Widowed in 2005 after nearly 44 years of marriage
and four decades of leadership in the home business and crafts industries, Barbara
Brabec ceased work in those industries and reinvented herself on the Web. Since
then she has been moving in new directions as a writer,
Indie Publisher, and author's consultant.
In 2010, she published print, Kindle and Nook editions of
Drummer Drives! Everybody Else Rides—her first biography and memoir about her
life as the wife of a legendary Chicago Symphony musician. It
received many glowing five-star reviews on Amazon.
she published the Kindle edition of what has become a very popular tax
strategies guide for home-business owners that is updated each year:
How to Maximize Schedule C Deductions & Cut Your Self-Employment Taxes to the
Bone: Things Your Accountant Will Never Tell You.
In 2017, she published a print edition of her second biography and
memoir, Marcella's Secret Dreams and Stories—A Mother's Legacy,
a book that will be her legacy to her family.
BARBARA IS ALSO THE author of eight trade books,
two of which—Creative Cash
and Homemade Money—enjoyed a very long life as bestsellers and
recognized classics in their
respective fields. (See a listing of all of
Barbara's Books HERE.)
Download Barbara's MP3 files . . .
of her reading selections from
THE DRUMMER DRIVES! EVERYBODY ELSE RIDES.
Save them to your computer for listening there or move them to your favorite portable listening device.
BARBARA WAS MARRIED for nearly 44 years to Harry Brabec, who died in 2005. He assisted
her in her business for many years and always kept her laughing. His humor has
been included in several of Barbara's books and is featured in nearly every chapter of
DRIVES! Everybody Else Rides.
Barbara's memorial to Harry here.
See related article,
"I Already Did That"
Copyright 2000-2017 by Barbara Brabec. All Rights Reserved.
Barbara Brabec's Bio
(What she has been doing all her life)
WHAT FOLLOWS BELOW is not just a very long
BIO, but a story that summarizes my career accomplishments as I see them now, looking back over
my lifetime of self-employment. This is more than
the average person wants to know about me, but those who read to the
bottom will find some important lessons in how to succeed in their
chosen business or life endeavor.
Understand that it's not my intent to brag here—though God knows I've always had an ego that needed to be controlled
(and controlling that ego was something my late husband always considered to be one of his most important jobs in
life). Rather, I'm simply trying to illustrate how an ordinary person can come from total
obscurity with only a high school education and, with little or no money, achieve one goal after another through
nothing more than hard work, self-study, and a willingness to keep going even when the
future looks bleak.
I hope my story will be an encouragement to individuals who are just
starting a business of their own and wondering if they have what it takes
to succeed. Or maybe it will encourage someone to keep going if they've just
experienced a devastating business setback and are wondering if it's worth the
effort to try again.
ABSOLUTELY! I've experienced many small failures
in my business life, yet here I am,
at 80 with as much energy and excitement about life as the Energizer
Bunny®. Perhaps in the end the real
secret to success is just to keep going. Switch tracks if necessary, but keep going.
MY MOTHER ALWAYS TOLD ME I could do anything I wanted to do in life, and she
was right. I am entirely self-taught in business and marketing, writing,
periodical and book publishing, teaching, speaking, editing, eBook design and
publication, using computers and related technology, and designing and managing
a website. I'm
proof positive that if you can read, and then apply what you've learned, you can
achieve success in anything you may be trying to do. Of course, a driving
ambition to succeed will speed the process along.
After high school I headed for Chicago, where I worked first as a secretary
and then an office manager for ten years. At the same time, I was studying music
and eventually became a
with a marimba act, doing women's club
programs, playing at weddings, and in a swank supper club on the South Shore.
(That experience would later make it easier for me to become a public speaker,
with my mouth becoming my new instrument.)
involvement in music eventually put me in the path of Harry Brabec,
who swept me
off my feet and married me less than three weeks later. Figuring one professional musician in the family was enough, I quit
performing after awhile but kept my office job. Later, when Harry asked me to stay at home and
just be a wife, I complained that I didn't have enough to do. "Get a
hobby," he said, and those three little words ultimately changed not only my life but his,
for he eventually found himself being drawn into the field of arts and crafts
crafts show producer.
