Archive for the ‘Re-Invention Connection’ Category

Focused On Seeing Things More Clearly

October 23, 2011

Like many Boomer Entrepreneurs, Jeff Bradford and Karen Arnett saw a need that wasn’t being addressed and created a product to meet that need.  Their story shows that having a good idea and developing it can not only lead to a business that provides income and a new career, but can also help businesses improve customer convenience by helping them see things more clearly.  That’s a ReInvention that’s hard to beat.  

How ReInvention Led To The Creation of Monocle Marquee

“Guilty!”  The jury had spoken on 12 felony counts: mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. Our involvement with a con-artist who had stolen millions of dollars from us and other unsuspecting investors over a patented idea for a new product called Binocs was over.  It was a great idea, an “almost finished” patented high-tech binocular vending unit that could be mounted under stadium and arena seats, but the whole encounter led to a devastating loss to our life savings and retirement nest egg.

We both had interesting past experiences involving start-up initiatives which made the situation a little easier to cope with, but not much.  I was in the restaurant industry and Karen had a 24 year career with AT&T. Now, at age 50 we needed to start over and figure out how to refill our coffers.  A move to Montana to be close to our Binocs “investment” was now limiting our opportunities so we relocated to Denver to buy and renovate rental properties.  Karen learned medical transcription which often can be done from home.

Things were going well in Colorado.  I was managing and maintaining seven rental properties.  Karen was working from home doing medical transcription for a large company which also offered us affordable medical insurance coverage.  Yet we worried about keeping medical insurance if Karen lost her job or if she wanted to retire. Would we be able to afford private medical insurance as we aged and began experiencing health problems?  We decided to shop for a policy that would meet our long-term needs.  We chose a high deductible plan.  While our monthly premiums were low, our out-of-pocket expenses would be higher.  This decision prevented Karen from becoming a “slave” to her company should a serious medical condition emerge for either of us and it insured that we would have coverage established going into retirement.

Soon after securing private insurance, we began remodeling one of our rental properties —a big beautiful old home in the historic district of Golden, Colorado—and moved into it as perhaps our final move. I did much of the work during the project which took a year to complete.  Just as the project was completed and we moved into our dream home, I began having difficulty breathing and all of my joints were very painful. I thought I had just overworked myself and needed some time to recuperate.  Unfortunately, a trip to the local immediate care clinic proved me wrong. 

After twice checking my oxygen reading the nurse started screaming “he’s at 72, he’s at 72.” I didn’t know what was happening as doctors and nurses came out of little rooms everywhere and began scurrying around like crazy. I asked if there was anything I could do to help out; I had no idea the emergency was me!

While my doctor was speaking to National Jewish Hospital in Denver, he directed the nurses to secure an emergency appointment with a respiratory specialist, to put me on oxygen STAT, and to have oxygen immediately delivered to our house.  I still didn’t know what was happening but had a sneaking suspicion that I might be at death’s door.

I was sent home that evening on oxygen and just like that, our lives were dramatically changed forever. Karen met me on the front porch in tears. The doctor had called her and the oxygen company had already been there to set up the tanks.  I would be on oxygen 24 hours a day, perhaps for the rest of my life… which apparently wasn’t going to be that long.

By the next afternoon I was struggling to breathe and could hardly walk to the car for my appointment with a specialist who did a battery of tests.  We were told that something was drastically wrong as my oxygen level was extremely low. He thought I likely had an advanced case of Interstitial Lung Disease which is progressive and terminal.  He was trying to get me into National Jewish Hospital since that is their expertise but there was a wait of two to three weeks to get in.  

Bedridden and on oxygen, the next two weeks were the most difficult of our lives. After exhausting tests, National Jewish provided a diagnosis and a prognosis – Interstitial Lung Disease of an undetermined origin and about a year to live.  Was it a coincidence that we had purchased private major medical insurance just a few months earlier?  That allowed Karen to quit her job to take care without losing coverage. Perhaps there was a higher power at work for us.

Our church has been a tremendous source of comfort and inspiration through this most difficult of times. All of the experimental medications proved to be no help and there was little else the doctors could do.  There is no cure and we still know very little about the disease, but as time passed I felt a little better and was able to get up and walk around using portable oxygen tanks. After two years of struggling against the disease, of taking all of the horrible experimental medications (which were worse than the disease), of constant visits to the doctor, we made a decision to simply put it all in God’s hands.  That was 3-½ years ago.  Today I use oxygen only when I sleep and am able to lead a productive life if I monitor my oxygen levels and don’t over exert myself.

Now that we knew I was going to live, we had to figure out how we were going to live.  Karen had quit her job to take care of me and the real estate bubble had burst.  I could no longer manage or maintain our rental properties so we had to sell them at a huge loss.  Much of what we had counted on for retirement income was again gone. We still had our beautiful home which was paid for and a little bit of savings left but now it was time to take the biggest gamble of all – an entrepreneurial start-up initiative that involved an idea we had a decade earlier.  

The idea for the Monocle Marquee™ was born about 10 years ago. At a local restaurant for dinner one evening, neither of us could read the fine print on the menu. Jeff noticed that an acrylic tabletop menu holder was displaying the restaurant’s high-profit dessert specials.  He commented that it would be very convenient if that display also had a magnifier to help us read the fine print. We didn’t do anything with the idea then.

Last year we had lunch with some friends who had forgotten their reading glasses. After squinting and holding the menu at arm’s length they still couldn’t make out the fine print. The restaurant had a tabletop menu holder displaying their specials in a very easy-to-read point size. Jeff told our friends about his idea of mounting a magnifier above the display area to solve this very problem. They encouraged us to pursue the idea. . 

