Be Your Own Boss
By Karen and Erica
We are advocates of post-retirement engagement. We’ve talked about political, corporate, and non-profit engagement, but we haven’t talked much about entrepreneurship. Yet, that’s what so many of us are doing. Indeed, the 55-64 year old population is the largest growing group of entrepreneurs in the United States. Why does it hold so much appeal?
For some, it’s the realization of a passion. Take the two Italian ladies who translated their love of well cared for men’s shoes into chic shoe shining businesses. One does door to door delivery because she loves to watch her customer’s faces when they unpack their reborn shoes. The other, a former model and restauranteur, has a tiny shop between a church and Italy's lower house of Parliament. Or, as she says, “between the sacred and the profane.” She has made shoe shining sexy and glamorous, expanding her business to airports and clubs. She even gives courses about how she managed it all. These women invaded a traditionally male-dominated business--to everyone's delight. As one customer said, “I doubt any man complains it’s a woman attending his shoes.” Bravo.
For others, it’s about the satisfaction of turning an idea into a moneymaking proposition. Take the retired teacher and the former marketing executive who live in Denver and watched Colorado's growing marijuana business. Not liking the smell of the packaging, they came up with a better idea. Plain white recycled plastic milk jugs--packaging already approved by the FDA for edibles and medicine. A business was born. Three years later, they are going gangbusters in an industry dominated by young men.
For us, Lustre was born from a post-retirement frustration that women like us had become invisible. That we were not being seen for the vibrant women we are, and not being heard largely because of our age. We grew passionate about changing that image and taking down barriers that were erected simply because of our years and retired status. Having worked for others for decades, working for ourselves was a whole new idea. Having worked in large institutions, being start-uppy and small was enticing. Being able to create our own schedules, and decide what obligations to undertake, was invigorating. We don’t (yet) have all the accoutrements (including a paycheck) of our prior careers. But we love having all the possibilities of something new.
One of the advantages of starting a business later in life is that you are well aware of your own strengths and weaknesses. That means you know when and where you need help. Thankfully, there’s a lot of help out there. For example, we had no idea how to design a compelling website. Or any website. So we got help. We did not know how to use social media. We hardly knew what they were. We got help there too. As we go along and take Lustre to the next level, we will need even more help. In the process, we are learning all kinds of things, and having lots of fun.
Of course, entrepreneurship involves the risk of failure--in front of just about everyone you know. Especially if you do it online. But those of us who have been around for a while have learned, sometimes the hard way, that we can survive failure. It will make us better at what we set out to do.