Young entrepreneurs, we all know – here is the list of the World’s oldest entrepreneurs. The word entrepreneur is often associated with some bright, young men and women brimming with ideas, making waves in the business world. They’re eager, determined and ready to make their mark. While this may be true for some entrepreneurs, it certainly doesn’t describe them all.
Stereotypes be damned; make way for the older entrepreneurs who, while they may have found their groove much later in life are still able to pack just as much of a business punch, and with more enthusiasm and zeal, as the young gun’s.
For Jerome Oxman, age is purely mind over matter – if you don’t mind it, it really doesn’t matter. At an age when most people are measuring the distance between this world and the next, Oxman enjoys putting in a full day at work, saying that if he retired, he’d go crazy.
An inspiring 96 years of age and still going strong, Jerome is the founder of Oxman’s Surplus, a California-based company that opened during the Kennedy administration and has had an immensely successful five decade-long run.
The three-in-one enterprise comprises of a store selling military related surplus clothes and equipment, a cafe designed around a military theme, selling chicken military ready-to-eat (MRE) meals, and a free museum.
Today, although the bulk of administration is managed by his two sons Murray (61) and Jason (49) this energetic nonagenarian shows no signs of letting up or going slow. Having led an inspirational life, to say the least, one wouldn’t mind borrowing a page, or for that matter several pages, from Jerome Oxman’s book.
Women’s Automotive Connection
All those who’re of the opinion that cars and automotive repair is no place for the fairer sex have yet to run into Gail Dunn – a very determined lady who decided to do something about women getting easily swindled by the automotive industry.
Having worked as an estimator and auto body shop manager until 2007 Gail set up Women’s Automotive Connection shortly after retirement. Her company believes in providing fair and reasonable car repair services to women, by women.
Gail is ASI trained and I-CAR platinum certified. She is well-known for her seasoned perspective and scrupulous honesty, having helped hundreds of people in Atlanta save time and money thanks to her advice on varied problems with their vehicles.
In an attempt to broaden her reach, Gail also has a program on radio – Garage Gab – that airs Wednesday mornings at 9am on 89.1 FM WBCX. In addition to ensuring that women get a fair deal when they take their car in for repairs, the show also educates listeners on vehicle upkeep, maintenance, and collision repair.
Wally Blume’s rise to success is a very sweet one, literally! He spent 20 years of his professional life working for the dairy business. In all probability he would have continued in this fashion, if his boss hadn’t popped a rather unusual (and indigestible) suggestion of making tomato flavoured ice cream.
Understandably, Blume quit and went on to give the nation a radically delicious ice cream – Moose Tracks – a heavenly concoction that combined the crunchy goodness of peanut butter with the sinful taste of chocolate. An instant hit, this flavour alone rakes in $80 million every year. In some places, it sells more than the all-time favourite vanilla.
Today, his company Denali Flavours has eight different kinds of Moose Tracks ice-creams and 30 other flavours, including the more unusually named, Caramel Caribou, Bear Claw, Bear Foot Brownie, and Mother Lode. They are widely available throughout the America, in major grocery stores, convenience stores, and ice cream shops.
At 74, dismissing Art Koff as a “senior” would be your first mistake. He prefers to be called an “older American”. Assuming that he is your regular retired guy would be your second mistake. Koff is anything but that. Intimidated by the idea of waking up to a day when he’d have nothing to do, Koff was not the kind who’d slip comfortably into the “retirement mode” after having worked almost four decades in advertising and communications. Instead, in 2003, he decided to launch a website aptly named RetiredBrains.com to help other Americans in his position find post-retirement job opportunities.
Eight years later, the website lives up to its claims of being “the premier destination for retirees, people planning their retirement and Americans caring for or having responsibility for older family members”. It employs seven people and records thousands of hits every day – sometimes as many as 20,000 visitors a day; 25 percent of the traffic coming into the website is from repeat users.
Koff has never been busier, or happier. A typical day sees him generating content for the website and pouring through 200 emails from visitors to his site. He’s also authored a book ‘Invent Your Retirement: Resources for the Good Life’ that has become a valuable resource for many employers to help their work force make the transition into retirement.