We thought long and hard about this because we knew the funding would have to come from what was left of our retirement savings. We decided to make some prototypes and once we got started it was hard to stop because one thing just led to another. Working with acrylic, finding lenses at a reasonable cost, figuring out how to do the silk screening and affixing the lens to the acrylic, sourcing the production, etc. was all new to us. We used the internet to identify potential manufacturers and then submitted design details and solicited bids on a per unit basis.

We also tested the product with other baby boomers and seniors who liked the convenience Monocle Marquee offered when trying to read fine print on a restaurant menu or on things in the home or office.  Magnification comes in handy for reading prescription bottles, check books, monthly statements, bills, etc. – even for those who wear glasses.

People liked the idea of creating customized display inserts for telephone numbers, pictures, IDs, passwords, prescriptions, menus, pictures, etc. We devised a simple, easy-to-use page on our website to help create free personal, customized display inserts in any font and size. For more examples or to use our Customize-It!™ page to bring your ideas to life, visit our website at: www.MonocleMarquee.com/customize  

Monocle Marquee can benefit a business by helping customers see prices, product descriptions, menu items, etc. clearly and by profiling their high profit items in the table top displays, leading to additional sales and profits and offering improved customer service. The tabletop design of Monocle Marquee also insures that it won’t get lost in a drawer like reading or other magnifying glasses or be hidden under a stack of papers like other contact lists.  

During market testing we secured U.S. and foreign patents and trademarks.  We’re now marketing Monocle Marquee through many different mediums.  It has been well received and sales are brisk.  It feels good to have some self-worth, a little stability, a reason to be here, and to offer a product that helps people with added convenience.

We learned a few lessons along the way.  It took more money and time than we thought.  We should have doubled or even tripled the amount of budgeted resources.   We needed a strong support system that included people who helped guide us past roadblocks.  We also depended on our faith for courage and strength to keep going.

We hope you try Monocle Marquee. If we can help one person in some way with our story, it will have been worth it all!

Jeff Bradford and Karen Arnett

www.MonocleMarquee.com

 

 

 

 

 

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From Civil Drafting to Drafting A New Course….

August 28, 2011

Hello Boomers,

The latest story of ReInvention comes from Holly Whiteside.  She has been busy drafting a new course for herself for over ten years.  She realized that her corporate life was less than fulfilling and “busted out” to find her true path.  Read her inspiring story and take advantage of the resources that she shares to help you find your own true path.

The ReInvention of Holly Whiteside

Prior to 1990 I was a happy Civil Drafter, creating plans for airports, parking lots, and septic systems. Now I’m a Turningpoints Coach and Caregiver’s Coach, and a Change Agent for long-term care. The shift was not overnight, not a left-brain decision driven by a preconceived vision. The reinvention of my work began with a reinvention of myself at age 40.

Throughout the early 90’s I increasingly felt like busting out, taking a leap toward doing work that would make a difference with people rather than things. Personal transformation trainings and workshops since 1985 pointed me in the direction of life coaching. For three years I was a coach to the board members of non-profits, helping them to rekindle their love of their work. Then my mother hit. 

My challenging mother moved near me at age 77 and all hell broke loose. (See my memoir “Exploring Hell and Other Warm Places”.) To keep the guy wires of my life relatively secure and my sanity somewhat in place, I began applying the life coaching principles I had been teaching others to myself. Thus commenced my ten-year reinvention of myself, from the inside out.

When we were done in 1996, I had a first-time connection with my mother and a new connection with myself. Also, and of fundamental importance, I had a spiritual life. I was now approaching life intuitively. No longer a tank-like constructor of my life path, I was allowing myself to be led by life. I was being called (a la the inspiring book by Gregg Levoy, “Callings”.) Life went from being a chore to being an adventure. 

I was first called to document in detail those ten years with Mom, and the tools and techniques that saved me. That manuscript was eventually published as “The Caregiver’s Compass: How to Navigate with Balance and Effectiveness Using MindfulCaregiving”, which was followed by my mother/daughter caregiving memoir “Exploring Hell…”. I began testing these MindfulCaregiving tools by coaching caregivers. Because they worked on the level of human experience, they were useful to folks in any situation caregiving for anyone. 

From there I felt called to take the Hospice Spiritual Care training, and to become an Eden Alternative Associate (promoting culture change in Eldercare homes). I recently became a long-term care Ombudsman (Elder advocate), and I am working with the new Lotus Healing Arts Foundation in Newburyport MA to roll out a ground-breaking program, bringing alternative healing to Elders to complement their treatment plans. We call it The Eldercare Whole-health Alliance. Other organizations are joining the Whole-health Alliance, and doctors are starting to get on board, recognizing the proven health benefits from various healing modalities. Finally Eastern and Western medicine have a community-based non-profit organization where they can collaborate! Oh, and I am returning to life coaching, this time coaching people who are, by choice or not, on the verge or in the middle of a life transition. 

Advice for others considering taking a leap? If the “consideration” comes from your heart, take it, but take it with full knowledge of who you are. Too often we look outside of ourselves to make major life path decisions, forgetting to consult our inner wisdom. Most people I speak with are so focused on keeping their head above water, they don’t see that they can go beyond getting by, to reinvent their experience of their life. To me, that act of self-reinvention, the day-to-day questioning of “Who am I being?” is where the leverage lies. We are only absent in our lives to the degree to which we don’t speak mindfully and authentically, and that is preceded by an internal conversation. With a little guidance, anyone can take the reins of their life, define their commitment, design their conversations, shift their relationships, and so much more.

Carlos Fernando Flores Labra was former cabinet minister under Chilean president Salvador Allende. He spent three years as a political prisoner after the military coup of General Augusto Pinochet (1973-1976.) A founder of the philosophical school of Action Language, he knew the power of language. During those three years, the way he chose to think and speak gave him his freedom. He said, “I told a transformation story – about how prison changed my outlook, about how I saw that communication, truth, and trust are at the heart of power. I made my own assessment of my life, and I began to live it. That was freedom.”

