By Lynne Strang, Late Blooming Entrepreneurs
Art Koff likes to play golf. But it wasn’t how he wanted to spend all his time when he retired eight years ago from an advertising career that spanned almost 40 years.
During the last years in his career, Koff had begun researching the use of Internet marketing to reach older Americans, a new area at the time. He found no websites, other than one hosted by AARP, that were directed to this market.
As a senior himself, Koff wasn’t satisfied with his research findings. So when he retired in 2003, he created his own website and gave it a memorable name: RetiredBrains.com.
At the beginning, the site mostly offered links to places providing detailed information about Social Security, Medicare and other topics of interest to seniors. Later, it expanded to include a free job board to connect employers with older workers.
Today, Chicago-based RetiredBrains.com bills itself as “the premier destination for retirees, people planning their retirement and Americans caring for or having responsibility for older family members.”
“Older entrepreneurs have experienced a number of failures and have learned how to cope with them. Usually, they are able to get financing more easily because they have an established record.” – Art Koff, RetiredBrains.com
Koff, now 75 years old, remains active with the site. On a typical day, he receives around 200 emails from website visitors. A few years ago, he wrote a book, Invent Your Retirement: Resources for the Good Life, which some employers use to help their workers transition to retirement.
While two business partners oversee the website’s technical and back office functions, Koff generates almost all of its content. The site averages 9 ½ to 10 page views per visit, with 25 percent of its traffic consisting of repeat visitors. On some days, RetiredBrains.com gets as many as 20,000 visitors, depending upon publicity and other factors.
Since the recession, RetiredBrains.com has had more visitors to its section titled Start Your Own Business. Seniors who go this route may not have the same technology skills and energy levels as younger entrepreneurs, but they have certain advantages, said Koff.
“Older entrepreneurs have experienced a number of failures and have learned how to cope with them,” he said. “Usually, they are able to get financing more easily because they have an established record.”
Koff recommends aspiring business owners work for someone else in the same industry first, then move slowly once they go out on their own.
“Everyone makes mistakes at the beginning. If you start small, the mistakes are not likely to be expensive ones,” he said.
For RetiredBrains.com, one early mistake was paying outside programmers to update the website, a costly and time-consuming process. Now, Koff uses a system that allows him make the changes himself.
“I feel I am providing information to older Americans which they can’t find anywhere else,” he said. As examples, he points to the site’s first-hand account from a stroke victim who is also a writer and a section on grief and loss.
What’s especially rewarding, said Koff, is when RetiredBrains.com visitors thank him for the practical, easily understood information posted to the site. In the future, he may add a blogging section where seniors facing similar challenges can share their successes and failures.
“At my age, it is difficult to project five years from now, since I’ll be in my 80s,” he said. “But I hope RetiredBrains.com expands its content and becomes even more interactive.”
In the meantime, Koff continues to personify his website’s goal of helping people achieve a fulfilling retirement. When he isn’t working, he exercises at a gym and plays tennis on occasion.
And he still works on his golf game, which isn’t too shabby. He had a hole in one last August.