🚨SPECIAL ALERT🚨 Four Reasons To Vote For Second Act Stories in the Webby Awards


Second Act Stories has officially defied the odds. We’ve been nominated for a Webby Award!

But our category is stacked with stiff competition: Michelle Obama, Sarah Silverman, TED Audio, Lemonada,  and Slate.

We need your vote! We can win this with your help.

Here’s how you vote:

  • Go to vote.webbyawards.com
  • Click the search button on the right-hand side of the screen, under the start voting button
  • Type in Second Act Stories
  • Click on our category in the search results
  • Click on our logo to cast your vote

All it takes is entering your email address and a password, and then clicking the validate button in the email you receive from the Webby’s. It’ll only take a minute.

Pretty amazing stuff.

The Case of Rachel Humphrey: Trial Attorney Turned Women’s Leadership Champion


Rachel Humphrey was a trial attorney who was certain she would spend her entire career in front of judges and juries and eventually retire in a courtroom. After relocating from Virginia to Atlanta with her husband, she took a job at a firm where she represented clients in the hospitality industry, and that sparked a passion she didn’t know she had. The hospitality industry was interesting to her, and she thought that becoming involved with the associations that help the industry might be a great next step, but she had no real business experience at all.

Prompted by the unexpected departure of the nanny who took care of her children, Rachel decided to leave her job to be there for her young family. This also allowed her to do some serious soul searching and figure out what would come next.

A serendipitous conversation with Cati Stone, then the executive director of Komen Atlanta, opened Rachel’s eyes in ways she never could have imagined. As fate would have it, and what Rachel didn’t know, was that Cati happened to be a former trial attorney who moved into a role as an association executive. The advice Rachel got from Cati showed her that there was a viable – and possible – path to follow her passion.

Rachel networked her way into an executive role with AAHOA, the largest hotel owners association in the country, eventually ascending to the role of Interim CEO. After realizing a need for more diversity in the hospitality, she later founded the Women in Hospitality Leadership Alliance.

In this episode, Rachel shares her path from fighting legal battles to advocating for women, and all the trials that went along with her journey.

If you like this episode, you may also enjoy these episodes featuring former attorneys with incredible second act careers:

Second Act Stories theme music: “Between 1 and 3 am” by Echoes

Stuckey’s Gamble: Stephanie Stuckey Cashes in Her Future to Revive Her Family’s Iconic Roadside Brand


Stuckey’s is a legendary and iconic thread in the fabric of Americana. Founded in Eastman, Georgia in 1937 by WS “Sylvester” Stuckey, Sr., Stuckey’s grew into a roadside empire by the 1970s, with 368 stores in more than 30 states. Part of the charm that made Stuckey’s so iconic were its ubiquitous billboards, more than 4,000 of them, which were dotted along U.S. highways. Stuckey’s was an inextricable part of what became known as “The Great American Road Trip.”

Fast forward to 2019, Stuckey’s was on life support. The brand had gone through hard times, and its former stand-alone locations, still identifiable by their teal blue roofs, were now relics of a bygone era. Some were abandoned and boarded-up; others became home to less-than-savory businesses. By this time the brand had changed hands multiple times and become an unprofitable line item on a bigger company’s balance sheet. But Stuckey’s was about to experience a surprising rebirth.

In 2019, former Georgia legislator Stephanie Stuckey, a practicing attorney at the time, received a fateful phone call. Stuckey’s, the brand started by her grandfather all those years ago, was up for sale. With no experience in running a business, 53-year-old Stephanie defied the odds (and the advice of virtually everyone she spoke to), cashed in her entire life’s savings, and traded her future to buy back and revive the business bearing her family’s name.

Since then, Stephanie has become a legend in the business community. A perfect storm of scrappiness, shrewd business sense and passion, she’s now a bone fide rock star with all the street cred to stage a successful turnaround. And she has the receipts to prove it. Under Stephanie’s leadership, Stuckey’s and its flagship pecan log rolls are back in black.

