A Retiree’s Second Act as a Small-Business Owner

The word “entrepreneur” typically conjures images of professionals in their 20s and 30s. But that stereotype often misses the mark, because baby boomers engage in more entrepreneurial activity than Millennials do.

Many older adults are starting businesses — and second careers — after retirement. The Intuit Small Business Blog recently talked with one such entrepreneur, 76-year-old former salesman Ed DeSoto. With his wife, Chrystie (both pictured), DeSoto started the Olive Bar, a retail store that sells specialty oils and vinegars.

ISBB: Why did you decide to open the Olive Bar?

DeSoto: When I retired from my job in 2007, I was really bored. Since I don’t play sports or have any hobbies, I spent six months lying on the couch until I mastered the remote control. One day, a supplier that I’d worked with in my previous job called me and asked if I wanted to help get a section set up in a gourmet grocery store for his company’s olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

I was ready to do something other than sit around the house, so I decided instead to open a retail store selling specialty oils and vinegars. After doing a lot of looking around, I decided that Campbell, Calif., was the perfect location. Since I have opened the business, I personally have no plans to retire [again], because I am having so much fun.

What is your favorite part about owning the Olive Bar?

I love interacting with my customers. I really feel like I am improving the “flavor” and health of people who come in here. I have also really enjoyed learning about the different type of oils and vinegars and becoming an expert on the products.

How do you find the products that you sell in the Olive Bar?

I have done a lot of research and travel to find the best products to sell in the store and online. I want to make sure that I carry only the best. When a customer asked about coconut oil a few years ago, I used Alibaba.com to help me find Jessica Gutierrez at AmazingFoods Corp., a small boutique food producer in Manila who produces Santa Maria brand coconut oil, and ended up traveling to the Philippines to meet her.

How do you think your previous business and life experience helped with opening the store?

If I had opened the store when I was younger, I would not have had the knowledge or belief in myself that I do now. When I told people I was opening a store, 99 percent gave me a look like I was crazy, but I knew I could do it.

With age, you realize that you can succeed at something. I’m about to turn 77, and I just signed another five-year lease at the store. I am going to try to beat George Burns’ record.

What advice would you give to other retirees considering opening a business?

I tell other people my age to think about the body of knowledge that they have acquired in their life and figure out how to use it. I think that you need a reason to keep living and, for me, The Olive Bar has been a lot of fun. I didn’t want anything that seemed like a job at this point in my life.

About Jennifer Goforth Gregory

Jennifer Goforth Gregory has more than 18 years professional writing experience and specializes in writing about small businesses. Her work has been published in Infusionsoft’s Big Ideas Blog, QSR Magazine, and the Raleigh News & Observer.
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