Are You Ready to Start Your Own Business?
By Brent Bowers, May & June 2007
Out of ambition or necessity, more than a million boomers every year start working for themselves. Find out whether you have a head for business
All her life, Barbara Thornton put up with a nagging problem: her shoes. Why, she wondered, could she never find size 11½ shoes? She knew many women in the same predicament who either put up with tight fits or did their shopping in the men’s department.
In 1995—at age 48, fresh out of Harvard Business School, after a long career in public policy—she saw a business opportunity in her fellow sufferers’ frustrations. Two years later, she launched DesignerShoes.com, which sells more than 50 brands of footwear in hard-to-find sizes up to 15WW. “A great book inspired me,” Barbara says. “I read Composing a Life by Mary Catherine Bateson,” which profiled five highly successful women, “and I thought to myself, ‘It’s not too late.’”
As ingenious and adventurous as Barbara is, her midlife leap to business owner is actually a move that more and more people her age are making. In the United States, people 55 through 64 years old are more likely than anyone else to start a company, according to a study by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri, a center for research and education in entrepreneurship. The same study showed that in a single month in 2005 nearly 110,000 folks in that age range hung out a shingle, stepping away from established careers, starting a sideline, or “unretiring.” That’s more than 1 million graying entrepreneurs born—or reborn—each year.
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