It’s 7 a.m. Larry Murphy’s had his first cup of coffee, confirmed the weather on the computer in his basement office, and has his rods and reels already stowed in the back of his truck. He’s not headed to the corporate headquarters to punch in. He’s headed to meet today’s fishing clients at the lake. Just another typical start to the business day for this home-based boomer entrepreneur.
The baby boomer generation has done well, and Larry Murphy, selected as the winner of StartupNation’s 2007 Home-Based 100 “Boomers Back in Business” category, epitomizes this segment perfectly.
Murphy, barely making the boomer cut at 47, is the sole owner and operator of outdoor-tour company Murphy Outdoors. He traded in his office job of 25 years for a boat and some fishing tackle. After his time at Kansas City, Mo.-based technology firm DST Systems, where he worked his way up from a computer operator to executive management, Murphy had accumulated enough wealth to begin again on his own.
Americans born between 1946 and 1964 not only make up a huge chunk of the population, at just over 80 million people, but they are also estimated to have an annual spending power of $2 trillion. That makes this group, by most accounts, the wealthiest population segment in U.S. history.
This wealth, garnered in many cases after time spent at large corporations, has often led to early “retirements.” But in reality, many of these people left their corporate jobs to follow their own personal passions—from home—and hang the “Open” sign.
Baby boomers are one of the largest segments of the home-based business phenomenon and are significantly responsible for its boom across the country, says Jeff Williams, StartupNation blogger and chief coach of Chicago-based Bizstarters.com. As of fall 2007, there are 27 million people over the age of 50 who want to continue to work well into their 60s, he says.
“We really established what it meant to be a workaholic,” Williams says of the boomer generation. “We got used to working 60- and 70-hour weeks, and we can’t move away from that very easily. The largest number of startups is coming from people over 50. They’re really taking away from the 30-and-under people.”
Back to our winner. Murphy recalls, “I had done real well with the company.” Well enough that he realized he didn’t have to work there anymore. “I really had the freedom.”
Murphy retired from DST in May 2007, and launched his venture the following month. Through Murphy Outdoors, he runs fishing expeditions for small groups of people in the Ozark region of central Missouri.
“It’s one of the things I’ve done all of my life as a hobby,” he says of fishing.
Murphy now runs the office part of his business from the basement of his home in Gladstone, Mo., outside of Kansas City. With the purchase of a new boat, fishing gear and a computer, his startup cost him around $53,000.
So far it has paid off. He has done slightly more than 30 trips since his launch and charges $150 for a half-day of fishing for two people and $225 for a full-day event. His goal is to hit 100 expeditions annually.
His computer background allowed him to build his own Web site, through which he does most of his marketing. His skills helped when Murphy needed to make his site visible on popular search engines, a process he completed by following the instructions those engines give “to the letter,” he says, and making sure you have important key words on your Web site that will trigger a hit.
“It isn’t something that happens in a day,” he warns of his search engine optimization efforts for his Web site. “It takes three or four weeks sometimes.”
Murphy also spreads word of his business by handing out cards at the many fishing tournaments he regularly attends and has put a sign on his truck advertising the business.
Though Murphy retired relatively young, he suggests that aspiring entrepreneurs “stick it out” at their current jobs, invest correctly and secure financial stability before going out on your own. That way you can enjoy your new careers more fully.
In our observation at StartupNation, a variation of Murphy’s advice has worked well too: Start part time, in the evenings and on weekends, while you still bring in the day-job paycheck. Only when your home business has enough momentum to succeed should you jettison yourself from the corporate world.
“I’m not doing it for money,” he says. “I’m doing it for fun.”
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