A Motivational Speaker’s Talk About Roses, Purpose and Self-Fulfillment

After Dana LaMon became blind at age four, he could have wallowed in self-pity and accepted the limitations assumed by others. Instead, he refused to let the loss of sight stand in his way and chose to lead a full, purposeful life.

Dana enrolled at Yale University and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in math. Then he graduated with a law degree from the University of Southern California, became a member of the California State Bar and had a career as an administrative law judge.

In 1992, he won Toastmasters International’s world championship of public speaking. He’s now the author of four books and a sought-after motivational speaker who travels all over the world.

During a recent district Toastmasters conference held near Washington, D.C., Dana credited the public speaking organization for presenting opportunities that changed the direction of his life. He also had this message: When life hands you a rose, turn it into a bouquet. In other words, leverage each positive experience so it produces even more business success, personal growth and/or enjoyment in life.

How do you turn a rose into a bouquet? Here’s Dana’s roadmap:

R – Relationships. These are the most important assets you can acquire in life. Take the time to cultivate meaningful, long-lasting relationships.

O – Opportunities. The first can lead to another – then another. You can’t wait for opportunities to knock, however. Go and seek them out.

S – Support. Sometimes networking can be shallow and disappointing. Aim to create a support system of people who believe in you.

E – Enrichment. Strive to lead an enriched life – and to help others do the same.

When you combine this approach with perseverance, small victories can turn into bigger ones.  Strive to maximize the value of each win as you build your business and grow as an entrepreneur.  And don’t forget to stop and smell the roses now and then.

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First They Started Businesses. Now They’re Celebrating Milestones.

With Here’s My Story’s Avery Chenoweth (L) and Dominic Sinibaldi

It’s hard enough to start a business after age 40 – or at any age, for that matter. When you can sustain the drive and determination needed to grow the company, create new products and give back to causes, that’s pretty special.

I sometimes wonder about the many late-blooming entrepreneurs featured on this blog.  Where are they now?  Here’s a look at what some of them are up to:

Here’s My Story expects a May 11th release for Time Trekker, the company’s mobile app that uses augmented reality to teach history.  Avery Chenoweth, 61, is the founder of Here’s My Story, which is based in Charlottesville, Virginia. Per the photo above, I had the pleasure of meeting Avery and CEO Dominic Sinibaldi at the app’s beta version testing held at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park last fall.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of Licorice International, the go-to place for licorice lovers all over the world. Elizabeth Erlandson and Ardith Stuertz  were in their 50s when they bought the business from a New York confectioner and move it to Lincoln, Nebraska (their hometown).

Also celebrating a 15th anniversary this year is Drawing Conclusions, a Pittsburgh graphic design firm founded by Donna Herrle after she was laid off from her job two weeks before her 50th birthday.

Len Forkas, who founded Reston, Virginia-based Milestone Communications at age 40, is about to peddle 3,000 miles in the 2017 Race Across America, a California-to-Maryland bike race that’s one of the world’s toughest sporting events. Now 57, Len is racing to raise $1 million for his charity, Hopecam.

Bill McKechnie, who began several Five Guys franchises in Charlottesville and Nashville while in his 40s, has a new restaurant in the works:  Mechum’s Trestle in Crozet, Virginia.

Barbara Cosgrove Lamps has a new addition to its product line:  reproductions of some original paintings created by Barbara Cosgrove herself.  The artwork is a natural extension of the home accents offered by the Kansas City, Missouri company, given that Barbara was an accomplished artist long before she founded her lamp company at age 47.

CS Lewis once said, “You’re never too old to set another goal, or to dream another dream.” Kudos to the entrepreneurs who keep setting goals – and fulfilling them.

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What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Ellen DeGeneres

You know Ellen DeGeneres as a comedian, daytime television host and an actor.  But did you know she’s also an entrepreneur who’s into designing furniture and pet products?

