Randi Busse, 50, made the scariest decision of her professional life when she left her fulltime job to start her customer-service-training company, Workforce Development Group, in Amityville, New York, five years ago. She’d built a well-paying career at Verizon as a customer service manager, a gig that came with five weeks of paid vacation. Divorced from her husband, she had no other income to tap if her business failed.

Still, Busse knew she needed a change in her career. “I felt my hands were tied a lot,” she says, with few opportunities to contribute more. Plus, there was nothing guaranteed about her corporate gig. When she got wind that buyouts were being offered during a round of downsizing at the company, she says, “I begged for one.” The severance package she received gave her the cushion she needed to go into business for herself, guiding other companies on how to improve their customer service.

At first, Busse’s situation looked shaky. Her first year in business, she brought in just $19,000. But by her second year, sales doubled, and she never looked back. Today, she makes more than twice as much as she did in her old corporate job. She just wrote a book called Turning Rants into Raves: Turn Your Customers On Before They Turn On YOU! –something she never envisioned herself accomplishing. “I couldn’t imagine getting a job [working for someone else] at this point,” she says. “Why would I want to do that?”