In this episode, Stephanie discusses growing up with an iconic last name, her career as a legislator and attorney, her decision to lay it all on the line to buy back her family’s business, how she’s rebuilt the brand, and what’s next for Stuckey’s.

Stephanie chronicles her life on the road at her Instagram account, @stuckeystop. Her new book, “UnStuck: Rebirth of an American Icon,” is available at Amazon or wherever you buy books.

If you like this episode, please check out some of our past episodes featuring female entrepreneurs:

Second Act Stories theme music: “Between 1 and 3 am” by Echoes

Best of 2023 Audience Pick: Brian “Q” Quinn’s Impractical Career Shift: Fireman to Funny Man


Surprise, Second Act Stories fans! We have one more “Best of 2023” episode to share with you. It’s the episode you picked as your favorite of the year: our interview with Brian “Q” Quinn, who’s best known as one of the four stars of the smash hit TV show “Impractical Jokers.”

Currently in its 10th season on truTV, Q and lifelong friends Sal Vulcano and James “Murr” Murray (a fourth friend and member of the show, Joe Gatto, departed from the show last year) “compete to embarrass each other,” with hilarious results. It’s wildly popular because it doesn’t force you to think, and it’s guaranteed to make you laugh.

At the age of 36, Q was working as an FDNY fireman in Staten Island, New York, but then something incredible happened: Impractical Jokers was born and it took off like a rocket. It quickly became truTV’s highest-rated show, and it’s one of the most successful comedies on cable TV. After using all his available leave time from the fire department, Q was faced with a dilemma: stay with the FDNY, work his 20 years and retire with a pension, or leave his career behind to continue with the show?

In this episode, Brian Quinn talks about his career as a fireman, the tough decisions he faced when Impractical Jokers became successful, and some of the hilarious experiences he’s had as a star of the show.

Featured image credit: truTV/Warner Bros. Discovery

Second Act Stories theme music: “Between 1 and 3 am” by Echoes

For more about Impractical Jokers, visit them at www.trutv.com/shows/impractical-jokers

Fireman Brian Quinn in front of an FDNY truck. Photo credit: Brian Quinn
Brian “Q” Quinn with Post Malone on a recent episode of Impractical Jokers. Photo credit: truTV/Warner Bros. Discovery
Brian “Q” Quinn, Bret Michaels and Sal Vulcano on a recent episode of Impractical Jokers. Photo credit: truTV/Warner Bros. Discovery
James “Murr” Murray, Brian “Q” Quinn and Casey Jost on a recent episode of Impractical Jokers. Photo credit: truTV/Warner Bros. Discovery
Brian “Q” Quinn, John Mayer, Sal Vulcano and James “Murr” Murray on a recent episode of Impractical Jokers. Photo credit: truTV/Warner Bros. Discovery
Brian “Q” Quinn and podcast host Scott Merritt at Q’s office in Manhattan.

Best of 2023: Sweeter Days Ahead: How Baking Transformed Janie Deegan’s Life


Second Act Stories annual “Best of” episodes give us an opportunity to re-share remarkable stories, and welcome new listeners by giving them a good taste of what we do here: profile people who have made major life and career changes to pursue a more rewarding life in a second act career. We’re selecting two “Best of 2023” episodes to share with you. Andy Levine selected his favorite interview conducted by co-host Scott Merritt in the past year,  and Scott is reciprocating this week. Scott’s pick for 2023 is “Sweeter Days Ahead: How Baking Transformed Janie Deegan’s Life.”

In 2009, Janie Deegan returned home from college with a serious alcohol and drug problem. Eventually, she found herself homeless and living on the streets of New York City.

Fast forward to today…she is the owner of “Janie’s Life Changing Baked Goods,” a thriving business with three, NYC bakeries and booming e-commerce division. At the center of her success is the “pie crust cookie” — essentially a baby pie that comes in five, different flavors. Her company and her cookies have been featured on Good Morning America, The TODAY Show, CNN and The New York Times.

