KC Woman's ‘Encore Career’ Aims to Change Perceptions About Those 55+
Ann O’Meara kept seeing negativity. And she was sick of it.
The research and news stories she read about people 55 and older often focused on the end of life. But Ann, 62, saw an opportunity because she knew this part of her own journey was ready for the next chapter—and she suspected that others in the later part of their lives likely felt the same.
“Boomers and seniors have a lot to offer,” she says. “We’re not just sitting around.”
So she pounced on the opportunity to be a megaphone of positivity for the 55+ demographic and curate reliable helpful tips and insight for that age group—the kind of stuff she herself was curious about: The cohabiting trend for those 50+. The health benefits of singing. How to start a new job. Gray divorce. CBD shops. “Seniorpreneurs.”
Ann will tell you she’s part of the 1 in 4 new entrepreneurs nationally who are between ages 55-64, the same group that’s almost twice as likely to start a business than a millennial. Ann says a few factors play into that: These folks are well-educated, have strong professional networks, have access to capital (usually funded with savings instead of personal loans), are digitally savvy and have the stomach for risk.
And this shouldn’t be a surprise because more than half of all small business owners in the U.S. are at least 50 years old. And in Kansas City, nearly 3 in 10 entrepreneurs who ask for help with their businesses are over the age of 55, according to KCSourceLink data.
“We’re rewriting retirement,” Ann says.
And Ann, 62, fits the bill for such an entrepreneur. She saw a gap, used her deep experience and long career in marketing and created Fantastic55, a website aimed at those over 55. The site offers how-tos and interesting finds on the internet that inspire and educate. She even sells some swag in her online store.
“Mentally, I just had to do it,” she says. “I’m a business person at heart, and I love the productivity of work. If you played golf seven days a week as poorly as I do, that would get old fast.”
Fantastic55 began as a summer project she’d work on during her trips to the beach, often on the East Coast. Just like she did then, she’s often up early and deep into research and reading around 5:30 a.m. She’s armed with factoids that she’s plucked from journals and news articles and woven those into her brand identity. In fact, she says research suggests that working near the beach and water invigorates the mind … we’re not gonna argue with that.
Why “Fantastic55”? She says her father used to call everything “fantastic.”
“The name was sort of a tribute to my father, and it’s about dispelling those negative associations you sometimes read about with those 55 and up,” she says.
And Ann is taking advantage of today’s digitally connected world, which offers more business help and opportunities to everyone. (More than 90 percent of those 50 and older use the internet, so you can throw out any negative stereotypes you might’ve heard.) Plus, having an online business doesn’t require much capital, and Ann can work from her home office in south Kansas City, Missouri, or from a beach somewhere across the country—that is, when she’s not teaching classes on the side at Donnelly College and Avila University.
She’s living her mission.
“I want to empower people to do what’s right for them in this part of their lives,” she says. “Because people who live a longer, healthier life have a purposeful life.”
And people can find that purpose when they start a business. Ann says, those 50+ become entrepreneurs either out of necessity to cushion the transition into retirement or that some do it by choice and finally follow a passion they couldn’t earlier. Plus, folks 55 and up have tons of work and life experience, professional networks, knowledge, skills and fewer family responsibilities.
And she says because of those factors, becoming an entrepreneur is an even more attractive option for those who are looking for, as Ann puts it, “an encore career.”
So, yes, seniorpreneurs are a big deal. And Ann says KC is ripe with help for anyone who wants to start a business at any age.
“Kansas City is a great city for entrepreneurship,” she says. “There are just so many resources here.”
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Ann says for her online-based business, the metro had the right help to get her operation up and running. She says she’s always been a 1 Million Cups fan and dropped in when she could to learn from presenters. And that was one thing that inspired her to start her own company.
Once she had the concept for Fantastic55, she got to work. She read “WordPress for Dummies” and watched YouTube videos to build about 85 percent of the site before she handed it over to a pro who finished it up. From there, she’s learned how to integrate Google AdSense, shoot and post video and create a MailChimp newsletter. Plus she studied how other savvy marketing pros were running their operations. (She’s a big fan of theSkimm.)
So, she had that deep marketing experience and penchant for research and learning, but she still needed help with the business side. That’s when she picked up the phone.
“One of the first things I did was call KCSourceLink, and they outlined who I should talk to next,” she says. “They can help you understand the landscape.”
KCSourceLink gave her a Personal Action Plan to help with her next steps and from there, she tapped into SCORE, business classes from Square One Small Business Services by Mid-Continent Public Library and some courses from the Kansas Small Business Development Center at Johnson County Community College.
“Being able to see things with an entrepreneurial lens helped me accelerate,” she says.
She connected with mentors through BetaBlox, a business incubator that helped her navigate the startup world and accelerate her business.
“There’s a whole infrastructure out there to help you,” she says. “And this is all part of helping seniors live purposefully.”
Ann says she loves entrepreneurship because she can make tweaks and learn along the way as she continues to adapt, shape, build and grow Fantastic55. And she’ll tell you finally being her own boss isn’t half bad, either.
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