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What Will You Do With Your Extra Years?

“With our new longevity, it’s time to measure age in future potential as opposed to just a chronology of years lived.”

Sergei Scherbov, PhD, Director of Demographic Analysis, Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital (IIASA, VID, WU), Deputy Director, World Population Program, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

UN International Day of Older Persons

We were thrilled to attend the 29th Anniversary of the United Nations International Day of Older Persons on October 10th. The day was filled with insights and information from numerous experts in the field of ageing. Here are some of the things we heard –

Projected Life Expectancies

Turning 65 is not an ending but a beginning. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs calculates that the proportion of adult life spent beyond age 65 increased from less than a fifth in the 1960s to a quarter or more in most developed countries today. That means that a person aged 65 can expect to live an additional 19 years by 2045. And people are not only living longer lives, they are living healthier ones. As a result, as Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott state in their book, The 100 Year Life, people need to adapt to living a longer life.

With longer healthier lives, older people have more opportunities. The traditional approach of retiring from a career at age 65 must be rethought. Paul Ladd, Director of the UN Research Institute for Social Development, points out that the world is divided into two types of people – the old and the future old. Regardless of which group you are in, you must adopt a life-course approach where the milestones of education, career and retirement can happen at any point in the span of your chronological life.

With age comes wisdom and success. Elizabeth Isele, founder and CEO at The Global Institute for Experienced Entrepreneurship, argues that in today’s global economy, experience is a competitive advantage. She points out that the highest rate of entrepreneurship worldwide has shifted to the 55-64 age group.  And five years after startup, 70% of ventures established by 50+ entrepreneurs are still in operation compared to just 28% of enterprises launched by younger entrepreneurs.

Bottom line?  There is no better time to take your own personal leap of faith and follow your entrepreneurial dream.  Get inspired!  You can meet fellow grownup founders and learn about their journeys at a Stage2Startups event.  Find an upcoming event here.


Copyright© 2019 Emelie Smith Calbick and Betty Wong

Leave Your Comfort Zone for New Opportunities

New adventures can lead to business opportunities” 

Joyce Slayton-Mitchell – Global College Admissions Consultant & Author

When you’re in your 70s, no matter how much you like your life, sometimes you want to change it up a bit and learn something new. Joyce Slayton Mitchell was the Director of college advisement at one of New York’s most prestigious girls’ day schools. She liked traveling to Paris for spring breaks (wrote a book about Paris pastry shops), spent summers in her Vermont hometown, and always spent the year-end holidays with her children and grandchildren in New Zealand. 

Joyce Slayton-Mitchell

“I loved my life, but wanted to add to the adventure and try something totally different.  So I decided to go someplace that I knew nothing about. I bought a ticket for a place as far and different from NewYork City as possible –  Beijing. I was curious if I could find a way to support myself in China with my writing and U.S. college admissions expertise. I soon discovered a number of business opportunities.” While still at her NYC job, Joyce enrolled in a language class at the China Institute.  Language classes lasted two lessons. “What can I say? Memorizing phrases and writing Chinese characters 100 times every night just wasn’t for me.” 

Joyce soon traded language lessons for the Corporate division of the China Institute with seminars on their Stock Exchange, Real Estate, and print media. During those lectures, she met a number of Chinese newspaper people, including the China Daily, where she learned that they had a high school edition for the public schools of China.  She soon had the name of the editor and an appointment in Beijing for her next spring break. 

“I had a great meeting, even though I left without knowing if they wanted an advice column on U.S. College Admissions.  By the end of the summer, I learned that Yes! They would agree to give the College Advice column a try. With that credential in hand, I left for Beijing again at our next school holiday, Columbus Day Weekend.”

That weekend led Joyce to a meeting with the largest English-language education company in China- New Oriental – the first Chinese business accepted on the NY Stock Exchange.  Several weeks later, and back at her school job, she secured a book deal to write the first dual language Chinese/English American college admissions book, The Chinese Guide to American Universities

With book contract in hand, and China Daily’s newspaper column in print, she left her job in NYC and worked for a small Chinese company, who wanted an Amercian amongst them, to bring the U.S. AP Curriculum into the public schools.  Through perseverance, learning how her college counseling experience fit into the Chinese culture, and the fast growth of the Chinese economy, Mitchell has now been in China for 12 years. Today, Joyce is a recognized pioneer among college admissions deans and continues to work with young Chinese entrepreneurs in their U.S. college and school counseling businesses. Always aware of the market for what she has to offer, Ms. Mitchell followed the remarkable change of the China market from U.S. colleges to our boarding schools. She now spends 3 or 4 months in China, and during the rest of the academic year, counsels Chinese high school students across the US.

