Late-Blooming Entrepreneurs Celebrates 10th Anniversary

On December 26, 2010, I launched this blog. My first story — a one-sentence post titled “Hello World!”– wasn’t exactly a barn burner. Yet it was gratifying to click on the “publish” button and watch the post go live.

My kids thought it was pretty funny. “Look,” one of them shouted gleefully. “Mom is starting a BLOG!”

I can’t blame them for having some good-natured fun at my expense. Having never written a blog before, I didn’t know what I was doing. But I did have a vision: to create a place where I could share the inspirational stories and interesting research I unearthed as I wrote my book about 40-and-older entrepreneurs.

Over time, the blog became so much more. After I wrote this post about a Five Guys franchisee, I heard from a former work colleague I hadn’t spoken with in many years. Soon after, we met for burgers and fries at a local Five Guys restaurant. That meeting rekindled our friendship. We enjoyed several more lunches together before she passed away from cancer five years later.

I’ve also connected with other bloggers and business leaders I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Some of these connections, in turn, led to conversations about a wide range of entrepreneurial topics, from finding the right business idea to dealing with setbacks. After I wrote about late-blooming entrepreneur Steve Fredlund and his first-ever TEDx talk titled “Putting the Right Peeps in Your Jeep,” Steve invited me to be a guest on his podcast. We had a great conversation about the value of public speaking for small business owners.

From these types of exchanges, I’ve seen that late bloomers who start successful endeavors tend to be persistent. They are also optimists. Rather than seeing themselves as “too old,” they embrace the many benefits – such as life experience, knowledge and resilience — that come with starting a business at an older age.

To mark 10 years of blogging, I’m re-sharing 10 of my favorite posts. After 264 posts, it’s tough to narrow the list to just 10 — but I hope you enjoy this walk down Memory Lane.

Whether you’ve just started reading this site, or have been visiting it for a while, thank you for joining me on my blogging journey. Wishing you much success in 2021.

Lynne

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How One Couple Found a Business Idea Seven Thousand Miles from Home

Late-Blooming Mompreneur Thinks Outside the Lunchbox

Building a Business One Bike Wheel at a Time

Cookies on Call: Franny Martin’s Sweet Success

A Love for Photography Leads to a Business

How Two Friends Built a Gourmet Licorice Business Together

Cyber Security Entrepreneur Turns Her Vision into Reality

How One Dad Teaches His Kids About Entrepreneurship

From Crunching Numbers to Chopping Veggies: How a 40-Something Found Her Calling

How a 60-Year-Old Entrepreneur Crushed His First Gravel Bike Race

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5 Business Books to Read Over and Over

Photo by Dakota Corbin
on Unsplash

Each year, somewhere between 600,000 and one million books get published in the U.S. alone. With so many new titles to choose from, why would you want to re-read books that are already on your shelves?

Repetition makes things stick. Sometimes you need to read a book two or three times (or more) for its key ideas to sink in and take hold.  

You catch things you missed earlier. A standard business book is around 50,000-60,000 words, according to this blog post by ghostwriter Ginny Carter. With that many words, some details might not get noticed the first time around.   

You don’t have to start at the beginning. If you’re looking for certain information, you can choose sections or chapters to review — and understand the context — without having to re-read the whole book.    

It’s fun to re-read your favorites. Old books are like old friends. It’s enjoyable to spend time with them.

As the pandemic lockdowns continue, now is a good time to enjoy some of these favorites and learn from them again. Here are a few business books that I go back and re-read from time to time:   

Think and Grow Rich – In this book first published in 1937, author Napoleon Hill presents principles used by Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and other millionaires to become wealthy.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey presents a holistic, integrated, principle-centered approach for solving personal and professional problems. First published in 1990, it’s packed with wisdom and advice that’s still relevant today

How to Stop Worrying and Stop Living – In this book, author Dale Carnegie (probably best known for “How to Win Friends and Influence People”) presents time-tested methods for conquering worry.   

Time Tactics of Very Successful People – Written by B. Eugene Griessman, this book is concise, easy-to- read and, of course, gets right to the point. This post lists a few of the book’s tactics.

Customers for Life – Author Carl Sewell shares principles that he used to build his auto dealership into a near $1 billion business and become one the top retailers in the U.S.

Are there some business books you read over and over?  Please feel free to mention them in the comments below.

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7 Online Communities for Older Entrepreneurs

Photo by My Life Through a Lens on Unsplash

In this time of social distancing, community matters big time for those who of us who are small business owners and solopreneurs. We need to brainstorm ideas, keep learning and stay connected with others. Being part of a group helps us cope with pandemic fatigue and stay positive about the future.

