Two sisters find meaningful work in the wreckage of a manufactured crisis.

Maryland sisters and furloughed federal workers, Nikki Howard and Jaqi Wright, launched “The Furlough Cheesecake.” Photo credit: WJLA

Greetings from Washington, D.C. where Day 20 of the Federal Government Shutdown has begun in earnest.

While the workforce of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area is varied and diverse, a considerable share of it is employed by the federal government or by subcontractors working on behalf of our many federal agencies. Already, the pinch is felt by the full spectrum of small businesses that support our vital local workforce: dry cleaners, nail salons, diners, sandwich shops, gift shops, etc. are experiencing big drops in sales revenue. And big drops in sales revenue means big drops in local sales tax collections used to fund critical municipal services like pothole repair, first-response, and public education. UGH!

And do you remember last fall’s Romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak? You found out about it, because the USDA issued an urgent nationwide alert that resulted in the removal of all Romaine from grocers’ produce aisles. Now, because of our current federal government shutdown, USDA food safety inspectors are furloughed, so you may want to think twice before buying leafy greens, shellfish, soft cheese, and other inspection-dependent items from the supermarket.

Nationally, more than 800,000 workers have been shut down by the shutdown; most were sent home without pay while law enforcement members in critical jobs are still required to show up for work, paycheck or no paycheck.

I am going to avoid the (ugly) why part of this story — the why we are at the point that our federal government is no longer funded — because discussing it makes me angry. And there’s no point in me wasting my “ink” and your precious time on all that led to this manufactured crisis.

Instead, I want to focus on positive meaning and one example of meaningful work that has sprouted up like a green shoot from the charred wreckage of the federal workforce furlough.

In our Maryland suburbs two sisters, Nikki Howard and Jaqi Wright, were furloughed from their federal government jobs. With family members unable to work due to disability, it is up to them to provide their families’ income. But, instead of wallowing in self-pity, Howard and Wright fired up their kitchen ovens and started baking.

Baking cheesecakes, that is.

Their brilliant side-hustle is called The Furlough Cheesecake. And already, they are fulfilling lots of orders, some from well outside the immediate D.C. metropolitan area, for three distinct recipes.

When lightning strikes like it has for Howard and Wright, then great things can happen. Their tagline:

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. The government gave us a furlough, so, we’re making cheesecakes!

And who doesn’t like cheesecake?

In the days to come, we are likely to learn of other furloughed workers who, like these enterprising Maryland sisters, reinvented themselves as purpose-driven entrepreneurs doing the work of their dreams.

Meantime, we wish Howard and Wright the greatest of success. And if you love cheesecake then do place an order with them HERE. (We will reach out to them soon in hopes of booking them for a future episode of The Tightrope with Dan Smolen podcast.)

Our best days lie ahead.

DAN SMOLEN is executive producer and host of the podcast, The Tightrope with Dan Smolen. Listen and subscribe to us by keywording “The Tightrope with Dan Smolen” on Apple Podcasts. Also, please rate us and offer suggestions for future guests and topics.

Photo credit: Furloughed Maryland sisters Nikki Howard and Jaqi Wright; WJLA.