Deciphering the Excitement in a Career of Translation: An Interview with Translator Daina Jauntirans

17 04 2010

 By Monica Jackson

Interviewee Daina Jauntirans

Translation is a very important medium for connecting worlds that are separated by barriers of language, and of culture.  In the following interview, Daina Jauntirans helps us decipher what it takes to be a translator and run your own translation business  Jauntirans unravels the significance that translation has within a business and informs us of the impact it can have on the comprehension and appreciation of different cultures for businesses – especially those with international clientele. She explains how she originally came into the field, how she became a translation business owner, and how you can do it too!

What exactly does a translator do, and what are the job duties?

 A translator produces a written target text in one language (in my case, English) from a source text in another language (in my case, German). In the United States, translation is often confused with interpreting – an interpreter works with the spoken word, while a translator works with the written word. I have my own translation business, and my job entails receiving files for translation from customers, processing these files as necessary (changing file formats, etc.), translating them and then returning them to the customer. Since I am a business owner, I am also responsible for handling standard business tasks, such as marketing my services, accounting, etc.

What amount of education is necessary, and what did you do to prepare to become a translator?

 “Translator” is not a designated profession in the United States as it is in Europe and other parts of the world. Anyone in the United States can start a freelance translation business without any paper qualifications (licensing, certification) whatsoever. Certification is available from the American Translators Association, but it is not mandatory. Most translators either have a degree in languages/translation and excellent subject-area knowledge (for example, in law, medicine, software, etc.) or a degree in a specialized subject and excellent language/translation skills. I have a bachelor’s degree in German and a master’s degree in translation. I mostly translate business, accounting, and finance-related texts because my first job in Germany was for a company that translated these types of texts – that is where I got my specialized on-the-job training.

Are there any prerequisites to becoming a translator? If not, how does one getting started within this profession?

 Some people follow a traditional route, as I did, and pursue a degree in translation. Other translators start with subject-matter skills (these are the translators who were programmers, doctors, lawyers, etc. first) and build on that. However, all translators must have an excellent command of their source language(s) as well as top-notch writing skills in their native language(s). For those working freelance, business skills are required as well.

What is a typical day like in your profession as a translator?

 I have my own business [Mozaika Language Services, Inc.] and work from home. A typical day begins with checking my e-mail to see what jobs have come in or what correspondence I need to attend to. Most of my clients are in Germany, so this is the afternoon for them. If a job has come in, I set up folders on the computer for the files, process the files as necessary, work on researching terminology, correspond with others on the project about style, deadline, terminology and other issues (my projects are often group projects with several translators working together on a large file) and then get to translating. While translating, I do consult paper dictionaries, but a lot of the research I do is Internet-based. After dinner I may continue translating if I have a tight deadline, or I may call it a day. If I don’t have projects coming in, I take care of invoicing, order resources (dictionaries and other reference works), learn new software, catch up on what is happening in the profession through online forums, or research new clients and market my services.

What significance, in your opinion, does being a translator carry within a business?  What types of businesses require the talents of a translator?

 Any company doing business internationally requires translators, and translators help these companies effectively communicate and successfully do business in foreign markets. Much of the work I do involves translating quarterly and annual reports, press releases, PowerPoint presentations, Web content, internal company documentation and manuals, contracts, marketing materials, prospectuses [a document distributed to potential investors that describes a financial deal such as an IPO], brochures, and other business documents from German into English. It is vital that the German text be translated so as to convey the message in a way understood by and appealing to English-speaking readers; that is the value a translator provides to a business.

How does one go about starting one’s  own translation business?

 I began learning German in high school and continued in college, spending three years in Germany and Austria between high school and graduate school. After completing my master’s degree in translation, I worked at a translation company in Germany for a few more years. Upon my return to the United States, I began freelancing, first for my former employer and then growing and bringing my services to new clients. Clients generally find me through word-of-mouth, although I also have profiles on a few translator marketplaces on the Internet and answer ads looking for translators on those sometimes. Currently, I am the only employee of my company, but for larger projects for direct clients I sometimes use the services of sub-contractors (other translators whose work meets my quality standards).