EZ Living Connection LLC
It’s amazing how the simplest things in life are sufficient to spark off the innovative streak within us all. You may be familiar with the frustration of misplacing your house keys or car keys, wasting precious minutes searching high and low before finding them and usually resulting in you being late for an engagement of some sort. Enter Linda Nagamine, founder and President of EZ Living Connection LLC. She was dogged by that crazy frustration for the best part of her adult life, but must be undoubtedly thankful for that today. After a long life of constantly misplacing her keys, she decided to retire from the travel industry and find a lasting solution to this problem. She had no idea this pursuit would make her so successful.
The Fun Key Finder is not a complicated contraption; in fact, it is ingenious in its simplicity. This fourteen inch strap made of leather can be wrapped around the average bag, briefcase, or purse handle. It has a loop on one end and clip for the keys on the other. Available in four different colours, the Fun Key Finder is priced at $15.95 – a small price for sanity.
The Green Buddha
Jeanne Dowell is a picture of health, beauty and fitness – as can be expected from a woman who’s a professional yoga instructor. Interesting as that might be, Jeanne becomes an even more exceptional figure when you realize she is 80 years old. What’s more, she, along with her daughter, is the co-founder of Green Buddha, an eco-friendly range of clothes and accessories through which Jeanne hopes to promote a lifestyle of love, gratitude and compassion.
All products at Green Buddha – yoga attire, t-shirts, socks, baseball caps, and hoodies for men, women and kids – are made from organic bamboo fabrics, cotton, or modal. For those that don’t know, modal is a fabric derived from self-rejuvenating beech trees. It is a lot softer than mercerized cotton and resistant to stretching, fading, and shrinking.
Other products carried by Green Buddha are tote bags, yoga mats, beanies, notepads, books, note cards, and holiday ornaments, and they are all made from reusable or organic material. A percentage of Green Buddha’s earnings is donated to S.E.E.D.S – an organization that works towards providing relief at the grass root level in Nepal’s poverty stricken villages.
Although Lisa Gable is no longer among us, having passed away in May this year, she was an inspiration to many when alive. Like Linda Nagamine, Linda Gable was determined to find a solution for one of the most exasperating and awkward problems faced by her in her lifetime – bra straps that would slip off the shoulders. Post retirement, she turned her attention to this problem and at age 70, she formed LG Accessories, a company that sold undergarments. Their most in-demand product was the Strap Mate – a device financed, designed, and patented by Linda herself. An uncomplicated design, the Strap Mate hooks to the bra’s back straps in a horizontal fashion, thereby preventing them from slipping. A simple solution to a simple problem.
LG Accessories has gone on to expand its product line, the most recent best seller being a divided laundry bag that is meant exclusively for washing delicates – another one of Lisa’s fine designs. In 1999, the New Jersey Institute of Technology honoured Lisa Gable for her role as an independent inventor and she given a permanent position in its Inventor’s Hall of Fame.
Galvin Electricity Initiative
That Robert Galvin had great skill in corporate leadership and innovation was proved beyond doubt in his tenure as the CEO and Chairman of Motorola Inc. Thanks to the direction he gave the company, Motorola sales shot up phenomenally from $216.6 in 1957 to more than $6 billion in 1987. In this same period, cash flow per share went up from 89 cents to $6.10.
In 2004, after nearly a decade and a half of retirement, Robert Galvin founded the not-for-profit organization Galvin Electricity Initiative. Post the massive blackout in August 2003 that left millions of people without power in the north-eastern states of America and Canada, in some cases for as long as four days, Galvin decided to try and iron out the wrinkles in the electrical grid. He believed that it was possible to create an electrical system that was perfect in every way, one that did not inevitably succumb to glitches or fail its consumers. The Perfect Power System model, as explained by Galvin, is designed to save the government billions of dollars lost every year in power outages. What’s more, once this system enters the construction mode, it is slated to generate thousands of jobs for Americans.
When Jennifer Campbell received a pink slip from her television company firing her from her job as a writer, she had no idea of the unexpected opportunities that were about to unfold.
