Senior Entrepreneurship Works
In these pages, successful entrepreneurs will share their personal breakthrough stories. We'll hear about dreams imagined and learn about strategies and solutions that have worked, and not worked, from real people who’ve started their own businesses. Their stories and insights provide inspiration and wisdom seniors new to entrepreneurship will need to keep focused, to achieve the small early successes that provide the confidence necessary to move a new enterprise forward.
The following stories capture just a few of the ways in which Senior Entrepreneurs from across America are solving individual and societal needs by creating individual and community economic value.
Successful entrepreneurs will share their personal breakthrough stories. We'll hear about dreams imagined and learn about strategies and solutions that have worked, and not worked, from real people who’ve started their own businesses. Their stories and insights provide inspiration and wisdom seniors new to entrepreneurship will need to keep focused, to achieve the small early successes that provide the confidence necessary to move a new enterprise forward.
Townsend launched Mannequin Madness in 2001 in what she calls "Townsend's Body Shop" in Oakland, California.
Townsend sells, rents, repairs, recycles and blogs about mannequins. She also recycles them for stores for free, gives them a tune up and then resells or rents them to other people.
Townsend says she stumbled into the business. She was looking for Tina Turner concert tickets on Craigslist, when she saw an ad for a mannequin and bought it because she's always wanted one for her garden. The seller ran the only mannequin rental service in town and was closing shop. She says, "I impulsively bought his entire inventory (50 mannequins), thinking this would be a fun hobby to do while still working full-time. Granted I had never touched a mannequin before or worked in retail. What began as a sideline business has become my full-time venture for the last 11 years. Its grown from 50 mannequins to 2000, and I now work with independent contractors across the country who help collect and resell the mannequins.
The recycling movement was a big boost. Mannequins are made of non-biodegradable materials so they don’t belong in the landfill. Nordstrom, Nike, Ralph Lauren and Kohl’s, were some of the first retail chains who responded to our free mannequin recycling services. Some of them recycled for purely economic versus social reasons. It is cheaper to have Mannequin Madness recycle their mannequins than paying dumpster fees.
As a green business, Townsend's very proud of the difference she makes in reducing the environmental footprint of the retail industry, and in 2003 the Environmental Protection Agency gave Mannequin Madness a special achievement award for recycling over 100,000 pounds of mannequins in just one year!
At 55, Townsend's not thinking about retirement, but how she can further expand her business.
Check out Townsend and Her Mannequins on this PBS News Hour Video with Her 10 Tips for Other Senior Entrepreneurs
Rose M. Mula
Author and Confidante to Legendary Stars
84 year-old, Rose Madeline Mula was an executive assistant, a public relations specialist, and an operations manager for a New England theater chain before discovering a passion for writing. She has written business and trade articles to earn a living, and humor for the fun of it. Her work has appeared in more than a hundred magazines and newspapers, including Yankee, Modern Maturity, The Christian Science Monitor, The Reader's Digest, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and frequently in The Saturday Evening Post. She also writes a monthly column for www.seniorwomen.com and can be seen on several somewhat iconclastic You Tube features (under “Rose Mula”).
Jay Leno praised Rose saying, “Apparently I’m not the only comedian from Andover, Massachusetts”; Ted Kreiter, a former editor of The Saturday Evening Post, described her as “one of the Post’s favorite humor writers; and legendary Oscar-winning actress, Joan Fontaine, said, “What a joy! If laughter is the best medicine, throw away all your prescriptions. Rose Mula’s books will replace them all.”
Joyce Keener (left) and her sister Dr. Garnett Newcombe (right) established HPC (Human Potential Consultants) http://www.hpcemployment.org/ in 1997 in Carson, California out of a desire to help individuals obtain long-term employment. Newcombe was a sociologist and Keener had spent 27 years working for the State of Michigan’s Department of Rehabilitation. HPC began as a government resource to provide comprehensive employment solutions for individuals classified as having extra-ordinary challenges with re-entering the workforce. Their vision was to help those specific groups which included disabled individuals, 17- to 25-year-olds and those on probation and parole to find jobs. They knew these people were falling through the bureaucratic cracks. They founded their company around the belief that regardless of background, there is a fit for every ones skills in the workforce. They had an idea that with more individualized attention and a customized approach, the statistics could be better.