TurningPoints Coaching and MindfulCaregiving Coaching are rooted in the theories of Action Language (Searles, Flores, and others). Life coaching insights, tools, and exercises are integrated with various principles of alternative healing, mind/body practices, and New Thought. These principles are laid out in “The Caregiver’s Compass” in a form that can be used equally well by non-caregivers. A “TurningPoints” handbook is also in the works. My books give me a small passive income stream. I am invited to give presentations and keynote speeches. I offer family caregiver workshops and support groups through The Lotus Foundation. And I am happier than I have ever been in my life. 

Contact me at MindfulCaregiving.whiteside@gmail.com if you’d like to learn about me or my work. I’ll even let you sneak a peek at my new website which is under construction at www.TurningPointsCoaching.net.

Here are a couple of other resources for you: The Enneagram will help you to see yourself and others from a new perspective at: http://www.enneagraminstitute.com. Johnson O’Connor Human Engineering Labs can help you to be clear about your innate gifts and talents at www.jocrf.org. The PaperRoom Process will allow you to “re-examine your work and life situation so that you can make successful, fulfilling new choices” at: http://www.bostoncoachingco.com.

 

“…. and to make gentle the life of this world.”

August 18, 2011

Good Morning Boomers,

Our latest story of ReInvention comes from Fran Larkin, author, speaker, caregiver, and purveyor of hope, inspiration, and practical advice.  Fran doesn’t think he started a business after retiring, at least not in the strictest sense of the word.  When we read his story, we found that a business does indeed exist within his activities.  Fran is in the business of helping others by sharing his experiences and his knowledge.  He may not be making a big pile of money, but he is making a big difference and that is a great legacy. 

 The ReInvention of Fran Larkin

I retired in December, 2004 after a 35 year career at IBM. I certainly did not want to go “quietly into the night.” For years I had planned out what I wanted to do in retirement. While some may do financial planning to get ready for retirement, an article in USA Today advised that 90% of people don’t do any planning for the emotional side of retirement.  Few plan what they are going to do in this “next phase of their lives” but I was ready. 

I immediately began writing “5 Words and Then Some, How to Succeed in This Big Game We Call Life”.  I wanted to share what I had learned in business and in life with high school and college graduates. The book was published in March, 2009 and is full of hope, inspiration and practical advice. It has opened many doors as I am often invited to speak to high schools and community groups.  

Through my own retirement planning and additional reading I have done, I developed a presentation called “The Emotional Side of Retirement.”  I also speak on this topic in an effort to help the 77 million baby boomers and other retirees put a plan in place to help them live a healthy, happy and meaningful next third of their lives. 

When I retired my mother had early stage Alzheimer’s but she got progressively worse and eventually had to go into a nursing home. When she died in September, 2007, I wanted to help other families who were going through this.  I developed a presentation called “Alzheimer’s Lessons Learned” which is based upon what I and my two sisters went through.  I speak on this topic with individuals and within the larger community and joined a local Support Group where I try to help and give advice to others dealing with this devastating disease. 

We all take a lot out of life and I believe we have both an obligation and a responsibility to give something back to our communities. I joined Pennies for Poverty, 2Cents4Change which is a local non-profit in Newburyport, MA.  We try to raise awareness, food, and money for those in need in our area. I speak about our mission to other groups in the community like The Lions and Rotary and Exchange Club. I also belong to the Chamber of Commerce where I share our mission during a monthly Eye Opener mixer.  I am seeking ways to expand the reach of Pennies for Poverty, 2Cents4Change into the other 350 towns in Massachusetts. 

Three years ago I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.  Exercising six days a week and watching what we eat sometimes isn’t enough – especially when you have a bad family history.  Diabetes contributed to my father’s death at 66 years of age. I have developed a talk on this too and hope to speak to community groups and work with the local hospital to start a Diabetes Support Group. 

One chapter of my book became not only a key part of my retirement presentation but also a separate presentation about visioning and setting your own values, mission, goals and strategies to achieve them. My next presentation is also in the works.  It will be about delighting your customers with the WOW factor.  Additional presentations based upon my many corporate experiences will follow.  

Our local Community Access TV-Port Media have filmed most of my presentations which have also been shown on our local educational TV station.  I have also loaded the links on my website so anyone can watch.  I basically speak on all of these topics for free although I have received a few honorariums.  Recently I joined Speakermatch.com in hopes of broadening my audience beyond our local area.           

One of my next projects is a memoir about growing up in the U.S. and Cape Cod in the 50’s and 60’s.  I hope to publish is next year as it’s about 75% completed.  While it may sound like my retirement is all about projects and giving back, my wife and I spend lots of time doing other things we love.  We kayak, bike, walk, hike, swim, snowshoe, visit family and friends, go out to eat, and explore our local town. I also took painting and drawing classes and have produced ten paintings with more to come. 

As you can see, I keep busy in this phase of my life called retirement. I hope it lasts at least as long as my work life did.  The key is to keep busy, stay healthy, and give back. In summary, I am trying to do in my retirement what the Greeks said many years ago and what Sen. Robert F. Kennedy echoed in 1968, “to tame the savageness of man and to make gentle the life of this world.”    

Fran Larkin

www.franlarkin.com

Sometimes It Pays to Just Be Yourself

July 20, 2011

Good morning Boomers,

The latest addition to the ReInvention Connection is model Cindy Joseph.  Signed by the Ford talent agency after being spotted on the streets of New York, her first photo shoot was for Dolce and Gabbana.  Not bad for a 59 year old women who had just cut off the last evidence of dyed hair to embrace her gray and “let it all hang out.”  