How does one make money as a translator, either working for a business or having their own business? 

 Translators working in-house for businesses are regular employees and are paid as such. Translators, like me, who freelance or have their own businesses must actively market their services to clients and take care of the business side of things in addition to doing the actual translation work. We are paid in various ways – some clients pay by the word, by the line, by the page, by the project, or by the hour. I try to keep abreast of the latest translation software, online dictionaries, various reference works in my key fields, etc. so that I can translate as quickly as possible while maintaining a high standard of quality so as to maximize my profit.

What is the most rewarding part of your job, and what is the most challenging?

 The most rewarding part is being able to use my language skills to make a living and having the freedom of a freelance schedule. I also like running my own business – I can do things the way I choose, and my earning potential is theoretically unlimited. The biggest challenge is the time constraints imposed on me by customers. Financial translations are often time critical, so I frequently o,rk under time pressure. Also, the first quarter is the busiest time of the year by far. During Q1 [Quarter 1], I work days, nights and weekends, but in turn I can arrange my vacations as I choose (as long as I notify customers in advance), so I make up for it by trying to take 4-5 weeks of vacation per year. The rewards outweigh the challenges.

What advice do you have for people who are interested in this field of work?

 Start studying your foreign language of choice as early as you can. Make sure you will be able to travel to and spend time in a country where that language is spoken, an essential step in acquiring the requisite language skills. Then choose a subject area you are interested in and get as much experience, training and education in that as you can.

Why, in your opinion, do you think translation is an important profession? Why should people being interested in doing it?

 I love travel, learning about other cultures, and learning and speaking other languages. Those were the reasons I chose translation as a profession.

Translation is important as a bridge between cultures. It is very important for companies as well as entire nations to have people who can cross back and forth and translate and interpret between their languages and cultures – this is the linchpin [cornerstone] of international business and diplomacy. People should be interested in languages and translation because the United States is somewhat behind the rest of the world in this regard. These are skills we desperately need in order to maintain our country’s standing in the world, both in politics and business.

And there you have it, Daina’s advice on what to do so that you too may join the world of translation. A great thing about a career in translation is that you can make it work to fit your life and not the other way around. Daina runs her business from home so that she can also take part in her children’s lives and maintain all her responsibilities as a mother. So for anyone who is bilingual or multilingual who is interested in a career that does not keep them boxed up in a cubicle all day and who is interested in this unconventional yet exciting and challenging career, get ready to decode your future within the world of translation.


An Intoxicating Interview with Boutique Distillery Starter, Sonat Birnecker

8 04 2010

By Matthew Bentel

It is 5:00 pm. You get up from the desk in your cubicle. You make your way to the elevator down to the parking lot and to your car. You arrive home nearly an hour after quitting time and pour yourself a whiskey on the rocks. You sit down and try to soak in the end of the day. That is your life now. But what if this “end of the day” routine wasn’t saved for the night hours, but rather was a daily practice? For Sonat and Robert Birnecker, it is.

Sonat and Robert, a married couple, established and now run Chicago’s first boutique distillery, Koval, located at 5121

Koval Distillery owners Sonat and Robert Birnecker, image provided by Sonat Birnecker.

N. Ravenswood in Chicago. As opposed to a brewery, which brews beer, or a vineyard, which produces wine, distilleries make spirits, otherwise known as liquor.

As Sonat explains in this interview, owning your own distillery offers more than simply being your own boss; creative freedom, unordinary business ventures, and atypical work days are all intoxicating benefits.

Koval seems like the metaphorical love child of your husband and you. How did it originate?

We were living in D.C. and we were trying to figure out how we were going to continue our lives after we gave birth to my son. We decided we did not want to live in the Baltimore/D.C. area anymore. I did not want to commute to my job in Baltimore.

What were you doing in Baltimore?

