Life is Sweet for this 60-Something Entrepreneur

When Carolyn Hartz of Perth, Australia started her business 14 years ago, she didn’t exactly fit the mold of an entrepreneur. She had no business experience. She had been out of the workforce for 25 years raising a family. She had no idea how to send an email or turn on a computer.

On top of everything else, she was 55 years old.

What she did have, however, was confidence, optimism, drive and a strong work ethic.  Ultimately, those personality traits and her passion trumped her initial lack of business know-how.

Today, Hartz is the exclusive Australian distributor of xylitol, a natural sweetener that tastes and looks like sugar. Her company is SweetLife, which offers baking mixes, jams, dental care items, a nasal sinus spray and other products made with xylitol.

As explained in this Sydney Morning Herald article, Hartz began educating herself on sugar-free eating after receiving a diagnosis of pre-diabetes. In 2000, she accompanied her husband to a conference in New York and met a woman who told her about xylitol.

After that chance meeting, Hartz contacted the U.S.-based company that sold xylitol and made a deal. She brought the first xylitol shipment to Australia in 2002. It sold out within three months. From there, SweetLife started growing and hasn’t looked back.

The journey hasn’t been easy, however. Hartz has had her challenges, including a huge learning curve.  She took a computer course and a three-year-online business course while running her business.

“I was often at my home desk from 7:00 am to 2:00 am at least five days a week and many weekends. I was truly out of my comfort zone, but had little time to think about it. Everything was challenging, but also exciting. I was on a mission,” says Hartz in this article.

Last October, Hartz released a book, Sugar Free Baking, in response to customer demand for recipes. Her main reason for starting the business wasn’t to make a lot of money. It was to help others who, like herself, forgo sugar but still want to enjoy the sweet things in life.

Now in her late 60s, Hartz sees her age as just a number.

“It is true that you reach a point in life – usually in your 40s – when there are two ways you can go,” she says in the Herald article.  “You can go one way, or you can choose to own your own life, be positive and choose that path.”

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Nine Business Book Takeaways That Can Help Your Startup

Whether you’re new to entrepreneurship or been at it for a while, these ideas from noted business books can help you reach your goals:

1) Don’t try to win by competing in an already crowded market space. Create an uncontested new market space that makes the competition irrelevant. — Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim

2) An effective advertisement depends upon using the right appeal. The wrong advertising can actually reduce the sales of a product. – Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy

3) A critical question is not whether you’ll have luck. It’s what you do with the luck that you get. Great by Choice by Jim Collins

4) Thinking big can get you somewhere. But combine it with thinking long and you have a recipe for greatness. – Never Too Late to be Great by Tom Butler-Bowdon

5) When we resist something, it can seem harder than it really is. But when you decide to stop dreading a chore and focus on getting it done, it won’t seem nearly as painful. – The Nonfiction Book Marketing Plan by Stephanie Chandler

6) If you excel in a particular area and can channel it into a business, chances are you are going to do it better than your competition. – The Pampered Chef by Doris Christopher

7) Followers want someone who will tell them the truth, be with them when the going gets tough, give them optimism and hope in the future, and keep the ship on even keel. – Positive Leadership: The Game Changer at Work by Steve Gladis, Ph.D.

8) Anytime you’re tempted to upsell someone, stop what you’re doing and “upserve” instead. Don’t try to increase what they can do for you. Elevate what you can do for them.  – To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel Pink

9) Building a great business isn’t about the destination. Enjoy the journey. You’ll be sorely disappointed if you’re racing to get to the end. – Traction by Gino Wickman

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From Secretary to Handywoman

Jo Ellen Soesbee used to spend her days answering phones and filing papers. Now she sports a hard hat and wields a power drill.

Soesbee, 58, is the owner of the ToolBox TomGirl, which offers home and business repair services as well as facility maintenance services. She opened her Pasadena, Maryland-based business in 2013.

As reported in this Costco Connection article, Soesbee was a secretary for over 20 years. She stumbled upon her passion for home improvement while taking a college class with an assignment to write a business plan. Hers was about a handyman business that would handle small projects and offer other hard-to find services.

The business plan led Soesbee to launch her first company, Reliable Repairs, in 2004. Eight year later, when Soesbee and her husband went their separate ways, Reliable Repairs closed and ToolBox TomGirl was born.

Soesbee also teaches at Anne Arundel Community College where she is on the adjunct faculty for the Women’s Institute. Her LinkedIn page points out that Do-It-Yourself (DIY) projects aren’t just for guys. Says the ToolBox TomGirl: “Women are just a capable and it is my quest is to empower women to do things around their homes themselves.”

