Starting a Second Business at 60 & Writing About Light and Health at 93 | Inspiring Seniors, Part 10
In today’s installment of the Inspiring Seniors series, we’ve interviewed two unique individuals with amazing accomplishments.
First, we meet Karen Wylie who not only runs a multiple six-figure soap business, but she’s just started a second business at the age of 60.
Then, we meet Richard Hansler, who is on a mission to make a major impact in regards to how the world consumes artificial light. At the age of 93, he has just published his 8th book on the subject.
KAREN WYLIE, 60 YEARS OLD
“I’m Karen Wylie, and I’m on my way to 61. I’m a 1957 baby.”
About 20 years ago, Karen created a tourist-based, seasonal business and retail shop in North Carolina called The Blue Ridge Soap Shed.
There are over 150 varieties of soap, and visitors can even see the soap being made – by hand.
Before long, that business turned into a multiple six-figure business. “Truly a midlife surprise,” says Karen.
ON OWNING A TOURIST SHOP
With so much success, you’d think that Karen had a lot of experience working in retail, but the truth is that she knew nothing when she started The Blue Ridge Soap Shed.
It was a learning process – she truly had to learn as she went. Some of the main challenges were adapting to seasonal cycles of income and the different rhythms that exist when you own a shop in a region with major weather changes.
Karen explains, “Once the weather changes enough for freezing temperatures and ice to form, the Blue Ridge Parkway closes its gates. Because of all the evergreens that shade the Parkway, ice that’s gone anywhere else in an hour or two might take days to melt along the mountaintops. And because traveling the Parkway is the key attraction to visit the Blue Ridge Mountains, when tourists can’t travel the Parkway, they stop coming.”
Other challenges Karen and her husband have worked through are saving and budgeting their money to last the entire year, managing energy, managing employees, and making their own product – soap, of course.
But owning a shop isn’t all challenges. “One of the most wonderful things about a business that focuses on tourists visiting the Blue Ridge is that everyone is in a good mood. After all, they are on vacation!”
And it’s true, isn’t it? Who doesn’t love going to the cute little shops when you’re away from the pressures of everyday life?
Another perk is that while May through October is an insanely busy time, the rest of the year allows for some relaxation. They still work, but the work is varied. They work on shipping online orders, planning and testing out new products, and doing any landscaping projects that might be needed.
“Neither my husband nor I can imagine giving up that business now that I’m 60 and he’s 72. We would miss the lifestyle and wonderful people we meet who return to visit with us year after year.”
While Karen loves her shop, she decided she needed a new challenge. “I’m just like most of us in our 60s and beyond,” she says.
ON STARTING A SECOND BUSINESS AT AGE 60
A couple of years ago, Karen started a second business, The Midlife Entrepeneur, to help other midlife individuals reimagine their lives and businesses. “This is all based on my own experiences of starting a small business and adapting it as I age,” she says.
She helps those midlifers explore starting a new business, allowing for more free time in their personal life, preparing for retirement, and even selling or closing their current businesses.
Karen explains that life between the ages of 50-70 isn’t the same as life after college. “It’s important to take a look at who we are now, what we want now, and make our plans accordingly. Taking a look at how ‘starting a business’ would be part of your after-age-50 life is important to do before you invest the time, energy, and funds in creating one.”
“I find offering these services is putting all of my experiences to good use,” she says.
For starters, Karen has learned the process of reinvention that so many people go through in midlife. When she was 40, and her husband was 53, they decided to open the tourist shop – a complete reinvention from their previous attempts at establishing their consultant experience in different industries.
Staying active and healthy is also a key part of owning a business during midlife. “This is no longer something you try to do,” Karen says, “It’s essential to do. Every day.”
Finally, a huge challenge Karen and many of her peers struggle with is working past the age of 65. Typically, people retire at age 65 with pensions and travel plans.
However, owning your own business creates a completely different challenge. “I find that sharing how I live my life helps others better figure out their options. Owning a seasonal business that has a strong online component (our webstore is a six figure business itself) allows me to teach about non-traditional business models that many mid lifers are interested in exploring.”