Cindy has been in demand as a model and she’s not alone.  Ford has a division that is dedicated to providing models from the Baby Boomer generation so that advertisers can position their products to appeal to the largest consumer buying group. 

They’re not targeting Boomers because we’re on the cutting edge of technology.  They’re not chasing us because we are such slaves to fashion – or technology – or the “latest and greatest” anything.  They’re trying to attract us because we have the money to buy their stuff.  

Today’s smart companies are “following the money” and that often leads them directly to Boomer consumers.    

While not everyone has the genes to be a model (at any age), Cindy isn’t just taking advantage of her looks.  She has also started a cosmetics business to create products specifically for Boomers.  She understands the clout of our generation due to our numbers and our purchasing power and has wisely decided to try to tap into that market.   

Cindy knows that Baby Boomers won’t be hitting the rocking chairs anytime soon. As we continue to contribute, to buy, to explore, and to create the lives that we desire by taking advantage of opportunities as they arise, smart entrepreneurs of any age will continue designing Boomer specific marketing and keep using Boomer models in their ads.  

You can check out her video at www.myboomer2boomer.com

 

Re-Invent And ReLaunch. Do What You Love

June 10, 2011

Good morning Boomers!

The latest Boomer Entrepreneur to join The Re-Invention Connection is Bonnie Pond of ReLaunch Your Life.  She has reinvented herself many times throughout her career, as have so many others.  Her goal now is to help other women over 40 discover their true passions and help them find the will and the resources to make their dreams come to life in a profitable way.

  The Re-Invention Story of Bonnie Pond, Owner of ReLaunch Your Life

My work history is what some might call “checkered.” It reflects a wide variety of interests as well as the necessity of earning my daily bread. In the last forty-plus years I’ve waited tables, been a secretary, run a battered women’s shelter, and teamed up with my husband to be caretakers on a ranch. We had an old-time photography studio in the California Gold Country for a year.  Along the way, I also started a housekeeping service and, with two other women, had a company that provided continuing education units for nurses through travel opportunities. For several years I managed a furniture and gift store. I was an outreach worker, did a stint in the reference section of a college library, and got my elementary teaching credential. For many years I taught at a science and math magnet school before “retiring” to rural Tennessee.  

Within a few months, two things happened:  Traditional retirement turned out to be a real bore AND our savings pretty much disappeared with the downturn in the economy. We needed more income and I needed a way to tap into all my interests and passions. In 2009, I started ReLaunch Your Life out of necessity.  By combining specialized training with my own life experiences, I began helping women 40 + find ways to be their own boss by tapping into their passions.  

It breaks my heart to see those who’ve worked hard all their lives struggling to make ends meet when they retire. So many are searching for work that gives meaning, purpose, and joy to their lives too. They want to spend their time doing what feeds their spirits as well as their wallets. No one should have to spend their lives stuck in “job misery.” To be able to spend your days working at what you love has a positive ripple effect on your entire life. To be able to spend your days earning income while doing work you love is something that I want for everyone. 

Some clients want a new full-time career where they call the shots with their own small businesses. Others want to supplement their income with a sideline.

My husband, Jack, helps me with the technical side of the business and is a constant source of encouragement and ideas. Occasionally I partner with other women for special projects like the women’s retreat we have coming up in fall, 2011. 

My business combines the best of my previous jobs with new challenges every day. Each woman I work with has a unique set of gifts and talents. Each one has a different way of answering my question, “What do you want your life to look like?”  Because I know what it’s like to work in a wide variety of settings, from retail to non-profits to teaching and running small businesses, I can tap into those experiences to help clients move toward the life they really want.  

It took a lot of searching to develop this business idea – searching myself to figure out what I really wanted to be “when I grew up” and searching the Internet for ideas and for what people needed. I realized that so many people are looking for someone to help them rediscover their dreams and passions — before it’s too late. So many are stuck in jobs that make them miserable. And there are an increasing number of Boomers who need to create their own work because of layoffs, a major change like divorce or the death of a spouse, or let’s be honest here, because of age discrimination 

The Boomer Generation still has so much to give, so much vitality, so many options. We’re ready to explore and take on new challenges. Midlife isn’t over the hill. What I’ve found is that many people just need help figuring out what their options are. Reinventing yourself after 40 gives you a whole new perspective on your potential and what it means to live a full life. 

My husband has been my biggest cheerleader, but there have been so many others who said, “Go for it, Bonnie!” Connecting with other women who are running their own businesses is  always source of encouragement, fresh ideas, and resources. No one succeeds alone and that’s why I’ve also worked with coaches to help me learn how to grow my business. I’m in a Mastermind group and have an accountability partner. We meet by telephone weekly to help each other set goals and stay on track. And I’m always taking classes, which has the added benefit of keeping me around the “doers” of the world.  

Were there naysayers? Of course! There are always those who find reasons you can’t succeed – the economy is bad, you’re too old, it takes too much money to start your own business. The naysayers can really get to you if you let them. I think that’s what stops so many people from going after their dreams. That, and the self-doubts and fears that anyone charting a new course for their lives has to deal with. 

There are three main ways that I’ve created confidence.  The first is to hang around successful people. The second is to keep learning and growing. When you’re just starting out, it’s crucial to build a network of support. You need people who believe in you and who are willing to give advice as you build your business. It’s been said that you are the average of the five people you hang around with the most. I make it a point to spend plenty of time with people who love what they do and are very successful in their businesses. They inspire me because each one has overcome their own obstacles and naysayers along the way. 

The third piece of creating confidence is building competence. That’s why I got specialized training in career change coaching before I set up ReLaunch Your Life.  Understanding what people need is important and I do “get it.” But understanding is only a part of the equation. Training means I also know HOW to help women find ways to turn their interests into income so they can do what they love. I’m constantly in learning mode, taking classes and doing independent research, so that I continue to build my competence.  

