It's Never Too Late to Innovate: 10 Entrepreneurs Who Found Their Calling Later in Life

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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Some of the most successful and well known entrepreneurs started their businesses in the wake of other careers.

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It's Never Too Late to Innovate: 10 Entrepreneurs Who Found Their Calling Later in Life

It’s a common misconception that entrepreneurs are all 20-something college dropouts. While this may be the case for the likes of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerburg, the Microsoft and Facebook founders are the exception to the rule.

In fact, a study from the Kauffman Foundation discovered that 35-year-olds and above in America are 50% more likely to start a business than their younger counterparts. Mid-career entrepreneurs have the benefit of everything they’ve learned working for others and a better understanding of their own skill set when setting out.

The majority of today’s workforce will change careers between three and seven times, so starting your own business isn’t that unusual. While you may feel more prepared at some points than others, the truth is there’s never a right time and it’s a case of taking the first step and overcoming the fear to transition from a corporate role to become an entrepreneur.

Here are some of the entrepreneurs who started their businesses later in life:

1. Martha Stewart

After a successful career in modeling and then taking some time out to raise her children, Martha Stewart set up her first catering business when she was in her mid thirties. She signed the deal to create the Martha Stewart Living magazine when she was nearly 50 and is now worth more than $1 billion.

2. Reid Hoffman

By the time Reid Hoffman founded LinkedIn at the age of 35, he’d worked in academia and for Apple, where he attempted to set up a social networking site for the business. LinkedIn came after his first entrepreneurial project SocialNet went under, and he was able to apply everything he’d learned and experienced to making his new venture a success.

3. Vera Wang

A perfect example of moving into a different area of the same industry, Vera Wang went from writing about clothes to designing them at the age of 39. Having been a fashion journalist for nearly 20 years and including a long stint as editor at Vogue, she understood the sector and how to be a success as a designer within it. She has gone on to become one of the richest self-made women in America.

4. Ray Kroc

Ray Kroc was a 51-year-old milkshake machine salesman when he approached the McDonald brothers about expanding their chain of hamburger stands into a corporation. He purchased the business and worked as its CEO from 1967 to 1973, overseeing its expansion and turning McDonald’s into the most successful fast food company in the world.

5. Justine Bateman

Proving that stepping away from an acting career can be a wise decision, Justine Bateman decided to get a computer science degree and put it to good use. She went back to school to learn code at the age of 48 and is now a successful digital content mogul who has the power and influence to work on the projects that interest her.

6. Robert Noyce

Co-founding Intel at 41 years old, Robert Noyce is credited with being a driving force behind the invention of the microprocessor, which revolutionized computer technology. It remains the foundation for much of the technology used today, but despite such achievements, Noyce eschewed the lavish benefits associated with being a CEO and maintained a relaxed family feel within the company.

7. Carol Gardner

Multi-million dollar greetings card company Zelda Wisdom was the result of a surprising set of circumstances. Carol Gardner was 52 and newly divorced when her therapist suggested she get a dog, which she named Zelda. A design featuring the dog and a funny caption won her a Christmas card competition and inspired Gardner to become an entrepreneur.

8. Harland David Sanders

The smiling face of Colonel Sanders is a perennially white haired and bearded man staring out from KFC chicken buckets across the world. That’s because Harland David Sanders was already 62 when he franchised Kentucky Fried Chicken for the first time. Having been fired from multiple jobs and seeing the service station he served his chicken from burnt down, he set up a 140-seat restaurant. There are now over 25,000 KFC outlets in 145 countries across the globe.

9. Tim and Nina Zagat

Zagat is a trusted source of restaurant reviews and ratings that was started by husband and wife duo Tim and Nina Zagat when they were both 51-year-old lawyers. Their first guide was to New York City and was put together after gathering the opinions of their friends. Now, Zagat has input from more than 250,000 people, informing visitors of the best places to eat in 70 cities worldwide.

10. Henry Ford

Not only was Henry Ford 45 when he created the Model T car, but he went on to revolutionize the production of automobiles. His vision led to the assembly line and cars that were affordable for the middle classes, not just the elite. Mass production allowed his business to build and sell millions of cars, cementing him as a great leader in the history books.

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