Are you above 50 and wondering if you can possibly start a business at your age? You’ve probably heard so much about teenage millionaires and successful founders in their twenties, right?
There are lots of successful entrepreneurs who started after 50. In fact, the Kauffman Foundation did a survey of 652 U.S.-born CEOs and heads of product development and discovered that the number of founders older than fifty was double those that were younger than twenty-five.
In this article, we’ll highlight in great detail entrepreneurs who dared to venture into business at 50 or beyond. The best part is that they proved that it’s never too late to begin.
1. Ray Kroc
Ray Kroc was 52 when he opened his first McDonald’s franchise. He had toiled for 34 years as a salesman selling paper cups and milkshake machines. Those years in sales are probably what gave him an eye for a product with great potential to excel. So he approached Dick and Mac McDonald (his then Milkshake machine customers). Ray offered to work as their franchising agent for a portion of the profits from their humble hamburgers.
Later on, based on his strategy, he followed his gut feeling and bought the company from the McDonald brothers at the age of 62. A decision he never regretted. Today, McDonald’s Corp., a $150 billion company, is in over 38,600 locations in more than 100 countries.
2. Ernestine Shepherd
From a high school receptionist who loved junk food and hated exercising, to the world’s oldest female bodybuilder. Ernestine Shepherd started working out at the ripe age of 56. She got her inspiration from her sister and continued to be encouraged to push her limits by a gym trainer.
Ernestine not only stands as proof that it’s not too late to get in shape, but also that it’s never too late to begin a business venture. She’s a successful personal trainer and also holds exercise classes for seniors.
3. Leo Goodwin
At 50, Leo Goodwin founded GEICO (Government Employees Insurance Company). While working with his wife, Goodwin would clock up 12-hour workdays, building his company from the bottom up to attain his vision.
This businessman was educated and had worked as an accountant in San Antonio, Texas, for a number of years. During this time, he noticed a gap in the insurance industry. Goodwin, therefore, set out to change how insurance companies were run. He opted to sell policies directly to the customers and cut out the brokers.
By the end of the first year, GEICO had grown to employ 12 staff members with 3,700 policies in force. Today it boasts of more than 28 million vehicle insurances.
4. Angie Higa
Angie Higa is a perfect example of necessity being the mother of invention. After retiring from her banking career to take care of her granddaughter in 2008, Angie began her business manufacturing and selling travel accessories like blankets and pillows. This idea was born after enduring a 7-hour cold flight because there were no blankets for passengers.
Her startup had a great beginning as she received an order of over $1,000 worth of her products just two weeks after her first creation. Sky Dreams, Angie’s business, continues to grow and flourish to date.
5. Colonel Harland David Sanders
Colonel Sanders is well known for founding the finger-licking Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) at the age of 65. Before then, David Sanders had done a number of jobs, including working as an insurance salesman, filling station operator, and a steam engine stoker.
It was during the great depression that Sanders first started selling fried chicken at a roadside restaurant. Later on, after developing his “secret” recipe, Colonel Sanders started the famed KFC franchising company.
In 1964, he sold the company for $2 million ($16.5 million today).
6. Jim Butenschoen
Jim spent 22 years in corporate sales and marketing. At 65 years of age, he no longer wanted to be in that sector. Even though he didn’t know what business to get into, that didn’t stop Jim Butenschoen. He took five years researching and finally decided to buy a beauty school, the Career Academy of Hair Design. The school has grown to be a great success.
7. Carol Gardner
At 52 years, Carol Gardner had everything seemingly going against her. She went through a divorce, got broke, and slipped into depression. But things turned out unexpectedly well for this resilient woman.
She followed her therapist’s recommendation to get a dog. A cute picture of the bulldog plus a funny quote led to her winning a card contest. This was the beginning of booming card business, Zelda Wisdom. Today, her $40 million company is going strong.
8. Wally Blume
Wally Blume had 20 years of experience in the dairy business. When the time came when he no longer felt comfortable in his job, Blume ventured out at 57 years and began a company in the same dairy industry. He started an ice cream business, Denali Flavors.
Blume’s company has continued to grow with the support and contribution of his wife. Together they’ve built the business into a million-dollar company. They have over 40 flavors with Moose Tracks being the most popular and creating an annual estimate of $80 million.
