Editor's note: This story is part of CNN's American Journey series, showing how people have turned hobbies into jobs. Have you transformed your passion into profits? Share your story with CNN iReport, and you could be featured in a CNN story.
Helping families build homes was a job that Jessica Vu excelled at. As a sales consultant in Bellbrook, Ohio, she walked people through buying homes, selecting floor plans and customizing everything from doors and windows to counters.
Then the housing market crashed in 2008, and she was laid off while she was eight weeks pregnant with her first child. Like many Americans who lost their income sources when employers cut more than 1.2 million jobs in the first 10 months of 2008, she struggled to find her footing.
As the ripple effects of the recession continue, with monthly unemployment claims up in July, people like Vu are seeking alternatives to traditional office jobs and gambling on their passions.