It’s never too late to start a business of your own

Pensioners in the ‘third age’ can have a new life by establishing a small niche company based on their talents, experiences and interests. A new Hebrew-language book explains how to do it.

EITAN LITVIN (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Imagine that the Interior Ministry has sent you a letter informing you – a newly minted pensioner – that it made a mistake regarding your birth and that you are 20 years younger than you thought you were. Suddenly, you feel fresh, young, full of initiative and eager to find a new career.
In fact, nobody has gotten younger due to a bureaucratic error, but with the improving health, improved medical treatments and growing life expectancy, instead of dying on the average in one’s mid-40s as in 1900, you can live through your 80s, 90s and even beyond. Many clinical studies have shown that pensioners who are active – taking another paid or volunteer job – enjoy better health and live longer than those who don’t. They can still have dreams and actualize them.
So what does you do with all this time one your hands? Watch TV? Spend your time and money at cafes or cinemas? In fact, now is the time to start a small business based on new ideas, niches and hobbies, according to Eitan Litvin and Guy Dayan.
The two Israelis have just written a book in Hebrew called Yazamut Be’gil Hashlishi: Asakim Ktanim Le’anashim Gedolim [Third- Age Entrepreneurship: Small Businesses for Big People], published by Media-10. The NIS 79, 253-page softcover volume is an ongoing pep talk to graying readers to get out of their chairs, rethink their lives and do something they really enjoy that will supplement their income, which is likely to be in short supply after leaving their regular work.
The cover shows four entrepreneurs sitting in a room waiting to see someone important, each holding a briefcase. Three are young and dressed in business suits, while the fourth is a serious-looking, whitehaired woman with a pearl necklace and long dress.
While it does not ignore limitations of age due to less-than-optimal health, the text nevertheless explodes fixed ideas and supplies mental tools that will help readers take their first steps from having the lackluster status of a “tired pensioner” to becoming an energetic and clever entrepreneur.
Litvin and Dayan are trained mentors who volunteer for Keren Shemesh for Young Entrepreneurs. They serve as personal business and personnel trainers who specialize in working with management, sales and marketing employees to polish their skills.
Litvin is a graduate in industrial textile engineering at the University of Leeds who lectures and writes articles on management.
University of Haifa graduate Dayan served in numerous senior jobs in tourism and aviation, with experience in management, marketing and sales.
The publisher, Media-10, specializes in releasing books by coaches, marketers, nutrition experts, venture capitalists and authors of children’s literature.
The “third age” has long been considered the “last station” in the lives of people who reach their pension years, but Litvin and Dayan note that this concept is outdated – there is now a “fourth age” of being old.
If they take care of themselves (and have inherited long-life genes), third-agers can enjoy more decades of satisfying and productive life, the authors insist.
The well-written and exuberant volume also provides a plethora of ideas and short, true life stories. The endless possibilities of using the Internet for arousing interest in products and services for making profits online is stressed. The book can provide ideas not only to retirees, but also to younger people who feel they are stuck in dull salaried jobs and want to take calculated risks to launch a successful business of their own.
THE VARIOUS entrepreneurial fields that Litvin and Dayan suggest are in manufacturing, sales, writing, services and voluntary organizations.
The manufacturing classification includes making bridal dresses, for example. One entrepreneur designs and sells the special- occasion garments from her studio, while the actual sewing is carried out by a subcontractor. Another entrepreneur makes customized, elaborately decorated cakes for birthdays and other occasions; as she has low expenses working from home, she can keep her prices low and has no need to keep large inventories. Customers hear of her products largely by word of mouth.
A bookbinder accepts rare, old volumes and restores them with a lot of love. A man with aesthetic talents creates handmade, aromatic candles for use at home and at special events and markets them through a wholesaler or retailer. An amateur artist sells his paintings online both in Israel and abroad, enjoying much larger exposure than if he had put them on display at a gallery.
Taking ceramics courses, one pensioner makes clay objects, renting a special oven to “fire” them. A woman who likes to sew bought several second-hand machines and produces men’s and women’s suits by order.
As for sales, a woman living in a small village established a bookstore/café for which she bakes cakes and organizes literary evenings to sell used books. Another entrepreneur creates gift baskets suited to customers attracted to the products online.
Writing and translating can be carried out with almost no initial investment, requiring only communication abilities and curiosity about life. One blogger offers companies ways of keeping in touch with customers.
Another writer, aged 72, specializes in crafting curriculum vitae and mini-biographies about customers. Professional editing of texts written by others, making improvements in style and grammar, is always in demand. Given the global village, competent translations are also sought by companies and individuals.
