09 Feb Is Becoming An Entrepreneur Your Next Passage?
T he pandemic has upended any lives, but older workers are among those hit the hardest. Telework took over for higher earners leaving out those whose jobs required being at the worksite (restaurant employees, electricians, plumbers, etc.)
Hopefully, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and many will be able to return to work. However, according to a recent study by The New School, unemployed older workers are slower to get rehired. Older workers lost jobs faster and returned to work slower than mid-career workers, the study revealed.
If you are among those who have been furloughed, let go, or want something different in your future, perhaps, now is the time to reevaluate your skillset and passions. Is now the time for you to start a new business or join a company that shares your vision?
To inspire you, here are four women who followed their life callings a little later in life.
What If I Created A Line of Reading Glasses?
It was something I thought about for a long time.
What would I do if I were to create my own line of reading glasses? What would the styles look like, what would be my brand, and do I even know enough to do this? Discouraged by a list of questions that just became longer, the dream remained just a dream also because, in reality,
I was a mother of three and the daughter of aging parents, which was enough to keep me grounded and very busy.
I thought about having my own brand of glasses on sleepless nights and difficult days of raising children, caring for elderly parents, and running a business; it was my escape.
Then my father died, and my mother’s Alzheimer’s became full-blown. My days became even busier, pushing me towards exhaustion as I struggled to get through each day. Even with joyful happenings, I was overshadowed by my caregiver worries. I was not alone.
As a volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association, and now in my new role as a support group facilitator, there are times I am just overwhelmed with emotion when I hear the heart-breaking stories of caregivers.
No one feels the effects of quarantine more than Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. Every day is a challenge. Support services are their lifeline, and that is one of the many reasons why I am a committed volunteer.
Having worked in fashion and retail a good part of my life, I have made many observations, but the one that stuck with me the most is how the things that we experience in our life surfaces in our product picks and forms the style that silently speaks your story.
A Calling Turns into a Company
And so, in a now or never decision, Renee’s Readers was created. I didn’t have to search far for inspiration; it was all around me. . . In my store, customers, friends, family, and many times complete strangers. Everyone had a story.
If anything, creating Renee’s Readers has taught me that sometimes we don’t realize our own strengths. As a mother, I raised my children to believe in themselves, work hard to accomplish their goals, and when they fall down trying, not to give up and treat others the way they would want to be treated.
My own words empowered me.
For more than 30 years practicing as a licensed optician, I have helped people select eyewear that flatters them and performs to their highest expectations. I have been able to draw upon my life and previous business experiences to create readers that offer customers the clearest vision with styles so they can look their best. I’m happy that I’ve been able to combine my business with giving back through my work with the Alzheimer’s initiatives.
This is what keeps me going.
Bringing the World CloserFollowing a career as a creative scientific researcher and advocate of innovative education resulting in two international leadership institutes, I am spending part of my semi-retirement inspiring others to a more collective world through photography.
While I have been long known as a biomedical scientist and researcher, academic leader, and advocate for professional women and health professions educators globally, I think it’s time to spread my dreams through unique paper art.
My passion for photography started long before my medical career. I grew up with a photographer journalist father and spent a college summer as a darkroom research assistant at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. This led to my editing my college yearbook, doing much of the photography, and developing.
Photography was a constant thereafter, leading to creating calendars as gifts for family and friends and creating one-of-a-kind greeting cards since the 1990s. I have also taken a number of short courses, especially with the Rocky Mountain School of Photography. I co-founded and was active in a small art cooperative that existed for 19 years. We closed right before the pandemic.
My career has been entwined with academic health centers since working as a research technician, obtaining a Ph.D. in microbiology, climbing the academic ladder, and assuming leadership roles. This led to the opportunity to create a leadership program for gender equity in academic health centers in 1995 and one for health professions faculty around the world in 2001.
That’s why I contribute part of every dollar spent to the Foundation for the Advancement of International Medical Education and Research in honor of all health care workers globally.
As an educator, I include my photography in my teaching. To foster community among participants, I create multi-language greeting card images, and since 2010 calendars from global travel using images plus inspirational quotes from writers around the world.
My new business’s name combines my first name, Page, and the paper art I do: Page’s Pages Around the World!
My art enthuses people because of how I approach photography as walking meditation – focusing on my senses – sight, sound, smell, breeze, and warmth of the sun. I try to really notice what’s around me. As Georgia O’Keeffe says, “Nobody sees a flower really – it is too small – we haven’t the time, and to see takes time.”
I have two virtual sites, and my work can occasionally be seen in local galleries. I have current projects on my website, including ’52 Weeks of Joy’, its shop for photographs ready for hanging, and one-of-a-kind greeting cards, which often combine photographs with special papers, fabric, and quotations.
For special occasions, I believe in handwritten notes, even in this age of email and texting. On my website, I have calendars and greeting cards featuring multi-languages or words as art.
I consciously slow down, take time and look at the world. I am intrigued to contrast broad vista views with small tiny, almost invisible details in wildflowers, grasses, butterflies, birds, public art, and buildings. The process involves noticing and attempting to capture the image. Sometimes it works, sometimes not! That’s just part of the process – being grateful for what the camera and I can capture.