Lessons learned? Oh, there are so many! The biggest lesson is that you need tons of patience and persistence. No business ever builds as quickly as you want. No business is ever as profitable as soon as you’d like. It takes quite a while to build a following and professional reputation. That’s the most important thing I wish I’d realized in advance.  

There will be obstacles and when you come up against them, you have a choice. Give up or find a way around them. Instead of saying, “I can’t” you have to say, “How can I make this happen?” Then, you have to take action every single day to do what needs to be done. No excuses 

I started out with a rudimentary business plan that has evolved over the last couple of years. It’s actually still evolving as I add more pieces to my business. For example, hosting an Internet radio show was not on my radar screen in the beginning, but now I’m on the air every week and love it

Because I work from a home office and do much of my coaching by telephone, I didn’t have to get outside funding to start up. My expenses have been mainly for training, working with my own coaches, and the normal office expenses like telephone and Internet service.  

Life is short, too short to settle for a beige existence. Reinventing and ReLaunching are all about moving out of your comfort zone. That can be scary, but to me it’s worse to stay in a “box” or in a life that’s really too small for your spirit. There are no guarantees in life. Taking the leap to realize your full potential is worth the risk. The saddest thing I can imagine is to look back at the end of your life and say, “If only . . .” 

Marie Beyon Ray has a quote that I love and try to live by: “Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand – and melting like a snowflake.” My biggest regret is thinking too small at first and staying in my comfort zone too long. If I could change one thing, it would be to think bigger and bolder right from the start.

Bonnie Pond is a career change coach and founder of ReLaunch Your Life. She helps women 40+ who want to be their own boss find ways to turn their interests into income. It’s never too late to love your work, love your money, and love your life again. Her website is www.relaunchyourlifecoach.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Using The Buddy System To Build A Business

June 1, 2011

Leroy Johnson invented a visual tool to help his patients complete a necessary but often very difficult task.  But it wasn’t until years later, when he showed his invention to Denise Jones, that his idea became a product available to those who need it.  Today they are business partners.  This is their story of Re-Invention. 

The Re-Invention of Denise Jones and Leroy Johnson 

Leroy and I started a business because neither of us felt secure about our financial futures.  We both wondered “What we were going to do when we got old?” as neither of us wanted to leave our care in the hands of the government or our families.  Being Baby Boomers, we knew we only had a few years to do whatever we needed to do to secure our own financial futures.  We felt this was our last chance. 

Leroy has been a caregiver and teacher of independent living skills for Developmentally Disabled people for 15 years.  He knows the difficulties and stresses a caregiver goes through, especially in effectively communicating with the patient or loved one.   Visual tools are often extremely helpful so Leroy invented a Visual Teaching Tool Poster to help clients with early to middle stages of dementia stay independent a little longer.  The Buddy Shower System is a waterproof, laminated poster that sticks to the shower wall.  It shows a series of pictures to remind the patient or loved one where and how to wash their bodies for effective cleansing while they are in the shower.  

Soon after we met, he showed me his invention and asked me what I thought.  I was so impressed with his idea that I knew we had found the answer to our “What are we going to do when we get old?” questions. We would run this business together.  But first we would need to build it.   

We started our business, Johnson and Jones, LLC, in June of 2009.  We each work out of our homes, one in New Jersey, the other in New Mexico.  With telephone, computer, email, fax machine, copy machines and the internet, we can easily manage our business and communicate effectively. 

We developed our business the hard way and we made mistakes.  Since we were both still working, we sought help to get our product into the marketplace. We investigated companies through sources like the Better Business Bureau and found one that appeared to be reputable. They did a great job for us with market research and a patent search for our product.  We came to consider this “the lure”. 

We gave them an additional $10,000 to develop our product but after months had gone by, very little had been done.  Needless to say, we were not pleased with them.  They assigned a counselor to our project but we weren’t able to speak to anyone else at the company.  We felt we were being taken advantage of so just three months shy of a year with them we opted out of our contract and filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.  They let us go without problem. I think they were glad to get rid of us because I was very vocal about our displeasure. 

We knew that the market potential for The Buddy Shower System was huge because the numbers of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and autism were increasing at epidemic rates.  We decided to market The Buddy Shower System ourselves. 

At first we looked for investors.  Several people were interested but we wanted silent partners and they didn’t want to be silent. Our money was running out so we decided to do the work ourselves.  I took advantage of free business classes that I found and was surprised to learn how much I could do for myself. 

I jumped into the pocket of my teachers who gave me lots of free advice outside of the classroom.  I spent many, many hours researching on the internet.  I called the Federal Government and asked MANY questions about setting up a LLC business.  We registered our business in New Mexico and they guided us through the necessary Certificate of Sales process.  We joined SCORE, an organization filled with retired volunteers who have already succeeded in business and who are there to guide others.

We decided to sell our product on a website that we designed ourselves.  Our bank helped us get a Merchant’s Account and the Gateway.  We also did our own email campaign.  We found Vistaprint to be a very inexpensive resource for new business owners as they also make it very affordable to do many other things like business cards, brochures, etc.   

There were many people around us who offered help; however, they were all talk.  There were many naysayers and not many cheerleaders although most thought that The Buddy Shower System was a great idea.  It wasn’t long before we realized that we were on our own.  Although it was difficult at times, we always reminded ourselves that this was our answer to the “What are we going to do when we get old?” question so we boosted each other’s confidence.   

We knew we had a good product that was designed for a growing population of people and that kept us going.  The Buddy Shower System isn’t the “Big Answer” for people with dementia, but it is an easier, less stressful, visual way for the caregiver to communicate basic shower instruction to their patient or loved one, and for the patient or loved one to see what to do while they are showering.  

