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Second Career: Dabney Jacob begins her encore career as a life coach in NOLA

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Dabney Jacob trained to be a life coach, but it was perhaps her own life experiences and and an illness diagnosis that truly prepared her for her second career.

Dabney Jacob’s decision to be a life coach in her encore career was born from the wisdom gained during her past work and life experiences, as well as her passion to help others and a need to remain active after retirement.

Dabney’s first career was as an art history and Latin teacher at Isidore Newman School from 1976-1988. There she was able to expose young people to new liberal art ideas and concepts, as well as different cultures. She gained much satisfaction from seeing the varied ways her students learned, thought, and approached the world.

“Teaching is fundamental to any coaching or mentoring experience,” she says.

As a wife of over 45 years, Dabney and her husband have focused on employing positive proactive communication skills. They discovered these skills from participating in life skills courses together and with their two daughters. Today, Dabney has the pleasure to be a grandparent to three grandsons.

“Over the years I have felt satisfaction and joy in using these assets and watching my children and grandchildren blossom,” she says. “They have learned many life skills, how to deal with obstacles both real and imagined, and how to have real self-confidence.”

 A Global Perspective

Dabney and a co-teacher, Bee Fitzpatrick, at Newman wanted to go to Hong Kong in 1978. They decided to make it a business trip in order to fund it, and took their husbands with them.

While in Asia, they purchased a collection of beautiful antiques, linens, children’s clothes, and jewelry. Upon their return, they opened the first pop-up shop in New Orleans and sold all of their goods in three days.

“Since our husbands’ food and bar bill was more than our discount airfare, our accountant told us if we didn’t take our husbands, we could probably create a nice business from our travels in the future,” Dabney says.

That was the birth of the Orient Expressed store on Magazine Street. As the co-owner of a business from 1978 to 2013, Dabney was able to travel extensively and work with over 10 factory owners and employ over 40 women, selling handmade items and artwork.

In addition to the day-to-day operations of running a business, Dabney gained a global perspective of the world through her travels.

“My travels and love of different cultures has grounded my appreciation and understanding of people,” said Dabney.

Healing Through Experience

Dabney looks forward to being a life coach for someone who is starting a new business. Dabney states, “In growing Orient Expressed we used many skills that I employ in life coaching to visualize what we wanted to create. We set goals to reach milestones as well as to overcome a multitude of obstacles. I would love to use that experience to help someone else create a successful business or to make a career change.”

Ten years ago, Dabney discovered that she had a chronic health issue.

“Over the years, I have learned to see my body and its healing, as well as acceptance of a chronic condition in a new light,” Dabney says.

During that time, she was studying to be a life coach and learned to apply the same coaching principles to her own healing process, including goal setting, compassion, and self-love, as well as accepting responsibility for her choices.

Perhaps the most important influence on Dabney’s encore career was her participation in a local friends’ group of 30 years. This group consists of nine women who meet weekly to support each other in all of their life’s celebrations and challenges.

In her words, “Through the years we have been a mastermind support group for each other in raising our children, navigating marital conflicts, working through business problems, and watching our parents age and die.

“Now in our late 60s and 70s we are confronting our own medical challenges, but more importantly celebrating the pleasures of grandchildren, travels, and friendships. We have learned the power of open and unfearful communication as well as applying solid life skills, compassion, and love to living a vibrant life,” she says.

Life After Orient Expressed

Dabney never imagined what life would be like when she no longer co-owned Orient Expressed because it was central to her world. Dabney and Fitzpatrick were approached in 2013 to sell the business.

After careful consideration, they decided that they were getting older and it was time to move into the next chapter of their lives.           

After retiring from Orient Expressed, Dabney decided to pursue a life coach certification from the Mary Morrissey organization. From that extensive training and education, she learned that a major component of being a life coach is to teach a client to unlock both undiscovered strengths and talents as well as to teach new life skills. Then help the client use these to create a new direction in life that is fulfilling.

Dabney feels that her varied life experiences position her to be able to help other people who may need assistance to clearly understand what they want and to resolve a variety of issues in their lives.

In addition, this career was also attractive to her because it is flexible enough that she can spend time with family and friends, tend to her personal needs, be actively involved in her grandchildren’s lives, and travel.

What is Dabney’s advice to a Boomer who is thinking about an encore career? She says, “Try on many hats. Create a clear vision on where you want to go and what you are passionate about. If you have trouble deciding what that might be, get a life coach.”


Katherine Diliberto has lived, worked, and raised a family in New Orleans. She is a retired school teacher and administrator who enjoys traveling and exploring all the Crescent City has to offer.

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