For Janelle Reichman, the lure of returning back to the mitten proved irresistible. A professional musician in NYC for a decade moved back to Ann Arbor where she’s now a successful web designer.
“There always seemed to be something missing from my life, and it took me a long time to realize that it was a sense of community I was missing,” Janelle explained of her decision to come back home – a sentiment shared by many who leave and realize that Ann Arbor is where they want to live, work, and play after experiencing other destinations.
We asked Janelle more about her journey and she shared her candid insights with us.
What caused you to move from Michigan?
I left Michigan at the age of 17 to attend a conservatory in Cincinnati (I am a jazz saxophonist and clarinetist). The reason I didn’t stay in Ann Arbor and attend Univ. of Michigan was because I longed to get away from home – but not too far away… so I moved to Ohio. After I finished my undergraduate degree in Cincinnati, I received a scholarship for a Master’s program at the Manhattan School of Music, which was the reason for my moving to NYC.
Why did you decide to move back to Michigan?
It’s amazing to me that I lived in New York City for ten years, as I never felt that I really “fit in” there. There always seemed to be something missing from my life, and it took me a long time to realize that it was a sense of community I was missing. Wanting to feel like I belonged and wanting to feel appreciated within a community of people. My older sister moved back home to Ann Arbor a few years ago with her husband and son, and I started making monthly weekend trips back to form a relationship with my nephew. On these trips, I began to find myself wanting to stay in Ann Arbor and not return to NYC – that seemed like a pretty powerful sign. One day I sat down and made lists of all the reasons why living in NYC would be good for me and all the reasons why living in Ann Arbor would be good for me. The difference in the length of these two lists was, quite frankly, startling. That’s when I took the dive and decided to leave my life in NYC and return home to Ann Arbor after 15 years away. I had a feeling I was going to be happier here – but the extent to which I would be happier, I just had no idea. I feel I have quite literally turned my life around and found everything I was missing.
Tell us about your job/ profession.
For the first half of the decade I spent in NYC, I supported myself only with music – meaning I performed with various musical ensembles anywhere from four to seven nights a week and also taught private music lessons four days a week. As I was approaching my 30th birthday I made the goal for myself of having my own one bedroom apartment in my dream neighborhood in Brooklyn. This may not seem like a very ambitious goal, but NYC rents are no joke, especially for someone on a musician’s salary I sat down and made a list (I’m a list person, what can I say) of all the things I enjoyed doing that I thought I could perhaps make money with. Design and computers were both on there, so I thought: web design! I started my web design business about six years and it has only grown since then. When I first started my business, I was creating websites almost exclusively for NYC musicians (they were my network at that time), but as I went on, I found that another natural niche of mine became working with entrepreneurs – people who have realized they are passionate about something or can help people in a certain way, and are determined to create a business out of it. I find entrepreneurs to be delightful, hard-working people and I love helping them with their websites so they can focus on what’s important.
What’s your favorite thing about living in the Ann Arbor region?
I’d say in a word, the community. By this I mean, when I’m out at a tech/design/networking event, I see many of the same faces and it’s familiar and welcoming. I’ve also loved becoming a part of the Ann Arbor jazz scene over the past several months – there is a wonderful and dedicated group of both jazz musicians and jazz listeners in Ann Arbor, and I’m so happy to be a small part of that.
What’s your favorite thing about working in the Ann Arbor region?
My favorite thing about working here is that people genuinely want to sit down with you face to face and get to know you. In NYC, I rarely met with any of my clients in person. People are simply too busy. I’ve found in Ann Arbor that people say: hey, let’s meet for a coffee and get acquainted. There seems to be more time for building meaningful relationships, which I appreciate.
Has anything been unexpected in terms of what you thought it would be to live/ work here?
I moved back to Ann Arbor knowing that it’s a lively city with a lot going on – but I didn’t realize the extent to which people are starting new businesses. The tech community is absolutely thriving and there are also so many entrepreneurs here. That has been a completely pleasant surprise!
I understand you started your own business. What advice would you give to others who want to do the same?
If you have an idea for a business and if the thought of getting to do that for a living is an absolutely DREAM, then go for it with everything you have. Don’t listen to anyone who says it will never work or the world already has too many people who do that. If you’re passionate about it, then you can do it and you’ll find a way. When I first started my web design business, some people would say “oh there’s so many web designers” or “we don’t need another web designer” and I said: yes, but none of them are me.