Ellen has a business called ED Ellen Degeneres, an American lifestyle brand. She was 56 when ED launched in 2015 as a joint partnership with Christopher Burch, the CEO of Burch Creative Capital.

ED’s products range from women’s clothing to home decor.  Among its latest unveilings: a Spring ’17 collection of furniture in partnership with Thomasville, Loloi Rugs and Royal Doulton.  ED also has a line of toys, carriers and other designs for dogs (Ellen and her spouse, Portia de Rossi, own three).

As one of the entertainment industry’s best-known personalities, Ellen has an enormous social media presence, deep financial resources and other advantages that most entrepreneurs don’t have.  These assets enabled ED to grow quickly right from the start.

“ED is an extension of my lifestyle and is inspired by who I am as a person.” — Ellen DeGeneres

Yet her entrepreneurial experience also offers takeaways for any new business owner. One is to stay true to yourself when it comes to designing products that bear your name. “ED is an extension of my lifestyle and is inspired by who I am as a person,” says Ellen on her company’s website.

Another lesson is to choose a business idea that’s a long-term interest. You’re less likely to lose steam when the startup hits a rough patch (which it will).

“I’ve loved home design for as long as I can remember,” Ellen says in this article.  “I know what I like, so designing it made sense for me.”

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How an E-Bike Ride Inspired a Boomer Couple to Launch a New Business

During a California trip to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary, Scottsdale residents Kathy and Bill Puryear decided to rent electric bicycles to tour some nearby resort towns.  It was a two-wheel adventure that turned into something much bigger.

“We realized that there was nothing like this in Scottsdale, and it could be a really exciting business to pursue,” explains Bill in this post.  They returned home and, six months later, opened Pedego Scottsdale, their own e-bikes store.

Kathy Puryear was among several late-blooming entrepreneurs profiled in this March 2017 Inc. Magazine article about Pedego Electric Bikes, whose products are in a category of bicycles powered by motor-assisted pedaling.  Among the article’s tidbits:

•  Almost all of Pedego’s dealers are in their 50s or older – a demographic that also comprises Pedego’s primary market.

•  Most of these dealers are like Kathy Puryear – i.e., retired or semiretired people who are first-time business owners.  Pedego’s store owners include several former teachers, military personnel and government workers.

•  Pedego has a business model that supports older entrepreneurs and mitigates common skill deficiencies. For example, the company sets up individual stores’ websites and provides social media help since technology has been a challenge for some dealers.

•  Pedego’s co-founders, Don DiCostanzo and Terry Sherry, are serial entrepreneurs who were in their 50s when they started the business in 2008.  Their age helped them design a product that appealed to people like themselves.

DiCostanzo, the company’s CEO, says he and Sherry welcome their latest business challenge.

“I have more energy now than 20 years ago,” he tells Inc. Magazine. “We don’t think of the dealers as old because we don’t think of ourselves as old.”

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Social Entrepreneur Helps Fathers Become Great Dads

By Lynne Strang, Late Blooming Entrepreneurs

Bob Hamrin

Bob Hamrin

As an economist, Bob Hamrin used to spend his days developing policies and analyzing data. One day, he came across a number that knocked his socks off.

“Thirty-six million American children under the age of 18 suffer from father absenteeism that’s physical, emotional or spiritual,” says Hamrin. “It’s a huge problem.”

That disturbing revelation played a big part in the father-of-three’s decision to change course at age 50 and found Great Dads, a Clifton, Virginia-based nonprofit that provides fatherhood training worldwide. The organization’s mission is “to encourage fathers to turn their hearts to their children.”

Over 53,000 men in 45 states and ten countries have taken Great Dads’ training seminar — “The 6 Basics of Being a Great Dad” — which is often held at churches, military bases and prisons. The four-hour training session attracts fathers of all stripes, from 16-year-olds who have yet to finish high school to 66-year-olds who hold executive positions.