Shown below is a list of online communities where aspiring or current mid-life business owners can connect with one another. While one or two of these virtual gathering places have broader missions, each offers something of value for 40-and-older entrepreneurs. So go ahead and explore. See which one(s) feel right to you.    

Your Next Chapter – Business & Life Beyond 40 Founder Angela Raspass created this Facebook community “to inspire and support women with the confidence and clarity to create their Next Chapter — a fresh story where you own and leverage the value of your unique experiences and insights, accessing the full depth of your inner resources and power, expressed through a meaningful business vision.”

Small Small Business – Founded by late-blooming entrepreneur Steve Fredlund, this Facebook group believes “thriving small, small businesses are the key to revitalizing our communities.” Small Small Business seeks to connect owners, community leaders, experts and anyone else who wants to be part of a small, small business revolution.

The Transition Network — An inclusive community of professional women, 50 and forward, whose changing life situations lead them to seek new connections, resources and opportunities. Through small group interactions, programs and workshops, members inspire and support each other to continue a life of learning, engagement and leadership in the world.

Celebrating Life After 50 – While this Meetup’s roots are in in St. Louis, its virtual events draw participants from all over. The group’s mission is to build a lively, dynamic community of people who are leaving traditional work to pursue their passions and life-long dreams. 

The Encore Network – Created by Encore.org, this LinkedIn group describes itself as “a coalition of leaders and organizations who view longer lives as an asset.” The Encore Network connects members to help them learn, grow, tap their talents and impact their communities.

GetSetUp – This peer-to-peer learning community enables older adults to learn a wide range of skills. Retired educators teach the classes, which are small, relaxed and a great setting to meet new people. Class offerings include “Building Your First Website,” “Share Your Thoughts in a Podcast,” and “How to Set Up a Store on Ebay,” to give a few examples.

Baby Boomer Business Owners – Discussion topics for this LinkedIn community include succession planning, strategies for business exits, working with multi-generations, retirement planning and other challenges faced by older entrepreneurs.

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From Academic to Food Entrepreneur: Pat Brown’s Impossible Journey

Impossible Foods founder Pat Brown believes “you have to bet on your own success.”

Why would a tenured professor in his late 50s leave a job he loved to start a company he never intended to create? Meet Pat Brown, who did just that.

By any measure, Brown is a smart guy. He has three degrees, including an M.D. and a Ph.D in Biochemistry, from the University of Chicago. He’s a world-renowned geneticist whose resume includes stints as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator and a professor of biochemistry at Stanford University’s School of Medicine.

As he neared his 60th birthday, Brown reached a crossroads that’s familiar to many of us who have been in the workforce for a long time. He pondered two questions.

How should he spend the rest of his career?

What could he do to make the world a better place?

The answers came during an 18-month sabbatical from his positions at HHMI and Stanford. Brown concluded that the world’s biggest environmental problem was the use of animals to produce food.

The best way to reduce this problem, he reasoned, was to find a way to make delicious, affordable meat and dairy products directly from plants. That solution meant competing in the marketplace and starting a business, even though he never planned to become an entrepreneur.

Brown left Stanford and, in 2011, launched Impossible Foods. Its first creation was the Impossible Burger, made entirely from plants but with a taste geared toward people who love ground beef. In January 2020, the Redwood City, California-based company added two more products: Impossible Pork and Impossible Sausage.

Today, Brown’s priorities are different than the ones he had earlier in his career.

“If I would have realized how catastrophic the use of animals in the food system was when I was in my 20s, instead of going into biomedical research, I would have gone right to working on this problem,” he told Business Insider.

While Brown’s success may be extraordinary, he follows certain fundamentals that any entrepreneur can apply. He’s honest about his capabilities. He hires well. And he doesn’t place limits on himself.

“You have to bet on your own success,” he says.

You can learn more about Pat Brown and his journey by listening to this NPR interview.

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Why Volunteering is a Good Thing for Entrepreneurs – Part Two

In January, I wrote this post about the many benefits that entrepreneurs gain from volunteering. Today’s post adds to this theme by sharing a recent interview conducted by Steve Gladis, Ph.D., a leadership speaker and executive coach based in Fairfax, Virginia.

Gladis’ guest is Len Forkas, who started both a company and a nonprofit in his 40s (you can learn more about his entrepreneurial journey from this post). In the interview, Forkas discusses how his upbringing shaped his views about volunteer work, the role it played to  help him achieve his goals, and the leadership skills he learned from this experience.

Here’s the video for those who might like to take a look.