To learn more about Joyce’s latest book, Who Is This Kid? Colleges Want to Know!, and other books written by Joyce, visit joyceslaytonmitchell.com.


Copyright© 2019 Emelie Smith Calbick and Betty Wong

Why Your Spouse Can Be Good For Business

“We know that when we challenge each other, we aren’t doing it for political or monetary gain but because it is what we believe is right for the business.” 

Nicole Biernat & Larry Newhook, Co-Founders, Alpha Innovations & Laureate Digital Securities

The question is always asked – can my spouse also be my business partner without straining either relationship?  Nicole Biernat and Larry Newhook, the founders of Alpha Innovations and Laureate Digital Securities, say yes but you have to go in with your eyes wide open.

Larry Newhook
Co-Founder

When Larry decided he wanted to start his own global asset management firm instead of continuing in his successful career at financial institutions such as OMERS and Point72, he knew he needed a strong COO.  “My biggest strength is always asking why. When I have an idea I ask myself, ‘Why can’t we do X, Y or Z? Often there is no meaningful impediment. It just hasn’t been done before.’”  But every visionary, creative thinker needs the complementary person who thinks about how to make that great idea a reality. 

“When starting off and partnering with someone, you have to trust the other person. When I was thinking about who could be my COO, I was looking across the table and realized Nicole was the best choice I could make. I knew that Nicole and I complemented each other well.” 

Nicole Biernat
Co-Founder

Nicole also has a strong financial background working at companies such as Goldman Sachs and Putnam Lovell so she and Larry share a common language and expertise. At the same time they have different personalities that work well together – while Larry tends to be a risk-taker, Nicole is more conservative.

Both had reservations about going into business together but were thrilled with the idea of being able to spend more time together. And they found that being married brought benefits to the company.  “We can be more direct and honest with each other,” Nicole says. “We know that when we challenge each other, we aren’t doing it for political or monetary gain but because it is what we believe is right for the business.” 

Nicole and Larry’s advice to new entrepreneurs? You can’t do it alone – period. You need a sounding board when you are working through ideas, a cheerleader to encourage you when you are down and a trusted partner who can give you a dose of reality when you need it. You need to find the person who balances you both in personality and skill set. And sometimes that person is sitting right at your kitchen table.

You can learn more about their companies at  http://laureate.io/ and https://alphainnovations.io/

Copyright© 2019 Emelie Smith Calbick and Betty Wong

Can you prepare for your leap of faith?

“Starting a new business is a giant leap of faith, but you still need to plan,”

Todd Layne Ofsink, Founder,Todd Layne Cleaners

Todd Layne Ofsink was a project manager in New York City at McKinsey and Company, one of the top tier consulting firms in the world. He planned to leave McKinsey to start a finance-related business with his brother, but he didn’t find it as interesting as he wanted it to be – his “heart wasn’t in it.” What he did find interesting were the two vacant storefronts he walked past on 77th Street every day with a closed laundromat in one of them. “That’s a business that could use some change” and Todd thought he was just the person to do it. He was right! Todd broke even before the end of his first year, very unusual for someone with no background in a new business. Today, Todd Layne Cleaners is positioned as a “Customized Cleaning Solution for Laundry and Eco-Friendly Dry Cleaning,” on trend with the customization that customers have become accustomed to in the past decade.

Todd Layne Ofsink
Founder, Todd Layne Cleaners

Todd didn’t automatically decide to be in the laundry business – he planned. Through referrals, he visited other dry cleaners in other cities and observed them at work, camping out with them for a week at a time. He also stood in front of the empty laundromat and watched the foot traffic go by, noticing that people tend to travel on the street where they exit the subway. Luckily, 77th street, where Todd Layne Cleaners is located, turned out to be a high traffic street. He recommends that every founder take the time to learn as much as possible about their industry before jumping in. 

Working at McKinsey gave him the confidence to go off on his own because it was such an entrepreneurial environment. But Todd said “No business school could possibly teach you everything you need to know, even though I tried to cover everything in my business plan. In the end, it really is an enormous leap of faith.”

If you are on the Upper East Side of New York City and want to try Todd’s customizable laundry and eco-friendly dry cleaning services, visit Toddlaynecleaners.com and use code “TLC blog” for $10 towards your first order. To help prepare for your leap of faith, check out our Startups by Grownups resource center for information on business planning and other information.

Come hear Todd in person at the Stage2Startups “Transition to Founder” event in New York City on October 22.To get your 25% event discount go to https://bit.ly/2IN43Nz


Jeff Wright also planned for his leap of faith when he left his senior level position at Bristol-Myers Squibb to become CEO of Urban Ministries, Inc., the largest independent African American Christian media firm.

Jeffrey Wright
CEO, Urban Ministries, Inc.