Although we were taken advantage of and lost a lot of money, we do not regret anything.  We consider the money we lost as tuition for “the school of hard knocks”.  In spite of our losses, we are glad that we are doing it ourselves.  We know every aspect of our business and believe that all business owners should.    

We know that caregivers have a difficult job.  No matter the patient’s state of mind, they need to be clean and that can be very tough to accomplish.  The Buddy Shower System can help.  We’re working on other Buddy Visual Teaching Tools too.  Please visit http://www.buddyshowersystem.com for more information and availability or send us an e-mail at thebuddyshowersystem@yahoo.com.     

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is It Time To “Hire Yourself”?

May 3, 2011

Hello Boomers,

The most recent story of Re-Invention comes from Baby Boomer Entrepreneurs David Geyra and Daniel Rush.  They remind us that the knowledge, skills, insights, and experiences of our long careers can provide the tools that we need to recognize a niche, solve a problem, or fill a need – and earn a living.

Hire Yourself!

We are Baby Boomers who worked for a company that was hit hard by the latest recession. Just like so many others over 55, we soon found ourselves on the outside looking in and we both had to find new jobs. Like millions of other Baby Boomers we found obstacles that were very difficult to surmount.

Relevant experience wasn’t a problem. With our information technology backgrounds, web development experiences, and online marketing skills, we both felt we were marketable. But being in our 50’s and 60’s meant that being highly experienced with extremely up-to-date and marketable skills wasn’t enough. We would need to compete with millions who were also well qualified, over 55, and unemployed.

Like other Baby Boomers, we would need to find that proverbial needle in a haystack: an IT and Web-based company that was Boomer Friendly, a company that sought both talent and experience regardless of age, a company that didn’t mind hiring people over 55 who were getting the AARP Magazine! Alas, there were not many such employers on the horizon so instead of sending out resumes and waiting for responses, we decided to hire ourselves.

We believe that a key to success for anyone over 55 is to keep abreast of what’s happening in your industry. We join industry associations and keep aware of what’s happening in the market. When we notice a trend, we ask ourselves how we can take advantage of it. Sometimes just noticing trends and realizing how they apply to a specific market is the first step to creating a new business. Our previous experience in the Gift, Loyalty and Rewards program industry helped us recognize an opportunity caused by the recession. 

Baby Boomers are starting businesses at a growing rate. Whether out of desire or necessity, the largest generation is embracing entrepreneurism. For new business owners, the most difficult task is securing customers. The key to success is maintaining that relationship once established. Yet only major chains and national retailers were able to offer loyalty, rewards and gift programs to their customers because no one in the Gift, Loyalty and Rewards program industry had developed cost-effective programs for small businesses. We knew we could fill a need for the many new entrepreneurs who were eager to reward, and keep, their new customers and so Plastic Card City was born.

Plastic Card City is a full-service provider of card printing and production management services to companies in the hospitality, healthcare, technology, retail, transportation, recreation, fund-raising, vacation, advertising and many other industries. We are dedicated to delivering the most cost-effective product without compromising quality or delivery requirements. We print all of our cards in the U.S.A. For more information, please visit our web site: www.plasticcardcity.com.

You Were Only Waiting For This Moment To Arise

March 28, 2011

Hello Boomers,

For our generation, music was often very motivating, sometimes inspiring, and even uplifting.  It often moved us…..in more ways than one.  The latest Baby Boomer to share her story of Re-Invention is Nancy Anderson of Blackbird Learning Associates.  Read how music helped Nancy take the first step toward her own Re-Invention after a devastating job loss. 

The Birth of Blackbird Learning Associates

In June of 2008 I happily went off a staff meeting.  I was excited and chatted with some of my work mates as we made our way to the conference room.  We had a new Senior Director and he called us together to explain the new vision of our department. I loved my job as a learning and development consultant and looked forward to hearing how our team was going to grow and expand our reach.  Within the first five minutes of that meeting, we learned that the new organization would not include many of us.  What? We were told to return to our work stations and then one by one, when called, return to the conference room to learn our fates. 

When I was summoned to the conference room, I learned that my position was eliminated. Period.  The End.  The Human Resources Director sitting next to me began to review my severance package but I didn’t hear a word he said.  I was terminated after 21 years with the company I adored.  How could this be? This was my home away from home.  It was the place that I spent most of my adult life.  I was devastated, almost 54 years old and all I could think of was, “What Now?”  

After packing up my things a few days later it hit me. Life in this company was moving on, only I was no longer a part of it.  Driving home I cried and cursed the company that hurt me so. Then something almost divine happened.  I said a prayer to my parent’s and asked them to watch over me and let me know that all would be fine.  As I said these words out loud, the radio in my car played the Beatles song, Blackbird, “Take these broken wings and learn to fly. All your life, you have only waited for this moment to arise.”  There among the boxes and tears, Blackbird Learning Associates was conceived. Now I had to figure out who and what Blackbird Learning Associates would be.

Over the next few months I planned and learned what it takes to become a company.  The local unemployment office suggested I attend a six-week program on becoming an entrepreneur.  Here along with 15 hopeful business owners, I learned about law, accounting practices, business planning, taxes, advertising and networking.  It was from this class that I learned several crucial steps to business ownership:

1. Focus on one product or service.  What is that one area where you shine and are highly accomplished? Define your vision and mission and refer to it often.

2. Research and investigate all projections and data related to your business.  Is this something that can provide a need in years to come? Go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook or local library and research the product or service you are offering.

3. Create a business plan. Research business plans on the internet and complete a free template. 

4. Schedule an appointment at the Small Business Development Center. This organization assists business owners and entrepreneurs succeed by offering free counseling, continuing education courses, and special events. They also help small businesses achieve Small Business (SBE), Minority (MBE) and/or Woman-Owned Business (WBE) Certification.

