while opening a store that they would have no time for those around them. Yes, for the last six months, Joe and Laura have certainly both made sacrifices and have worked tirelessly to get this store up and running. What is even more impressive though, is that they did this all with Miles, their one year old son. They also never changed their lifestyle - they make time for their friends and family, run everyday, and more often than not you will find them competing in cycling and running races.
What They Taught Me:
Laura and Joe have taught me that with the right values you can have it all. They have found their niche and made a lifestyle out of it. Most importantly, they are succeeding at it - individually and as husband and wife. As Courtney and I start to propel our careers, I know that with people like Laura and Joe to look up to, we will be just fine and are lucky to have them as friends.
How They Inspired Me:
The best part about Laura and Joe’s story is that they took something simple that they were passionate about since high school and have made career path that they love. I have never heard them complain about their choices or the workload I’m sure they have. As I look to my future and coming closer to finding my niche, I know that with a work-ethic and mind like theirs, I can create a career out of the things I love.
Going “all-in” on your niche is certainly risky and you can read about it, watch it, and people can tell you to go for it. However, sometimes it takes seeing people close to you go for it and pull it off. Look for those in your circle that have found their niche and find ways you can pull inspiration from them to get closer to living out your passion.