Today, HPC is a thriving, multi-million dollar, woman-owned firm, that employs more than 100 people, has 3 office locations and annually serves more than 2000 adults nationwide. It provides diverse workforce solutions for government agencies, as well as support services for individuals out of work for long periods that combine social skills improvement with workforce development. HPC has established itself as an alternative employment solutions resource for various agencies around the country, including Alaska and Hawaii.
They're also working on an movie idea called “Halfway House" to show what it’s really like for individuals formerly incarcerated trying to transition back into a regular life and how programs like theirs actually work.
Living Longer One Laugh at a Time
For 28 years, Don owned and operated a land development construction company, starting in Indiana in 1974 and then moving both the business and his family to Florida in 1978. He retired from the business in 2002 at age 65, thinking he would finally be able to focus on some of the creative ideas he had suppressed all his life.
He became a member of Gene Perret's Comedy Writer's Round Table. "Gene," he says, "is a heavyweight. He's written for Phyllis Diller, Bob Hope (head writer), and Carol Burnett and has won several Emmys."
Then in 2008, at age 71, he took a stand-up comedy class at McCurdy's Comedy Club in Sarasota, Florida, where he discovered his material really could make people laugh and how much fun it is to have that experience. Don's been performing part-time ever since.
A personal event made him realize that comedy was a serious business and inspired him to find out all he could about the benefits of laugh therapy.
"I was the sole caregiver for my father-in-law in the summer of 2010, who was age 92 and in failing health. For as long as I had known him, he had been brightening the days of those around him by telling jokes and hokey stories, most of which we'd all heard before but which only added to their entertainment value.
"But then he fell and broke his hip and spent two months in a therapy / nursing home facility. He did not respond well to the operation and was soon in bad shape. He was scheduled to be transported to a nearby hospital for some tests and I accompanied him on the trip.
"I was incredulous when he began telling jokes to the van driver and his assistant, both of whom were Hispanic and really didn't truly understand but they were laughing all the way anyway. When we got there, they wheeled him into an x-ray room that I wasn't allowed to enter but I could observe through a small window. There were four nurses attending and he had every one of them in stitches...chuckles all the way to belly laughs.
"Twenty minutes later, all tests completed, while waiting for the van to pick us up, my father-in-law slumped in his wheelchair and peacefully passed away.
"It is my belief that this man, in bringing so much joy to others, also extended his own life in the process. He had a comedic mindset that he used as his coping mechanism for dealing with whatever life threw at him."
After that experience, Don was determined to get the word out about the benefits of laughter and joyful experiences. He designed a business concept that included a comedy dinner show and a laugh therapy seminar.
Today, Don is am a member of the Association of Applied Therapeutic Humor, which is an association of doctors, psychiatrists, therapists, nurses, etc. who use humor in their treatment of their patients. He performs in comedy clubs and also provides professional entertainment for shut-ins at hospitals and assisted living facilities, bringing health and humor to his audiences. Don's goal for his nonprofit "Comedy Dinner Theater/Laugh Therapy Seminar" concept is to franchise it into as many geographic locations as can support it and would welcome joint venture participation, including foreign language versions from any person or entity who recognizes the potential benefits in bringing clean, therapeutic comedy to as many seniors around the world as possible.
Barking Up the Right Tree
Stout, rather than caving in to the depression that often ensues after losing a job with a lot of corporate perks and not finding an equally exciting position to replace it, decided she had the skills and experience to start her own business. She focused on her St Bernard dog, Aspen's, health issues. Frustrated because Aspen's prescription diets, steroid shots, and antibiotics just added toxins to her already taxed body, Delana began to research alternative natural foods, supplements and holistic treatments. Believing she was on to a good concept, Delana enrolled in the Kauffman Foundation's FastTrac New Venture program to fine tune her idea. She decided to combine her quality pet nutrition concept with good (clean), local self-serve pet baths to increase her value proposition. She acquired a $25,000 loan from a local bank and launched Brookside Barkery and Bathhttp://www.barkerybath.com in 2003 with a commitment to the health and wellness of pets. Since then, her original store has doubled in size and Delana has opened two additional locations in the Kansas City metropolitan area. In 2011, Brookside Barkery and Bath was one of the Top 10 finalists for the Kansas City Chamber 2011 Small Business of the Year!