The company is dedicated to helping other young women through mentorship and second chance employment. As Janie shares in the podcast, “The person you show up for at the interview is the person we’re looking at. We’re not doing background checks…we have formerly incarcerated employees, homeless staff and those with addiction problems. It’s been really beautiful to see how people blossom when they are given a chance.” 

Janie and the team at “Janie’s Life Changing Baked Goods.”

Interested in trying Janie’s pie crust cookies? They come in apple, pecan, triple berry, chocolate and cherry and can be ordered from www.JanieBakes.com.

Like her second act story, Janie’s “pie crust cookies” are truly amazing.

School’s Out, Laughs Are In: Retired Teacher Patty Forehand Becomes a Standup Comic


The moment Patty Forehand opens her mouth, you know she’s from the deep south. And with that comes a certain set of preconceived notions. If she opens her mouth in front of a microphone on a comedy club stage, those notions are immediately blown away, and the results are hilarious. It’s funny once the F-bombs start flying and you realize she’s not the stereotypical, retirement-age, “proper southern lady” society expects when they see her, but it’s even funnier when you hear that her material is funny. Really funny.

It gets even more interesting when you realize that she’s relatively new to comedy. This standup comic, who’s been crushing rooms all over the South, has only been doing it for the past few years. She decided to experiment with comedy after she retired from a 31-year career teaching in an elementary school. And the results speak for themselves; Patty found her calling.

But she also says that teaching was a calling, and she worked an entire career in a Georgia elementary school. So why, when most other people are making plans to coast into retirement, did she decide it was time to try her hand at something that’s not only intimidating, but also incredibly difficult?

In this episode, Patty discusses her southern roots and upbringing, her career as “the funny teacher” in an elementary school classroom, her decision to do standup comedy, and why working dirty is only a result of finding her authentic self.

For more about Patty, and to learn about her live dates, you can follow her on Instagram at @forehandpatricia.

If you like this episode, please check out our other episodes featuring comedians with inspiring second act stories:

The Wolf of Late Night: Paul Mecurio’s Journey from Wall Street to Comedy

Adam Carolla: The Carpenter Who Built a Legendary Comedy Career

Brian “Q” Quinn’s Impractical Career Shift: Fireman to Funny Man

 

Second Act Stories theme music: “Between 1 and 3 am” by Echoes

On Patrol: Deputy Royce James Trades Financial Service for Public Service


After growing up in what he describes as the ghettos of Daytona Beach, Royce James spent a decade working as a financial advisor, ultimately reaching the elite level of working with high-net-worth individuals. In spite of that success, he was frustrated by the fact that very few of his clients followed his advice. He knew it was time for a career change, but to what? And was he crazy to leave the security of a solid career for a huge unknown?

One fateful day, looking down at the highway from the Tampa skyscraper where he was working, a revelation struck. Royce saw a line of police vehicles weaving through traffic, blue lights on, and his interest was piqued. Whatever they were doing, it looked cool and he wanted in. That’s when Royce contacted local law enforcement agencies to go on ride-alongs. The very first ride-along, which he describes as “the most mundane law enforcement day ever,” was all he needed to know his next step. He was hooked.

That’s when Royce made the decision to resign from financial service and enter public service. It was a massive uphill climb, moving into his mom’s apartment, going back to a minimum wage job, enrolling in police academy, living on ramen noodles and hot dogs, and slogging through a grueling year-long process that had no guarantee of a job on the other end.

Royce defied the odds at every stage of his career; his grit and determination pulled him through. Today, Deputy Royce James has built a very successful career with the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office in Florida, where his work is regularly chronicled on the Reelz and Peacock show On Patrol: Live. You can tune in and watch him in action every Friday and Saturday night at 9:00 pm ET.

