Start up success stories
Last week in my piece ” Ladies – it’s never too late to start up” I wrote about a growing trend towards self employment amongst Baby Boomers and the business success of the “grey economy” However, in Europe less than 30% of new businesses are established by women, compared to 70% by their American counterparts . Yet I have talked to and coached many women who have done exactly that and found incredible satisfaction and success.
I’m not talking about super women who set up something on their kitchen tables 20 years ago and are now teetering around in power stilettos, sporting designer suits and running massive empires from their iPhones . No, the women I know are just regular women, like you or I, who for one reason or another at a “certain age “, when other people are thinking about retiring, decided they wanted to be self employed and made it happen. They created their dream. Besides, power stilettos kill their feet .
Some had given up work to raise their kids and wanted to return to the work place, others had been made redundant after years of service. Others wanted to leave the corporate world and do something different that they felt passionate about and which gave them flexibility. Some just simply wanted to change , but weren’t sure what to do. Yet another group had retired, but had an itch to do something more with their lives than go for lunch. Some had concerns about long term financial security issues , and as pension funds lie in tatters, property prices plummet and divorce rates rise, this is completely valid.
It seemed to be that the common threads from talking to them all were: flexibility, control, purpose, passion, financial security, commitment, personal development and increased confidence.
Carol O’Donoghue, Jacksonville, Florida, set up her own real estate company at the age of 47, having just gone through a divorce. She was a high school principal before she moved to Europe to support her now ex husband’s career. Returning to the Jacksonville to be near her family, she was looking for something more flexible that she could do longer term. Now she says “I am able to work from many different locations with the advances in technology, so I can go skiing in Colorado and sell 2 houses while I am gone!”
The start up process involved re – training on the technical side of real estate management , obtaining the required licenses and investing in some basic equipment and publicity material.
Carol suggests that the greatest challenges were finding a work life balance and dealing with her own perfectionist tendencies! “ I worked 7 days a week and often until 2am… I felt like I completely lost my personal life for the first few years. ”
She then decided to relinquish some control and hire extra help, with immediate benefits. Plans for the future? Carol just says ” I want to enjoy the life I have left. I am 55 this year and that has always been my goal …………I will refer all of my business to another firm (for a fee)”
Meicki Schick, Brussels, Belgium, speaks 3 languages, and at 48, is as glamorous as any super model and has twice the energy of a woman half her age. She is a walking bill board for her new business as a Pilates Coach
She decided to pursue this change of direction because she says ” I had a constant feeling that to be only mother, house wife, taxi driver for my kids…was not enough to fill up my life. “
Meicki had originally trained as a pharmacist in Germany and had considered going back into her old profession but told me “ an opportunity came last summer, when I saw the folder of a local academy that carries out Pilates teacher trainings. My own Pilates coach encouraged me to follow this training and suggested I give lessons at her studio, especially she needed a French speaking coach for her Belgian clients. It took me one night to sleep over this proposition and than I decided to go for it.”
After completing the training programme she started teaching her own classes and the excellent feedback she received motivated her even further. She now has the flexibility to organise her own schedule and be active every day “ Sport has always been part of my favorite activities. Now I get paid for it ! ”
Her dream is to complete further training and eventually open her own Pilates Studio. She loves “working and being active” and says this has helped her overall confidence.
Jane W from the UK was musically trained, but fell into a marketing and communication role in her early career almost by chance. Even though she followed her husband’s career across 3 continents , wherever she was in the world she made sure she found a job. “ I realised that I needed to do something for me, it helped me adapt to the change and kept me in touch with the business community. Very often I was involved in organising corporate events and also volunteered at my kid’s school. We had always entertained a lot at home and as I love food I decided to take a Cordon Bleu cookery course ”
Jane’s divorce left her economically vulnerable, so it was imperative that she find something to protect her long term financial situation. “ I began helping organise events, weddings , dinners and parties in addition to doing the catering. Before long I was involved professionally, coordinating other freelancers. I then moved on to conferences, launches, openings and so on.”
The future? “ I have one son still in school and as soon as he is finished I intend to expand. In the meantime I am doing some on-line marketing courses and am training as a florist. For the moment I’m happy to stay small, getting up in the morning knowing I’m going to be doing something I love ”
Her message? “Never stop learning – you never know what’s around the corner”.
Sacha Otten, from the Netherlands set up her own company abovePAR last year , marketing virtual assistant services. Her mantra echoes William McFee “The world belongs to the enthusiast who keeps cool! But at at the start of the recession, it was a little risky to branch out on her own, so she also combined this with holding down an 80% time job , on top of acquiring skills and certification in internet research. She felt that this would give her greater control over her own destiny and make her less vulnerable in the market place. Speaking 5 languages, she offers project management, administration and research services internationally. When Sacha heard recently that her job was being cut as a result of the downturn she was glad that she had this additional string to her bow.
“ When you own your own company, your age seems to matter a lot less than when you seek permanent employment. It can even be a huge advantage when you have reached a certain maturity and can also be very flexible in your work hours. I tend to think it is an asset rather than a handicap. Clients seem to like this when they decide to outsource their work.’
Her greatest challenge was the sales/marketing element . “ Selling yourself and breaking into a market is not a very easy thing to do. A lot depends on your personality. Setting up your own company is definitely not for everyone. Your commitment needs to be high.”
So if you have passion, drive, energy and are looking for purpose, want control of your own destiny, financial situation and schedule – what is stopping you?