How a Late Bloomer Created the World’s Largest Burger Chain

One of the best-known late-blooming entrepreneurs is Ray Kroc, creator of the McDonald’s fast-food chain. This month marks the 60th anniversary of when Kroc opened his first McDonald’s franchise in Des Plaines, Illinois back in April 1955. He was 52 years old.

Time magazine recently retold the Ray Kroc story. Before McDonald’s, Kroc was a salesman for 34 years. For half of that time, he sold paper cups to Dairy Queen, Howard Johnson’s and other fast food retailers. The other half was spent selling a machine that could mix five milkshakes simultaneously.

When two brothers bought eight of the “Multi mixers” for their small hamburger chain in California, Kroc went there to check out their operation. That meeting with Dick and Mac McDonald changed the course of events, to put it mildly.

Kroc was so impressed with this operation that, despite the opposition of his family and friends, he opened the first franchise of what he called “the McDonald’s System.” In 1961, Kroc bought the company from the McDonald brothers.

Sixty years after its first franchise opened, McDonald’s is one of the biggest corporations in the world — and Kroc’s lessons about vision, persistence and hard work continue to inspire today’s business owners.  As he once said,  “I was an overnight success alright, but 30 years is a long, long night.”

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Five Inspiring TED Talks for Entrepreneurs 40 and Older

Longevity, opportunity and living life to its fullest. Those are some of the themes you’ll find in the following five TED Talks. Enjoy.

“How to live passionately — no matter your age” —  Author Isabel Allende, 71, gives a candid talk about her fears as she gets older and how she plans to keep on living passionately.

“Life’s third act” — Jane Fonda, who has had multiple careers as an actor, activist and fitness guru, talks about the extra 30 years that have been added to the average life expectancy, and how we can think about this phase of our lives.

“How to live to be 100+” — National Geographic writer and explorer Dan Buettner shares nine common diet and lifestyle habits found among certain communities whose elders live long past the rest of us.

“How to make work-life balance work” — Author and marketer Nigel Marsh lays out an ideal day balanced between family time, personal time and productivity — and offers some stirring encouragement to make it happen.

“Older people are happier” — Psychologist Laura Carstensen shows research that demonstrates people become happier, more content and more positive about the world as they get older.

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A Retired Engineer’s Cool Inventions

Seth Goldstein was a biomedical engineer at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland for 37 years. When he retired thirteen years ago, he needed something new to do.

So Goldstein, who has four degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, started making “kinetic sculptures.” Basically, these are machines that move.

One of Goldstein’s inventions is the “Ro-Bow,” a device that plays a violin. Its repertoire consists of “Hello Dolly” and “Amazing Grace,” plus a few other songs.

His other creations include a machine (“Why Knot?”) that ties a necktie and “Cram Guy,” a moving sculpture of a student cramming for an exam.

“I delight in creating kinetic sculpture machines which are novel, aesthetic, and unexpected, and which also can inspire, entertain, and demonstrate the power of engineering,” says the 75-year-old Goldstein on his website.

As observed in this New York Times article, “He is pushing the envelope of engineering and hoping to stir the imaginations of young engineers to push their own envelopes.”  Looks like he’s having fun, too.

Here’s a video that shows the Ro-Bow in action.

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A Late Bloomer Gets Fit – And Finds a New Cause

For 25 years, Len Leshem worked in an auto manufacturing plant near Wilmington, Delaware and spent most of his free time smoking and drinking beer. As reported in this CapeGazette.com article, his physical state deteriorated to a point where he couldn’t do two pushups – a realization that struck him as “ridiculous,” he said.

Leshem decided to do something about it during a drive back to Wilmington from a vacation in Lewes. It was a decision that changed his life.

At age 50, he ran his first 5K. A few years later, he competed in his first Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. He went on to compete in three more Kona Ironmans, the Boston Marathon, the New York City Marathon, Washington, D.C.’s Marine Corps Marathon and Virginia Beach’s Shamrock Marathon.

Leshem is now 78 and lives in Lewes. He still runs half marathons (13.1 miles) and is a fixture at his local YMCA.

His athletic accomplishments, however, are just part of his story.

Once he got into fitness, Leshem began working with the Special Olympics, an organization that provides sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. At Leshem’s first practice, an athlete ran up and jumped into his arms, providing a memorable introduction to the Special Olympics.

Since then, Leshem has coached in all kinds of sports, from long-distance running to power lifting. The Special Olympics inducted him into its Hall of Fame in 2005.

