18 ;e Costco Connection SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2013
By Gord Woodward
LIKE SO MAN Y baby boomers, Doug Rapien
and Larry Dorwart have made self-employment a cornerstone of their retirement.
They’re seniorpreneurs—people who
start their own businesses at a stage in life that
is more often associated with golf shirts than
business suits. And they’ve got plenty of company, according to a recent TD Canada Trust
survey. It found that more than half of
Canadian boomers—that large segment of
the population born between 1946 and
1964—have started or are considering starting their own small business.
Rapien, who blew out 55 birthday candles in May, left behind a high-powered corporate career in information technology to
open a luxurious bed and breakfast in
Georgetown, Ontario. “I wanted to do something where I felt I was building something,”
says the Costco member.
Dorwart, meantime, will celebrate his
65th birthday this fall, not in Saskatchewan,
where he was born and raised, or in Alberta,
where he spent most of his working career.
Instead, he and his wife, Evelyn, have taken a
path familiar to many snowbirds: They’ve
retired to Mexico, where they will be making
many toasts under the hot sun.
But here’s what sets them apart from other
retirees: The toasts will use the whisky they’re
making in a distillery they just opened, with a
$250,000 investment, near Puerto Vallarta.
The business was originally conceived as
a hobby, says Dorwart, a Costco member.
“We needed to give ourselves reason to get up
in the morning,” he says with a laugh. But
once Destilería Los 2 Compadres opened,
they saw an opportunity to expand, and they
now sell their product in Mexican bars, restaurants and markets. They’ve also been
approached by U.S. distributors. The goal
now? “We’re going to go as big as we can.”
Inspiration and challenges
Late-blooming entrepreneurship is not a
surprise to Dan Demers, vice-president of
small-business banking for TD Canada Trust.
Things have changed a lot when it comes to
ideas for retirement, he says.
According to the bank’s survey, which
involved 1,000 participants and was taken
last fall, more than 15 per cent of boomers
have already plunged into self-employment—and a whopping 39 per cent more
plan to join them. Those results echo a previous report in 2006 from Statistics Canada,
which found seniors 55 and older were three
times as likely to be self-employed as workers
ages 25 to 54.
For many, the motivation is self-fulfilment,
coming after a work career full of jobs that paid
the bills but weren’t personally rewarding.
“They’re doing it for pleasures,” says Demers.
There’s also a financial impetus. Many of
these entrepreneurial seniors are looking to
simply supplement their retirement income.
As Rapien says, “I don’t have to live day-to-
Many others, however, need the revenue to
The Costco Connection
Costco offers a variety of services for all businesses, including cheque printing, credit card
processing, Web design and more. For details, go to Costco.ca and click on “Services.”
The goldens rule
For these entrepreneurs, life begins at 50
BRIAN PIETERS PHOTOGRAPHY
Seniorpreneur Doug Rapien
left a corporate career to
open a bed and breakfast.
keep themselves afloat. Wendy
Mayhew, for example, a Costco
member in Ottawa, opened
Business Launch Solutions at
age 57. Five years later, she still
draws her paycheque—and
inspiration—from it. “It keeps
me young,” says the business
consultant, who has created a
video training series for other
Like her, most seniorpreneurs run service-based micro
businesses, often with themselves as the lone worker. That
keeps their financial risks low,
which is crucial given their
stage of life. The cash they use
to get going, and to operate,
usually comes from their
retirement funds, and “you
don’t have a lot of time to fix
mistakes,” Dorwart observes.
Demers says the older busi-
The wisdom of the ages
ness owners tend to be more
prudent with their money and manage their
risks carefully. That’s one of the advantages
they have as they enter self-employment:
“They’ll be less adventurous.”
Rapien agrees. Though he invested about
$50,000 to prepare his 8,700-square-foot home
for guests of his bed and breakfast—three bed-
rooms and one suite are available—his deci-
sions were carefully planned. “I guess you sit
back more and think things through,” he says.
Costco member Donna Messer, a business adviser and writer who at age 60 has
been running ConnectUs Communications
Canada for a decade, says that age also brings
wisdom and perspective—not to mention a
lifetime of experiences that have built the contacts and people skills so essential to business
success. “Seniors have been there,” she says.
Seniorpreneur advocate Joe Wasylyk,
who has self-published a book and writes a
blog on the topic (http://seniorpreneur.word
press.com) from his home in Edmonton,
Alberta, says older people bring maturity, and
therefore different expectations, to the table.
They’re not usually looking to build empires
or to make millions, he says, and instead prefer to develop a business that adds meaning to
their life and may even give back to society.
But what about the drawbacks to starting
a business at an age at which many people are
thinking of slowing down?
“Being at it 24/7, 365 days a year, it does
take its toll,” admits Costco member Richard
Haynes, 59, of Natural Yard System Inc., a
northern Ontario manufacturer of a natural
microbial nutrient formula for lawns and gar-