Read more about Delena Stout and how she succeeded "Against All Odds" in this article at PBS' NextAvenue.org
Training Iowa Women How To Break their State's Historic Logjam and Get Elected to the US Congress
Iowa is just one of two states that have never sent a woman to Congress, nor elected one as governor. Iowa, along with Mississippi, has never sent a woman to the U.S. House of Representatives nor to the U.S. Senate, despite women having the right to vote for nearly a century. Former Iowa State Senator Maggie Tinsman, mother of three and grandmother of eight, hopes to turn that around. At age 75, she co-founded the 50/50 in 2020 Campaign and its Blueprint for Winning Academy. The 50/50 campaign seeks to recruit enough female candidates, train them in their Blueprint for Winning Academy, and have had them elected so that by the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage, women make up half of the Iowa legislature and half of Iowa's delegation to the U.S. Congress.
The Greening of Black America
Joe James (2008 Recipient of Civic Ventures’ $100,000 “Purpose Prize”) grew up in New Jersey and studied chemical engineering in college. After graduation he worked for 35 years in economic development in Washington, DC, before moving to the South Carolina Commerce Department in 2002. Traveling along Route 95 in South Carolina, he was always horrified by what he calls “the corridor of shame” - miles and miles of poor and destitute Black American farmers. Determined to do something to alleviate their poverty, he left the Commerce Department to form the Corporation for Economic Opportunity, a nonprofit. His first effort was to build a Farmers Market where local farmers could come and sell their traditional crops.
James’s college science studies served him well, as CEO became more involved in biomass and bio-energy initiatives. Concerned that South Carolina’s Black community would be left behind, without an effort to inform and involve it in the nation’s growing “green” economy, he created another new initiative called "The Greening of Black America - A Rural Development Opportunity." The Greening of Black America initiative works to create new jobs, revitalize rural communities, help Black farmers retain their land, and improve nutrition and health in inner-city neighborhoods.
Next, James secured a bio-mass torrefaction machine and encouraged farmers to sell their excess crops to create more biodiesel fuel. This became so successful that he began to encourage farmers to grow specific oil seed crops like sunflower, sesame and canola seeds to produce “green” products for biodiesel fuel. Beyond his nonprofit work, James has now launched a for-profit company called Agri-Tech Producers. The company has recently secured an exclusive license to manufacture a machine, designed at North Carolina State University, that can convert biomass like wood chips into a more energy dense, dry and more valuable fuel or feedstock. This mobile torrefaction machine will reduce transportation costs and help farmers leverage the emerging energy value of their crops.
Consumer Health Cost Advocate
Pinder worked for The New York Times for 23 years before founding ClearHealthCosts.com and becoming a web entrepreneur in 2009.
Before founding CHC, and before The Times, she worked at The Des Moines (Ia.) Register, The Grinnell (Ia.) Herald-Register and The Associated Press. She says her years of shoe leather news reporting, data diving, and crowd sourcing prepared her well.
The health-care market in the United States is opaque. For example, people don’t typically know what procedures and items will cost before they take place. Does everyone charge $400 for an MRI, or is it $3,000? Does one insurance company pay out more for a mammogram than another, and why? My doctor charges one price, the insurance company reimburses another – but how much am I actually paying? Also, if my insurance company is paying $2,300 for an MRI and they could get it for $400, or $600, is that one reason my premiums are going up? Increasingly, people who are uninsured or on high-deductible plans — instead of the standard $20 PPO co-pay — want to know prices.
Of course price is not the only consideration, but it’s a big one. In any other marketplace – buying a car, hiring a plumber, buying a tomato – price enters into the equation before you commit to a purchase. In a market where prices are hard to find, consumers can’t make rational decisions.
She says her goal is to bring transparency to the health-care marketplace. Pinder notes the site should in no way be construed as offering medical advice. We’d like to be a voice for, and a source for, the informed consumer. People who know more about the costs of their medical care will be better consumers. We also think that sunlight improves just about everything, so we hope to shine sunlight in any number of dark corners.
"Happy Cane" Artist Extraordinaire!
While some of us are still trying to figure out the intricacies of crowdfunding, Pearl Malkin, as reported by Parija Kavilanz in CNN Money, has, in her almost 9th decade, launched a campaign to raise $3,500 on Kickstarter.com for her first startup. Her business is Happy Canes. She buys old canes at Good Will stores and turns them into snappy walking sticks by decorating them with artificial flowers.
