5 Successful Entrepreneurs Who Started Late In Life

Entrepreneurship is for the young. After all you need energy, stamina, relentless focus, and the most important thing, time on your side. Bullshit! The key to successful entrepreneurship is simply doing it. Regardless of age or circumstance, when the opportunity presents itself, you must go for it. Here are the stories of five “golden year entrepreneurs”, who have effectively made the gold for themselves.

Jack Weil, Age 107 d. Aug 2008

Jack Weil

Jack Weil, Founder of Rockmount


Jack A. Weil passed away on August 13, 2008 at the age of 107. The fact he lived to the ripe old age of 107 is impressive. The fact that he was still the chief executive of the company he founded and working 40+ hours a week until his final days is plain old amazing.

In 1946, he formed Rockmount, a western high fashion clothing retailer that continues to manufacturer it’s shirts in the US after many competitors moved offshore. Achieving historical fame, various accounts state Mr. Weil either invented the modern bolo tie or named it.

His secret to heath, wealth and happiness? “He loved his work.”

Poppy Bridger, Age 84

Poppy Bridger
Poppy Bridger, Owner of Anaheim Test Labs

After working as a PhD chemist for 45 years, Poppy Bridger, retired at the age of 69 to care for her ailing mother. But her 72nd birthday gift was an opportunity to buy and operate the lab she had worked at. With about $250K in savings, back to work she went!

On any given day, you will find Bridger testing the authenticity of a precious heirloom or analyzing the properties of metal fatigue. To help with the growing work load at the lab, she has subsequently hired her son and daughter to work with her.

She goes to work every day, and at the age of 84 is bringing into the business about $350K annually.

Colonel Harland Sanders, Age 90 d. Dec 1980

Colonel Sanders
Colonel Harland Sanders, Founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken

The world famous Colonel Sanders launched his business at the age of 65, using his first Social Security check as start up funds. A master of personal branding, Sanders leveraged his honorary “Colonel” title and constantly wore the stereotypical “southern gentleman” white-suit and black tie. The rocket like growth of KFC is now legendary, and prior to his death Colonel Sanders’ restaurant chain had achieved over 6,000 locations with sales of more than $2 billion.

During his entrepreneurial tenure Sanders met with the U.S. Congressional Committee of Aging and spoke against mandatory retirement, highlighting the love for work and the value of wisdom in the work place.

Not a bad run, old chap! Not bad at all.

Barbara Miller, Age 74

Barbara Miller
Barbara Miller, Founder of Miller Paper Company

Being an entrepreneur was never really a consideration in Barbara Miller’s life. After quitting her job in the paper industry after 30 years of service, she assumed she was done. But as she packed her stuff, her former colleagues begged her to start a new business… so she did.

In January of 1995, Miller opened the doors to Miller Paper Company and started with $300K in savings and 15 employees. Today the business is generating over $7M in annual revenue and has been on D&B’s list of the nation’s fastest growing companies.

Business has not been a walk in the park, to say the least. Miller started her company and was immediately sued by her former employer. A few months later she struggled with ovarian cancer.

Sylvia Lieberman, Age 91

Sylvia Lieberman
Sylvia Lieberman, Creator of Archibald Mouse Books

Sylvia Lieberman became an entrepreneur in fall 2007 when she was 90. This is when she realized her dream of having her first children’s book published. So why not start a company to author and promote the book?

Archibald”s Swiss Cheese Mountain is an award-winning book about a little mouse with a big heart who teaches children how to reach their big dreams. Not only is she an entrepreneur, but a philanthropic one! A portion of the proceeds goes to two children’s charities.

Despite her age, Sylvia works tirelessly promoting her book at book-signings and readings, TV appearances, radio and print interviews, and even appeared on a float in a parade. And all these efforts increase the amount she donates to charities.


3 thoughts on “5 Successful Entrepreneurs Who Started Late In Life”

  1. Thank you. This is an important post as I am seeing more and more corporate refugees, a term I use for individuals in their 50’s who for one reason or another are no longer working for a corporation, struggle with what to do. Not only is there “life” after the corporation, there is an exciting life ahead. Great post.

    1. Tony – That is a great point. A lot of people are being pushed out of the corporate world, and prematurely. As we get older, I believe it gets scarier and scarier to try to launch something. I know it has for me. Do you have a similar experience?

      1. I do. I left the corporate world volunratarily in 2005 (age 59) and started a consulting company. What I missed most (I was a solo consultant) was the intellectual stimulation and association with others. So I merged my company with another consulting company. It’s better.
        What we find is that some corporate refugees (whether they left voluntarily or not), tend to bring with them the corporate mindset. Probably the most troubling for some of them is the belief that the peers, subordinates and vendors (especially vendors) who they thought were good friends really weren’t. The tough part is the transition from corporate mindset to entrepreneurial mindset. Some can’t seem to do it, while others, after initially struggling, “come alive”.
        This is going to be an exciting time as the baby boomers find out that what was once their dream (retirement), in reality can be an intolerable situation.

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