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The Benefits of Trying Something New

Competing online in District 29 Toastmasters’ Tall Tales contest

Earlier this year, I decided to try my hand at a tall tales speech contest. It was a decision made with a touch of trepidation.

I had never given a tall tale before. Heck, I wasn’t sure what it was — but it sounded like fun. As someone who usually gives professional presentations, I was ready for a change.

The 2020 tall tales event was one of four speech contests held by District 29 of Toastmasters International, which teaches communications and leadership skills. After deciding to compete, I attended a workshop on the type of public speaking I was about to attempt.

A tall tale, I learned, is a story with a highly-exaggerated and improbable plot. Ideally, the presenter sets the scene, defines the main characters and overall mood, creates a problem and devises a solution. Essential elements include sarcasm, puns, slapstick or other forms of humor. The most successful tall tale speeches often include a funny costume and a prop or two.

With that guidance in mind, I began crafting a 3-5 minute tale for the competition. The result was “Aunt Lulu’s True Love,” a story about my fictitious 7 foot, 2-inch aunt who joins the military and meets a man who appears to be equally tall. After Lulu learns her love interest wears 24-inch platform shoes, the couple decides to get married anyway, recognizing that height doesn’t matter when it comes to happy relationships.

To my surprise, Aunt Lulu and I won at the Club, Area and Division levels of the contest. We went all the way to the District level – and won there, too.

What did I take away from this experience? It was indeed fun, despite the fact that COVID-19 forced the tall tales contest to be conducted via video conferencing.

For me, the contest also reaffirmed that a willingness to try something new — and go out on a limb — usually reaps benefits. Here are some of them:

You gain confidence. Even if the new activity doesn’t pan out, you grow just by getting out of your comfort zone.

It sparks creativity. A change stimulates your thinking and helps you see things in a new way.

You make new contacts. Exploring a new endeavor puts you in touch with a different circle of people. Since you share a common interest, some of these new acquaintances may become friends – or even business partners, depending upon the interest.

You may surprise yourself. A new activity can unearth a previously undiscovered talent or aptitude that lies within you.

As demonstrated by countless late-blooming entrepreneurs (and this teller of tall tales), skills can be acquired at any age if you put in the time to learn them.

When a new interest beckons, answer. You’re never too old to try something new.

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How to Find the Right Peeps for Your Business

By Lynne Beverly Strang, Late-Blooming Entrepreneurs

Steve Fredlund (center) with some of his peeps

In March, Steve Fredlund drove from his home in Minnesota to give a talk at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. But this wasn’t just any presentation. It was a TEDx talk, a locally-organized event where speakers share unique ideas that become globally accessible.

Although COVID-19 forced Fredlund to speak in front of an empty auditorium, determination mixed with nervous energy carried him through. “It was the most important talk of my life,” he says.

Fredlund’s talk — “Putting the Right Peeps in Your Jeep” — recounts the exhilarating moment when he and two friends spot a rare black rhino during a jeep safari in the Maasai Mara, a national game reserve in east Africa. His message: Shared passion increases your impact, deepens your relationships and magnifies the things you already care about.

It’s a principle that has helped him transition from a 30-year career as an actuary to the founder of two businesses. One, Steve Fredlund Coaching, offers coaching, consulting, speaking and writing support primarily for small businesses and nonprofits. The other, RecPoker, provides a podcast, coaching, online games and other services for recreational poker players (more on this later).

Fredlund, who turned 50 in April, describes his entrepreneurial journey as “an evolving vision” that’s been years in the making. Along the way, he’s dabbled in various initiatives, such as co-founding a nonprofit that helps communities in northern Rwanda. But it wasn’t until 2018 when he finally made the leap to full-time entrepreneurship.

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“The right peeps will be different for each business. For me, the key traits are passion, chemistry, character, self-awareness, humility and a willingness to learn.”— Steve Fredlund

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That year, he was working in the human resources department of an insurance company. Each day, he headed off to a cubicle and a vast room crowded with coworkers who clearly weren’t the right peeps. The situation filled him with anxiety.

“One morning before work, I found myself weeping as I sat in my car in the company parking lot,” he recalls. “I decided I couldn’t do this anymore.” At age 48, he left the corporate world to venture out on his own.

Fredlund started with the intent of becoming an actuarial consultant, registering with several freelance sites. One listing caught the eye of a CEO, who called Fredlund to discuss his credentials. “Why not go into business coaching?” the CEO asked.

