We baby boomers aren’t too old to start our own businesses and be entrepreneurs, according to reporter Mary Garrigan of the Rapid City Journal.
Connie Royer, 58, has worked as a waitress since she was 14. But concerns about job security in the food-service industry recently led her to decide to become her own boss.
“This way, I know I’ve got a job,” she said of opening Connie’s Place, a Black Hawk (South Dakota) cafe, 14 months ago.
“I’ve worked in every restaurant in Black Hawk,” Royer said, learning all sides of the food-service business. That left her well-prepared to run her own cafe, she said, which is open for breakfast and lunch six days a week, and for a prime-rib dinner on Fridays.
While she’s gained control of the stress of constantly changing bosses, she is putting in more hours as an owner than she did as an employee.
“I work more now,” she said, but would still recommend being your own boss to other Baby Boomers.
Website offers help
It was that same sentiment that prompted Mike Kiley of Bloomington, Ill., to found BNBoomer.com with that thought in mind. The 54-year-old’s website helps those in the baby boomer generation start their own businesses, mostly out of their homes, and market them regionally.
Almost all of the 50 listed on the site are one-man or one-woman shops, representing everything from interior decorators and cleaning services to someone who gives fishing lessons and another who forges handmade knives.
The social network
Chuck Campbell retired from a longtime career as a ceramic tile installer 10 years ago and opened Charlie’s Hot Dogs at Wells Fargo Bank.
Working just 3 hours a day when the weather is nice, he says the hot dog stand is a great way to supplement his retirement income as well as his social connections.
“All of my customers are repeat customers,” he said. “I do it for the friends, too.”
Going into business for oneself can be difficult and costly in a time when standing out from the crowd of other self-starters is so hard.
“As corny as it sounds, it’s about helping other people,” Kiley said. “This (type of income) is often supplemental, and so they don’t want to be putting too much effort into it. They don’t need the hours and the stress of that later in life.”
All the businesses are headed by baby boomers. Members pay a $99 one-time fee to join, with a $10 per month charge planned to be phased in as the site begins to get more reliable exposure, said Kiley, who launched the endeavor in August.
Boomers get a hand starting their new venture, and website visitors get access to reputable, local services for specialized tasks, said Kiley, who runs Mike’s Glass and Ceramic Cooktop Cleaning. For $39, he’ll clean those stubbornly dirty kitchen surfaces when he’s not working his day job at State Farm. It’s less about the money than about the feeling of accomplishment he gets from finishing something after a corporate career of working on long projects where he doesn’t always see the conclusion, he said.
Art Handel spent 43 years traveling a five-state region as a field representative for the American Hereford Association.
When he retired from that job, he opted to turn his specialized knowledge base into a successful second career as a cattle buyer for clients. He’s also the co-owner of a video production company for online livestock sales.
At 65, Handel wasn’t interested in retirement. “I would have driven my wife crazy, and probably myself crazy before that,” he said.
Today, he travels all across the U.S. and Canada, works nearly fulltime and has no plans to quit.
“I so enjoy working with the people that I work with,” he said.
A boost to others
The website has given a boost to Bloomington Wellness Center Inc., a chiropractic clinic Julie Salzbrunn has run since January 2009. Salzbrunn, 52, said BNBoomer has kept new business coming her way and put her in touch with people who have fresh ideas on how to run a small enterprise.
“For me, it’s been very valuable,” she said. “I’m getting great referrals and I’m meeting like-minded individuals who … have got goals and are teaching them.”
Becky Petta, of Bloomington, owner of Dust-B-Gone, cleans residences and commercial offices. The 61-year-old worked in property management and retail management throughout her career, but there came a time to move on, so she began cleaning professionally in August 2010.
In addition to the networking opportunities, which Petta said have garnered her additional business, it’s also been a chance to connect with like-minded individuals.
“Most of the people (on bnboomer.com) are self-employed and have left other jobs, or they’ve been downsized, their (former) companies have closed, and so they found work in what they enjoy doing and what they’re good at,” she said.
The freedom to take her own jobs and set her own hours also has helped Petta better manage family events. And, she’s fulfilling a longtime goal.
“I’ve always wanted to operate my own business,” she said. “I enjoy being my own boss.”
(Story used with permission and appreciation of the Rapid City Journal.)