Hamrin’s second act as a social entrepreneur is a big change from where he used to be. After earning a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he served as an advisor to the Joint Economic Committee of Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency, among other places. Later, he consulted for such organizations as the World Bank and the National Association of Manufacturers and wrote several books.


“Go after what you feel deeply about.  And be willing to take a risk.  If you feel strongly about something, just follow your heart and do it.” — Bob Hamrin, Great Dads


He encountered the startling statistic about absentee fathers while researching a book on fatherhood. Around that time, he and his wife, Carol, heard about several friends experiencing personal difficulties, prompting the couple to become involved with family counseling through their church.

In addition, he had grown weary of working on economic policies that had little effect on people’s everyday lives. It was a perfect storm that compelled him to act.

“I had had a number of entrepreneurial ideas that were intriguing but didn’t tug at my heart,” said Hamrin. “I thought, ‘Either I do this now or I’ll regret it for the rest of my life.”

In December 1996, Hamrin shuttered his consulting practice on a Friday and started Great Dads the following Monday. “I went cold turkey and never looked back,” he laughs.

The nascent group had challenges at the beginning. Bob’s salary was just $6,000 the first year – an especially stressful situation since he and Carol had one child in college and twins who were about to start.

Undaunted, Bob Hamrin pushed forward, making the rounds among churches and submitting applications for financial support. It wasn’t long before he received buy-in from several pastors and won a few small grants. Over time, Great Dads picked up steam, forming partnerships with such groups as Prison Fellowship and Forgiven Ministry.

Great Dads, which just celebrated its 20th anniversary, now gets its funding primarily from individual and church donations as well as training fees (proceeds go back into the organization).  Hamrin has a team of seminar instructors who have been fathers for a while (associates must have at least one child who is age 16 or older).

Hamrin attributes his success to his faith, optimism and entrepreneurial mindset. His future goals include a stronger social media presence for Great Dads and new, creative ways to communicate its message. At age 70, he’d also like to find a successor to take over for him one day.

Meanwhile, he still gets gratification from working on a cause that truly matters. For those considering a life change, he offers this advice:

“Go after what you feel deeply about. And be willing to take a risk. If you feel strongly about something, just follow your heart and do it.”

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Car Buffs Start a Business Offering 3D-Printed Auto Parts

As restorers and builders, Bill Hahn and Paul Vorbach often faced challenges when trying to locate rare and expensive components for cars.  They found help in an unlikely place:  3D printing

The discovery led Hahn and Vorbach to co-found HV3Dworks LLC., a Harmony, Pennsylvania-based company that works with several 3D printers to produce rare or custom components for automotive restoration projects.

HV3Dworks is an offshoot of Hahn and Vorbach’s core business, Hahn-Vorbach & Associates Collector Car Restoration. The two co-founders spent several months testing the waters before they launched their new business in August 2016.

On his LinkedIn profile, Vorbach describes his career journey this way:  “After a 35-year career managing systems integration and software development projects, I found myself about to be laid off and decided to pursue my passion for hot rods, sports cars and all things automotive. I was presented with an opportunity to become a business partner at a high-end automotive restoration shop….and I haven’t looked back. I love what we do and look forward to going to work every day.”

MSNBC recently featured HV3Dworks on “Your Business,” a show dedicated to issues affecting small business owners.  Here’s the video:

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Entrepreneur from Korea Finds Niche Selling Appliances

By Lynne Strang, Late-Blooming Entrepreneurs

Edward Kim

Edward Kim

Edward Kim is good at multitasking. That’s evident by the way he runs his appliance showroom.

On a cold January day, Kim is busy filling in for a store manager who’s on vacation. He doesn’t miss a beat as he waits on customers and answers the phone during an interview about Buying Together, the business he founded at age 40.

Buying Together, located in Annandale, Virginia, sells refrigerators, dishwashers, washers and dryers, ovens, televisions and other merchandise mostly to Korean customers in the surrounding community. The 2,200- square-foot showroom packs an assortment of brands, including Maytag, GE, Amana, KitchenAid and Bosch, to name a few.

