Starting A Business At 40

Starting A Business At 40

Starting A Business In Your 40s

I recently saw a great post from one my clients, Lissa Watson that went something like this, “you’re never too old and it’s never too late”. She inspired me to write this post – one that is more personal than anything else because as I approach 40 (next year!), my perspective on my business has changed in the last few years and I believe it’s as great time as any to speak to women who have started their business in their late 30s or 40s, and are now running a business and experiencing a shift in mindset, goals and perspective. 

We all experience things at different times in life, so I want to make space to just say that there are no real timelines or deadlines or expectations on any female entrepreneur, but this is simply my story and experience and I’m willing to bet that it’s probably not that uncommon. I’m choosing to share it with you today because while business is business, it’s often the things in our personal life that have the greatest impact on our entrepreneurial endeavours and that’s what makes it so interesting!

The Midlife Entrepreneur

Specific to the US, a recent study from Harvard Business Review found that the average age of an entrepreneur at the time they found their company is 42. Interestingly enough, most of those businesses fail – and the average age of a successful startup founder is actually 45! (Entrepreneur.com)

I’ve included these stats because I’ve recently been thinking a lot about two things; where would I be if had started by business approaching 30 and, is there enough time to build this business into something that will give me the retirement that I want? These two things compete for space in my mind and I wonder what types of business opportunities or business success I would have if it had all started much sooner. 

Important Decisions And The Best Thing

So I sat down the other day and wrote out my own business and personal timeline. My schooling took 8 years, and then another 2.5 to 3 to complete my licensing exams, and then I went full speed into building my career as an architect. I felt like that I worked so hard to get into that masters and finish it that I owned it to myself to get as far in my career as possible. But at 31 I started to burn out and question whether I really loved it and if I wanted to spend the rest of my life working for someone else. I didn’t know the answer then but it was already a no. Instead, I changed jobs to a firm that I loved so much; especially the people I worked with. I was happy again. 

Then the pandemic happened and the people I loved working with went into their homes and I was left with really, just me and the work. It became obvious to me that my passion for architecture was dwindling. With stress and lockdown in full effect, I began to design and paint, which gave me life. Towards the end of the pandemic, we decided to move abroad to Mexico to be close to my husband’s family. This meant leaving my job as my employer had a policy against staff living and working outside of Canada. I took a leap and resigned, not really sure what I would do but thinking it would have something to do with art. 

Once we moved, I began to grow my business. It started out as selling originals and prints – I quickly expanded my income streams to digital products, retailers, designers, galleries and art classes. But a year or so went by and I began to feel limited, not really able to scale because it was expensive to ship from Mexico and I couldn’t really align with my ideal customer. That’s when I started to really dive into building a powerful website that would bring me organic traffic and that meant really understanding SEO, web design, marketing and collaborations. I became fascinated with this part of my business; more so than painting. I loved to paint but something about painting to sell took some of the joy away for me. Then to my surprise, other artists started to ask me how I built my business and I naturally began to teach others how to do the same. I educated myself further and decided to start The Good Canvas – creating a brand new domain and business and grow it from the ground up, testing everything I knew about SEO, web design and funnelling to my website. 

This brings us to today. The Good Canvas has so unexpectedly turned into something that makes me incredibly happy. I never really thought this is where I was meant to be until it began to grow so naturally and gave me so much energy. Sure, elements of it make so much sense now but for the most part, I didn’t plan it this way. 

The Right Time

Circling back now to what my friend and client, Lissa said. You’re never too old and it’s never too late. Whether your business ends up leading to early retirement or a side gig that makes you a little extra money, the beautiful thing about the world of entrepreneurship is the constant state of learning and opportunity. As I head into my 40s next year, I think I’ve done more learning, problem-solving and forcing myself out of my comfort zone that I have the 15 years leading up to it. At the same time, this stage of mid-life has also forced me to really buckle down and make something out of it. I have a family, a mortgage and a retirement plan to support – and those things are my why. 

And I truly believe that if I started my business in my late 20s or even early 30s, I would be missing that drive. That’s not to say the younger you are the less likely it is for your business to succeed, but I think that that is true for me. And the older I get, the more I see it. It took me time to take it seriously, for sure. I also needed to live through a few things that toughened me up a little and gave me some perspective on capacity, hard work and the reality of the business world. 

Lessons From Small Business Owners

I had a business coach once tell me, “If you don’t know why you’re doing it, it’ll never work”. And for most of us, our why takes a bit of time to figure out. I had to mature into the reality of time, money, health, family responsibilities and all the things that motivate me. I took a lot of things for granted in my 20s, it’s almost embarrassing to think about. And I could sit here and wish and regret not doing any of this sooner but that’s kind of futile, isn’t it? And probably destructive in thinking. The answer to that is I didn’t do it because I wasn’t ready. And for that we can’t be hard on ourselves for.

Starting A Business In Your 40s?

I want this to be an honest (average, even) story about hard work and running your own company. My business may never be worth millions, or maybe it will? But that’s besides the point. The most important thing that I want to share with you today is accepting the moment that you’re in and listening for cues. And if you’re in it, do it with everything you’ve got. 

Whether you’re a 20-year-old entrepreneur or a 50-year-old entrepreneur just starting your own business, tap into the space that you’re in and let that fuel you. Maybe it’s energy, lots of time or the lack of it, money, security, experience or responsibility. Leverage your current moment unapologetically. It’s your greatest asset. 

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