Home-based businesses span across all generations, demographics and parts of the country. But baby boomers might epitomize the true spirit of the vocation more than any other group.
By nature, boomers are trend setters, says Mel Robbins, a syndicated radio host who is a contributor to CNBC and a columnist for Success magazine. Robbins helped judge the StartupNation Home-Based 100 Top Ten Boomers Back in Business category.
In many cases, baby boomers have already been in the workforce for years and are aware of the goods and services in demand in the marketplace. They also have a good idea of what they want, and in many cases, it’s not to work for someone else any more, Robbins says. We agree.
Part of the reason for that is fear of age discrimination in the corporate environment. Robbins recalls the story of a friend in her 40s who decided to get a facelift before searching for potential jobs because she was concerned that they would think she looked too old. But more and more boomers aren’t making such drastic moves and are following their passions instead of manipulating their looks to please a corporate suitor.
In contrast to running your own business, controlling your own destiny and leveraging your life skills, “Having a full-time employer is not attractive to a lot of people anymore,” Robbins explains.
She does stress, though, that it’s very important to take time to plan your home-based venture and hold on to that corporate job for financial security before you take the big leap. Just like we say here at StartupNation - start part-time if you can.
“Your mindset when you approach this kind of thing is critical,” Robbins says. “That’s why it’s really smart to start this when you already have something else.”
And the Winner Is...
The winner of our Boomers Back in Business category is actually a service started by a boomer that can cater to boomers looking for work during a transition period. VANetworking.com was launched in 2003 by Tawney Sutherland as a way to tap into the rapidly expanding virtual assistant market. The site helps virtual assistants find work, assists potential employers to get in touch with contractors and even offers “how to” packages on how to start your own virtual-assistant business. The venture, which makes its revenues from advertising on the site and paid memberships, especially caters to the tech, real estate and legal industries.
Many of the site’s more than 10,000 members are boomer-age women who no longer wanted to work in a corporate environment but are very aware of the needs of executives seeking assistants, Sutherland says.
“You’re going to get loyalty from them,” she says of her members.
Ironically, the economic recession is driving Blaine, Wash.-based VANetworking as well, as larger businesses are cutting back their employees. The situation has created a large group of talented people out there looking for work.
“People are getting laid off and wanting to work for themselves,” Sutherland says. “This way you are your own boss and have control of your future.”
No Shortage of Boomer Success Stories
Hope Clark, another finalist in the Boomers Back in Business category, decided to take control of her life before any potential tragedies like layoffs took place. An employee for the federal government for two decades, she had always wanted to write as a vocation and work for herself.
“I had reached the point where I didn’t like working for the bureaucracy any more after 20 years,” she recalls.
Back in the 1990s she had started writing online about various topics and gained some attention. After a group of women writers asked her to speak to them about the potential for Internet-based writing, Clark realized that she could possibly make a living as a writing coach.
She started a three-year economic plan and worked out how she could best negotiate an early “retirement” from her career. She launched Fundsforwriters.com in 2000 and took it full time in 2003. The site helps writers of all disciplines find work doing stories for magazines, copywriting for advertising firms, constructing resumes, among other outlets. Her for-charge online newsletter offers 80 job opportunities for her members to scan every two weeks.
Clark finds that many of her clients are boomers looking to reinvent their careers just as she did back in 2000.
“With this generation, there is still the need to want to do your own thing,” she says. “A lot of people are trying to leave what they don’t like to do.”
Since leaving her job at the government, Clark is able to do more of what she wants to do. A night person, she can now pick her own hours instead of being tied to a schedule of strict office hours.
“My flexibility is incredible,” she says.
Also, she and her husband were able to move out of the hectic Washington, D.C. area to Chapin, S.C., a much more relaxing locale.
“I am overlooking a lake,” she says during her interview.
Tom Ingrassia’s home-based business was born in much the same way as Clark’s. The owner of Ingrassia Artist Management, this Top Ten Boomer winner represents musicians such as jazz performers Clyde Wheatley and Ross Tucker’s Hot Cat Jazz Band, as well as classical organist Scott Lamlein.
The beginnings of Ingrassia’s business date back to the 1960s when his love affair for R&B outfit the Supremes was born. Always a big fan, he was able to interview singer Nancy Wilson as a college-student journalist in 1972. The interview must have gone well because the two stayed in touch over the years.
After graduating from college, Ingrassia worked in higher education administration for various universities. At the same time, he followed his passion for music and wrote articles on artists for magazines on the side over the years. It was another conversation with Wilson, in 2001, that changed his life when she asked him to manage her merchandising business.
“I was 48 years old, and I said, ‘If I don’t do this now, this opportunity won’t ever come again,’” Ingrassia remembers. “I didn’t even think for five minutes.”
And he never looked back. Ingrassia now manages and promotes artists full time and was able to launch a side career as a life coach, teaching others to go the same route he has taken.
His advice? Find something you are passionate about and run with it.
“You really need to spend some time dreaming,” Ingrassia says. “Once you are clear about what you really want, then you can go back and put the meat on the bones.”
Need more inspiration to become a Boomer Back in Busines? Check out the full list of winners.