Jeff always had an entrepreneurial mindset, once even considering starting his own airline. After 10 years leading business development at Bristol-Myers Squibb’s consumer divisions, Jeff was ready to make the leap but wasn’t sure yet what he wanted to do.  Then he came across a videotape produced by Urban Ministries, Inc. On an impulse, he called the number on the box and met Dr. Melvin Banks, Sr. the founder of UMI.

Jeff liked the business immediately and soon joined the board while continuing his corporate career.  This enabled Jeff to start learning the business and evaluate the potential for growth. After 5 years on the board, Dr. Banks asked Jeff to take over the business. Jeff knew this a high risk career move but he also knew from his years on the board that the company had a unique niche with solid distribution channels. 

Jeff took the leap, quit his job and moved to Chicago.  But he didn’t stop planning for success. While the founder continued to manage the company, Jeff spent a full year working every part of the business.  When he finally did take over, Jeff ensured he had a strong group of advisors, including the founder, who Jeff asked to stay around because having someone around who knows the business is invaluable.

Jeff’s advice to future entrepreneurs is to be bold and trust the skills and abilities you acquired in your business career.  But when you do take that leap of faith, be prepared.

To learn more about Jeff’s media company, visit www.urbanministries.com.

Copyright© 2019 Emelie Smith Calbick and Betty Wong

When You Know You Just Have To Do It

A common theme we have heard from founders is that starting a business is a true leap of faith. But how and when do you decide to make the leap?   

Maria Yuan, founder of Issue Voter, waited almost 10 years after she worked on a political campaign in Iowa, before her determination to make politicians more responsibleto their constituents became a reality.  

Maria Yuan
Founder, Issue Voter

Prior to the 2016 elections, Maria wanted to know what her legislators had done during their tenure of serving the public but she discovered there were very few places to find that information. She believed this information should be readily available and decided to quit her job at Credit Suisse to make politicians’ records more transparent. Today, Maria’s platform, IssueVoter.org, regularly delivers insights to both citizens and politicians. Recently, they celebrated delivering over a million opinions to Congress.

Looking back, Maria says she has always lived her life and made her decisions based on whether she would regret not trying something. So when the technology evolved to make her idea feasible, and she found the right partner to help build her platform, she jumped at the chance to help make a difference.

To learn more about your politicians’ voting record and if you are interested in donating to Maria’s cause, check www.issuevoter.org.

Lynne Pagano, and her co-founders,Suzanne Willian and Lauren Decker, of The Co-Co in Summit, NJ, a collaborative co-working, co-learning community for women in Summit, NJ, had a similar revelation.  

Lynne Pagano
Co-Founder, The Co-Co

Lynne, Suzanne and Lauren had frequently talked about how to harness the energy and intelligence of the talented women they met in their corporate careers and their second careers as stay-at-home parents.  So when Lynne saw that WeWorks had invested $30MM in The Wing, she texted Suzanne and Lauren saying, “It’s time.”

The Co-Co is more than just a co-working space for women. It is also designed to be a community with programming such as panel discussions, events and social gatherings. But The Co-Co isn’t just for women.  While they aim to create an environment where women can thrive, The Co-Co welcomes both men and women.

Their advice to anyone thinking of taking the leap of faith to start a business is to stop waiting. Lynne tells the story about how someone said to her, “you are going to be 54 before the business is up and running.”  Lynne’s response? “I’m going to be 54 anyway so I might as well be having fun.” 

You can learn more about The Co-Co at https://www.theco-co.com


Do You Have What It Takes?

“Take an inventory of yourself – know your strengths and your gaps because you bring your whole self to the business, warts and all.”

Dorothy Wetzel, Founder, Extrovertic


Dorothy Wetzel
Founder, Extrovertic

You have a great idea and you are ready to take the leap and start your new business.  There are so many things to consider and keep track of. Where are you going to be based?  How are you going to get your message out? How are you going to find your customers? But during all that planning, founders frequently fail to stop and evaluate their most important asset – themselves. 

Yet, any founder’s future success is dependent on having all the necessary skills to turn an idea into reality.  So it is wise to take a moment to assess yourself. That’s the advice of Dorothy Wetzel, founder of Extrovertic, a successful agency that provides multichannel strategy, brand planning, content marketing and partner selection services to healthcare companies.

Dorothy feels she learned this lesson the hard way when she formed a partnership with a former colleague to start Extrovertic.  “I already knew and had worked with my first partner at the same company so starting a business together seemed like a good idea.  We both agreed on what our business would be, but I never stopped and evaluated whether our skills and personality complemented each other.”

