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Late Bloomers: 7 Entrepreneurs Who Found Their Groove Later In Life

Recent studies have shown that more and more new business owners are coming from an older age demographic. So, proving it’s never too late to follow a dream, here are some of the world’s most successful late bloomer entrepreneurs who founded their most successful businesses – and made their millions – later on in life. 

 

At age 65 Colonel Sanders sold his first restaurant and began focusing on his fried chicken recipe, with the aim of making it a franchise.

Colonel Sanders

The creator of KFC chicken had something of a rocky start to life, developing his cooking skills from a young age in his mother’s frequent absence. As a young man, he was never able to settle into a job, moving between roles as a farmer, a roadside fireman, lawyer, and steamboat operator to name just a few. Food and the service industry appeared to be at his core and he set up a service station with the woman who would go on to become his second wife.

At age 65 he sold his first restaurant and began focusing on his fried chicken recipe, with the aim of making it a franchise. At the age of 73, he sold KFC for $2million. 

 

Martha Stewart is a serial lifestyle entrepreneur, who has taken her brand into publishing, broadcasting, e-commerce and merchandising.

Martha Stewart

One of America’s most well-known business personalities, Martha Stewart is a serial lifestyle entrepreneur, who has taken her brand into publishing, broadcasting, e-commerce and merchandising. While studying architectural history at college she did some modelling for Chanel, but actually started her career as a stockbroker.

However, discovering she has skill and passion for cookery, she set up a catering home business. This led to a book deal with a major New York publisher in 1982. From there, her star grew with several more books, articles and television appearances.

Then came Martha Stewart Living Magazine, where she was editor in chief, and the creation of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. The company went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 1999 and made Stewart a billionaire. As well as the highs she has bounced back from some considerable lows, most notably when she was convicted of felony charges relating to stock trading fraud in 2004. After serving a prison sentence she clawed her way back to success and into public affections again, in particular catching people off guard with her new show featuring Snoop Dogg. 

 

Dame Vivienne Westwood was a primary school teacher before making her name in fashion.

Vivienne Westwood

It might be hard to imagine British punk icon Dame Vivienne Westwood as a primary school teacher, but that’s exactly what she seemed destined to be doing (while making jewellery on the side) before a meeting with the Sex Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren that would lead to her being propelled into the fashion design world.

From 1971 MacLaren’s King’s Road boutique (now World’s End) was filled with Westwood’s designs, and she became known as an architect of punk fashion, but her retail company Vivienne Westwood Srl wasn’t founded until 1988. Westwood has stayed true to her punk roots throughout her career, and has even broken the mould by encouraging consumers to buy less clothing; she strongly advocates against fast fashion and consumer culture, and advocates for a number of environmental causes.

 

Reid Hoffman's first venture, SocialNet, was ultimately a failure but did lead to him co-founding LinkedIn.

Reid Hoffman

Now worth $3.2billion according to Forbes, Hoffman’s social media career began with a failure: his first major venture was a dating site called SocialNet, which was quickly consigned to internet history. Founded in 1997, it just tried to do a bit too much – as well as promising to improve your romantic prospects, it had a professional network, roommate finder and even helped match you to the ideal tennis partner! Hard to understand why that one never took off…

It may have been doomed from the start but Hoffman seized on the professional networking aspect and co-founded LinkedIn at the age of 35, and the site now has around half a billion active users. 

It may have been doomed from the start but Hoffman seized on the professional networking aspect and co-founded LinkedIn at the age of 35, and the site now has around half a billion active users. 

It wasn’t until he was in his 40s that Henry Royce made his name.

Henry Royce

Frederick Henry Royce lost his father at a young age and had to work delivering newspapers and telegrams to help provide for the family. He had only completed one year of school by the time he was 15. It wasn’t until he was in his 40s that he made his name.

Royce gained engineering experience as an apprentice and worked for the Electric Light and Power Company in both London and Liverpool. He set up his own electric fittings company with business partner Ernest Claremont, but an increasing interest in motor cars led to a meeting with Charles Stewart Rolls, and the Rolls Royce Limited company germinated.

Within three years the company was winning awards for the reliability of its motor engineering. Rolls died when his Wright Flyer crashed in 1910, while Royce struggled with his health in later years, said to be due in part to his workaholic behaviour. He died in 1933.

 

Lauder was 28 when the brand that bears her name launched.

Estee Lauder

From a young age Lauder helped her family make ends meet working in their hardware store, and went on to help her uncle, a chemist in a lab that created beauty products. This sowed the seeds for what would eventually be the most recognisable beauty brand in the western world.

Lauder was 28 when the brand that bears her name launched (she was actually born Josephine Esther Mentzer but adopted her infant nickname Estee). Estee Lauder the company was founded with her husband Joseph in 1946 and began with flagship product Youth Dew bath oil perfume.

Estee Lauder sold 50,000 units of Youth Dew in its first year. By 1984 it was selling 150 million, with many more products developed by Lauder.

 

Charles Flint went on to founding IBM after stints in the shipping industry and as Chilean consul in New York City.

Charles Flint

Flint was born in 1850, but didn’t found the company that would be his enduring legacy until 1911, at the age of 61. Flint wasn’t exactly a stranger to success before that – he started out in the shipping industry, first working with a ships supply firm and handling millions of dollars’ worth of shipment deals. He also later served as Chilean consul in New York City and consul general to the United States for Nicaragua and Costa Rica. But it was computing that would make his name go down in history.

He formed the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company by amalgamating four existing companies. CTRC then became International Business Machines (IBM). Some of the game-changing IBM moments in history include their assistance of the space exploration programme, the Universal Product Code, as well as their near monopoly dominance across all aspects of the computing industry for many decades. Flint himself remained on the board of IBM until he was 80 years old.​

 

Kayleigh Ziolo is a freelance journalist and writer based in Ireland. Follow her @Kayleigh_Ziolo

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