I was a tenured professor of German [Literature] and Jewish Studies. And my husband was the deputy press secretary at the Austrian Embassy, and it still took him around 45 minutes to get to work every day – even though we were very close to downtown D.C.

We decided that we wanted to live in a city close to family and friends, and we wanted to work together.  We decided we’d give up our jobs and follow his [Robert’s] family’s tradition of distilling and start a distillery in Chicago. This way, we could be where we wanted to be, work together, and be with our son.

As a husband and wife operation, it may be a bit different than your normal distillery, but run me through a typical day distilling spirits.

There is no typical day. Every day is completely different because every day involves either distilling or mashing or bottling, so that’s on the manufacturing side. But then there are hundreds of other things we have to deal with.

We’re trying to change the laws in Illinois that allow us to sell on premise of the distillery, which is something that is granted as a right to winemakers and breweries, but not to distilleries. We are always trying to reach out to different restaurants, to do some PR, and to deal with our other distributors, because we’re getting distributed now in California, Indiana, we will be in Wisconsin very soon, and [now] we’re dealing with Florida, which we may decide not to be in. There are a hundred things that go on: the distribution, the marketing, the PR, then we do a lot with non-profit organizations, so (we) speak with non-profits and find out how we can partner with them. And all these things happen in various combinations on a daily basis, in addition to chasing our son all over the place.

What are some of the basic tools, equipments, etc. you need to start distilling your own spirits?

Koval operates one still that ferments all their liquors

Well, you need a still and fermenters, the most basic operation you could have. We, at the very beginning, could not afford a mash tank. So we would mash inside the fermenters, as Mark [one of our two staff members] remembers…the bad days [laughs]. Very loud, very noisy, very, very heavy, difficult, because we’d have to stand on palettes, and then reach over into the fermenters with a glorified cement mixer. We went through about three of them because we ran out the motors.

Luckily that is in our past. So now we actually have a mash tank. Which while not completely necessary, in our mind it’s somewhat necessary. If you can afford it, then it’s completely necessary [laughs].

Especially when you’re doing things from scratch.

Yes, absolutely. It’s really awesome to have. You also need a bottle filler. We also started out with one-bottle filler, which means every single bottle was filled up one at a time. Now we have a four-bottle filler – which makes such a difference.  It makes absolutely the biggest difference. Because, you know, then you can get things done four times as fast.

Then you need collection tanks, which you also need in a very basic operation. So yeah, those are some of the things you need… then obviously boxes, labels, you need inserts in your boxes to separate the bottles so they don’t break, and blending tanks. we’ve got…

Are blending tanks used for more flavorful products?

Yes, for some of our liqueurs. They are basically like the stainless steel holding tanks, but we use some of them for blending. Some of them serve the function of blending, some of them serve the function just of collection.

Are there certain educational requirements, either formal or informal, that must be met to start your own distillery?

Formal: no, not in the United States. Informal: I would say absolutely and that probably ranges for some people that have family that have been in the business or were in the business at one time and passed down how to do things. Other people go and learn from other distillers, sort of like an old-school apprenticeship. And then there are courses that people can take. We teach people how to distill all the time. We actually do consulting. So we go around teaching people. Robert grew up with distilling because his grandparents have had a distillery since before he was born.

So when you say consulting, is that something you advertise?

We have a separate company called Kothe Distilling Technologies where we represent a still manufacturer and then we go around consulting and helping people get other distillers up off the ground. So we’ve already set up two in Virginia and one in Ohio. We’re setting up one in Seattle, two in Oregon and we’re going to be setting one up in Brooklyn in a few weeks. It’s going to be one of the first distilleries in New York City.

Was that something you were planning to do all along?

It wasn’t an afterthought. We wanted to do this from the beginning, in addition to our own distillery.

What type of financial expectations and prospects should people have when starting a distillery?

[Expect] to be in debt for a while.  People think they’ll get into this and make tons of money [laughs]. Yeah, maybe some day.

As a consultant, we tell people they are crazy all the time. People come to us with the most bizarre ideas of how much vodka they think they’re going to sell in the first year, and we just tell them that they are dreaming. We have very realistic expectations.

