In February, we noted that George Washington’s second most successful startup (aside from the U.S., that is) was a distillery he founded at the age of 65, after finishing his second term as President. We liked it a lot (of course). While some people may think it unusual for someone in their late 50s, 60s or 70s, to start businesses, it’s quite normal. According to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity (KIEA), 23.4% of business start-ups in 2013 were started by individuals 55-64. And, as we’ve noted before, the sheer size of the Baby Boomer generation means there’s a record number of people in their sixties who are both buying and selling businesses.
It got us thinking: Who are the people who followed the example of George Washington and have become what the SBA is now calling “Encore Entrepreneurs”? We’ll be exploring this topic in depth over the coming months, but here are just a few of the successful businesses founded by people who decided to spend their “retirement”creating and growing large corporations.
Harland Sanders: Kentucky Fried Chicken
After years of owning and operating restaurants, filling stations and motels, Sanders decided to try something new: a restaurant dedicated to the fried chicken recipe he’d perfected in 1942. Ten years later, at the age of 62, he franchised his “Kentucky Fried Chicken” to Pete Harman’s restaurant in Salt Lake City. With its success, Sanders opened his first restaurant in 1959 in Shelbyville, Kentucky. The rest is history…but it’s a history that includes another encore entrepreneur.
Jack C. Massey: Kentucky Fried Chicken, Hospital Corporation of America, Mrs. Winners Chicken
The person who purchased Kentucky Fried Chickent from Harlan Sanders was Jack C. Massey, who spent most of his early career growing a successful chain of pharmacies and a hospital supply company. At age 60, he (and partners) bought Kentucky Fried Chicken for $2 million. After expanding the restaurant chain aggressively, that $2 million turned into $239 million.
In the meantime, at age 64, he joined two partners in founding Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), which grew into the nation’s largest network of for-profit hospitals. After leaving management of HCA, at age 74, he went back into the fried chicken business, founding Mrs. Winner’s. Winner’s Corp. not only became a big chain of fried chicken restaurants, it also became the largest franchisee of Wendy’s. The company ultimately went public and was listed on the New York Stock exchange, becoming his third company to go public as an “encore entrepreneur.”
Jack Cover: Taser, Inc.
Cover spent most of his career as a nuclear physicist for NASA, but at the age of 50 he started Taser, Inc. with the hopes of developing a non-lethal weapon for incapacitating assailants. The Taser is now used in 45 countries worldwide.
Gary Bickford: Healthy Life Clinic
With a previous career in medical diagnostics, Bickford returned to school at the age of 55 to become a family nurse practitioner. He went on to found Healthy Life Clinic, a medical clinic for low-income individuals.
Yuval Zaliouk: Almondina Cookies
Being a successful symphony conductor wasn’t Yuval Zaliouk’s only passion; he also loved his grandmother’s almond-flavored cookies. So, at the age of 50, he started Almondina Cookies, using her recipe as the backbone. He now sells eight different varieties in retail stores around the world.