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North Hills Monthly

Second Acts: Local Entrepreneurs Explore the Road Less Traveled

Dec 30, 2015 10:47AM ● By Jennifer Monahan

Mars Brew House

Who hasn’t walked away from their job after a difficult day and fantasized about what they’d rather be doing? But the realities of monthly bills, family responsibilities, and fear of the unknown can make the risks associated with starting a new career seem like a daunting prospect. For a couple of local entrepreneurs who left the comfort of safe and lucrative jobs, however, those risks have paid off in a big way.

Brad Price, owner of the Mars Brew House, which is located on Pittsburgh Street in Mars and boasts “the finest coffees in the Universe,” opened his doors in March of 2012. For the previous 20 years, Price had enjoyed a highly successful career in banking. When his area underwent a major restructuring, Price had the choice of relocating to Boston or New York to stay in the banking industry, but opted for an entirely different future.

Although he had lived all over the U.S. in major metropolitan areas, Price fell in love with Pittsburgh in general, and with Mars in particular. He recalled, “I used to drive by Mars and think, ‘What a cute town,’ and ‘I really like the people here.’” Price’s father had owned his own business, and Price said he always thought that he might enjoy doing the same. With changes afoot in his corporate career, he knew the timing was right.

“I decided to open a coffee shop, but I didn’t really like coffee,” he said. What he did like was coffee shops. “People rush around all day, but when they are in a coffee shop, it is because they claimed a few minutes of peace and are giving themselves a small treat.”

Price expected the long hours and hard work that accompany owning a business. He was happily surprised, however, by how well he has gotten to know his regular customers. “Being a barista is a little like being a bartender,” Price explained. “People tell you about their lives, and you get to know each other.”

Though corporate wealth management may seem strikingly different than owning a coffee house, Price has noticed a few parallels. He said that his background in providing quality service to multi-billion dollar clients taught him a lot about how to handle people. “You bring that same level of care to the whole customer service experience,” Price explained. His attention to the customer experience has resulted in a five-star Yelp rating. And after three years, he has even developed a taste for caramel lattes.

Like Price, Karl Sauereisen had a stable and successful career. He spent almost 20 years at Sauereisen, Inc., a thriving manufacturing company in the North Hills founded by his grandfather. In 2012, he found himself at a crossroads. “I felt a calling to do something more entrepreneurial,” he explained. “The timing was right for me to investigate different opportunities.”

Sauereisen walked away without being exactly sure what the next step would be, but with faith that he could figure it out. After networking among various venture capitalists and bidding on the acquisition of a couple of small companies, Sauereisen learned about Hope Extended Care Services through personal relationships and ultimately accepted his current position as president of the organization in 2014.

Sauereisen is the first to point out that manufacturing corrosion-resistant coatings is a very different world than heading up an early-stage company focused on the well-being and care of senior citizens in nursing homes. However, he explained, “My role is a combination of team-building and business development. I am still using my core strengths in bringing leadership and structure to Hope.” In addition to bringing so much experience to his new role, Sauereisen finds the work gratifying and said that he loves contributing to an organization that has such a critical impact on people’s lives.

As to starting a successful second career, Price advised, “People will need a bigger nest egg than they think. One of the most common reasons new businesses fail in the first year is because of unexpected costs.” A second key is to make sure that you are doing something you love. “I didn’t love coffee, but I loved people,” he explained. “Be ready to commit, and make sure that you are prepared to do it full-time.” Price enjoys the freedom of not having to punch a time card, but noted that he is also the one sweeping floors and ordering stock long after the store has closed.

Sauereisen’s experience with changing careers taught him to trust his instincts and his faith in God. Many of his contacts—with the best of intentions—encouraged him to stay in manufacturing or construction, but Sauereisen found that the referrals were not always a great fit for him.

“I learned to broaden my view,” he explained, “and this transition has been an important spiritual journey. Choosing our work—using the talents that have been entrusted to us—is a big responsibility. But it’s a wonderful blessing, too.”

Although major career changes are not for the faint of heart, sometimes the rewards are worth the risks.