So, in very realistic terms, when do profits start to accumulate?

Well, it’s about the same as with breweries – about three years till you can assume things start to turn around. But that really depends on a lot of different factors like how much you grow, what kind of products you’re doing. I mean, if people just want to start a vodka distillery and only make vodka, they also have to keep in mind it’s not just what they make, but about distribution. With the alcohol industry in most states, you’re really dependent on distribution channels.  You have no control over those to a great extent. And if your distributor has 200 vodkas in their portfolio, are they really going to sell 10,000 cases of yours…ever? No.

Well, that leads to my next question. How did you get your product in both local liquor stores and bigger places, such as Binny’s?

We decided to go with Maxwell Street Trading (as our distributor) because they really understand craft distilleries and what it means to work with a small start-up distillery. Because they worked really hard, they were able to get us into these different retail venues.

What is the creative process like for developing a new spirit or liqueur, from the initial idea to the final product?

It depends on what it is. We like to do a lot of seasonal [liqueurs] so we’ve been sort of planning on doing certain seasonals for a while. There are a lot of things one has to keep in mind.

First you need a label, and before you can ever release a product you need the formula and label approved by the U.S. government. And that can take a long time. The formula approval may take a month or two and the label approval may take another month or two. So it’s already taking three months before you can even start making the product. Once you have that, you need to register the product with the state of Illinois. It’s different with every state, but you need to register it, then we can make it, bottle it, and sell it.

How to Slam Dunk a Career in Sports Journalism: A Dribble of Information from Texas Tech Beat Writer Courtney Linehan

2 04 2010

by Jenna Reisch

Coutney Linehan with former college and NBA player, Stephen Bardo at Texas Tech. Photo courtesy of Linehan.

Are you interested in a writing career ?  Consider sports journalism.  Courtney Linehan – beat writer for Texas Tech’s men’s basketball team and sports editor at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, a newspaper in a college town of West Texas – is an expert in her field.

While in college, Linehan, who majored in journalism, was a staff writer for the University of Illinois’ student newspaper .  She was also sports editor for Ames Tribune for two years before she began  her current position as sports editor for Texas Tech.  Linehan gives us the play-by-play of the unconventional lifestyle required of the beat writer, and gives us expert advice that has helped her score an exciting career on the court of journalism.

“What exactly is a sports beat writer?” you may ask.  A beat writer, in essence, is a journalist who covers a specific sports team.  They usually cover the team year round, even during offseason.  According to, because beat writers cover usually one team in one sport, his or her writing skills must be varied to be able to write different kinds of stories.  For example, the sports beat writer may have to cover a certain player’s struggle with an injury, a feature story on the coach or sports fanatics, the pep band, or an article detailing the outcome of last night’s game.

Linehan ran towards a career in journalism because of her love for writing and because she did not want a career where she would have to sit on the sidelines, mostly in an office, editing and writing stories at a desk all day.

Beat writing can be a lot of fun.  “As a basketball beat writer, my job is exciting,” says Linehan.  “Texas Tech is a member of the Big 12 Conference, one of the biggest sports conferences in the country. I go to every game, whether it is in Lubbock or Kansas or Colorado or wherever, take notes on what happens during the game, then interview the coaches and players afterward.”

The work hours for beat writers are far from normal.  Linehan usually goes to work in the early afternoon to put together a page for the next day’s newspaper.  She meets with the other editors (news, photos, features, etc), goes over different plans, and decides what is important enough to go on the front page of the next day’s paper.  After the editorial meeting, Linehan usually goes to basketball practice, interviews a few players, and then heads back to the office.  At the office,  she edits other reporters’ stories for the next issue, writes her own articles, and finalizes the sports section around 11 p.m.  “I am usually in the office until close to 1 a.m.,” says Linehan.

Sports writers often work on Saturdays and Sundays.  Many times sporting events happen at night and on weekends and holidays.  “People want to read the newspaper on December 26th, so somebody has to work on Christmas,” says Linehan.

