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THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA JOB MARKET: WHERE THE JOBS ARE : PROFILES : MAKING IT ON YOUR OWN : Can't find a job? Consider creating one for yourself. Staring a small business is risky, but the rewards for success can be great. Pushed out of their old job or unable to find new ones in a sagging Southern California economy, these four workers became entrepreneurs. : Laid-Off Aerospace Worker Sees a Bright Future in Family Affairs

March 01, 1993|MARTIN BOOE

When Jan Bowman was laid off as a technical writer at Rockwell's space systems division in Downey, her first reaction was predictable. She was angry, frustrated and afraid. At 51, with the aerospace industry in its worst slump ever, finding another job seemed impossible.

But her second reaction was sweet relief.

"I got home and sat down on the couch, and suddenly I realized how happy I was not to have to go back into that office," she says.

Needing a new direction, she turned to a pet project that had lain dormant for a year: a guide to planning family reunions. At the time, it didn't occur to her that she'd end up founding a one-woman publishing company.

Bowman knew from observation and firsthand experience that there was burgeoning interest in large-scale family reunions, especially among middle-class black families who began in the mid-1980s to spend considerable sums in organizing these get-togethers.

Bowman had noticed that although the trend remained strong, most people she knew were scaling back. "A few years ago, a lot of folks were taking cruises and doing more upscale things," she says. "But with all the layoffs and the recession, most people I knew felt they had to plan more efficiently."

In that department, Bowman considered herself an expert. In 1992, she planned a 350-person, six-generation reunion in Athens, Tex., for her husband's family. Organizing the event from her home in Carson, Bowman had set up a family parade, a fish fry, a talent show and a Hawaiian luau. She even produced a special souvenir book and negotiated special hotel rates and complimentary rooms for the reunion's planning committee.

"I was a logistics planning specialist for Rockwell and that experience helped," she says. "And all along the way, people would be asking me for advice on how to put together their own. I felt that this was a type of information that people wanted now."

So Bowman got to work on her personal computer. The result: "Family Reunions," subtitled "A Guide to Planning, Organizing and Holding Family Reunions."

Established publishers can take a year to get a manuscript into the stores, but Bowman wanted the book ready in time for planning summer reunions.

"I said, 'Hey, I can do this myself,' " she says, adding: "I figured I had just as much chance making this work as finding a job."

Using $8,000 in savings, Bowman arranged to have 1,000 copies printed in hardcover. She spent another $4,000 on a laser printer, a postage meter and other equipment.

Although "Family Reunions" lacks the polish of a commercially published volume, it is chock full of information on the subject at hand, and it will be in the stores. After 10 rejections, Bowman scored a coup when Baker & Taylor, one of the largest distributors of school texts, agreed to take the book, which retails for $24.95.

Meanwhile, Bowman is pushing her creation through church newsletters and word of mouth. She's sold more than 50 copies so far, and as a result of her sales efforts has found a potential sideline: producing souvenir books for family reunions.

"I have faith this is going to work out," she says.

Jan Bowman Age: 51 Experience: Technical writer, aerospace concern Capital invested: $12,000

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