Frontline: Two American Families Revisited

Work, Family Economics, and Entrepreneurship

Good work environments exist in the corporate
and small business sectors
but programs, such as PBS’ Frontline,
document labor policies and
the reality many workers
and their families’ experience all too often.

From an entrepreneurial viewpoint…

In an attempt to earn money to pay mounting bills,
Milwaukee resident, Terry Neumann, bought beauty
care products for resale after her husband’s high paying
job was shipped out of the U.S.

Seemingly down-to-earth,
an outgoing people person, viewers watched as
Terry attempted to sell the products to a neighbor.
It was sadly awkward.
She later lost her investment on the products,
according to host, Bill Moyers.

A stay-at-home mom initially, Terry took low-wage
jobs to help pay the bills.
After finding a position, as a security guard,
at one point, with higher wages and benefits,
she appeared happy with the nontraditional work
and seemed to enjoy driving a truck.

The Other Family: The Stanley’s
Claude and Jackie Stanley took the entrepreneurial
leap, even the children to some extent after jobs kept folding,

Jackie Stanley earned her real estate license and
struggled in an industry with a color line.
Commission paychecks would often fall through
if deals were not finalized, which seemed to happen often.
The real estate industry in Milwaukee is riddled with
policies based on race, an infrastructure that affects
even her qualified clients attempting to qualify for mortgages.

It’s a circumstance that lessens the probability of
closing a sale and earning her fee.
Residential sales in upscale neighborhoods
were closed to her because she is African-American,
according to the film.

Jackie’s passion and enthusiasm for the art of selling
are evident but I saw nothing in the program that
answered the question of why she chose real estate,
other than it was what she had  studied while she
was still employed in the early 1990’s.

After buying a building so that Jackie could open her
own a real estate office,  her husband, Claude, joined
with her and opened a home inspection business,
but the ventures were not successful.

Son Keith, 15, when Frontline first filmed,
started a lawn mowing business with his brothers.
Now in his mid-30s, a college graduate with a government
job, he continues with other sideline entrepreneurial pursuits.

The Stanley’s passed their work ethic and strong values
onto their children and their son Keith, who seems to
have developed the ability from a young age to choose
ventures that filled a marketplace niche. Insight not
evident in the businesses chosen by his parents,
which were highly competitive with no
evident niche being addressed.

Had the couple started from home or opened
in a business incubator, they would have at least
trimmed startup costs and had the opportunity
to test their ideas in the marketplace.

Jackie Stanley said she felt like a failure but she has
strong managerial, sales, mentoring and
communication skills. Skills that may not be the
best entrepreneurial fit for real estate in
Milwaukee, given her considerable talents.

Terry and Jackie both may belong in fields they have
never considered or know little about, choosing instead
traditional familiar paths, which do not allow
for their full potential.


What’s Happened to Two American Families?

University of Milwaukee SBDC

Chart Course .com/article/Job Satisfaction



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