While these work hours may not sound pleasant to some people, many sports journalists love their jobs because they are able to be active and see their favorite sporting events live.  “My job allows me to spend time outside, at games, and generally away from the office,” says Linehan.  “That’s really the best part, I think, because it keeps it interesting.  If I’m going to do this for 40 years or more, I want to enjoy it.”

Aside from out-of-the-ordinary work hours, frequent traveling also makes beat writing an unconventional job.  Most beat writers travel with the team they are covering.  Linehan travels with Texas Tech’s basketball team and is on the road usually at least twice a week during season.

Another perk of being a journalist is having the potential of interviewing famous people.  In the past, Linehan has interviewed Hillary Clinton, Charles Barkley, Deron Williams, Bob Knight, A.J. Pierzynski, and Ozzie Guillen.

As a journalist, there are opportunities for advancement.  Most entry-level journalists start out at smaller papers and work their way up to larger ones.  “You might start at a once-a-week paper that prints 5,000 copies, then move to a daily newspaper that prints 10,000 copies, then a daily paper in a city that prints 100,000 copies,” says Linehan.  “Your job title won’t change, but it’s still career advancement.”

According to an article on most sports writers do not make a fortune, but most love what they do.  While typical pay is from $25,000 to $45,000, sports writers may also have chances to make additional money through radio, television, books, and internet outlets.

Linehan’s long-term career goal is to stick in the industry until retirement.  “That might be a real challenge in this industry, where people are constantly being laid off and the way we deliver information is rapidly changing,” says Linehan.  She explains that most reporters’ general long-term career goal is to “work at a bigger paper, cover a more high profile beat and make more money.”

People interested in pursuing a career in journalism do not necessarily need a major in journalism.  While many journalists have a major in journalism, others are English or Political Science majors.  “The health writer at my paper was a biology major, Linehan says. “And you don’t need an advanced degree to be a journalist, although I think it’s helpful as an editor.”

To prepare for a career as a sports journalist, Linehan suggests that students work for their school paper and get an internship or shadow a local reporter.  She also suggests that students who are not majoring in journalism take reporting classes to become more familiar with the field.

While you don’t have to be a sports fan to be a sports journalist, “you definitely have to be willing to do things that you are not comfortable with,” says Linehan. “You have to be comfortable in new situations and asking questions of people who are often very intimidating. And if you don’t know a lot of the rules of sports, you have to be willing to learn.”

Private Dancing and Dance Instruction: Create Your Own Job

20 03 2010

By Janine Loechel

Lily Simmons performing at the annual Bellies For Life breast cancer fundraiser on March 6, 2010 with UIC Belly Buttons.

Lily Simmons, a belly dancer for ten years, turned her hobby and passion into a well-paying job. While no “typical” or regular jobs exist for a professional belly dancer, Simmons created her own positions as a dance instructor at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Recreation Center and as a professional private dancer with Aloha Chicago Entertainment (ACE), a group of professional dancers and entertainers.

Originally from Macomb, Illinois, Simmons attended Western Illinois for a degree in Religious Studies and was part of a belly dance troop in her free time. Then, in September 2007, “I took a big risk and transferred to Chicago with the idea that I wanted to break out,” said Simmons. Once she arrived in Chicago, she made the switch from student and group dancer to instructor and private dancer, while anticipating graduation from UIC.

Since there are few jobs that require a professional belly dancer on staff, Simmons had to send out dozens of inquiry e-mails offering her skills. “You’ve got to take risks, put yourself out there, [and] see what happens,” said Simmons.

She sent out an e-mail to ACE, a Hawaiian-themed group of entertainers including hula and fire dancers, asking if they needed a belly dancer.  To her delight, they replied, “Actually, we do!”  Since 2007, Simmons has professionally danced through ACE, at weddings, anniversaries, bachelor parties, night clubs, and even conventions.  For approximately 30 minutes of solo dancing, duet dancing, or dancing in a choreographed set, Simmons makes on average $80-$120 per event.