That suggestion planted a seed and found its way into both of Fredlund’s businesses. RecPoker is an offshoot of his love for recreational poker, a hobby discovered when he and a couple of friends needed a family-friendly activity to do with their kids. He now has a business partner: Jim Reid, a fellow poker aficionado and an established small business owner who lives near Toronto.

Fredlund enjoying a favorite activity

“I wanted to work with Jim because he shares my passion for the game of poker,” says Fredlund. “He’s also logical, detail-oriented and experienced in business ownership.”

For entrepreneurs, success becomes more likely when your jeep has the right peeps. But how do you find them?

“It’s important to have clarity of mission,” says Fredlund. “What are you trying to do and how do you want to do it? What is your main goal? If it’s to earn money, you’ll probably want a different set of peeps than if the primary goal is self-fulfillment.”

His other tips to find good people:

Look for the right chemistry. “The people I choose are people I want to hang out with outside of work.”

Don’t expect good partners to materialize overnight. “You have to be discerning and patient.”

Ask “scenario” questions. “When I met with Jim, I started with, ‘What would excite you? What would you be passionate about?” says Fredlund. “I like to ask questions that get to the heart of the issue without asking the question directly.”

Remember that one size doesn’t fit all. “The right peeps will be different for each business. For me, the key traits are passion, chemistry, character, self-awareness, humility and a willingness to learn.”

Like most businesses, RecPoker wants to help its customers endure the pandemic. In March, the site began hosting a “Social Distancing Series” consisting of free, online recreational poker tournaments each night. “It’s tons of fun,” Fredlund says, “And a great way to make new friends and maintain a sense of community when it matters the most.”

He’s also made adjustments to his consulting practice, replacing in-person communication with Zoom to give talks and conduct webinars.

“COVID-19 hasn’t altered my goal – but it has altered the execution of my business and how I am able to accomplish my goal,” says Fredlund. “My vision is still my vision: to help others live their most fulfilling lives.”

And to do it with the right peeps, of course.

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Amid COVID-19, These Companies Stay True to Their 40-and-Older Founders

Mary Kay Ash greets a group of admirers

People who start businesses later in life tend to be fanatics about customer service. It isn’t hard to figure out why. When you’ve been a customer yourself for a few decades, you develop an appreciation for exceptional service – and learn how to take care of your own customers.

These late-blooming entrepreneurs cultivate a culture and systems based upon their dedication to service. In larger organizations, this philosophy gets passed on to the next generation of team members. And then to the next.

Maybe this explains why several iconic companies founded by 4o-and-older entrepreneurs are stepping up during COVID-19. You can read about some these companies below. Their founders aren’t with us any longer – but if they were, they would be proud of their companies’ efforts to help their employees, customers and communities during a time of need.

Mary Kay — The cosmetics company is dedicating part of its global supply chain and manufacturing capabilities to producing hand sanitizer. The first products off the line will be for donation to those on the front lines addressing the pandemic. Mary Kay’s founder is Mary Kay Ash, who started the company when she was 45 years old.

McDonald’s – Participating locations are giving away free Thank You meals to first responders and health care workers until May 5. Sixty five years ago, founder Ray Kroc opened his first McDonald’s franchise when he was 52 years old.

Walmart – The retail giant has a partnership with Nextdoor, a neighborhood social networking service, to make it easier for neighbors to help each other during the pandemic. Under the “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” initiative, Nextdoor members can request assistance – or offer to help a neighbor — with shopping for essential items at Walmart. Sam Walton opened his first Walmart when he was in his mid-40s.

Ford Motor Company – So far, the auto manufacturer has shipped more than 5 million face shields from its subsidiary, Troy Design and Manufacturing. TDM, which normally makes metal stamped parts for prototype vehicles, transitioned its mission to address the shortage of personal protective equipment needed to fight COVID-19. Henry Ford launched his auto company when he was 40.

Sperry – Best known for its deck shoes, Sperry is donating to the Two Ten Footwear Foundation, a nonprofit providing emergency financial assistance to footwear employees facing difficult times due to COVID-19. Sperry also created a social media platform intended to lift spirits by providing daily self-care to relieve stress. Sperry’s creator is Paul A. Sperry, a life-long sailor who spent years trying to perfect a non-slip shoe – and finally found a way at age 40.

KFC – The restaurant chain is sending one million pieces of chicken to KFC restaurants across the country, earmarked specifically to support local communities in need during COVID-19.  KFC’s founder is one of the business world’s best-known late bloomers: Colonel Sanders, who launched his company when he was well into his 60s.

