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The general consensus with the entrepreneurs in our 2009 Home-Based 100 Boomers Back in Business category is that none of them ever imagined they’d be working into their Golden Years—let alone running their own home business! Because baby boomers span a 19-year period from 1946 to 1964, some of our top 10 Boomers are well into their retirement years, some are approaching the typical retirement age and others still have up to a decade to go. Despite the age differences, they all have one thing in common: They’re happy to be working as long as it’s running the home business they love.
Even being a serial entrepreneur, 49-year-old Perry Donham never thought he’d be running a business at this time in his life. “Like so many boomers, I thought I’d join a company, and forty years later, go home with my gold watch and pension,” says the founder of KidPub Press, a Top Ten Boomer Back in Business winner in this year’s competition out of North Attleboro, Massachusetts. KidPub is a publishing company dedicated to young authors. But his other home business, KidPub.com, the informational site from which his new company spawned, was only breaking even, and he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take it to the next level.
“There’s an old saying that says everything you’ve experienced in your life has brought you to this point, and looking back, I can see it’s true,” Donham explains. “KidPub Press has been built [from] everything I’ve learned over the past 30 years. I often say that I wish I’d done this 10 years ago, but I honestly don’t think I would have been ready. Now’s the perfect time for boomers to step up and act on the dreams they’ve been hanging onto all these years.”
Melinda Roeleveld is a serial entrepreneur working from home, too. But she also never imagined she’d be working 40- to 60-hour weeks on a new home business at this age. Six years ago she started a company that offered fine arts instruction to adults. It wasn’t bringing in any money, however, so she started making bouquets and flower arrangements on the side. Word of mouth ended up turning her small gig into a lucrative home business, the Top Ten Boomer Business, Les Bouquets.
“I never believed I’d have a business,” admits Roeleveld, now 55. “I could never do anything like this [before]; I was a stay-at-home mom. But now I have an empty nest.” Her newfound skills and passion have rubbed off on her children, too. Roeleveld’s 19-year-old daughter hopes to one day open a shop. But even with someone to take over the family business, Roeleveld says retirement will have to wait. “The new ideas and possibilities keep coming and I’m in this all the way,” she says. “I’m on a train I can’t get off, but I love it.”
A TWIST OF FATE
But then there’s the story of our Boomers Back in Business winner for 2009, Haralee Weintraub. She’s one of the few that actually planned on working into her 60s—Mother Nature had a different plan, however. In 2002 at age 48 she was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. Though successful in treating the cancer, the treatments caused severe night sweats. Familiar with moisture-wicking sportswear, Weintraub searched the market for sleepwear with the same function—it just didn’t exist. But that didn’t stop her and neither did breast cancer. Seven years later, she’s striving personally and professionally. As CEO of Portland, Oregon-based Haralee.com, the winner of our 2009 Boomers Back in Business category, she’s involved in every aspect of her home business, from designing the sleepwear to picking the fabrics to marketing the brand. And she of course donates a portion of her sales to breast cancer research.
Weintraub has been through a lot in the past decade, but that hasn’t changed her hard-working attitude and entrepreneurial spirit. She just sees it as “a wake-up call to reexamine my career goals,” she says. “I was working for corporate America, climbing the corporate ladder until my health shook me up. I had taken my health for granted, thinking that as long as I exercised and ate right I would be fine and keep working into my 60s.
“I always thought I would like to have my own business, to walk the walk and talk the talk,” she adds. “I never questioned that I was too old to start new, but my cancer diagnosis threw me for a loop.” So even though it looks like Weintraub will get to work into her 60s like she always planned, she has a new appreciation for her career. “I am having more fun running my own business than I ever thought possible,” she says. “I will definitely put off retirement because it’s just so exciting every day.”
Adds Donham, “Come talk to me when we hit the Fortune 500, but for now, retirement can wait.”
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