Although there is no set schedule for private dancing, “at the same time, that’s what makes it interesting,” said Simmons.  The varying locations also give her interesting traveling opportunities. “I’ve been in places from the [Chicago] Shedd Aquarium for a wedding reception to people’s basements for a 50th [birthday].”

Her most successful gig was at a bachelor’s party in a Serbian night club. Simmons explained that she was being tipped in $20s, and she earned $500 for 30 minutes of dancing.

Simmons performing a belly dance/Ballywood fusion to song “Chaiyya Chaiyya”. Photo courtesy of Simmons

At these gigs, Simmons enjoys the freedom of improvisational belly dancing, which is a skill she introduces to her belly dance students at the UIC Recreation Center. Although she never anticipated becoming an instructor, she said the process was, and still is, easy. She explained that in order to become any type of instructor or fitness leader at a gym, all one has to do is complete a fitness certification class, which takes about four weeks.

Even if a class does not already exist in a gym, dance, or art studio, potential instructors may be able to create a class. For example, the UIC Recreational Center has flyers on its bulletin boards asking gym members for fresh ideas on new classes, fitness groups, or programs.

While instructor hours are steady with a fixed hourly wage, Simmons only teaches for one hour once a week, but extra hours are required. She chooses class music and creates class choreography on her own time. “Two minutes can take me over two hours to choreograph,” said Simmons. But where instructing lacks in pay, private dancing acts as a supplement.

Simmons stresses that anyone can become a fitness instructor or private dancer,“The only things you need are the drive to take the risk, and a great deal of confidence in what you do, because you’re putting yourself out there.” Simmons, claims to be naturally introverted. “In class, I’m just an Average Joe—usually quiet,” she said. “So if I can do it, anyone can.”

Match Yourself to a Career in Merchandising

13 03 2010

by Tracy Weber

If you have an interest in the fashion world, but don’t want to design, taking up a career in merchandise coordinating may be the unconventional job for you. There is very minimal desk time involved with this career path. Actually, there is more to merchandising than people realize or have probably ever thought about. To understand the field better, I spoke with Merchandise Coordinator Emily Klear and Visual Displayer Ann Jillson. Although they both work for The North Face (TNF) retail company’s Chicagoland district, this brand serves as just one example of what to expect.

Ann Jillson displaying her mannequin, as she lifts it onto the top shelf

Klear and Jillson’s positions have different expectations, but are both under the merchandising umbrella. “It’s a great job for people who don’t want to sit behind a desk,” Klear says. Klear is technically part of the corporate team as a Merchandise Coordinator and travels between stores that carry TNF products, while Jillson works in one retail location as a full-time Visual Displayer. The corporate office provides a generic directive with pictures for the merchandisers to follow, but because each store has a different floor plan the directive acts as a guide that needs to be interpreted. Window displays are set up with mannequins, equipment props, and removable window clings like snowflakes during the winter months.

Klear tries to make the main walls of the store look like the directive with the specified shirts, pants or jackets displayed according to the company’s plan. But the rest of the store offers more artistic freedom. With the corporate offices far away in California, Klear and Jillson know the Chicagoland customers better and can tailor their displays to suit the Chicagoland customers’ expectations. While some mannequins’ clothings need to correspond with the product category that the brand is marketing for the month, Jillson gets free reign over the majority of mannequins, dressing them as she chooses.

As a Merchandise Coordinator, Klear either drives or flies to a few stores that carry TNF products. At retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Sports Authority, and select Macy’s locations, she makes sure the displays look good and organizes the product. She acts as a part of the sales team by promoting the brand at these stores, but also as part of the marketing team because her arrangements often display the signature TNF red color scheme to stand out from other brands being sold. Furthermore, Klear helps to introduce TNF products to new stores in the Chicago area, Wisconsin, and recently Philadelphia and Denver.