As for services, a pensioner couple set up a company for designing and taking care of planters in offices. Possessing special knowledge in taking care of exotic plants in an artificial environment, they attract many clients. Another entrepreneur set up a business centered on designing according to the rules of Feng Shui, the Chinese philosophical system of harmonizing everyone with the surrounding environment. Yet another approached homes and businesses about establishing, feeding and cleaning tropical fish aquariums and found an eager clientele.
Pensioners with active websites can use them for referring customers as a platform for promoting sales. For example, someone who rents cars can work under the aegis of a global company that spe- cializes in the same field and handle local customers. Products exposed on the site that are sold result in the collection of fees for the service.
Retirees with no need for additional income can set up and maintain websites for voluntary organizations, such as those who protect the environment or cultivate altruistic people to help.
IT IS never too late to start a new journey of entrepreneurism that has no connection to your chronological age, the authors write. Pensioners have priceless life experience, skills and time to make use of them.
“Entrepreneurship is not just a matter of making money, but of self-confidence and fulfillment,” they write.
Litvin was often asked how the book came about.
“Five years ago, I returned home from Mozambique, where I held work-related meetings.” He was bitten by a nasty mosquito and contracted a serious case of malaria, sending him to Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center as an inpatient.
“For four days, I had a burning fever and was surrounded by worried doctors and nurses. Because of a congenital heart defect, I was closely watched in the department as well as after I was discharged.”
His personal physician ordered him to stop flying abroad and to reduce the pace of his working life. This led to his feeling sorry for himself and reassessing his life.
“I ran businesses in more than 10 different countries across three continents and realized that handing over information was the best and most satisfying field I could involve myself in.”
As a volunteer, Litvin gave lectures to thousands of school pupils on violence and the dangers of the Internet and also volunteered for Keren Shemesh. He dreamed of writing a book.
Looking at his contemporary friends, he found most of them to be lacking energy and vitality, which made them age. After three years of research on pensioners, he decided to help retirees come alive again as entrepreneurs. A year before publication, he brought into the project his colleague and talented writing friend, Dayan, “without whom I would have never completed the book.”
To get the gumption to think of a new career, the authors ask readers to think about how satisfied they have been with their lives during the last 30, 20 and 10 years.
“Have you done things you enjoyed?” Natalie, a friend of Litvin who retired as a secretary three years before, consulted with him about what to do with her life. She was very dissatisfied. He asked her what she really enjoyed doing, and she said: “Taking care of my children and grandchildren – especially telling them stories that I made up.”
As a result, he helped Natalie start a new career – writing personalized children’s books based on the stories she had concocted.
She succeeded, and they have been translated into more than 20 languages and sold around the world.
Another success story is about Marco, head of sales at a sports equipment company who was forced to retire early because of manpower cuts. He received an expensive camera from his family as a retirement gift.
Always wanting to understand the secrets of photography, Marco took a course to learn new techniques. That gift turned into a new profession at 65, as his photos in various places proved attractive to online buyers.
“Now I do what I love, getting up excited every morning. I feel that everything is possible.
It is a dream come true,” he said with wonder.
Sarit, another retiree, began in 2009 to learn about eBay, the famous online marketing website, after hearing about it from her grandson. Testing the waters, she offered for sale four sweaters that she had knitted by hand. They were quickly snapped up at a good price.
“Somebody loved them. From there, a business of her own was not far away.”
Sarit told her friends she was looking for other hand-knit items to sell and found some. Five years after she established her business, she reached annual sales of NIS 700,000.
“I love what I do and have fun. My life and that of my husband are very dynamic. We have time for us and the family, to travel and to run the business.”
The authors advise the would-be entrepreneur of retirement age to set up a business with as little risk as possible that needs little time to establish. It should involve something that he or she has wanted to do for a long time that would express personal interests and desires. It should also be a business in which the pensioner can control all aspects and could be viable for at least a decade or two, with flexible hours and could be run, preferably, from home.
Moti, who was 69, looked for a salaried job, “but nobody was willing to take me. One day, my single-parent neighbor asked me if I could be in her flat for the next few hours to supervise and pay a plumber who was scheduled to fix a leaky faucet. She didn’t want to miss a whole day’s work for it, so she gave me the key to her apartment so I could wait.”
The mission was successful, leading to similar requests from other families in the building.
Moti now has nine employees of various ages who collect registered letters from the post office, transfer ownership of vehicles and the licensing bureau, take home children from nursery school, water home plants, wait for plumbers and electricians and carry out other tasks for busy people.
The book deals almost exclusively with success stories, with nary a mention of failures or pensioners who went bankrupt. One hopes that the advice provided in the book made these few and far between.
At the end of the volume, Litvin and Dayan provide an email and website addresses (; and even a cellphone (055-661-0807) for contacting them for business mentoring, apparently for a fee.