Pearl is what my grandmother used to call a pistol. Bored with her plain black cane, she decided to glue on a few flowers. It did not take long, Kavilanz reports, for Pearl to branch out, creating different canes to match different outfits. When a close family friend visited, he suggested she turn the canes into a small business. He told Pearl about funding through Kickstarter and selling through Etsy, an online marketplace for handcrafted goods. He set her up on both sites in January, and Happy Canes now sell for $60each on Etsy. Pearl has raised $1,856 from 71 backers so far and, if she gets the full $3500, she wants to hire some helpers to create 10-20 made-to-order Happy Canes a day.
When Kavilanz asked Pearl, “Why start a business now? The self-proclaimed rebel said, ‘I can’t sit idle and watch boring TV all day long. I want to make people happy, spread a little cheer around and maybe buy some nice shoes again.’”
In the meantime, take a peek at Grandma Pearl’s Happy Canes in her Etsy shop.
Reconstructing Sweaters One Beautiful Stitch at a Time!
Jill Kerttula of jill2day spent many years in corporate design departments until the economy’s downturn left her unemployed in 2009. Her forced retirement at age 58 prompted her to examine what she really wanted to do next. After months of struggling through the job search dance, she decided to put her own design talent to the test. In a recent interview she said, "I can’t remember not making things. One of my prize possessions is a clay dog that I made in 2nd grade and I can remember making things even before that. I can honestly say I would not have graduated from high school if it weren’t for my art classes — and the fabulous teachers I had. They taught me that making things was of value."
Jill wanted to see if the fiber art that she had been doing as a hobby could generate some income. She decided to make reconstructed sweaters and sell them on Etsy, the world’s handmade marketplace.
(Etsy's mission is to empower people to change the way the global economy works. They see a world in which very-very small businesses have much-much more sway in shaping the economy, local living economies are thriving everywhere, and people value authorship and provenance as much as price and convenience. They are bringing heart to commerce and making the world more fair, more sustainable, and more fun.)
Jill's first investment was to buy a serger! (A serger, for all of us non-sewers is a sewing machine for knitwear.) She found one she could buy for $1000 on a no-interest one-year loan. Her initial goal was to make enough to pay this off before the year ended and interest kicked in. Her investment paid off because in just a few months she had enough sales coming from her Esty jill2day online store to pay off her loan - and stop thinking about getting another resume out the door.
Jill says, "My sweaters came from the love of textures and cuddly sweaters. I started experimenting with using some of my quilt piecing techniques to make new sweaters out of old ones."
Her reconstructed sweaters tag line is: Always one-of-a-kind, always eco-friendly, always snuggley perfect!
"One-of -a-Kind You will never see your garment duplicated. No patterns are used, it is sculpted individually on a dress form, with unique materials. I find some pretty wonderful fabrics in my supply searches, but usually only once. So the size of a sweater or the unique attributes of it will often determine the final size or style of the garment I make... never to be seen again!
"Eco-friendly The fabrics used in this garment were sourced at charity-based resale shops. All were chosen for their uniqueness and quality, all were given new life, and all were saved from the landfills. All suppliers were chosen for their philanthropy and good works in hope of also keeping my garment socially responsible.
"Snuggley perfect. Comfort and durability are sewn in with an industrial serger. This means the insides of the garment is smooth and unfettered by seaming, instead the seams are made decorative through the use of colored thread and appear as a design element on the outside of the garment!"
Her designs, all original, are designed for casual and comfortable fit on all body types. She has also branched out to do some custom orders. Her joy is evident as she says, "I love to do these, because they are often for people who have had a hard time finding their size in “fun” clothes. They are excited to have these items made, and we have fun planning the garment. They come up with some great ideas to challenge me!"
Key to Jill's success is her low overhead. She works from her home in Wisconsin, has no employees and takes the finished sweaters to be mailed to the local post office herself. She finds most of her sweaters to be repurposed at thrift stores, and Etsy has no membership fees, charges just 20 cents to list each item and 3.5 percent of the price of each sale.
One-of-a-kind, Eco-friendly, Snuggley and Fun - who could ask for more!
In 2010, when 50+ year-old Paul Tasner decided he wanted to start his own business he joined Dominican University's Venture Greenhouse, an incubator for social and environmental entrepreneurs in his community of San Rafael, California. Venture Greenhouse, and he said, "there are tons of incubators out there, but many are just places where entrepreneurs can hang their hats and share war stories. I have a lot of experience but none in business ownership, so I was looking for real hands-on mentorship from seasoned professionals, and like-minded environmentalists."