When he isn’t coaching, Leshem runs a business – Hurricane House Watch – that takes care of homes for part-time residents who are away during the winter. He also volunteers for Autism Delaware.

Would Len Leshem have discovered his passion for working with young, special-needs athletes if he hadn’t decided to get fit at age 50? Maybe. Maybe not. But one thing’s for sure.

A lot of kids are glad that he did.

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Good News for Onion Lovers

It took more than 20 years for Alastair Findlay to develop an onion that doesn’t cause tears or bad breath. But he finally did it.

Findlay, a British farmer affiliated with the agricultural co-operative Bedfordshire Growers, says he tasted 400 to 500 bulbs per season to develop the onion. Asda, a UK supermarket chain, just introduced Findlay’s creation, called the Asda Sweet Red.  Asda’s website says the onion was selectively bred to have “lower pungency levels” than regular onions.

“We’re incredibly proud to have worked and supported Alastair on his journey,” said Asda vegetable buyer Andy Wareham. “Introducing the UK’s very first sweet red onion is a fantastic achievement and like the USA, the UK has a sweeter palate than most so will appreciate the same tangy flavour, without the strong acidity of some onions.”

Alastair Findlay’s work isn’t finished, however. He wants to create a better and improved version of the Sweet Red for launch next year.

You can read more about Findlay and his creation in this article.

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Former Ad Executive Starts Kids’ Haircare Business – and Finds More Life Balance

For almost 20 years, Megan Sanders held executive positions with advertising agencies in New Zealand, Singapore, Britain and Australia. When her son, Jimmy, was born three years ago, the Auckland woman began developing a different perspective on life.

“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,” the 43-year-old said in this New Zealand Herald article.

A business idea surfaced when Sanders was unable to find what she considered quality, natural products for her son’s hair. In 2012, she launched Pineapple Heads, a line of children’s hair care products that uses all-natural ingredients and fun, colorful characters that appeal to a very young clientele.

To develop her products, Sanders worked with a specialist in organic lotions and a French perfumer. Not long ago, British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s accepted Pineapple Heads for a trial run on its shelves.

The transition from an advertising professional to an entrepreneur hasn’t been easy but Sanders doesn’t regret it. In the old days, she was often the last one to pick up her son from daycare. Now, she still works long hours – and worries about earnings — but has flexibility that allows her to spend more time with Jimmy.

“It’s a different pressure now but it’s a nice one. I want to be the mum who picks him up.  That’s the goal,” Sanders told the New Zealand Herald.

“Most mornings I have to pinch myself that I am actually living the dream.”

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Ten Memorable Quotes from 2014

Here are ten quotes from posts that appeared on Late Blooming Entrepreneurs throughout the year. I hope you enjoy these sayings – and perhaps find some inspiration, wisdom or food for thought as you set goals for 2015.

1. “Once you’ve lived a little, it becomes harder to go about your work without paying closer attention to colleagues and empathizing with those around you.”– Sydney Finkelstein, management professor, author and leadership guru

2. “I sort of reinvent myself every seven to ten years. My goal is to never retire. I can’t imagine what retirement would be like.” — Carolyn Newsom, attorney

3. “Establish your goals and objectives and then focus like a laser on accomplishing them.” — Bill Cheeks, ABBA Associates

4. “I don’t waste time on things that I am not good at or that others can do much better than I can.” — Elizabeth Erlandson, Licorice International

5. “Start with the hardest task on your to-do list. If you leave the hardest to the last, you’re sure to run out of time.” – Jim Kelly, serial tech entrepreneur

6. I wanted my own children to see me living a challenging and inspiring life. And I thought, ‘How can I encourage them to pursue their dreams if I’m not leading by example?’” – Paul Shafer, Shafer…Power!

7. “Every time you have a success you will say, well, try topping that. That’s the nature of success. You know you have to keep moving forward.” – Donny Osmond, singer and entrepreneur

8. “I want to do stories that others won’t do. Once I’m done with a film, I want to move on to the next one. I’ve started working on films only in middle age and I want to make as many as I can.” — Zhang Wei, entrepreneur and movie director

9. “See in others what they can’t see in themselves. By doing so, you can inspire people to achieve more than they ever thought possible.” – Len Forkas, Milestone Communications and Hopecam

10. “I like the proverb that goes something like, ‘If you can’t go through the door then go through the window, if you can’t go through the window go through the chimney.’ To me, it means there is always a way and don’t give up too easily.” – Meredith Hedrick, Doha Designs

Happy New Year!

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