Many people assume that becoming an entrepreneur is a young person’s game. The long hours, low pay, and bootstrap mentality that is required to start a company from the ground up is often associated with college-aged entrepreneurs. They generally have what it takes to work long hours and go without sleep while still having the boundless energy required for pushing a company through its beginning stages.
Not all successful entrepreneurs, however, are in the early stages of their professional lives. Many people have capitalized on a lifetime of experience and wisdom to create companies that exceed anyone’s expectations. Looking for inspiration for the middle age and beyond crowd? Consider these entrepreneurs who didn’t let their ages get in their way.
- Reid Hoffman
A graduate of Stanford University, Hoffman seemed to flounder in the years following his graduation. Unable to find a job he connected with, he moved from company to company in search of the right fit.
He made an early attempt at entrepreneurship with a dating service that achieved moderate success. He used his experience in web design to help build PayPal, leveraging his accomplishments there to co-found LinkedIn. An example of the payoff of determination, Hoffman refused to stop working toward success.
- John Pemberton
Georgia physician and pharmacist John Pemberton watched as wounded Civil War soldiers were treated with morphine for their pain. Determined to find something better, Pemberton used Coca, a French wine.
After temperance legislation was passed, the 55-year-old Pemberton created a new formula, replacing wine with sugar. He and his son formed the Coca-Cola company and began selling interest in the company to raise funds. One employee purchased as many shares as he could, buying the controlling rights in the company after Pemberton’s death.
- Jack Weil
It wasn’t until 1946 that Jack Weil opened his first shop specializing in cowboy wear and equipment, but the 45-year-old didn’t waste any time making it a success. He eventually became one of the largest suppliers of cowboy regalia in the Denver area, culminating in the use of his clothing in a major motion picture. Weil lived to be 107, giving him many years to create a lasting brand that has become symbolic of the well-dressed western man.
- Wally Blume
By age 57, Wally Blume had spent several decades in the dairy industry. His experience and knowledge of the industry gave him the confidence to venture out on his own, forming Denali Flavors.
His skill set and understanding of the ice cream market allowed him to develop flavors that would sell. He is credited with creating Moose Tracks, a flavor that earns $80 million per year.
- Martha Stewart
The queen of home décor and design, Stewart began her career as a model. After leaving the business to raise her children, Stewart built a successful catering business while in her thirties. It wasn’t until she was well in her fifties before she contracted with a publisher to cultivate her magazine, Martha Stewart Living.
- Leo Goodwin
The son of a doctor, accountant Leo Goodwin noticed a disturbing trend while working with clients. Policyholders had no easy way to deal with their insurance companies directly. In 1936, at the age of 40, he founded GEICO and helped revolutionize the insurance industry.
- Gary Heavin
At 40 years old, Heavin was used to setbacks. He had already declared bankruptcy, been sentenced to jail for failure to pay child support, and was facing an uncertain future. In 2004, he founded Curves International, a fitness and workout brand that included gyms, fitness programs, and training centers. Now a global success, his company has over 10,000 locations and Heavin was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for running the fastest-growing franchise.
- Harland David Sanders
An experienced job-hopper, Sanders worked his way through careers as a steamboat pilot, an insurance agent, a farmer, and a fireman, among others. None seemed to fit until Sanders opened a small service station that served chicken to hungry travelers.
When the nearby interstate opened, service station traffic dried up, and Sanders was back at square one. However, he franchised his business, and at age 65, Colonel Sanders started what would become a global powerhouse in the fast food industry. He sold the business in 1964 for over $2 million and is still one of the most recognizable faces in marketing today.
- Justine Bateman
Fans of the hit show Family Ties will recognize Justine Bateman as the loveable Mallory Keaton. Not content to live on past fame, Bateman was active as a writer and producer for many years.
However, a search for job listings on Monster.com led her to realize that there was a high demand for coders, so Bateman enrolled in school to learn web coding. At age 48, Bateman may be one of the older members of her class, but she is in good company with entrepreneurs who got their second (or third) wind later in life.
Age should not be a factor when considering one’s potential for entrepreneurship. Often, what is perceived by some as a detriment can bring the benefits of experience, understanding, and knowledge that younger entrepreneurs do not possess.