Paul is a senior executive with more than 30 years of experience in all facets of supply chain management. He has held leadership positions in procurement, manufacturing, and logistics in ventures ranging from start-up to Fortune 100. His career focus was on supply chain sustainability, strategic sourcing and supplier relationship management.
Paul knew someone in the pulp manufacturing business and liked the concept from both the environmental and job creation aspects.He workedon the idea at the Greenhouse for a year before he launched, in partnership with Elena Olivari,PulpWorks, Inc, a company that creates compostable products molded from 100% post-consumer waste paper.
Elena was born in Italy and has practiced architecture for 17 years in the United States and internationally, including Hong Kong and Italy. She has an enduring passion for the profession and engages in the design process with optimism and enthusiasm empowering all of the people involved in the project. She believes in inspiring people through energy and sensitivity to local and global needs and challenges.
The team turns garbage into safe, planet-friendly products for protective packaging and countless other products. Our customers are retailers, manufacturers, and distributors across a broad spectrum of industries – including, medical, chemical, electronic, food, beverage, beauty – that comprise the staggering $520 billion global packaging industry."
"We've had many pivots since the beginning when we thought we could do it all," said Paul. It took us a while and feedback from others in the Venture Greenhouse to realize we were more interested in designing and supplying product than in manufacturing it.
Today, PulpWorks, Inc is a triple-bottom-line, business-to-business venture, "rooted at the crossroads of sustainable packaging, green architecture, and urban job creation." And it was a "Clean Tech Open" semi-finalist in 2011.
Paul's advice to other 50+ year-old entrepreneurs is that "you should not expect you're good at this because of your work experience. If you've not been an entrepreneur, it's a whole new realm and you have a ton to learn. It's very challenging even if you've worked in a related field for all your professional career." He also noted the absolute necessity of identifying your customers and establishing yourself in the marketplace - two insights among the many he credits to his experience in the Greenhouse incubator.
A traditional retirement had no appeal for this dynamic duo!
After high-profile careers in international consulting and government, Christine Millen, 63, and Charlotte Frank, 70, weren't ready to retire. Instead they founded The Transition Network (TTN) in New York City in 2000 to be a resource for women transitioning out of careers or family-based work. As they asked themselves, "What can I do with all this experience that will be challenging and fulfilling?" they realized there must be other women aged 50+ asking the same thing.
Charlotte Frank's resume consists of a series of executive positions in government. Her last position was with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey where she served as the Director of Contracting and Procurement. During her ten-year tenure, she was responsible for a contracting program of over $1 billion annually, and for re-outfitting the agency after its World Trade Center headquarters was destroyed in 1993 and again in 2001. Charlotte was also the COO of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity under Eleanor Holmes Norton, supervising 3,000 field workers who were fighting discrimination against women, minorities and the disabled.
Christine Millen is a retired partner of Deloitte, the international consulting and professional services firm where she led major consulting projects for many of the firm’s largest clients in both the public and private sector. Her expertise covers the use of new technology to transform information systems and the successful implementation of change in existing organizations.
Beginning in New York City, they created community-based programs to encourage networking, to support risk taking, and help women 50+ redirect their skills to explore "what's next" and create their next phase in life, and to change societal perceptions of older women. Today, they are helping thousands of women, looking ahead to "what's next," in more than a dozen chapters across the country, including: Atlanta, Boulder, Central Ohio, Chicago, Houston, Long Island, New Jersey (North/Central), New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay Area, Santa Fe, Washington, DC, and Westchester, NY.
Charlotte says, “We want to be role models to others as women who know how to age brilliantly! ”
At 62, when she “retired” from her position as a public middle-school janitor and could have kicked back and coasted into her golden years, Inez Killingsworth began her second career. She founded Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People (ESOP) to put a stop to banking irregularities and predatory lending, not just in Cleveland, but nationwide. It was all because her zip code, 44105, had the highest foreclosure rate in the nation. ESOP has become a powerhouse foreclosure counseling agency in the state, with 8,000 families receiving help in 2009 in the nonprofit's 11 Ohio offices. More than 80 percent of those families were able to stay in their homes, through such methods as loan modifications and penalty fee waivers. ESOP never intended to target banks, Inez says. That’s just where the help was needed.
