Later-in-life entrepreneurs - Albuquerque Journal

Later-in-life entrepreneurs

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Every passing month and unanswered résumé dimmed Jim Glay’s optimism more. So with no job in sight, he joined a growing number of older people and created his own.

In a mix of boomer individualism and economic necessity, older Americans have fueled a wave of entrepreneurship. The result is a slew of enterprises such as Crash Boom Bam, the vintage drum company that 64-year-old Glay began running from a spare bedroom in his apartment in 2009.

The business hasn’t made him rich, but Glay credits it with keeping him afloat when no one would hire him.

“You would send out a stack of 50 résumés and not hear anything,” said Glay, who had been laid off from a sales job. “This has saved me.”

Jim Glay has created Crash Boom Bam, a vintage drum company in Arlington Heights, Ill., that Glay operates from a spare apartment bedroom. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
Jim Glay has created Crash Boom Bam, a vintage drum company in Arlington Heights, Ill., that Glay operates from a spare apartment bedroom. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

The annual entrepreneurial activity report published in April by the Kansas City, Mo.-based Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation found the share of new entrepreneurs ages 55 to 64 grew from 14.3 percent in 1996 to 23.4 percent last year. Entrepreneurship among 45- to 54-year-olds saw a slight bump, while activity among younger age groups fell.

The foundation doesn’t track startups by those 65 and older, but Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that group has a higher rate of self-employment than any other age group.

Part of the growth is the result of the overall aging of America. But experts say older people are flocking to self-employment both because of a frustrating job market and the growing ease and falling cost of starting a business.

“It’s become easier technologically and geographically to do this at older ages,” said Dane Stangler, the research and policy director at Kauffman. “We’ll see continued higher rates of entrepreneurship because of these demographic trends.”

Paul Giannone’s later-life move to start a business was fueled not by losing a job, but by a desire for change.

After nearly 35 years in information technology, he embraced his love of pizza and opened a Brooklyn, N.Y., restaurant, Paulie Gee’s, in 2010. Giannone, 60, had to take a second mortgage on his home, but he said the risk was worth it: The restaurant is thriving and a second location is in the works.

“I wanted to do something that I could be proud of,” he said. “I am the only one who makes decisions and I love that. I haven’t worked in 3 1/2 years, that’s how it feels.”

Some opt for a more gradual transition.

Al Wilson, 58, of Manassas, Va., has kept his day job as a program analyst at the National Science Foundation while he tries to attract business for Rowdock, the snug calf protector he created to ward off injuries rowers call “track bites.”

Though orders come in weekly from around the world, they’re not enough yet for Wilson to quit his job.

“At this stage in my life, when I’m looking at in the near future retiring, to step out and take a risk and start a business, there was some apprehension,” Wilson said. “But it’s kind of rejuvenated me.”

Mary Furlong, who teaches entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University and holds business startup seminars for boomers, says older adults are uniquely positioned for the move because they are often natural risk-takers who are passionate about challenges and driven by creativity.

There can be hurdles.

Though most older entrepreneurs opt to create at-home businesses where they are the only employee, even startup costs of a couple thousand dollars can be prohibitive for some. Also, generating business in an online economy is tougher if the person has fewer technological skills.

Furlong said many who start businesses later in life do so as a follow-up to a successful career from which they fear a layoff or have endured one.

“The boomers are looking to entrepreneurship as a Plan B,” she said.”

Antoinette Little would agree.

She spent 20 years at a law firm, starting as a legal secretary and working her way up to manage the entire office. The stress of working 80 hours or 90 hours a week and always being on call started taking a toll.

After being diagnosed with an enlarged heart, she said, “The doctor told me either quit or you’re going to die.”

Little took a series of culinary classes and found a new passion, opening Antoinette Chocolatier in Phillipsburg, N.J. She misses her previous career and, though the store is now in the black, the profits aren’t robust. Still, she says she is having fun making chocolate, particularly when children press their noses against the glass doors to the store’s kitchen.

“I’m my own boss and you get to eat your mistakes,” she said. “How bad could it be?”

Home » Business » Later-in-life entrepreneurs


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
A tiny NM-TX border town is raking in recreational ...
ABQnews Seeker
Customers begin lining up on a ... Customers begin lining up on a hot Friday afternoon in mid-October at Ultra Health in Sunland Park. Just a three-minute drive away, others are ...
2
Vegan food truck Lucky Goose opens brick-and-mortar location
ABQnews Seeker
Food truck Lucky Goose, which has ... Food truck Lucky Goose, which has catered to meat-free diners with vegan milkshakes and plant-based burgers, had its grand opening for its Nob Hill ...
3
Mama’s Minerals comes to Indian Pueblo Cultural Center's Avanyu ...
ABQnews Seeker
The retailer is New Mexico's largest ... The retailer is New Mexico's largest rock and bead store.
4
How does someone abandon an investment?
ABQnews Seeker
Q: I acquired a 10% interest ... Q: I acquired a 10% interest in a real estate partnership in 2018. The partnership is a Delaware entity and the property is in ...
5
Black Friday? Not as big a deal
ABQnews Seeker
For some bargain-hunters, lines are part ... For some bargain-hunters, lines are part of the fun, but few were seen
6
Dream becomes reality: Chef opens burger joint
ABQnews Seeker
  As a child growing up ...   As a child growing up in Los Luceros north of Española, Chef Johnny Chacon dreamed of burgers while he slept. His mom often ...
7
New venture plans to launch technological revolution in ...
ABQnews Seeker
AFF, America's Frontier Fund, aims to ... AFF, America's Frontier Fund, aims to rebuild US technological lead
8
SIC invests another $35M in Crosslink Capital
ABQnews Seeker
New funding will expand California venture ... New funding will expand California venture firm’s investments in NM
9
State Investment Council invests record $100M in high-tech venture ...
ABQnews Seeker
America's Frontier Fund to build local ... America's Frontier Fund to build local 'venture studios' around NM