5. Create an online presence.  Invest in an internet site, create a LinkedIn, Facebook business page and Twitter account. Make sure that your phrasing and photographs are professional and enticing. If your finances are scare, consider bartering for these professional services.

6. Join networking groups for entrepreneurs and business owners, join your local Chamber of Commerce, and investigate how to create a press release.  Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and some other sites have several supportive and informative groups for start up and existing businesses.  Attend professional meetings and other networking events.  Get your name out there and become known as an expert by offering some of your services for free.

In February, 2009, Blackbird Learning Associates LLC was established. Its mission is to “provide precise learning solutions to an individual or organization’s specific job search needs.” I give job search classes to the individual who has lost his or her job and to the organizations planning to downsize. I also write a job search blog and wrote the book, Job Search for Moms.  It’s hard work but something I am very passionate about because, “I’ve been there, done that” and most importantly, “felt that.”

www.blackbirdlearningassociates.com

Linda Kittrell Joins The Re-Invention Connection

March 16, 2011

Hello Boomers,

Our latest Re-Invention Connection is Linda Kittrell, owner of CactusFlower Studio in Dallas, TX.  Her story is both sobering and inspiring.  Read about the motivation, inspiration, and determination that lead to Linda’s Re-Invention as a Boomer Entrepreneur. 

Doctor, my goal is survival… 

By Linda Kittrell

Those are the exact words I told my gynecologic oncologist. Boy, my personal circumstances have been life altering!   In March 2006, life seemed normal: I was a single-mom teaching French, my daughter was a junior in high school, and we were both healthy.  But by April, 2006, after having increasingly severe pains in my left abdomen, I was diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer. Surgery was May 12, 2006; then I spent the next 11 months in chemotherapy—and one year unemployed.  

Medical side effects meant I could no longer return to the classroom, but I still needed to return to the workforce.  July 2007, I started looking for work that would afford me a flexible schedule and the ability to earn a living.   I had pretty good luck at landing job interviews, but you guessed it—companies really weren’t too interested in bringing on someone with a 1 year gap in employment.  

Interview questions went something like this:

Question:  You have excellent skills, but why is there a gap in your employment?

Possible Answers:  I am independently wealthy and don’t really need to work.  (This is a lie)   

or:  No one wants to hire me.  (This is true since not many companies wanted to hire a 57-year-old.)

or:  I was in medical treatment and really wasn’t able to work.    (This is true)

Let’s be honest—none of these answers would secure employment.  I would have had a better chance of landing the job if I were independently wealthy as well as 57 years old rather than admitting I had a major illness!! 

After sending hundreds of resumes and having at least 15 interviews, I realized I needed to shift my thinking.  Let me say that my goal was still survival—financial survival.   I am motivated to create a rewarding career—remember I am a single mom, so I decided to re-educate myself.  I spent the next 2 or 3 months zeroing in on options.  This was daunting since I didn’t have much capital to use and needed something not requiring years of training.   I chose esthetics because I learned during chemo that the skin is the canvas and it needs to be primed and ready before the artist applies the “paint”.  And, losing eyebrows and eyelashes—traumatic!  Easy to wear wigs, but absolutely cannot apply false eyelashes without your own lashes!! 

As the Baby Boomer generation is the largest segment of society, I decided to offer esthetic services which would benefit them.  (And yes, I am one, too !!)   Six months later after completing training for electrolysis and permanent cosmetics, I opened CactusFlower Studio.  In addition to the services I offer, I have additional revenue streams as an independent sales rep for two companies whose equipment I use.  (It never hurts to diversify.) 

Remember, I had limited capital.  Having cancer is very costly and sucked up almost all of my savings.  So, I had to find assistance with the cost of training.  That was really hard for me.  After all, my parents taught me to work and provide for myself and not take hand-outs.  It is really humbling to admit that outside financial help is needed.  But fortunately for me, the state of Texas has programs in place to help those with a need for rehabilitation.  My surgery and medical treatment rendered me unable to legally stay in a classroom, so my Teacher Retirement System allowed a disability retirement.  This determination qualified me for assistance with re-training as well as some equipment needed.   Without the help of D.A.R.S. and my wonderful advisor, Margo Rye, I would not have been able to open my business.  Remember, while we may not want to ask for help, it is sometimes necessary.  So, my advice is to swallow that pride and ask.  It is better to have a helping hand than to become a statistic on the welfare rolls!

I truly believe life is a journey, and we never know what opportunity may come our way.  Little did I realize that my new career path as a business owner of an esthetics studio would open the door to an awesome new opportunity:  Rodan + Fields Dermatologists.  Who better to align with than two of the most respected dermatologists in the country.   And this never would have come my way without my re-training and opening my own business.

While life-altering changes are frightening, we never know what blessing may come from it.  I would encourage any one thinking about a new endeavor to just go for it.   Sometimes a good thing happens!

CactusFlower Studio, Dallas, TX offers micro-current face and body sculpting, electrolysis permanent hair removal, permanent cosmetics, and far infrared body wraps.    www.cactusflowerstudio.com

Re-Invention of 2 Women Entrepreneurs

March 8, 2011

Hello Boomers,

Today’s Re-Invention Connection shares two stories of Re-Invention.  Debra Townsend of partswench and Gail Wallace of Bellwind Consultants are solopreneurs who have partnered to provide advice to other women who want to become entrepreneurs.  Their combined venture is www.2womenentrepreneurs.com    Their stories will sound familiar to many and we hope inspiring to many more. 

 

Debra Townsend (AKA Willow), Owner of partswench.

I am 58 and live in Indiana.  I did the Haight at 15 and the communes at 18 and on and on. I still love the Dead, Grace Slick and Tie-dye. I had my babies at home, grew gardens and made granola. Needless to say alternative lifestyles and interests have been a driving force in my life for all of my life along with a Harley.