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Professional Football Players Who Became Entrepreneurs

Super Bowl Sunday is just around the corner — which got me thinking about National Football League players who start businesses later in life.  Here’s a look at some of them:

Mike Lodish, Pat’s Gourmet – Lodish, who played in six Super Bowls (four with the Buffalo Bills, two with Denver Broncos), launched his candy business in 2011. The 48-year-old’s company makes peanut brittle from his mother’s recipe.

Dan Marino and Damon Huard, Passing Time winery – The two quarterbacks were Miami Dolphins teammates. Now they’ve teamed up to produce great wine. Marino, 54, and Huard, 42, thought about the idea of a winery for 15 years before finally launching Passing Time in 2014.

Ron Jaworski, Ron Jaworski Golf Management – Jaworski was a quarterback for several teams during his NFL days. Now he has a company that manages golf courses in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Jaworoski, 64, also is an NFL analyst on ESPN.

Al “Bubba” Baker, Bubba’s Q World Famous Bar-B-Que & Catering – For a long time, Baker dreamed of national distribution for his patented De-Boned Baby Back Rib Steaks. In 2013, the former Cleveland Browns defensive lineman – who’s now 59 — took a big step toward that goal when he appeared on “Shark Tank” and struck a deal with FUBU clothing line founder Daymond John.

John Elway, multiple businesses – Elway spent his entire career with the Denver Broncos before retiring at age 38. He now serves as the team’s executive vice present of football operations. He also owns or co-owns a couple of car dealerships and has a couple of steakhouses.

Mark Moseley, Five Guys franchise owner – Moseley, a former Washington Redskins kicker, was the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1982. After football, Moseley went into real estate and later launched Mark Moseley’s Travel, Mark Moseley’s Famous Fries and other business enterprises. Now 67, Moseley owns several Five Guys Burgers and Fries franchises and serves as the restaurant chain’s Director of Franchise Development.

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Eight Notable Quotes from 2015

Here are eight quotes from posts that appeared on this blog last year. I hope they provide a useful perspective as you set goals for 2016.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy New Year —

Lynne

*********************

1) “I’m no longer afraid to put myself out there as the worst thing that can happen is I get told ‘no.’ I’ve learned not to take that as a personal rejection, which I would have in my younger years. Now, ‘no’ just means to try again.” — Samantha Judd, founder, Flip Lid Lunchbox

2) “The thing I’ve learned most about being an entrepreneur is to not be afraid to fail…I make 10 mistakes practically before I get out of bed every morning, and I’ve learned much more from my failings than I have from my successes in my life.” – LeVar Burton, co-founder of RRKidz and one-time host of PBS’ “Reading Rainbow” television program

3) “When you wake up and dread going to work, thinking, ‘I can’t do this for another second,’ it’s time to change.” – Andrew Brill, sportscaster (Brill interned for WABC-TV New York when he was in his 40s)

4) “You’ve always seen me as a successful businessman and now you’ve seen me on my butt. Now you’re going to see how I get back up.” – George Zimmer, founder, zTailors Generation Tux and Men’s Warehouse (Zimmer left the men’s clothing retailer in 2013)

5) “Your forties are the moment when you start to become aware. It’s just the beginning. I’ve always believed that to confirm your way of thinking takes time. It takes experimenting. You have to confront different chapters of your life.” — Giorgio Armani, fashion designer and founder of the Armani business empire

6) “I was an overnight success alright, but 30 years is a long, long night.” – Ray Kroc, creator of the McDonald’s hamburger chain

7) “Being in a creative industry, it’s quite natural that one comes up with harebrained ideas. And I have come up with a few in my time. I started looking at this amazing world of ours with a different lens.” – Megan Sanders, Pineapple Heads children’s hair care products

8) “Average people place blame. Successful people take responsibility.” – Craig Valentine, 1999 Toastmasters International Public Speaking Champion

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A Men’s Clothing CEO Gets Fired – And Starts Two Businesses

At age 66, George Zimmer, the founder of Men’s Wearhouse, has two new businesses.

One is zTailors where customers can rent tuxedos online and get them delivered to their homes. On its website, the company says it “gives everyone an opportunity to look their best with just a tap of their smartphone.”

The other business is Generation Tux, an online rental service for tuxedos and suits. Customers shop online via the GenTux Studio, enter measurements and receive their items. After the event, everything goes back in the shipping box and returned.

As reported in this MarketWatch article, the two businesses are a good fit for Zimmer, who opened the first Men’s Wearhouse more than 40 years ago. Zimmer’s fame arose from the clothing retailer’s commercials and his baritone-voiced delivery of its tagline: “You’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it.”