Before he knew it, I was out selling my woodcarvings, music boxes and artwork,
and asking more questions
about how to do this right than we
could find answers for. So he suggested we start a magazine for people
like me, and even though we knew absolutely nothing about how to do this, we
launched Artisan Crafts with Harry on the phone and me on the keys of an electronic typewriter
with a lot of letterpress sheets at hand for making headlines. Of course I had
already begun to read books on how to design a magazine and succeed as a periodical publisher.
(I didn't even consider my lack of writing experience, which to that point
included only letters to my mother and my
After five years—during which time the magazine consumed our lives and all
my self-study failed to reveal the secrets of how to survive the recession we
were in at the time—we declared this
venture to be a "literary success but a financial flop." And that's
when I learned one of the most important lessons of my life: that failure is always a
beneficial experience when it teaches you what NOT to do the next time around.
If not for that magazine experience and all that I learned about myself and
my abilities in the process—plus all the people in the crafts industry that I
met during that period who later helped me up the ladder of success—I would not have
written my first book or be here on the Web today.
A New Career as a Writer and Publisher
It was at this point that I decided I wanted to be a full-time professional writer.
After reading three
books on how to write well, I found myself with my first book contract in hand. I then
ordered five years' worth of back issues of Writer's Digest to learn how to
write a good book readers would enjoy reading. The publisher loved it and,
without changing a word of content and giving it only the usual copy edit, he sent it out for typesetting.
my business and marketing abilities (and considering all the editors I knew in the crafts
industry who would give my book publicity),
he then asked me to join the company as his assistant so we could make my
book a best-seller. But he died a couple of weeks later in that
1979 crash at O'Hare airport that took the lives of
everyone aboard. When I realized that my book was never going to be published in
this one-man publishing division if I didn't do something about it, I
volunteered to take over his job until a new person could be hired. The company
was thinking about closing the book publishing division, but I convinced them I
could do the job, and that's how I found myself with the title of publisher and general manager of the book division of Barrington Press, Inc.
Now, with my first book still in the process of being designed and typeset, I suddenly found
myself completely responsible for its publication and sales success. (Back to the books again,
this time to learn how to be a book publisher, sell to book clubs, and get
publicity for a new book.) A mention in Family Circle
ultimately sold thousands of books, and the overwhelming
amount of fan mail I got from early readers convinced me I should quit this job,
go home, and start my own writing and publishing business.
So in 1981, with my husband worrying about the income we were going to lose
when I quit this job—and fearful that I might fail, and then what would I do?—I took courage in hand and
launched my business at the age of 42 with a thousand dollars borrowed from
savings. It was the smartest life decision I ever made.
With Harry's help, I went on to write, edit, and publish a profitable
home-business/self-employment subscription newsletter for fifteen years,
reading books all the time to keep learning how to refine my publishing and
design skills while also improving my
copywriting, direct mail marketing, and PR strategies. Between 1981 and 2000, I
wrote several new books and updated some older ones. During this period I
was also developing expertise as
a speaker, first presenting day-long workshops at community colleges, and then
to do keynote speeches and break-out workshops at many of the major
home-business conferences that
were then common in both the U.S. and Canada.
Let me emphasize here that it was
always hard for me to move outside my comfort zone to keep trying new things,
but I found it fascinating to observe how every new step I was courageous enough
to take automatically led to yet
another advancement of my business and writing career.
Once I had became known as "a home-business expert," it was easy to build a
reputation as "one of America's best-known and most
trusted home-business authors and speakers." Because I regularly sent news
releases to an ever-growing PR list, I was frequently quoted in the national
press and interviewed on dozens of radio and TV news shows. I especially
enjoyed my week-long appearance on ABC-TV's Home show, where I appeared as
guest expert on their "Homemade Money series" titled after my book (which sold
thousands of copies that week).
