While not every small business will survive and grow, a surprising number of businesses that began on kitchen tables, in spare bedrooms, or on workbenches in the garage have gone on to become wildly successful. There is a perception, however, that the truly thriving small-businesses are the brainchildren of young, hip, college drop-outs. This perception is utterly false. In fact, many enormously profitable companies are started by older entrepreneurs like the ones listed here:
1. Martha Stewart – Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
Synonymous with fashionable DIY, upper-class living, and exclusive designer tips, few people realize that Martha Stewart’s rise to success had very humble beginnings. Stewart began her career as a caterer, working out of her basement. Over time, she honed her line, eventually dropping the catering business and focusing on her lines of home goods and crafty projects. It wasn’t until 1997, though, that Stewart (at age 56) founded her company Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. The little basement startup grew to employ more than 400 people and reach nearly 100 million worldwide consumers.
2. Arianna Huffington – The Huffington Post
At the age of 55, Arianna Huffington noticed a trend: people were beginning to abandon traditional news media in favor of online sources of information. The increasing dependence on digital tools gave Huffington the idea to found The Huffington Post, an online news outlet. She quickly became a master at branding and developed a wide audience reach. Her efforts grew the company to become one of the most visited websites, attracting the attention of Internet giant AOL, which purchased the site for over $300 million in 2011.
3. Tory Burch – Tory Burch LLC
The name Tory Burch is well known in the world of fashion. Most aficionados, however, are unaware that the famous line started in a small Manhattan store. Her company, which she started when she was 38, has since grown to include over 125 freestanding stores with products in more than 3,000 locations around the globe.
4. Sam Walton – Walmart
Walmart is one of the largest, most successful retail establishments in existence. While most people know the conglomerate was started by Sam Walton, few realize that Walton had to borrow $20,000 from his in-laws to open his first store. At age 44, Walton opened his first Walmart and slowly added new locations until he sat at the helm of one of the world’s largest retail chains. He took the company public in 1970. Today, Walmart operates over 11,000 outlets around the world and employs more than 2 million people.
5. Reid Hoffman – LinkedIn
Professionals today know that a well-composed LinkedIn profile can help boost networking opportunities and increase the success of job searches. Although the platform currently has a wide-reach, it is still a relatively new business.
In 2003, 36-year-old Reid Hoffman, along with his business partners, developed the idea for the professional networking tool in his living room. Hoffman had already tried his hand at several new ventures, but LinkedIn proved to be his most successful endeavor. With over 330 million members and a recent acquisition by Microsoft, LinkedIn is valued at over $4 billion.
Need more inspiration before starting a new business? Consider the following late-bloomers who used their life-experiences and skills to start companies that became global success stories:
Vera Wang—Before starting her illustrious career in the fashion and design industry, Wang was a celebrated figure skater. It wasn’t until after her 40th birthday that Wang began designing clothing. Today, she is one of the most recognizable brands in women’s fashion.
Jack Cover—A physicist who worked for organizations like NASA and IBM, Cover developed the technology that would become the Taser gun. He founded his own company, Taser Systems Inc., in 1970, at age 50.
Julia Child—Perhaps one of the most recognizable names in cooking, Julia Child published her iconic cookbook in her 50s, following a career in journalism and media. She went on to enjoy a successful run as a celebrity chef.
For many would-be entrepreneurs, the allure of starting a home-based business is dimmed by the idea that they’re too old, too inexperienced, or too settled. However, as these examples show, it’s never too late to transition into a new career or come up with an idea that takes the world by storm.