Gillette – As part of a multi-faceted effort, Gillette is donating more than one million razors to healthcare workers and first responders worldwide. It’s also producing and donating 100,000 face shields to Massachusetts healthcare organizations. King C. Gillette was 48 when his company began selling its safety razor in 1903.

As the pandemic wears on, it’s heartening to see both companies and individuals doing what they can to help others. Stay strong, everyone.

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New to Video Conferencing? These Tips Might Help

Photo by Van Tay Media on Unsplash

As concerns related to COVID-19 intensify, so are efforts to encourage “social distancing.” This, in turn, is fueling interest in video conferencing, which allows users in different locations to see and talk with each other in real time.

In the past, I wasn’t a big fan of video conferencing, in part because the web camera perched on top of my computer screen never seemed to stay put. Now, computers and phones come equipped with built-in cameras and microphones, making the conferencing process much more streamlined.

Most video conferencing software is fairly easy to use, even for those of us who are not tech people. If you are new to this form of communication, here are a few tips to help you get started.

Take advantage of free options. Many video conferencing choices exist for those who want to host meetings regularly. Some platforms offer a free trial, or a free meeting plan for personal use. The no-fee option usually limits the number of participants and/or the length of meetings – but may be just fine for your purposes. Here’s one article that compares some of the video conferencing platforms out there.

Practice in advance. Schedule a test session with a friend or family member. This will teach you how to set up a meeting and notify participants in addition to giving you the opportunity to try different features.

Log on 5-10 minutes early. Give yourself a few minutes in advance to test the A/V and adjust your settings, if necessary. An early arrival also increases the odds of the meeting starting on time.

Use the mute button. A siren from an emergency vehicle, a barking dog, a cough or a sneeze – these and other sounds can pop up and cause distractions. It’s usually best to put yourself on mute whenever you aren’t talking.

Opt for natural lighting, when possible. Position your light sources in front of you, so your face is clearly visible.

Be aware of your surroundings. If your work space has clutter and/or messy stacks of papers, put them out of sight (or neaten them up a bit). A neutral, light-colored wall behind you usually works well.

Make eye contact. I was reminded why this matters after watching a recording of myself during a video meeting. As I took notes, my downcast eyes were on a notepad that wasn’t visible to others – which made me look like I was sleeping. The same effect can result from looking down to read text messages or browse social media on a phone (another reason to put it away during a meeting).

One more thought: Camera-shy people may be tempted to use the audio-only option to participate in an online meeting. If that sounds like you, here’s something to consider: video is what lets us feel like we’re sitting in the same room with our coworkers, customers, friends and other people we care about. This visual connection can lift our spirits and help us stay positive during a difficult time.

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8 Tips to Build Your Network When You’re Pressed for Time

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

For entrepreneurs, networking should be a constant process. But how can you find time to cultivate new relationships — and retain existing ones — when you’re busy running a business, taking care of family matters and fulfilling other commitments? Here are some ideas to consider:

1) Meet first thing in the morning. Early morning get-togethers tend to end on time since people usually have to get to the office, or move on to other meetings. Bonus suggestion: Stick to coffee only, so you aren’t waiting for a slow breakfast order to arrive.

2) Be selective. Sometimes people accept invitations to business or social events out of habit or because “everyone else is going.” Unless you absolutely have to endure them, avoid events that you know are a waste of time. Learn to say no.

3) Do some homework. Review the program and obtain an attendance list before the event. By the time you arrive, you’ll already know the expected timetable, which sessions you want to attend, and who you’d most like to meet.

4) Join a LinkedIn group (or two). These virtual forums provide a way to meet like-minded professionals without leaving your office. Limit your participation to groups that are well-managed, active and relevant to your business.

5) Use video conferencing. Why not follow up with a prospective client or someone else you’ve just met by scheduling a conversation on Skype or Zoom? You can meet face-to-face without having to spend time sitting in traffic.

6) Sit next to someone new. Whenever you attend events that are part of your regular routine – such as a meeting of your homeowners association or back-to-school night at your child’s school – don’t sit with people you already know. Step out of your comfort zone and choose a seat next to an unfamiliar face. You might make a new contact by the end of the meeting.

7) Eat with others. Maybe you’re already planning to grab a takeout lunch at your favorite deli. If that’s the case, invite a supplier or an employee you don’t know well to come along. Even if you’re eating that sandwich in the office, the time spent walking to and from the deli, and standing in line, provides an opportunity to chat and get know someone better.

8) Stay in the present. Get the most out of every single networking event you do attend by paying attention during one-on-one conversations. That means putting away your phone, which is sometimes easier said than done.

Know of any other time-efficient networking tips to add to this list? Please feel free to mention them below.

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