Inez, who has testified in front of Congress and has become a national spokesperson for foreclosure matters, says she never expected all this attention when she started but she sees a natural connection between her middle-school work and standing up for her neighbors. “I saw children coming out of abused homes,” she recalls. “I saw children at school who didn’t have a home to go to. It touched me. Someone needs to stand up for these children.” Inez saw that among those students, the ones who were focused and had some guidance and support from others could beat the odds. She says she saw the same thing among neighbors fighting foreclosures. “The kids and the homeowners fought for things they didn’t believe they’d ever be able to accomplish. And they succeeded.”
The most important life-lesson I’ve learned – so far – Inez says, “Is that people can make a difference. I have always believed that you are here for a purpose. And to never give up. You have to keep persevering. If you give up – roll over and play dead because what you are working on isn’t happening – for sure, it won’t happen. But if you keep after it, somewhere you make a difference.”
Inez was a recipient of the 2010 Civic Ventures $100,000 Purpose Prize.
Jan Hively, Ph.D.
"We're All Entrepreneurs Creating Our Encore Careers"
Jan Hively is a living testament to her personal credo of maximizing productivity and assuring “meaningful work, paid or unpaid, through the last breath.”
After playing leadership roles in government and education for more than three decades, Jan received a Ph.D. in education for work and community from the University of Minnesota in the spring of 2001 at age 69. Since then, she has helped found three organizations dedicated to empowering older adults: the Vital Aging Network, a statewide network that promotes self-determination, community participation, and personal enrichment through education and advocacy; the Minnesota Creative Arts and Aging Network, an organization dedicated to expanding opportunities for creative expression by older adults; and “SHiFT,” a community network empowering midlife transitions in life and work.
Jan was a congressional appointee to the White House Conference on Aging in 2005, and was named National Purpose Prize Fellow by Civic Ventures in 2006 for her work as a social entrepreneur. In 2008, at age 76, she received the Dutch Kastenbaum Award as the Minnesota Gerontologist of the Year from the Minnesota Gerontological Society. In 2010, she was awarded Fielding University’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Social Change and Positive Aging.
Jan’s primary focus during the last few years has been on cultivating international networks that support positive, productive aging. When the European Union designated 2012 as the “Year of Active Aging and Intergenerational Solidarity,” Jan and her Paris-based business partner, Moira Allan, co-created the “European Voices for Active Aging” (EVAA) project with World Café Europe. Funded by the European Commission, the team worked with organizations in six European countries and convened conversations with older adults about issues that matter for active/positive aging. Now, Jan and Moira are launching an Internet-based, peer-to-peer network called “Pass it on..” It spreads innovative programs developed by seniors for seniors. Free program guides encourage replication of support networks, pathways to meaningful work, and expanded learning opportunities. Country liaisons will help spread use of the programs. The start-up will launch its website this fall, leading to a global launch March 2015 at the World Congress for Healthy/Positivei Aging in South Africa.
Jan says of seniors, “We are all entrepreneurs in the business of creating meaningful work for ourselves, through the last breath.”
Maurice Lim Miller
Abolishing Poverty - One Family at a Time
Maurice Lim Miller grew up in the San Francisco area, one of two children raised by a single parent - his mother, an immigrant from Mexico. The family was very poor - sometimes in crisis, other times stable - and his mother worked hard to ensure the security and viability of her family. She died when he was 20 and attending UC Berkeley.
Maurice had been studying to become an engineer but he now became absorbed in how to solve the poverty problem. He delved, over many years, into poverty and how it operates in the context of families, he saw that many, many parents - single or raising children with their spouses or extended family support - apply the same drive, creativity, and tenacity. They want the best for their children and work very hard to get it. Their intention is not honored or enabled by the social structures or incentives currently in place.
After working in social services for more than 20 years, Maurice was challenged by then-Mayor of Oakland Jerry Brown to create something new: something that instead of assuring jobs and stability to social workers and government bureaucrats would assure jobs and security for the low-income families these professionals seek to help.
After reflecting on his own family's story of climbing out of poverty he researched the histories of immigrant, migrant, and indigenous communities in the United States who managed to move from intense poverty to a more stable middle-class standing. The common thread was that people turned to family and friends, pooled resources, and followed the example of those they knew who began to succeed. In 2001 he started the Family Independence Initiative (FIInet.org). In a novel approach to addressing poverty, Maurice shifts ownership and priority-setting to low-income working families through an approach that enables families to self-organize, support each other as they gain fiscal independence and confidence, and move into roles as active consumers of social services who deliver feedback, not passive beneficiaries.