Having some knowledge of corporate businesses and how they operate is important to have for careers such as these. Klear says that traveling for work requires adhering to a budget, keeping track of how many miles you drive, airfare, food costs, and making sure you don’t burn through your allotted funds by staying at luxurious hotels, like the Four Seasons. Otherwise, having creative intuition is helpful, as is being able to take criticism well. Jillson mentions other important work attributes for this type of career, “…willingness to adapt at a moments notice, [being] easygoing, self determination, and being willing to compromise.”

Neither Klear nor Jillson have formal training in the field, but there are four-year degrees offered at institutions of higher education, like Columbia College’s Fashion/Retail Management major, Indiana University’s Apparel Merchandising major, and University of Wisconsin’s Retailing major. However, Klear thinks it might prove more beneficial to not have a degree specific to merchandising. She recommends getting a business degree because it prepares coordinators for vertical mobility up the career ladder, which leads to further involvement with the business aspects of merchandising.

Klear explains, “It’s like being a painter—either you’re good at it or you’re not. You can’t really learn it.” She feels that having a natural knack for merchandising is vital. The ability to match colors and create outfits out of available merchandise, organizing different styles of clothes or products into categories, and being aware of what is visually appealing to consumers is simply a talent not easily learned.

Ann Jillson arranging the clothing display

Free-lance merchandising affords flexible work options because not all companies have permanent staff to arrange displays. Boutiques and new stores that need an entire shop’s worth of clothing installed are other good places to gain experience.

Also, not only women work in merchandising. Because the field is related to fashion, many people associate the career as being feminine, but Klear says there are in fact two men on the corporate merchandising team who thoroughly enjoy the work. The guys get to organize product and figure out how the merchandise can be arranged in a limited amount of space, they decide where large pictures should be placed and even set up tent and equipment displays. Doing this kind of merchandise work is like solving a puzzle when trying to arrange products. There is always something to do, and it’s usually something different each time.

The job can be stressful at times when there is a conflict of how a display should be set up. There can be times when Jillson has to change mannequins she had just dressed because of creative differences with higher management. The last three months of the year tend to be the most stressful because there are more displays and events occurring for the holiday season. Klear says her average 40-hour week can jump to 50 or 60-hours, with occasional weekend work for trade shows where physical labor is more intensive. Even in the store there is a need for physical strength. Jillson says, “I’m on my feet all day lifting mannequins, climbing up and down ladders, lifting boxes, moving signage and so on.”

Both Jillson and Klear agree that their career path offers substantially enough income to live in Chicago. But they also like that their job can be done in any city if they ever choose to move. Jillson explains why she enjoys her work, “You never really know what’s going to be asked of you until you show up. One minute I might be drilling holes into the bottom of a [clothes] fixture to replace a wheel and the next minute I’m dressing mannequins.” The wide range of projects keeps the job from getting monotonous or routine, and that’s what Jillson likes the most. Every day holds different tasks and sometimes there are unexpected challenges that make this an exciting and unique career.

Let’s Talk About Sex: Small Business, Big Concept

5 03 2010

by Monica Jackson

Sex sells. This idea is constantly presented as both justification and validation for sex and sex appeal, which is increasingly dominating consumer marketing and advertising imagery within the media. Regardless of your moral judgment on the matter, this trend is ostensible inevitable. Consumerism and sex go together like chocolate on a strawberry, whipped cream and nuts on a sundae… And in an economy like this, selling sex may be the way to go, so why not start a sex business?

Sex shops, like Leather Sport in Chicago's Lakeview neighbohood, are potential niches for your small business. Photo courtesy of

While selling sex is a quirky and fun business niche, opening a sex shop can prove to be a long and difficult process. Still, if you are determined to tackle entrepreneurship and open this taboo, and at times offensive, small business, there are steps to make the process as simple as possible.

When starting a new business, there are a few steps that are important to get it off the ground (courtesy of  The first step is choosing a business idea.  This step may seem obvious but it is important because often people who want to become entrepreneurs do not have an idea in mind for their business. In addition, this is important because it also directs how an entrepreneur will approach starting their business (franchise, start up business, etc.) Once an idea is established, the real work begins. For the purpose of these blog, our business idea is a sex shop.