Not long after leaving her job her father passed away and Jennifer realized she knew very little about his life in general, especially his younger years. Determined not to make the same mistake twice she began interviewing her mother and preserving her life’s stories in a tape recorder. And, just in time too. Soon enough Campbell’s mother slipped into dementia; but not before she had left behind a rich legacy for her daughter.
Recognizing there was a potential business opportunity in helping people pass on their memories and life experiences, Campbell set up Heritage Memoirs. In addition to walking down memory lanes with people and witnessing their history and participating, it has also helped them create a legacy to be passed down through the generations. These memories of an entire life are turned into a book, professionally edited and published for families to cherish as an heirloom, or they can be produced in the form of oral histories.
A part-time initiative in the beginning, Heritage Memoirs has turned into a full-time one, especially since Jennifer is so fond of her so called “hobby”.
Phillips Services Industries
Bill Phillips is the founder and chairman of Michigan-based Phillips Services Industries (PSI). Established in 1967, PSI is in the business of providing products and services to a wide range of industries, including defence, aerospace, manufacturing, semiconductor, energy and security. In addition to Fortune 500 companies, their client list also includes the US military.
Recently, Bill Phillips penned an autobiography chronicling his life and career and telling the story of a farm boy from Arkansas who became a name to be reckoned with in the field of science and national defence. Titled ‘An American Entrepreneur’, the autobiography is inspirational, to say the least. Dismissing the notion that you need an Ivy League education to climb up in life, Phillips’ autobiography takes you through the trials and tribulations this self-made man faced on his road to success.
Archibald Mouse Books
Anybody who’s a lover of children’s books is bound to be familiar with Archibald – the little mouse that has captivated the hearts of millions of children (and their parents) across the world. What makes this book even more appealing is the fact the writer of Archibald’s Swiss Cheese Mountain – Sylivia Lieberman – had her first book published when she was 90 years old; a book that went on to win the Hollywood Book Festival award for Best Children’s Book of 2008. Talk about starting late and finishing oh so great!
Sylvia Lieberman is a woman of indefatigable energy and many talents. She’s been a Girl Scout leader, a PTA president and a museum docent, but the role she perhaps loves the most is that of an author. And very much like her character Archibald, Sylvia also has a heart of gold – she donates a portion of her proceeds to a number of children’s charities.
We’ve all been there – gone out for the night to the movies, or to a restaurant only to be frozen to Arctic levels by blasting AC fans. It’s never a pleasant experience. You swear the next time you’ll bring a jacket, only to forget it every time. Sound familiar?
Jill Boehler, exasperated and frustrated, not to mention frozen, after one such evening decided to take matters into her own hands and design a wrap that was small enough to fit into a lady’s purse, stylish enough to be flaunted with panache, and yet warm enough to weather the onslaught of the cruel AC. Hence was born Chilly Jilly, a wonder wrap that keeps you snug and warm while others around you are borrowing jackets from their male friends or shivering in their boots through what ought to be a pleasant dinner or an interesting movie.
The very first year, Jill Boehler sold Chilly Jillies worth $150,000 and today they are widely available in hundreds of boutiques across the US. Just goes to show what you can do with an idea, no matter how small.
Geek 2 Geek
Geeks are generally ridiculed and dismissed in every movie, condemned to live a life without companionship because normal people are unlikely to ever understand them, and the chances of meeting a like-minded geek are pretty slim in this universe.
Not anymore! Spencer Koppel, a retired insurance actuary, decided to change the rules a little. In his sixties he passed up the opportunity of playing golf under the sun and decided instead to bring a ray of hope into the lives of many single geeks. With that purpose he started Geek 2 Geek in 2005, a website designed to help the so-called geek community across America find love. Little could he have known how popular the site would turn out to be! Six years later, his website has over 60,000 members and makes more than $400,000 in revenue.
The entire initiative is a one man show; all that Koppel needs to worry about is server and site maintenance costs. This leaves him with plenty of time to indulge in the activity he really likes – travelling, and of course spending time with his fellow geeks.
This is a guest post by Kristy. Kristy Ramirez writes for Life Insurance Finder where she helps people to compare quotes and select the best life insurance policy to meet their needs at the best possible price. You can guest post on Collegefallout as well.