Maurice is now a member of The White House Council for Community Solutions and an Ashoka Fellow.
Perfume Entrepreneur Extraordinaire
Mandy Aftel's 30-year career as a therapist, in Berkeley, California, with a special affinity for working with artists and authors, turned out to be a natural launch pad for her new business venture. The irony is that she was only thinking about writing a book of her own, and not about transitioning into a dynamic new career.
Aftel decided to make the main character in her book a perfumer and, like any good author, dutifully began her research. She became so enthralled with the art and history of making perfume, she registered for a class to learn how mix fragrances. She discovered a hidden talent for creating luxurious natural scents and that's how her company, Aftelier Perfumes began. Aftelier is Aftel's spin on the French word, atelier, meaning an artist's studio or workshop. She is, after all, an artist with a predisposition to love all things French - especially elegant perfumes.
She eschews synthetic essences, and hand blends each perfume from her collection of unique natural essences. In words perhaps unconsciously reflecting her background in therapy, Aftel says, "natural ingredients bring an inexplicable emotional intensity to the experience of an authentic smell and the memories it sparks and creates. Of all the senses, smell is the one most tied to vivid memories. It's the closest to the heart."
Most of her perfumes are packaged in antique French bottles, and they sell for upwards of $150 for ¼ ounce. They are sold in high-end boutique stores, such as Henri Bendel in NewYork City, and through her website at: www.aftelier.com. She also custom blends perfumes for special customers. And don't miss the "Samples" page on her site, where she says, "Because the essences used to create our perfumes are very expensive, we sell small samples."
The 62-year-old Aftel's business is booming. Vogue calls her "one of the fragrance industry's most creative thinkers, not to mention one of its most prolific talents."
She has written three new books: Essence and Alchemy: A Book of Perfume, which was translated into seven languages; Aroma, a cookbook (co-authored with chef Daniel Patterson), focuses on the essential link between food and fragrance and includes recipes for both; and Scents & Sensibilities guides the reader through the history and creation of solid perfumes.
In addition to her work with Michelin-starred chef Daniel Patterson (Coi Restaurant), she has worked with Daniel Barber (Blue Hill, Blue Hill at Stone Barns), Johnny Iuzinni (Jean Georges), and other chefs. She has conducted classes and demonstrations for vintners and sommeliers, and at the University of Southern California, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Ideo, Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, Apple, Clif Bar, the James Beard Foundation, New York University, Slow Food, London Design Festival, Esalen Institute, French Laundry Restaurant, San Francisco's Exploratorium, San Francisco Decorators Showcase and COPIA (The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts). She's appeared on CNN and the PBS TV series "Diary of a Foodie." Forbes.com named her one of the top seven bespoke perfumers in the world.
Not bad for an accidental entrepreneur!
Tech Town Genius
Randal Charlton knows what it’s like to fail and fail hard - personally and in his city, Detroit, Michigan. In his long career, he has been a life sciences journalist, tended dairy cows for a Saudi sheik, started a jazz club in Florida, consulted with a world bank, and founded several companies - a few of which failed. But Randal never let failure puncture his entrepreneurial balloon. Ripe for a new challenge in 2007, Randal, at age 67, took over Detroit’s TechTown, a business incubator on the outskirts of Wayne State University’s campus in Detroit’s Midtown district. His assignment: To raise millions of dollars in nonprofit funding, recruit legions of participating entrepreneurs and train mentors to win the war on recession.
Randal led TechTown for four years, until October 2011. When he took command, it was a nearly empty industrial building with few resources. Now 250 companies are tenants at TechTown, which helps new businesses succeed with various kinds of support, including space for lease and mentoring. Entrepreneurial culture through events and walk-in sessions, have been introduced to 8,000 Michigan residents. Some 3,000 people have attended TechTown conferences, and more than 2,200 entrepreneurs have graduated from training programs. In 2010, 14 TechTown companies received a capital infusion of more than $1.35 million.
Having accomplished so much at TechTown, Randal has now launched BOOM! The New Economy, a TechTown-affiliated venture that offers training, one-on-one mentoring, and internships to people over 50 exploring entrepreneurship and new careers.
Randal was the recipient of the 2011 Civic Ventures $100,000 Purpose Prize.