Extrovertic’s original business idea, Amped Advocacy, was to harness the power of the internet for patients to connect and share.  Now you see this type of patient advocacy everywhere but at the time the types of platforms that exist today weren’t in existence. “In retrospect, perhaps I didn’t think broadly enough – I limited myself to what I was familiar with.  Perhaps if I had had the right partner who could have helped me think about how to actually build the infrastructure to support my idea I could have gotten further. That would have been the value of having support of people with different skills from myself.”

Ultimately the partnership was dissolved and Dorothy found a partner who better complemented her skills and work style.  “You need to hit the ground running to get traction in the marketplace and there is really no time to spare trying to figure out how to fill skill gaps or resolve personal conflicts.”  

In our Resources section, you can find several tools that will help you do your own self-assessment.


Copyright© 2019 Emelie Smith Calbick and Betty Wong

What Does a Founder Look Like?

“The average age of people who founded the highest-growth startups is 45.” Researchers Pierre Azoulay, Daniel Kim and Benjamin Jones of MIT Sloan School of Management and Kellogg School


Today’s founders send a clear message – it is never too late to start a business.  Many of these entrepreneurs leverage their former careers into their second act while others decide to pursue a passion or return to a family business.  Their businesses span all types of industries and range from solo operations to larger organizations. Here are just a few of the grownup founders we have met – 

Jeffrey Wright–  A former corporate vice president at two Fortune 50 companies who is now CEO of Urban Ministries, Inc., the largest independent African American Christian media firm. (https://urbanministries.com)

Alice Fisher – A former aide to NY State Senator Liz Krueger, now the co-founder of the Radical Age Movement (https://radicalagemovement.org)

Larry Blakeman – The former MetLife CIO leverages his deep knowledge of data at his own consulting firm, QuaEra Insights.  (https://www.quaerainsights.com)

Caroline Anderson – Founder of BloomAgainBrooklyn who combined her career in the visual arts with her love of flowers to distribute unsold/once-used flowers to home bound seniors, nursing home residents and others in need. ( https://www.bloomagainbklyn.org)

Jim Norris – Founder of the North Jersey Sports Medical Group combines his passion for sports as a former NFL player with his professional experience in population health. (https://www.njsportsmedgroup.com)

Maria Yuan – Formerly of Credit Suisse now founder of IssueVoter that helps hold politicians accountable. ( http://issuevoter.org)

But no matter what “second stage” business they pursue,  these founders bring a wealth of experience, knowledge and connections to their business venture.  We believe this gives this group of founders an edge when launching their business because they are able to leverage their –

  • Work experience They often have strong business backgrounds and deep networks they can tap
  • Life experience They tend to be more self-aware and more willing to seek and take advice
  • Networking skills They understand the value of networks to help them start and grow their business

You will learn more about these founders and others in future blogs.  In the meantime, you can find tools to assess your skills in our Resources Section.


Copyright© 2019 Emelie Smith Calbick and Betty Wong

What is Startups By Grownups™?

Whether you’re just beginning to think about launching a new business or you have already begun your startup journey, we want to help you achieve your vision.


Everyone knows launching a startup is a young person’s game.  Most of the world’s biggest tech giants were started by people barely into their 20’s. And popular culture has reinforced this image –  from HBO’s “Silicon Valley” to the book, “Startup: A Novel”, the founder is always a young male with a revolutionary idea.  

But is this stereotypic founder fact or fiction? Researchers Pierre Azoulay, Daniel Kim and Benjamin Jones of MIT Sloan School of Management and Kellogg School found that the assumption that most successful entrepreneurs are young is really a myth.  Based on their research, they found that the average age of entrepreneurs is actually 42 . Even with software startups, where the expectation of youth is greatest, the average age of the founders is 40.

And these older entrepreneurs have a significantly higher success rate than younger entrepreneurs. The researchers found that the highest growth startups were founded by people who were, on average, 45 years old.  And extreme startup success tends to rise with age.

But why are older entrepreneurs more successful?  What are the advantages they bring to their startups? As stage two entrepreneurs ourselves we were frustrated over how little work has been done to understand the older entrepreneur and the unique skills he/she brings to launching a new business. 

That’s why we decided to launch Startups By Grownups, a blog focusing on people who became entrepreneurs in the second stage of their professional lives.  We want to show that “older” and “entrepreneur” is not an oxymoron but a fact. That it is never too late to launch a startup. And that age brings significant benefits to making a startup a success.  

In this blog, we will talk to entrepreneurs at all stages of “middle age” operating in a variety of industries across the US to understand what they felt made their second stage careers successful. 

You will learn about the skills and experiences they relied on to achieve success, and their words of advice to the new entrepreneur. We will also provide resources to help you leverage their learnings as you start your journey as an entrepreneur.

We hope you enjoy the journey!