Children’s Orchard

Retirement used to mean relaxing and traveling. But more and more seniors are redefining their “golden years” by opting out of retirement to blaze entirely new paths.

The seniors who own these five businesses told BusinessNewsDaily about their experiences postponing retirement and pursuing entrepreneurial dreams.

After retiring at 62 from a marketing career, Carol Mintz realized she wasn’t done leaving her mark on the business world. When her twin daughters told her of an opportunity to buy a children’s resale store in Manhattan Beach, Calif., she traded in her retiree status and became the owner of Children’s Orchard.

Mintz considers her marketing career invaluable training for her new venture.

“From my experience working as an employee for the majority of my life, I am able to understand the importance of motivating my employees, valuing my customers and managing our store’s finances so that we are able to operate a successful retail store,” Mintz said.

While one might worry that a stigma comes with being a senior who owns a business, Mintz said you have to work to gain the trust of your customer base, lenders and partners regardless of your age.

“Although I have celebrated more birthdays than most entrepreneurs, I have experienced the same struggles and celebrated the same successes as a lot of small-business owners, young or old,” Mintz said.

Mintz advised aspiring entrepreneurial seniors to be realistic about the financial risks.

“At our age we do not have the luxury of replacing funds,” she said. Regardless, she recommended business ownership to the young and old, both for personal fulfillment and a potential legacy for children and grandchildren.

Constance Mettler is no stranger to the fine art world. She and her husband earned a living selling his original art at juried fine art festivals since 1980. But as the economy tightened, so did sales.  To adjust, her son urged her to start a website to attract the same audience that attends art fairs.  With that, was born.

While originally intended more as a tool for the art community than a business, is now the top Google-ranked site for "art fairs” and has nearly 25,000 email subscribers. Mettler has expanded business further with a social networking site where artists share their stories and tips, and another that compiles art fair listings. All are free to visitors and supported by advertisers.

Thanks to her online business, Mettler is able to stay active in the art community, generate income and care for her ailing husband, who is no longer able to attend art fairs.

Mettler encouraged other seniors to use their retirement years to find new opportunities. She highly recommended technology-based businesses (despite the “intimidation factor”).

“You can stay home, not be hampered by any physical problems or stamina or competing with younger people. Online, none of these things matter. You have a lifetime of experiences and interests that can be turned into a niche business. If you can email and browse the Web, you can do it. I taught myself, and you can, too,” she said.

A Place for Everything

Sally Allen, owner of the Denver-based organizing business A Place for Everything, proves it’s never too late to find your passion. At the age of 60, while helping a friend declutter her home, she realized how much she loved the process of organizing. More important, she realized she could become a professional organizer.

Thanks to her previous employment with Marriott International, Allen knew about business operations like budgeting, forecasting and management, but the world of business ownership was new to her. She admitted that unfamiliar tasks like building a website were scary. Nevertheless, she conquered her trepidation and leaned on the free consulting and tools offered by her local Small Business Development Center.

Allen said running her own business has helped her discover new talents and confidence that have been life-changing.

“I became a writer of sorts as I marketed my business in a newsletter and on my website. I became a ‘person of interest’ when people discovered that I founded a professional organizing business. I continue to learn about technology, which is one of the hardest parts of my job. I was also surprised at how difficult it was to put a price on my services and to value what I had to offer my clients. I now state my pricing with conviction,” Allen said.

She urged fellow seniors to avoid letting age be a hindrance.

“The process does not get better with age. Do your research but don't overanalyze. If you want to be an entrepreneur, build your support team and go for it,” she said.

Pet Watchers Plus

Ron Hingst has owned a public relations firm for two decades, but a slowdown in business led him at the age of 64 to a new path.  Last year Hingst was inspired by the success of two retired friends who started a pet services business in a town located about an hour from his. Leveraging their success, he expanded Pet Watchers Plus and began offering the same services in his town of Howell, Mich.

Hingst funded his operation with money from his own savings, as well as some help from his sister, who also steps in to help when necessary.  While he is able to pull from his expertise in the world of marketing and PR, he also enjoys some intrinsic benefits the pet industry offers to a retired business owner.

He has found that customers seem to like turning the care of their dogs and cats over to a more-mature person. “Maturity is a good thing in this business,” he said.

Another positive aspect is the benefits to both mind and body. “In pet sitting, I get paid to get out and exercise by walking and playing with dogs,” Hingst said.

Heritage Memoirs

Heritage Memoirs
Jennifer Campbell has 25 years of professional experience as a writer and editor. At the age of 55, she was laid off.  It was then that she chose to pursue an entirely new career goal and opened Heritage Memoirs, where she writes and records the personal histories of others to pass down to their friends and family.

While her writing background is key to her entrepreneurial endeavor, Campbell has found that her age is also one of her greatest assets.

“In my business, I work with ‘older’ people – Baby Boomers right up to people in their late 90s. I think my own age helps me identify with their life experiences,” Campbell said.

She has also found a new freedom in owning her own business. “I'm not being employed by someone else to just do whatever work they assign to me. I'm deciding how my business should be run, how it can grow, etc.,” said Campbell.

She advised seniors wishing to delve into small-business ownership to take complete stock of the business they want to own, research the demand for it, and be real about what they are trying to achieve.

“Be honest about the commitment. If it's a part-time business that you want to only spend 15-20 hours a week on, there's nothing wrong with that,” said Campbell. She also urged her peers to put fear aside. “You'll have no regrets if you try. But you will have regrets if you don't.” Campbell’s first book, “Start & Run a Personal History Business” (Self-Counsel Press, 2011), was released in February.