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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Five Customer Service Lessons from a Fish Entrepreneur

Technology and social media developments may have changed the way businesses communicate but certain “old-fashioned” customer service fundamentals will never go out of style.

Many 40-and-older entrepreneurs understand this because they’ve been customers themselves for a long time. Take Paul Wheston of Reading, England. For years, he worked as an agent selling other people’s fish. Now, the 47-year-old owns Fish Glorious Fish, a fishmonger service that he opened earlier this year.

GetReading wrote this profile piece about Paul. His Golden Rule approach to customer service is one that can be implemented by other business owners who follow these steps:

1. Know your customers by name. Dale Carnegie said it best in How to Win Friends and Influence People. A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.   

2. Provide personalized service. Paul knows most of his customers likes and dislikes. Some prefer to stick to a regular weekly order; others like to experiment. People appreciate it when you go out of your way to give them what they want.

3. Develop partnerships with trusted, reliable suppliers. Without them, you can’t be sure of the quality of your products and/or may have nothing to sell. “I pretty much know where the fish were caught, when they were caught and in some cases I might even know the name of the fisherman who caught them,” said Paul.

4. Know your competitive advantage. In Paul’s case, it’s super freshness. He puts his fish on sale the day after it’s caught – something that supermarkets can’t do.

5. Do what you love. When you enjoy your business and believe in your product, it shows. Your customers can sense it when they walk through the door.

Have any customer service methods that have worked especially well for your business?  Please feel free to share them below.

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Seeing in Others What They Can’t See in Themselves

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might remember this post about entrepreneur Len Forkas’ experience as a solo competitor in the 2012 Race Across America — a grueling, 3,000-mile bicycle race that starts in California and ends in Maryland. At age 52, Len finished in less than 12 days, placing first in his age group and tenth overall. Best of all, he raised over $300,000 for Hopecam, his nonprofit that uses technology to connect young cancer patients with their friends at school.

Earlier this year, Len published What Spins the Wheel, a book that describes his journey and lists ten lessons he learned during the race. Lesson #8 is to “See in Others What They Can’t See in Themselves.” By doing so, “we can inspire people to achieve more than they ever thought possible,” he wrote.

That lesson came to mind when I watched Dananjaya Hettiarachchi’s winning performance in Toastmasters International’s 2014 World Championship of Public Speaking. Over six months, Hettiarachchi, a human resources consultant from Sri Lanka, advanced through seven rounds of competition against 33,000 competitors worldwide before taking first place.

A video of his speech, “I See Something,” is below. Take a few minutes to watch it. You’ll be glad you did.


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How One Dad Teaches His Kids About Entrepreneurship

By Lynne Strang, Late Blooming Entrepreneurs

Malia and Owen Shafer with their taco wagon.

Malia and Owen Shafer with their taco wagon.

Paul Shafer knows the exuberance that comes from being a young aspiring entrepreneur.

In college, he invented the “Gum Chum” for storing bubble gum during a meal. The small, capsule-like device had a clip that attached to a plate or glass, keeping the gum nearby until it could be popped back into its owner’s mouth.

While the Gum Chum didn’t turn out to be the next Big Idea, it wasn’t a wasted effort. “It was a good exercise that gave me something creative to do while working on my degree,” said Paul, who now lives in Austin, Texas.

After graduation, he set aside his entrepreneurial aspirations for a sales career that took him to British Airways and Dell, among other places. He and his wife, Kathleen, became the parents of two children, Owen and Malia.

But the entrepreneurial itch from Paul’s college days didn’t go away. When his 40th birthday arrived three years ago, he decided to take action.


“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!_______________________________________________

“I find that I’m really in the flow when I’m creating things – so I figured it was time to start taking steps to fulfill that desire,” he said. At the same time, he didn’t want his research and development to absorb the limited time he had to spend with his family.

Inspiration struck after Paul watched business coach Cameron Herold’s Ted Talk on raising kids to become entrepreneurs. “I wanted my own children to see me living a challenging and inspiring life,” said Paul. “And I thought, ‘How can I encourage them to pursue their dreams if I’m not leading by example?’”

In 2012, Paul started an initiative with a simple goal: to have fun as a family while learning about entrepreneurship. Its name – Shafer…Power! – is the family’s battle cry. When the four Shafers head out somewhere, Paul yells, “Shaferrrrr” and the kids respond, “Power!”

Owen and Paul Shafer

Owen and Paul Shafer

At the heart of Shafer…Power! is an “AdVenture Bucket List” consisting of monthly activities to provide hands-on entrepreneurial experience for Owen, who’s now eight years old and Malia, now six. So far, they have run a taco wagon in partnership with a restaurant, helped bake treats at a cupcake producer and launched a dog walking service. They’ve created their own energy bars and sold them at a children’s business fair.

The Shafer kids also have interviewed several Austin-based entrepreneurs, such as Brad Cason of KirkLee Bicycles and Matt Sieler of Maine Root Handcrafted Beverages. And they’re talking with interesting people worldwide to learn about their careers and the different ways to make a living.

“The feedback has been very positive and the entrepreneurs we’ve met have been really good to the kids,” said Paul. “I think entrepreneurs are natural educators because they do such a good job of explaining things in terms that everyone can understand.” He hopes Shafer…Power! can serve as a model for business owners and others interested in teaching entrepreneurship to children.

Whether that happens remains to be seen. In the meantime, Owen and Malia are enjoying the journey. They aren’t the only ones.

“I’m having fun being with my kids and viewing the world through their eyes,” said Paul. “My sense of curiosity is back and the experiential learning we’ve been doing is exhilarating. Each day brings a more defined vision as to where we can take this thing.”

“As every entrepreneur knows, there are no guarantees but my view is that I’m on an adventure with my kids,” he added. “If we’re all learning and growing as a family, it’s a win-win scenario.”

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