Rebirthing a Career: It’s Never Too Late
At 73 years old, I might not be your typical entrepreneur. But in business, just like in life, age does have its advantages. You’re free to do what you love, and if you’re lucky, you finally know what that is! For me, it’s changing how we welcome babies into the world.
A career is a journey of the heart.
I’ve had a wonderful career—many careers, really. I’ve been a mother of two sons (my most loved job), taught preschool at Stanford (my most fun job); led the product development team for Gymboree’s line of children’s clothing that took the company to an IPO (my most creative job); and been a strategic consultant to small businesses (my most adult job). And those are just the highlights.
As I approached my sixties, I wanted to put all of that experience together in a way that would be fulfilling for me and useful for other people. So, I got a degree in training and HR development at UC Berkeley and started teaching hundreds of women the skills and thrills of entrepreneurship.
But something was missing. There I was, at 60, teaching a course called “How to Start Your Own Fashion Business,” and I kept thinking, “I’m too young to teach this stuff. I still want to do it!”
I signed up for a sustainable gardening class, thinking it might guide me to my next career. It did. But the career had nothing to do with gardening. One of my classmates was a woman who showed up with her young baby in tow.
I felt drawn to her, and we struck up an instant friendship. She told me she was a doula, a profession I’d never even heard of. She described her job as providing emotional support to women through the birthing process, and when she said, “There’s a whole world of new mothers out there who need our help,” I felt my heart skip a beat.
I looked into doula training and discovered that beyond providing support with labor and delivery, there are also postpartum doulas who help moms connect with their newborns—and I instinctively knew that was for me. A hundred volunteer hours at San Francisco General and dozens of babies and mothers later, I was a postpartum doula. I was happy with where I’d ended up. I was helping people and doing work I believed in. But what I didn’t realize was that my career transition was actually beginning.
Turning a purpose into a product
Two years later, I was still loving working as a doula, but I was feeling that restless itch again. Something was still missing. And then one day, as I was talking with one of my moms and her baby, I found it. She was cradling her little one tenderly on her chest, and she said, “I wish we could stay like this all day.” And I thought, “You can. And I can help.”
I thought about the threads that had woven (in some cases, literally) through my career: women, babies, clothing, and business development. I thought back to my entrepreneurship training days and what I’d told so many hopeful women: “You’re the one who defines what success is. So, ask yourself what you love and what success means to you.” And I realized I had the unique combination of skills and experience to create the first newborn carrier specifically designed for babies 7 to 18 pounds and their new moms.
As it turned out, this was a big idea that created a brand-new niche the world was just about to realize it needed. Sure, there were plenty of baby carriers out there. But they were all designed for what I call the backpack paradigm: putting the baby in some kind of “luggage” so you could transport it somewhere.
My carrier would be designed to serve a bonding paradigm—keeping mom’s hands-free so she could go about her life with her newborn safely and comfortably nested next to her heart. And it would provide the skin-to-skin contact that the latest evidence-based research had proven to be so important in the first days, weeks, and months of a baby’s life.
Sitting at the 1950s sewing machine that my own mother had taught me on (I would imagine her looking on approvingly as I sewed, and sewed…and sewed), I made more than fifty bad carriers before creating the prototype I patented in 2013.
My family and friends helped me pull off a successful Kickstarter campaign, and I launched my company, Nesting Days. In my first year in business, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation flew me to the Kangaroo Mother Care Conference in Rwanda. How amazing is that?
Seven years later, we’ve sold tens of thousands of Newborn Baby Carriers. We’ve always been an online company, selling directly to consumers, so, despite the pandemic, 2020 turned out to be our best year yet. Since I can’t spend my days meeting face-to-face with moms and their babies right now, I’ve used the last year to hunker down and work on my next product line: carriers for older babies.
We’re growing. It’s working. But it turns out what success really means to me is not so much the sales and the numbers. I can honestly, humbly, and very happily say, we’ve created the best newborn carrier on the planet. It’s helping people, and I hear that from them every day of my life. Our carriers are creating happier lives for little ones and their parents. There’s less crying, less postpartum depression and anxiety, more connection, more love.
So, let me put on my “career doula” hat and share a few words of encouragement from my heart to yours. It is never too late to do what you love. You’re never too old to make a difference. And there’s never been a wiser, more experienced you than the person you are today.
Julie Arvan is Founder and Chief Mother Officer, Nesting Days.
Being a military spouse, I traveled the world, supporting my husband’s military career. Once, he encouraged me to follow my dreams. I was not sure what those dreams were at the time at the age of 41.
One day I was home and picked up my small point and shoot camera to film myself doing a DIY home project. I put it on YouTube and had only two viewers, a dear friend and my mom.
I enjoyed the process so much that I consistently would put videos on YouTube. After some time, people (other than friends and family) were starting to watch. Nine years later, I am at over 500,000 followers, a best-selling author, and running my own professional organizing business, all because I picked up that camera that day.
The beauty in what I do is that I get to connect with so many like-minded people all around the world, and I can have a positive impact on their life.
It took me 50 years, but I now know my life’s purpose, and I am loving it!