“If I had started at age 30, I could not have survived,” says Kim, now 52. “I had no experience or connections. And connections are very important, especially in this business.”

Finding a Business Idea

The path to entrepreneurship hasn’t been easy for Kim, who grew up in South Korea and studied history and economics in college. In 1990, he joined LG Electronics where he spent eleven years in marketing. Over the years, most of his family relocated to the United States.

In 2002, he moved to U.S. to be with his family and to help his sister grow her delicatessen. When the deli expansion didn’t happen, Kim found work with a food company that serviced military bases. The company went bankrupt, leaving Kim without a job.

He began researching business ideas in part because the independence that comes with entrepreneurship appealed to him. “I wanted to do my own planning and make my own decisions,” he says.

Kim’s original plan was to arrange for group purchases so his customers could “buy together” and receive a discounted price. “The concept didn’t work because it took several days for the products to ship – and people wanted them quickly,” he says. “But I kept the Buying Together name anyway.”

Opportunities and Challenges

When Buying Together opened in 2004, it had to start as an online business since Kim had no credit or money for a brick-and-mortar showroom. Unable to obtain bank financing, he borrowed $40,000 from a pool of money provided by the local Korean community. The loan, which he repaid in two years, allowed him to open a showroom in Centreville, Virginia six months later. He moved the business to Annandale in 2009.

Two other factors helped Kim launch his business. One was his attendance at trade shows while he was a LG Electronics employee, which gave him in-depth knowledge about consumer buying preferences (he now sends his own employees to shows for this reason).

Another was a former boss who pointed him towards the NECO Alliance, an appliance buying cooperative. The alliance provided a mentor who visited Buying Together’s showroom and offered advice. “He always said, ‘reach out when you need help,’” recalls Kim.

Buying Together opened at a time when housing construction was booming in the U.S., fueling a need for household appliances. As a result, the company’s annual sales more than quadrupled between year one and year two. In 2005, he opened a second location in Rockville, Maryland.

Then came the mortgage meltdown in 2007-08. As home construction dried up, so did Buying Together’s business, forcing Kim to close the Rockville location and lay off 10 of his 13 employees.

“I didn’t have a Plan B when business shrunk,” said Kim. It was a painful experience that taught him an important lesson.

Realizing he needed to diversify, Kim became a county government contractor in 2009. Three years passed before a Loudoun County agency finally awarded a contract to Buying Together. In 2014, the company expanded into a new jurisdiction when it won a contract with a District of Columbia agency. About 30% of Buying Together’s annual revenue now comes from government contracting.

“Start Small but Act Big”

Kim has ambitious plans for his business. In 2017, he’s opening two new locations in the Washington, D.C. area – one in Ellicott City, Maryland next month and another in Centreville, Virginia by mid-summer. He also wants to open Buying Together franchises in Richmond and Virginia Beach by year-end and another independent location in Dallas, Texas during 2018.

Entrepreneurship runs in Kim’s family. His wife has a cosmetics business. He has three children, including a college-age son who wants to own a business and may join Buying Together after he graduates.

Kim works seven days a week and doesn’t get to bed until midnight. It’s a grueling schedule that doesn’t allow much time for the history books he enjoys reading. Still, he “strongly recommends” entrepreneurship as a second career.

“I heard about a Ph.D. who lost his job the other day,” he says. “Nobody guarantees you a job anymore.”

His advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?  “Start small but act big,” he says. Keep your housing expenses low, do your homework, know your market and acquire the knowledge you need.

Most importantly, don’t give up if your dream is to own a business.

“Life is long,” says Kim. “If you have a few pennies, keep at it.”

Note:  The Korean edition of “Late-Blooming Entrepreneurs: Eight Principles for Starting a Business After Age 40” is now available. For more info, please visit the “Book-Korean Edition” page on this site.

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