The next step is developing a business plan, which is important for planning how to run your business and for attracting financers and lenders. A plan is essential for developing your business and marketing strategies.

The third step is financing, which for a small business usually means three options: asking friends and family to invest, enticing outside investors, or taking out a bank loan. All three options have business implications: some investors – and sometimes even friends and family – will want partial ownership or control in the business. If taking out loans, entrepreneurs can expect expenses to add up fast, and that can set back business profit.

The fourth step is managing legal issues, which means picking a legal structure (sole proprietor, partnership, or corporation) and filing the business with the state to receive your federal identification number. Starting your business as a sole proprietor is the easiest legal structure to choose. The proprietor only has to acquire the proper licenses needed to start their business (most small business owners choose this structure initially, choosing to possibly explore partnership or corporate status as the business expands).

The final step is to get your business ready for its grand opening, which means deciding on a location, the amount of space appropriate for your business, if an accountant is necessary to do the bookkeeping, and what taxes will be collected and paid. Once you have all the business and legal parts under control, then comes the fun part: creating the store of your dreams. Envision what your store’s interior will look like. Depending on the type of atmosphere you want to create you can arrange the store to emulate your wildest fantasies and simulate your clientele or you can create an atmosphere that makes customers feel safe and normal while purchasing sex items. In an interview with, Kim Airs, owner of two sex shops located in Massachusetts and California, talks about how she developed the atmosphere for her stores. In the interview, Airs says that she used soft color tones within her store and placed the erotic book collection at the front of the stores to make customers feel comfortable with their sex and their sexual needs. “I’m giving people permission to say, ‘This is OK.’ You do not have to feel shameful, degraded, bad, [or] sinful. Sex is a beautiful part of life,” Airs said.

Another option is to intertwine the stores concept with a theme in the product. For example, Leather Sport, located in Chicago’s Lakeview area, has a leather theme featured in the products of its store. Ultimately, the choice of a theme and the vibe it presents is up to you, you just have to make sure your customers are hip to it.

A sex shop as a small business can be a great way to lay the foundations of your future as an entrepreneur. So do enjoy the ride. Spank you very much!

Ten Unconventional Jobs With Large Salaries

1 03 2010

Looking for an unconventional job that pays well? gives a description of Forbes’ list of the top 10 most unconventional jobs with large incomes:

  1. Air Traffic Controller — This job has a high level of stress and requires all new employees to enter a challenging training program. Most of these positions pay close to $100,000.
  2. Restaurant Manager — Higher-end restaurants will pay their managers $100,000 or more if they’ve got the experience.
  3. Pressman — When magazines and newspapers need to be printed, the pressman pulls the lever. Also known as printing machine operators, pressmen make as much as $32 an hour in some areas, reports Additionally, wages like this can lead to a six-figure income annually over time.
  4. Court Reporter — It’s not the first job you’d think to apply for, but if you can type at least 200 words a minute this could be for you. In some states, court reporters make six figures or more.
  5. Mine Manager — This unconventional profession has an annual median salary of $106,000. Most mine managers must have project management experience, and must be able to enforce safety procedures. A college degree is not always necessary.
  6. Professional Coach — This career has nothing to do with sports. This occupation deals more with helping people deal with their life problems. According to industry estimates, 20 percent of 10,000 coaches make six figures.
  7. Sales Person — Sales people are a unique and tough bunch. A sales person must be able to schmooze with the best of ’em, and be able to take rejection without missing a beat. If you can “sell salt to a slug,” you stand to make big bucks.
  8. Tech Writer — Tech writers usually cover high-tech related topics and can demand as much as $50 an hour.
  9. Elementary School Principal — The national median is $76,000 a year, but school principals in higher income areas with large enrollments break the six-figure barrier.
  10. Truck Driver — Wages vary depending on location and seniority, but long haul truckers willing to hit the road for weeks at a time can pull in $100,000 or more a year, plus benefits.