Zimmer and Men’s Wearhouse parted ways in 2013. On the day he was fired, Zimmer had a heart-to-heart talk with his family over dinner.

“You’ve always seen me as a successful businessman and now you’ve seen me on my butt,” he said. “Now you’re going to see how I get back up.”

With zTailors and Generation Tux, Zimmer has found a way to combine his clothing experience with the Internet – and have fun at the same time. On New Year’s Eve, he will marry a couple in New York Times Square. Generation Tux will be the official tuxedo for the Big Apple’s annual ball-dropping event.

Apparently, retirement isn’t in the cards for George Zimmer, described by the Generation Tux website as “an entrepreneur, business leader and a bit of a hippie.” Says Zimmer: “If you’re fortunate to do something you love, retiring is punishment.” That may be a bit extreme but we get the idea.

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How One Entrepreneur’s Health Scare Created a New Business

By Lynne Strang, Late Blooming Entrepreneurs

YadaBags Inventor Janet Goodman with her husband, Fred

YadaBags Inventor Janet Goodman with her husband, Fred

Sometimes a life-changing event leads  people to start a new mission. That’s what happened to Janet Goodman five years ago.

Goodman woke up one morning with blurry vision and unquenchable thirst. Her doctor ran some tests. The results showed she had type 1 diabetes.

The news came as a shock. Type 1, previously known as juvenile diabetes, is usually associated with children and young adults. Goodman was 61 at the time. She also is thin, follows a healthy diet, works out six times a week and has no family history of diabetes.

“I was really upset,” said Goodman, a psychologist and business coach based near Cleveland, Ohio. “For a month, I was on the verge of tears. I went out and bought 15 books to educate myself.”

She also began looking online for something to carry the diabetes equipment she now needed to keep close at hand. The search proved to be frustrating. Medical bags were too drab. Oversized purses required a search-and-rescue mission.

From Concept to Product

Since she knew how to sew, Goodman decided to create her own diabetes carryall — one with style, fun and function. After a few attempts, the first yadaBag prototype was born.

“It made me feel better. You can’t have a depressed psychologist,” she laughed.

The product’s name comes from Seinfeld, the TV sitcom credited with the “yada, yada” phrase that’s become part of everyday lexicon. YadaBags’ Classic Purse has ten custom compartments to organize a diabetes glucose monitor, test strips, insulin, lancets — yada, yada everything.

Goodman founded her business in July 2011. Next came over three years of market research and design modifications to go from concept to product. During that time, she investigated 52 manufacturers before selecting a facility in New York City to produce the first round of bags. In December 2014, she had her first official yadaBag to sell.

To accommodate different budgets and users, yadaBags will soon introduce several new designs produced by a manufacturer in Portland, Oregon. Among the additions: a girls mini-bag, a boys backpack with a snap-in case and an organizer case for use inside a larger bag.

Key Business Ingredients

Several factors positioned Goodman to launch yadaBags. She’s a careful money manager and understands the startup process from her work as a business coach. She comes from an entrepreneurial household (her husband started a software company for real estate property managers).

From those endeavors, she knows the importance of a business plan. The one she wrote for yadaBags was 35 pages and included a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis. “It helps me make decisions,” she said.

She’s also benefited from being in the right place at the right time. While attending a conference sponsored by Inc. magazine, Goodman met a television producer who became interested in her story. That connection eventually led to an appearance on MSNBC’s Your Business.

Like many late bloomers, Goodman has different priorities than she did when she was younger.

“In my 20s and 30s, psychology was my focus,” she said. “At an older age, I want to have income, flexibility and the ability to visit my three grown kids. YadaBags is becoming my 24-7 business.”

Goodman, who’s now 66, has ambitious plans for her company. She wants to branch into new industries and produce custom-designed bags for visiting nurses, seniors and people who are infirmed.

“My business is more than creating bags to sell,” she said. “It’s about helping people. It’s about adding fun and function to a person’s life, a different way to deal with the emotions surrounding chronic disease.”

Tips for Entrepreneurs

None of this will be easy but the inventor of yadaBags isn’t deterred. “You have to be willing to be discouraged and to do it anyway,” she said.

Any other advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

“I tell people to read [Michael Gerber’s] The-E-Myth,” she said. Her other recommendations:

  • Be willing to pivot and change direction.
  • Have a clear vision. If you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t get there.
  • Be open to feedback. Don’t be too entrenched.

“You have to be hungry,” she added. “And really want it.”

November is National Diabetes Month. Visit the American Diabetes Association and JDRF websites to learn more about diabetes.

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