Dear E. Jean: Let me begin by saying I'm lucky to have any job, I know. But I'm unable to sit at a desk and be happy. I work in a small accounting office, the pay's not great, and I'm making lots of mistakes. I'm only 25 and already suffering from full-blown career anxiety. I can't sleep; I can't eat.
I love the outdoors and always dreamed of working with horses (I have two right now). I'd like to become a therapeutic-riding instructor for children with emotional and physical disabilities. (I have a degree in psychology.) So how do I do this? I need time and money to become a certified trainer; and meanwhile, if I keep screwing up, I'll get fired. Are there any government programs to get me on my feet with a small business? —Eagerly Equine
Excellent, Miss Equine: I read your letter to a bigwig with the United States Small Business Administration. Holly Schick, deputy associate administrator, Office of Entrepreneurial Development, listened with interest and replied, "Yes! The SBA has several loan programs that might be appropriate for this purpose. It is also appropriate for this young woman to receive some management and technical counseling on starting a new business. She could make an appointment at one of our Women's Business Centers or at one of the other resource programs available through SBA, such as the Small Business Development Center Program, or SCORE." According to Schick, research has shown that "people who get management and technical assistance with their business plans are more successful in the long run."
I have another idea: You're a horsewoman with a psychology degree, right? And you want money to become a certified trainer? Why not design your own riding-therapy program—who's to say you won't create a breakthrough method for helping children? (When I was 22, I started my own cheerleading camp and taught girls with disabilities—the most exciting thing I ever did in my life.) You can begin charging immediately. (Make it free for people who can't afford it.) Then, when you have enough money saved from working weekends, you can pay for your North American Riding for the Handicapped Association certification. Once you're certified, you may charge more.