In this episode, Royce discusses how he built his career in financial service, the struggle he faced in making an unlikely career change, and the case he solved that earned him an accolade as Law Enforcement Officer of the Year by the State of Florida.

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‘From the Vault’ How Noa Shaw, an Overweight Drug Dealer, Became a SoulCycle Instructor


We hope you enjoy this ‘From the Vault’ episode, which reintroduces one of our favorite guests: Noa Shaw.

Noa Shaw has led a hard life. Drugs and alcohol took hold of him at an early age. And he has struggled as both a drug addict and drug dealer for most of his adult life.

But eight years ago his life took a turn for the better when he wandered into a SoulCycle studio that was just opening up in Los Angeles. SoulCycle is a fitness company that is the gold standard in cycling workouts.

After his first workout, he was hooked. For three months, he attended every day – sometimes two workouts per day. He lost 100 pounds and got himself into shape both physically and mentally. The team at SoulCycle saw something in Noa and they invited him to audition as a fitness instructor.

At 57 years old, he is the oldest SoulCycle instructor on the planet. And here in New York City, Noa has built a dedicated following of riders that are inspired by him on a regular basis.

He is a certified life coach and in February 2021 released an inspirational book “Stop Thinking Thoughts That Scare You.”

After years of people telling him to write a book, Noa Shaw finally penned “Stop Thinking Thoughts That Scare You.”

Noa Shaw can be reached on Instagram (@noashaw26) or by email (noashaw@mac.com).

‘From the Vault’ Cathy & the Crankshafts: Social Worker Learns To Fix Cars For Working Poor


We hope you enjoy this ‘From the Vault’ episode, which reintroduces one of our favorite early guests: Cathy Heying.

While working as the Director of Social Justice at St. Stephen’s Church in Minneapolis, Cathy Heying observed a continuing problem among the working poor in the church’s neighborhood:

  • A poor person’s car would break down and they would not have the money to repair it;
  • Lacking dependable transportation, he/she would be unable to get to work and lose their job;
  • Unable to pay the rent, they would become homeless.

She initially thought: “Somebody really should do something about this.” And then she thought: “Maybe that somebody is me.”

Cathy took the unusual step of enrolling in a two-year technical college to learn auto mechanics. It was a difficult experience for a 38-year-old social worker who knew very little about automotive repair. But she got through it with the help of an instructor named Dave Duval (who is also interviewed in this episode).

Following graduation, she founded an extraordinary non-profit called The Lift Garage. According to the organization’s mission The Lift Garage is a 501c3 nonprofit aimed to move people out of poverty and homelessness by providing low-cost car repair, free pre-purchase car inspections, and honest advice that supports our community on the road to more secure lives.

In 2015, Cathy Heying was named a CNN Hero which raised the profile of the organization nationally. But Cathy was already a hero to the men and women of the Twin Cities who rely on her and The Lift Garage to help them make a living and live a better life.

DOWNLOAD EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Click here to learn more about The Lift Garage and how you can help support their mission.

From GE Engineer to Bladesmith: Jonathan Bahlatzis’ Epic Exit Strategy


Jonathan Bahlatzis spent 15 years in corporate America,  11 of which were spent working as an engineer for GE. He rose through the ranks and took on leadership roles that gave him all the trappings of success. But even with all that safety and security, he had a passion he needed to follow.

In 2016 – in the midst of his GE career – Jonathan launched Kopis Designs, an artisan blade company where he designs and hand crafts beautiful knives and blades. Kopis’s tag line is “Form, fit, and function for every day carry.” A successful Kickstarter campaign established a following for Kopis Designs. He finally made the decision to make Kopis Designs his full-time job in January 2023.

In this episode, Jonathan discusses his engineering career, his decision to leave that behind to become a full-time bladesmith, and the personal challenges he faces on a daily basis. He offers unique perspectives as a newer entrepreneur and talks about where he lives, at the intersection of artistry, manufacturing and craftsmanship.

Second Act Stories theme music: “Between 1 and 3 am” by Echoes