I have an alphabet soup after my name which I very seldom use. Debra Townsend, Rev, CRM, DIHom. I am sure the next question is what do those mean. The reverend is pretty self-explanatory, CRM stands for certified reiki master and DIhom is an English designation for my degree in Homeopathic medicine.  All of these have hung after my name for over 20 years. So how did I end up in as a web designer?  I love the computer and art work and tattoo flash. I have loved art all of my life. Creating has kept me sane and saved my children’s lives on some occasions. I paint, make jewelry, cab stones, do web sites and graphic design, knit, quilt, weave.

I am not really business savvy but I do know how to develop a website.  I started a friendship with a woman while developing her website, Gail Wallace of Bellwind Consultants.  Gail has since become my partner and friend.  

We were sitting having dinner and a girl’s night out when we started talking about different points in our lives and how many times we have started our lives over. We talked about how many women that there were out there like us (especially like me).  I have spent most of my adult life having kids or chasing kids or grandkids. I don’t know a board room from a private bathroom (if you don’t know what going to the bathroom alone is you have not had enough kids).  I do know how to use time management, how to get things done, how to work for what I want and for my dreams, how to answer a phone and many more things that are required to run your own business.  I am sure that you also know these things.  So what is holding us back?  I started my web design business when I was 53.

How do we outgrow the things that keep us waiting tables instead of owning the restaurant?  I believe that we can do it.  We can have our dreams realized with some help & support and some ethical guidance.  

I believe that there are a lot of women like me out there who are motivated and skilled (let’s see some CEO get six kids on a school bus!).  After my divorce and losing everything not once but twice (don’t ever make a husband the president of your company because it supposedly makes it look more legitimate), I have waited tables, bartended, delivered pizzas and lots of other things to keep my bills paid or not paid as the case may be. I have had my credit totally messed up by some man.  While all of this is going on in my brain I kept thinking of ways to work for myself and become independent. I have always done art and graphics and worked on the computer so I started teaching myself web design and development.  Having Gail as a friend has given me the confidence to go back to school and work on my web development certifications even at 55.  Yes, you can do this!  

I ended up talking with Gail about how to grow my business in a positive and ethical way.  This is a really important concept to me, positive and ethical. Gail gave me some great advice to which I responded with, “Why don’t you do another site geared to women who are working or want to work for themselves?”  All I found when I looked for information online was a lot of work at home scams..  Gail, being who she is, responded “Let’s do this together” and that is pretty much how all this got started.  

Willow owns Parts Wench and does all types of websites from brochure type to e-commerce using the latest in Joomla programming which includes CMS.
http://www.partswench.com

Gail Wallace, Owner of Bellwind Consultants.  I came of age between all the big “movements.”  At the tail end of the “beat generation” but then I was too busy working my way through college to become a hippie, though I grew my hair really long.  My father had his own commercial art studio and it was working with him that began nourishing my entrepreneurial spirit.

I graduated as a French teacher but discovered during student teaching that I loved sharing knowledge with those who wanted to learn not those who were forced to take a class.

I married a geological engineer right out of college and spent the next 15 years in the oil and gas business either working for  big companies like Exxon or with my husband starting our own small company.  A divorce ended that life but led me to my first contract consulting job for the US Geological Survey. Shortly after the contract ended, I started my first business while caring for my terminally ill mother, my young sister-in-law, and three young nephews.  Word Perfect had just come out with the first word processing program that could handle foreign languages and I used that along with my language background to process student and business papers in other languages.  The business was born out of the necessity in 1987 when I was 40 to earn some money and to keep me from being isolated in my caretaker role.  While the business was successful and taught me a lot, it wasn’t fulfilling and certainly not something for which I had a passion.

I chose to move to Dallas so my son could visit his father more easily but my life fell apart due to the stress and loss I had experienced during the previous couple of years. I had to remake my life.  After a couple of dead-end jobs that taught me a lot more about how businesses were run, I grabbed the opportunity to learn to write business plans.  I continued taking “regular” jobs while improving my writing skills.  Each opportunity taught me more about different businesses and industries.  I remarried in 1992 but It is just within the last few years that I formally named my company Bellwind Consultants.

Although I have enjoyed sharing my growing knowledge and experience with clients, I had always wanted a forum where I could share my hard-earned lessons with others just starting out to help them avoid many of the pitfalls of business ownership. It was also important to show what can happen to companies who have little if any business ethics.

When I first met Willow to discuss creating a website for my company, it was like talking with an old friend.  Although our backgrounds were very different, we were both survivors who kept re-inventing ourselves to follow our dreams.

Although we were kindred spirits I was still surprised when she proposed this partnership so quickly but accepted the idea immediately.  Our talents complement each other – she designs and I write but it is our dedication to ethics that really bound us together.  It’s funny that I remember this as being her idea and she thinks it was mine.  It just happened and gelled so fast that we just had to make it a reality.  We make no money from our 2 Women Entrepreneurs website and support it through our individual businesses.  It is our labor of love and giving back to others. Neither of us had mentors nor guidance from anyone so we made tons of mistakes and learned a lot of lessons the hard way.  We were both too stubborn to give up but we want to spare other entrepreneurs from a lot of the pitfalls and problems we encountered.

I am again reinventing.  After another 18 years of marriage and after spending 3 years back in Indiana, I am once again single at 63 (by choice) and have returned to Dallas where I am restarting my business.    

Although I have spent most of my life in the corporate business world, I am definitely not the button down collar type.  I love the freedom and ultimate responsibility of working for myself and the opportunity to wear many hats.  I am too much the rebellious teenager and my father’s daughter to want to be a number in a big corporation.    

Gail owns Bellwind Consultants and writes business plans for start-ups and growth companies and provides business consulting to small business of all kinds from management to defining and developing niche/target markets.
http://www.bellwindconsultants.com


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