Olive Lynch's Journey
from Opera Singer to Bio-tech Entrepreneur
We found Olive's story in a blog on the remarkable OverFiftyandOutofWorkongoing multimedia project that "documents the stories and the impact of the Great Recession on jobless Americans, 50 and older. The stories that boomers tell are not only about the hardships they have faced due to joblessness, but also about their hopes and fears, their expectations and disappointments, their resilience and their dreams. Their individual stories combine into a remarkable mosaic of experiences that captures the past 50 years of seismic social and economic changes in American history. Their lives have been shaped by the Sixties, Vietnam, the civil rights movement, the decline of U.S. manufacturing, Reaganomics, corporate mergers and restructuring, outsourcing, 9/11 and globalization. Unexpected depths of courage, faith, perseverance and resilience emerge out of the lives of the boomer generation."
Olive Lynch has an eclectic work history — she trained and performed as an opera singer before becoming a business and data analyst for large corporations. When she was laid off for nine months in 2008, she explored the idea of founding her own company and researched new composting technologies. In her video, she describes the plans for her biotech startup, Green Waste Technologies, as well as the innovative technology that she plans to use to recycle food wastes and fly larvae that will convert them into biofuel and protein meal.
“I like to analyze, always have, but there’s a side of me that is creative. Like, if I’m faced with a problem, I don’t have to solve it the way everyone else does. I’ll look and say, ‘Well, let’s do it a different way.’”
At 52, Olive was a little younger than our 55+ entrepreneurs when she first started to explore entrepreneurship, but that was four years ago, and she's still navigating the regulatory shoals to launch her business. Her enthusiam and optimism are impressive!
Classical Drums and Million Dollar Violins
Two Senior Entrepreneurs Making Music and Money
Jim Glay was a music industry sales executive by day and a professional drummer at night when he suddenly lost his job in 2009. He searched for a new day job for more than a year until, feeling somewhat desperate, he finally took a part-time job selling sheet music. Then, he met Jeff Williams, a consultant who helps 50+ year olds start their own businesses. Jim asked Jeff if he thought he could turn his hobby - playing and collecting drums - into a business. It was the "collecting" that caught the consultants' attention. Over the years, when Jim spent his nights drumming, he had also amassed a collection of vintage 1960's and 1970's drums. Conservative estimates placed the value of the collection at $100,000 to $150,000.
"We're pleased to have you visit our exclusive collection of vintage drums, hardware, and catalogs, which we joyously offer under the Crash Boom Bam banner. You will find unique offerings from a private collection that spans over 60 years. These include Rogers wood Dynasonic snare drums, Ludwig COB snare drums, Slingerland Gene Krupa snare drums, and various complete kits from the golden age of American Drum manufacturers. I love the drums. I love everything about them. But most of all, I love to play them. Drums were made to be played. They're beautiful to look at in most cases, but primarily it's the sound that means everything."
Listen to Jim's video below that was created for the AARP Bulletin and you'll understand how this senior entrepreneur turned his passion into the music of his life. His signature now reads: Jim Glay, CEO and Lifelong Drummer.
Our second story features Lorin Maazel, and his million dollar violin.
In 2009, when Jim Glay was drumming, Lorin Maazel was conducting his last concerts as music director of the New York Philharmonic. That was in June and just weeks later, on July 3rd, the 79 year-old Maazel launched the first Castleton Festival with 200 singers, instrumentalists, conductors and theatrical designers at his 550-acre Virginia estate.
Maazel had built an elegant tent with a stage, orchestra pit, and seating for 250 ticket holders in the middle of a sprawling meadow. This is no ordinary tent; it is carpeted, completely air-conditioned and its portable toilets lavish. The program revolves around the Castleton Festival Orchestra and sophisticated opera productions where promising young talent performs side-by-side with seasoned star performers. The annual festival is designed to educate and develop the careers of young instrumentalists, singers and conductors.
Maazel, who is also a composer and violinist, auctioned his 1783 Guadagnini violin last November. Owned by Maestro Lorin Maazel for 66 years, this fine Italian violin by Giovanni Battista Guadagnini has been heard in numerous recordings and concerts worldwide during his long and distinguished career. “I first played this violin when I was 15,” says Maazel, “and it has been my close companion ever since.” The violin sold for $1,080,000, and the money will be used to create an endowment to assure the sustainability of his Castleton Festival.
Tickets for the 2012 festival are on sale today, and we hope the Maestro will continue to conduct music under his extraordinary tent in Virginia for many years to come.