Too old to follow your dreams? History proves otherwise

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Not to late

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Former major league baseball player Satchel Paige said, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” Many people seem very aware of their age – and very concerned about it.

I’ve had several conversations lately where the person who I was speaking with commented about how they were “too old” to start anything new, particularly a business – even if micro. This was a bit frustrating to me because in each case the person had a great idea as well as a vision for it.

It frustrates me that we are often led to believe that life is a straight path where things need to be done by a certain age or the “opportunity passes.” In fact, I know of students as young as 11 and 12 years old who are under significant pressure to decide what they want to do when they graduate from high school. I understand asking students to think about what they may want to do when they grow up, but expecting them to make a solid decision before even starting high school is unreasonable. I’m not saying that we should promote complacent attitudes, what I am saying is that we should not put so much pressure on people. And we need to always remember that it’s never too late to start something new.

It seems that most of today’s entrepreneurship headlines involve companies founded and led by young people, and of course we have the lists of the “most successful” people under forty, thirty, and so on. People like Facebook founders Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz and Snapchat founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy have created some cool and game-changing things – and are often celebrated because of their accomplishments – but there are plenty of examples of people starting very successful ventures after having been in the workforce for a while. In fact, the most active group of entrepreneurs aren’t in the age group that one may think. Research from the Kauffman Foundation shows that during 11 of the 15 years between 1996 and 2010, Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 had the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity of any age group. The findings show that entrepreneurship isn’t just for those under 40. Some examples of people 40 and over who founded successful business include:

Dave Duffield co-founded PeopleSoft at the age of 46. Eighteen years later, at the age of 64, Duffield co-founded Workday.

Ray Kroc was 52 when he partnered with Manchester's own McDonald brothers and founded McDonald's SystemsVera Wang was 40 when she started in fashion design. Before her fashion career, Vera was a figure skater and a journalist.

Henry Ford was 45 when he created the revolutionary Model T car.

Momofuku Ando invented Instant Ramen at the age of 48.

Julia Child wrote her first cookbook – and launched her career as a celebrity chef – at the age of 50. Prior to that Julia worked in advertising and media.

Jack Cover invented the Taser gun at the age of 50. Prior to that Jack worked as a scientist for institutions such as NASA and IBM.

Ray Kroc was 52 when he founded McDonald’s Systems after partnering with the restaurant’s founders – Manchester’s own Dick and Mac McDonald. Prior to that, Ray was a piano player and also worked as both a paper cup and a multi-mixer salesman.

Colonel (Harland) Sanders was 65 years old when he began franchising his chicken recipe – and created what is now known as Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Stan Lee was over forty when he founded his iconic companyIn addition to the examples listed, many others have found success beyond forty, including Stan Lee, who created his first hit comic just shy of his 39th birthday. He created the Marvel Universe a few years later, (post-forty). Donald Fisher was 40 when he opened the first Gap store. Others include Gary Heavin, (Curves – 40), Robin Chase, (Co-founder of Zipcar – 42), Sam Walton, (Walmart – 44), Betty White, (first iconic role at 51), Samuel L. Jackson, (first big – and award winning – role at 43), and Tim and Tina Zagat were both 51 when they published their first collection of restaurant reviews.

Sam Walton was 44 when he founded WalmartMany of us probably know someone who became successful after forty. The road of life has many unexpected twists and turns – and sometimes we have detours that take us away from our original goals for a time – but we can achieve them, no matter our age.

As Yoda would say, “Only when we become one with the Force, will our opportunities end.”


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ChicoineBorn in Nashua, Brian Chicoine spent his early years in Raymond before moving to Manchester at the age of 9. A few years after graduating from West High School, Brian moved to Providence to complete his undergraduate degree at Rhode Island College. Shortly after they were married and she graduated from college, Brian and his new wife Jackie moved to Manchester, where their two boys were born. After about five years, the Chicoine family returned to Rhode Island and have been living there since. Brian has merged his passion for entrepreneurship and innovation with his love of new and bold ideas to bring fresh perspectives on the way things are done. Brian, his wife and their two boys now live in Rhode Island, but their hearts are in New Hampshire.