9. Colleen and Jim Seiler
This power couple had over 25 years of working experience in the environmental odor control industry. In 2013, Jim and Colleen Seiler (both over 50) decided to take the bull by its horns and invested $30,000 to start a new company, Kushley, LLC.
The idea of this business came up in 2011. Their friend was diagnosed with cancer and needed something to mask the smell of the medical marijuana that she was using for her symptoms. The Seiler’s quickly spotted the business opportunity after helping out their friend.
Even though Colleen admits that technology has been a bit of a steep learning curve, this hasn’t stopped them from pushing on to business success.
10. Sune Larsson
This is yet another inspirational entrepreneur who began his business at 50 years of age. The Swedish businessman was simply tired of working at jobs that gave him no joy or enjoyment. He was also fed up with toiling in full-time employment. So he got a new lease on life after venturing into self-employment, providing serviced offices in Stockholm.
Sune Larsson, in an interview, highlights the advantages of being an older entrepreneur. He has more time to concentrate on the business without worrying about kids and other family responsibilities.
11. Lorraine Campman
This businesswoman dared to learn about entrepreneurship at an old age. Lorraine joined the Women’s Opportunities Resource Center in 2007. After arming herself with some business skills from the training at the center, she started her new venture at the age of 56.
Since she had worked as an independent piano teacher since 1977, her ideal business choice was in the music industry. So she set up a music center teaching both private and group piano. Her greatest encouragement to others is to work at fulfilling your dreams, no matter the ups and downs you face.
12. Deborah Ramsey
Deborah’s story is a true example of resilience. After going through a couple of layoffs while working at corporate jobs, Deborah decided to get a more permanent solution. That’s when she started a business at 56 years. Her business, Natural Wellness and Spa, offers products and services to women and seniors.
13. Jaswant Kular
At 60, Jaswant Kular was looking for a solution to a personal need. She wanted to teach her daughters about traditional Indian cooking. Unfortunately, all the products she could find weren’t up to traditional Indian standards, based on her experience. So, instead of settling for the artificial ingredients, products with fillers, and too much fat, Jaswant came up with her own product, Jaswant’s Kitchen Indian Spice Blends.
Her business quickly grew, beginning with customers right within her family and among friends. And after moving online, her products are now available in more than 100 stores.
The business, run by Jaswant and her three daughters, is a good example of necessity being the mother of inventions.
14. Mary Tennyson
Mary Tennyson designed and started selling fashionable, walker-friendly purses at the age of 63. This business idea was born after Mary’s elderly mother fell and broke her hip. The accident meant that Mary’s mother had to use a walker to move around, but she still wanted to carry her fashionable bags, yet none of them were walker-friendly.
So Mary Tennyson got out an old sewing machine and made a bag for her mother. This was the beginning of the StashAll line of bags. It goes in front of a walker and comes in different colors to match one’s outfit if you so wish.
15. Rob Urry
At the age of 52, Rob Urry had already retired (in 2012) from employment and was busy enjoying his retirement freedom. But as he began traveling, he suddenly got a business idea that pulled him out of his retirement cocoon. Rob had been looking for the perfect lighting for his trailer, but nothing in the market met his requirement, that’s when he came up with Kogalla.
Together with a partner, they designed some high-performance lighting products, especially for use by travelers during adventures. Apart from meeting his own personal need for great lights, Rob had also grown tired of his retirement. So this business venture came as the ideal new adventure as he felt the need to build something.
16. Gerry Fioriglio
Gerry, a Registered Nurse with over 40 years of experience under her belt, had never thought of beginning her own business. But after going through several layoffs by large corporations, she had a change of mind. Life was throwing her lemons, and she decided to make lemonade.
She enrolled in training by WORC (Women’s Opportunities Resource Center) in Philadelphia. Through the StartSmart program, Gerry was able to learn the ropes of starting and running a business from scratch. She soon began her own company, Family Caregivers Network in Pennsburg, at the age of 57.
From very humble beginnings, with herself as the only employee of her company, Gerry’s company has grown to over 70 employees and serves a five-county area. Gerry’s years of working experience have definitely paid off since her expertise in the medical field is highly essential for the running of the company.