During this period I was also a featured columnist
for several crafts magazines. My "Selling What You Make" column (later renamed
"Profits") ran in Crafts magazine for twenty years, becoming at that
point the longest-running column of its kind. Regrettably, I lost that column in 2000 because of
a ridiculous electronic rights issue.
BY THE END OF 1999 I had stopped speaking
and closed down our mail order
publishing and book-selling business because Harry's health was failing. I
was still working full time, however, now with another book in progress and also
as Series Editor for Prima Publishing's line of For Fun & Profit
books published in 1999-2000.
By now, with the Internet exploding and me still using an old DOS computer
and doing email and exploring the Internet via Web-TV (because I didn't
want to have to learn how to use a new computer with a Windows operating
system), I was feeling totally overwhelmed by technology and beginning to think
that, at 62, I was just too old to learn all this "new stuff." Besides, I was
convinced that the Internet was the greatest time-waster that ever came down the
pike (which is still true if you don't learn how to control yourself), and I was
absolutely, positively sure that I would never want (or have need for) a website
of my own. A little space on someone else's site would surely be sufficient for
my needs (famous last words).
Just when I thought my long successful career was about over, I was stunned to receive
a big-bucks offer to be a featured content provider and "personality" on the
e-commerce site, IdeaForest/Joann.com. Although
that site didn't survive the big
dot-com bust of 2000, this work dramatically changed my life by literally
forcing me onto the Internet, into this website, and into a whole new
computer/Web/technology learning experience that continues today. (Some of this
journey has been documented in articles in the Computertalk department.
Early in 2000 when the website designer I'd hired to create this website suddenly
vanished, I was forced to quickly learn how to manage and redesign it myself with
FrontPage software. Later when I learned that much of the
HTML code on my website was deprecated, I became one of
Boogiejack's students, bought his great
book, Website Design Made Easy, and learned how to design
my first website
using CSS. I'm still in the process of gradually replacing bad code
on this site and making changes that reflect my new personal and business interests. I'm also updating or
deleting old articles in the archives and looking for typos and other
errors I missed in the early days of building my site when I was too stressed to be able to see all
of them. (When you have a Website, your work is never done.)
Going with the Flow
In 2009, after decades of positioning myself as a "home business
expert," I retired from active involvement in the home business industry (been there, done that) so I could focus on my
editorial and consulting services for authors. At that time I also began to sell Harry's lifetime collection of
books, CDs, and tapes on the
Amazon Marketplace and enjoyed
great success with this endeavor, earning enough to completely landscape my
front and back yards. Today I'm gradually sorting through the 4,000 or so
Big Band vinyl records he left me, trying to decide if I should list some of the most collectible
ones on Amazon or just put all of them out for sale in my garage one of these
springs because there are a lot of collectors in Naperville, IL and I don't have
time to mess with this when I've got books waiting for me to write and publish.
You can see my latest writing/publishing credits at left, which conclude with
the publication of my newest book,
Marcella's Secret Dreams and Stories.
This is my
second biography and memoir and probably the best book I'll ever write.
This book taught me a lot more about writing memoir, structuring a
reader-friendly book, and publishing through CreateSpace, lessons I'd love to share with other authors through
my telephone consulting service.
As 2017 draws to a close, I'm
excited about starting a support group for local writers and authors in
early 2018 and getting started on my next book about the dog Harry and I rescued
in the wilds of Missouri in the mid-seventies, a book I've wanted to write and publish for
more than a decade.
I find it amusing that I feel much younger now (at least mentally) than I did
ten years ago, and I know it's because at the turn of the century I began to
focus on acquiring new skills and knowledge that would enable me to earn income
Web as long as I chose to work. Trust me when I say you will NEVER be too old
to learn something new.
Brabec Bulletins, published irregularly as time allows, I continue to
pass along things I am learning about life as an aging Web entrepreneur,
widow, computer user,
writer and Indie publisher. If you'd like to stay in touch with me
through my free email bulletins and see what new tricks this old dog is
learning, click here to join my mailing list.
And if you actually read to the bottom of this outpouring of words, I thank
you kindly for your time and attention. You're probably someone I'd enjoy
getting to know better.