Sadly, the down economy has put a lot of workers over age 50 in the unenviable position of needing to find a new profession.
Don't believe that old cliché about middle-aged dogs and new tricks, though; lots of wildly successful people found big success in careers they began after their fiftieth birthdays.
Entrepreneurship is for the young. After all you need energy, stamina, relentless focus, and the most important thing, time on your side. Nonsense!
The key to successful entrepreneurship is simply doing it.
Regardless of age or circumstance, when the opportunity presents itself, you must go for it.
Here are stories of a few “golden year entrepreneurs”, who achieved success after 40, often against all odds.
You may not recognize Cover's name, but you've surely heard of his invention, the Taser. Cover spent most of his career as a nuclear physicist who worked in aerospace and defense, including playing a significant role in supplying parts for NASA's Apollo project.
In 1970 the 50-year-old Cover started Taser, Inc. in an effort to find a weapon that could incapacitate assailants without killing them. He received a patent for his design in 1974, and by 1980 Cover had sold the Los Angeles Police Department on using his new gadget to help apprehend violent suspects.
When Cover passed away last year at the age of 88, his device was in use in over 45 countries around the world.
Whether or not you know it, you probably owe Hoyle a tip of the cap each time you reach for a deck of cards. The Englishman is considered to be the world's first technical writer on the rules of card games, and he didn't put pen to paper as a young card sharp.
Hoyle was around 70 years old when he first began recording the rules of various card games in 1741; over the last 27 years of his life, his smash hit "A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist" went through over a dozen editions.
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Wilder's "Little House on the Prairie" may be some of the world's most beloved children's books, but she was no spring chicken when she sat down to write them. Wilder didn't publish her first novel until she was 65 years old, but she still managed to crank out one of the most beloved series of all time.
Jack Weil, Founder of Rockmount, Age 107 d. Aug 2008
Jack A. Weil passed away on August 13, 2008 at the age of 107. The fact he lived to the ripe old age of 107 is impressive. The fact that he was still the chief executive of the company he founded and working 40+ hours a week until his final days is plain old amazing.
In 1946, he formed Rockmount, a western high fashion clothing retailer that continues to manufacturer it’s shirts in the US after many competitors moved offshore. Achieving historical fame, various accounts state Mr. Weil either invented the modern bolo tie or named it.
His secret to heath, wealth and happiness? “He loved his work.”
Poppy Bridger, Owner of Anaheim Test Labs, Age 84
After working as a PhD chemist for 45 years, Poppy Bridger, retired at the age of 69 to care for her ailing mother. But her 72nd birthday gift was an opportunity to buy and operate the lab she had worked at. With about $250K in savings, back to work she went!
On any given day, you will find Bridger testing the authenticity of a precious heirloom or analyzing the properties of metal fatigue. To help with the growing work load at the lab, she has subsequently hired her son and daughter to work with her.
She goes to work every day, and at the age of 84 is bringing into the business about $350K annually.
Colonel Harland Sanders, Founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Age 90 d. Dec 1980
The world famous Colonel Sanders launched his business at the age of 65, using his first Social Security check as start up funds. A master of personal branding, Sanders leveraged his honorary “Colonel” title and constantly wore the stereotypical “southern gentleman” white-suit and black tie. The rocket like growth of KFC is now legendary, and prior to his death Colonel Sanders’ restaurant chain had achieved over 6,000 locations with sales of more than $2 billion.
During his entrepreneurial tenure Sanders met with the U.S. Congressional Committee of Aging and spoke against mandatory retirement, highlighting the love for work and the value of wisdom in the work place.
Not a bad run, old chap! Not bad at all.
Barbara Miller, Founder of Miller Paper Company, Age 74
Being an entrepreneur was never really a consideration in Barbara Miller’s life. After quitting her job in the paper industry after 30 years of service, she assumed she was done. But as she packed her stuff, her former colleagues begged her to start a new business… so she did.
In January of 1995, Miller opened the doors to Miller Paper Company and started with $300K in savings and 15 employees. Today the business is generating over $7M in annual revenue and has been on D&B’s list of the nation’s fastest growing companies.
Business has not been a walk in the park, to say the least. Miller started her company and was immediately sued by her former employer. A few months later she struggled with ovarian cancer.
Sylvia Lieberman, Creator of Archibald Mouse Books, Age 91
Sylvia Lieberman became an entrepreneur in fall 2007 when she was 90. This is when she realized her dream of having her first children’s book published. So why not start a company to author and promote the book?
Archibald’’s Swiss Cheese Mountain is an award-winning book about a little mouse with a big heart who teaches children how to reach their big dreams. Not only is she an entrepreneur, but a philanthropic one! A portion of the proceeds goes to two children’s charities.
Despite her age, Sylvia works tirelessly promoting her book at book-signings and readings, TV appearances, radio and print interviews, and even appeared on a float in a parade. And all these efforts increase the amount she donates to charities.
Was a milk-shake machine salesman when he was 52. Hardly anyone's ideal job and not much of a career. The McDonald brothers started McDonald's restaurants (the first was opened in San Bernardino in 1940; Mr. Kroc opened the ninth one as a franchise.) Mr. Kroc finally bought them out later, in 1961. Also, see the current Wikipedia entry for Ray Kroc, the answers.com entry for Ray Kroc, and the Wikipedia entry for McDonald's Corporation. The rest is history.
Started Wal-Mart at or about his 40th birthday. His first successful store was basically taken away from him by his landlord's son. His landlord refused to renew his lease once he saw how much money Sam was making on that spot, and he leased it to his son instead who opened a business doing just what Sam was doing. Sam got depressed at first, but then got busy. Very busy. He proceeded to build the world's largest shopping location and a huge fortune.
Ronald Reagan was in his fifties when he started his real career as a politican.
Vince Lombardi was 45 when he took the head coaching job with the Green Bay Packers.
George Patton was 60 when he took over command of the 2nd Armored Division, and all of his noted work came after that.
Teddy Roosevelt, the youngest man ever to hold the office of President, was 43 when he took office.
Michelangelo was about forty when he did his celebrated sculpture of Moses, and continued working until his death when he was 89.
Leonardo da Vinci was in his forties when he did the Last Supper and his fifties when he completed the Mona Lisa.
Claude Monet was in his sixties when he did his "Water Lilies" paintings.
Neil Armstrong was 16 days from his 40th birthday when he stepped on the moon (born on August 5, 1930, stepped on moon July 20, 1969). There are a zillion more examples.
Mathematician G. H. Hardy reportedly said that he did no work of significance until he was in his early forties.
The most successful people who made it after 40 are the "little people"...not the "big" people.
Many have sacrificed most of their younger years to try to bring a business to life and subsequent success. The size of the business is not necessarily the definition of success. It is the fact that someone poured their heart and soul into what they thought would come to fruition and generate them a comfortable living for the rest of their lives...and to actually that. That's success! Rich people getting richer is not.