17. Rebecca and Steve Wilson
In 2006, Steve Wilson (at 51 years) and his wife Rebecca (at 46 years) started a business while still raising their sons and, at the same time, working. Juggling all these balls in old age has definitely not been easy, but this couple has remained determined to succeed.
Their business idea stemmed from a request from a friend for better luggage tags. Rebecca and her husband designed their own unique bag tags and later expanded to tags for watersports and scuba.
Rebecca and Steve Wilson have seen their business grow, and in 2015, they took the business online, therefore, enabling it to reach more clients. The watersports tags are now selling in over 300 retail shops.
18. Regina Mason
Regina Mason is the proud owner of the Virago Baking Company. This is a venture she began at the age of 54. Her journey to entrepreneurship is another case of making tough choices after going through several layoffs.
Regina had been working in the foodservice industry. Her passion and experiences led to the idea of her own bakery. Through the training and support of the Women’s Opportunities Resource Center in Philadelphia, she was able to begin her venture. The bakery and Cafe specialize in natural and organic, gluten-free, and vegan foods.
19. Chris and Susan Beesley
Chris and Susan Beesley are accountants and management consultants. They spent many years working face-to-face with clients helping them transform their businesses, something they really enjoyed. But they soon realized that they needed to start a business that wouldn’t need too much of their time and physical presence. So in their mid-50’s this couple began an online business.
Interestingly, neither Chris nor Susan were experts in the digital world. They both only knew the mere basics of online work, but that wasn’t going to hinder them from achieving their dream. So, in 2009, they began a blog where they could write about entrepreneurship and educate readers.
Long story short, Chris and Susan have gone on to grow their business and even attained the freedom of working from anywhere so they can travel to all the places they once only dreamed of.
20. Radha Daga
Radha Daga became an entrepreneur at the ripe old age of 60. She is one woman who believed in dreaming and pursuing your dreams until you achieve them, no matter your age. This is something she demonstrated in her own life.
Radha began an export garment business and eventually went into a food business. Her energetic nature and determination to succeed make her commute for more than an hour to her factory, where she ensures everything is produced up to standard. This diligence has led to Triguni Foods’ Magic Upma becoming well known among Indigo Airlines customers.
The business employs hundreds of underprivileged women and is growing by the day.
21. Olive Lynch
After training and performing as an opera singer, then joining the corporate world as a business and data analyst, Olive Lynch had gone through her fair share of employment experiences and challenges. She was eventually laid off, and that’s when the idea of beginning a business started.
Olive Lynch wanted to get into recycling food waste, and after doing her research on new composting technologies, she started her own company.
22. Franny Martin
Franny worked in marketing for close to 30 years. She worked with companies like McDonald’s and Domino’s Pizza. But when she decided to start her own business at the age of 56, she went for her passion, baking.
Since childhood, Franny had always loved being in the kitchen, and her love for baking made her produce some delicious homemade chocolate chunk hazelnut cookies. Her husband ate one of these and gave her the idea of baking and selling cookies. But it was much later that she actually took the plunge, quit her corporate job, and began Cookies on Call.
Franny started small, baking in her kitchen and slowly progressed until she finally acquired her own facility. Now she delivers her delicious cookies to different countries, including Italy, China, and Germany. The company has expanded to offer bread, cakes, and biscotti.
Judging from all these entrepreneurs who started after 50 and succeeded, it’s evident that age is just a number. So long as you are healthy and determined, anyone can begin a business at any age and succeed.
What is more, starting a business at a later age has several advantages. Older entrepreneurs have a lot more work and life experiences, which can be helpful in starting and running an enterprise. Older people also have fewer responsibilities at their age since children are probably all grown and no longer dependent on them. These factors mean that older businessmen and women can dedicate more time to their startups.
Research shows that “a 50-year-old founder is 2.2 times more likely to found a successful startup as a 30-year-old.” So don’t second guess yourself if you are older, pursue your dreams, and achieve them.
- The Balance Small Business: Famous Entrepreneurs Who Started Late in Life
- Forbes: Proof That The Most Successful Entrepreneurs Are Older Ones
- Arkenea: These 50+ Year Old Entrepreneurs Will Make You Rethink Your Retirement Plan
- Entrepreneur: Success Can Come at Any Age. Just Look at These 6 Successful Entrepreneurs.
- Shopify: Life Lessons from 9 Inspiring Entrepreneurs Over 50