Charlotte DiBartolomeo had three careers before founding Red Kite Project, "all of which overlapped and ultimately were the foundation for my present career."
A retired crisis interventionist, DiBartolomeo, 56, of Philadelphia, also has worked in behavioral health and as an academic, teaching peace and conflict studies. "I've explored the Western medical model and a multicultural approach to healing," she said, and realized there was a business in helping prevent burnout among transit workers, doctors, nurses, and first responders.
In every industry, every work community, "no one escapes the weight of the collective trauma."
She got help starting Red Kite Project later in life by joining the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Philadelphia, and by relying on mentors. She also teaches a graduate certificate course in peace education at Arcadia University and developed a course in trauma-informed care for Drexel University's College of Nursing and Health Professions that she still teaches. All of it expanded her network of business contacts.
Red Kite Project worked with SEPTA over 18 months and reduced absenteeism by 51 percent, non-consecutive sick days by 38 percent, and customer complaints by 28 percent, she said. Most recently, DiBartolomeo turned the company's focus to health care, providing crisis-management training to medical professionals and first responders. It has worked with Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Drexel's College of Medicine, bringing yoga, breathing exercises, martial arts, and wellness education to nurses and doctors.
"Emergency rooms, EMS professionals, home health aides, and community health workers are all affected by violent crimes and the opioid epidemic that grips our nation," she said. One study has found that nurses suffer from depression at twice the rate (18 percent) of the general population (9.4 percent), and physicians report twice the rate of psychological distress and suicide attempts as their non-medical professional counterparts.
Red Kite Project provided burnout prevention to local doctors and nurses to help stop medical errors (the third leading cause of death), practitioner suicide, and drug use. By working to reduce stress, she said, her company has been able to reduce absenteeism by more than 50 percent and patterns of sick days by almost 40 percent.
Though their businesses are different, Daemon Wesley's story has much in common with DiBartolomeo's.
The 57-year-old Chester native worked in internal auditing for J.C. Penney in Texas and MCI in Atlanta for two decades, then moved back to the Philadelphia area to care for his ailing mother. In 2012, he launched credit-repair and financial-planning firm Daewes LLC in West Philadelphia.
Along with a degree in accounting, Wesley already had 20-plus years of experience in corporate financial analysis, strategic and financial planning, and business development.
"I now do credit repair and rebuilding, and that meant I had to strategize and develop a marketing plan," said Wesley, who went through the AARP Foundation's 50+ Workshop and found a mentor through SCORE, previously known as the Service Corps of Retired Executives.
After working with his mentor, Wesley, too, became a member of the SCORE Philadelphia Speakers Bureau and a presenter of the AARP Foundation's Finance 50+ Workshop. He is also a financial coach with credit-counseling service Clarifi and has offered free tax service with Campaign for Working Families/VITA.
Wesley will host free Finance 50+ financial-literacy classes at the Free Library of Philadelphia on June 5, 12, and 19. For information, go to freelibrary.org/calendar/; register by calling 215-686-5394 or go to https://finance50.eventbrite.com.
When she wanted to realize her longtime dream, the Body Soul & Spirit Spa, Charmayne Thompson, 55, took a Women's Opportunity Resource Center training class to prepare her for running a business.
"I'm looking at a location in Springfield Township, at 1200 Mermaid Lane, a block from the city limits, with free parking," said the East Oak Lane resident. "It's never too late to pursue your dreams. At this age, we have acquired so many talents.
"I would have told my younger self, just go for it. Don't be scared. I used my children as my reason for not doing it earlier, but entrepreneurship has huge benefits and generates wealth in the long term.