ON THE CONCEPT OF RETIREMENT AND AGING
At this point, it’s hard for Karen to envision ever retiring. Part of that is because she still finds things she wants to do and explore in relation to work – for Karen, her work is fun. Why give that up?
The other aspect is financial. Karen explains, “Like so many of us in our 60s and beyond, I worry about having enough money as I age. Working as long as possible seems to make sense to me at all levels.”
Karen spends her focus and time and keeping herself healthy and enjoying her work.
As far as age goes, Karen explains that her age provides credibility because of her many years of business experience. The flip side is that aging can be a challenge if your work involves physical requirements.
“We make 12 tons of handmade soap a year… we have to monitor what we do and how we do it differently now than at younger ages. And we hire employees with younger bodies,” she laughs.
Now that Karen is in her 60s, she says she feels her life has come full circle in many ways. “I’ve combined my life experiences in such a way that I can teach about them, and share them with others.”
Karen continues, “With the average life expectancy being 87 for women and 82 for men, we’ve got plenty of time to enjoy ourselves. We just have to figure out what’s most important to us, and how we want to spend that time.”
“I’m having the time of my life,” she says. “I see no reason why my 60s can’t be my favorite decade yet!”
RICHARD HANSLER, 93 YEARS OLD
For more than 40 years, Richard Hansler, now 93, did research for GE Lighting. His goal was to develop better and brighter light bulbs.
It wasn’t until he retired and moved to John Carroll University that he began studying the effects of light on health.
Richard explains, “I learned that nurses who worked the night shift had about double the breast cancer rate as nurses who did not work the night shift. I learned that totally blind women have about half the incidence of breast cancer as sighted women.”
The reason? Richard says it’s melatonin, a cancer-fighting hormone. “Night shift nurses have less melatonin, while blind women have more. Exposing the eyes to light in the hours before bedtime stops the body from making melatonin.”
This important finding led Richard to not only sell products that help you avoid exposure to blue rays, but to write 8 books about the effects of light on health.
ON WRITING 8 BOOKS BY AGE 93
Between the ages of 83 and 93, Richard wrote and published the following books about the effects of light on health:
- Great Sleep! Reduced Cancer! (first published in 2008)
- Heroes of Cancer Prevention Research (2012)
- Pregnant? New Baby? Need Sleep! (2013)
- Another Weight Loss Gimmick? Maybe Not! (2014)
- Silent Killer (2015)
- Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease: Eliminate Blue Light at Night (2015)
- Concussion (2016)
- Bipolar Disorder(s): How Controlling Light May Improve Sleep and Reduce the Risk for Episodes of Mania and Depression (2017)
All of his books follow the same ultimate premise – avoiding artificial light, particularly at bedtime, will change our lives. From losing weight to preventing cancer, Richard’s research keeps pointing at the idea that melatonin is the key to many of our health problems.
This concept isn’t necessarily novel, though the ferocity and passion with which Richard pursues change certainly is. He writes in Avoid Alzheimer's Disease:
“If one searches PubMed.gov (a government-funded medical abstracting website) with the words ‘Alzheimer’s’ and ‘melatonin,’ one finds 380 references. The earliest paper listed is by Dr. Charles Maurizi, a pathologist, now retired. He warned in 1987 that a lack of melatonin causes dementia. [...] Twenty-eight years later, I’m issuing the same warning. Is anyone listening?”
And in Silent Killer, Richard writes, “People are dying because they have used light bulbs exactly as intended. Light bulbs are silent killers. It’s time to let everyone know.”
Richard goes so far to state that the government should issue a warning – the effects of artificial light have taken the lives of so many, and for Richard, this hits close to home.
In many of his books, he begins by writing, “I need to thank and acknowledge the important role that Rev. Dick and Susie Sering have played in my life. [...] In Dick’s many-year fight against cancer, he inspired me to continue my search for a way to overcome this menace to the health of so many.”
And continue his search, he has. Richard doesn’t just come with problems – he has a few proposed solutions.
ON STARTING LOWBLUELIGHTS.COM
In 2005, Richard started a website, www.lowbluelights.com, where he sells products that improve sleep and health by letting people avoid exposure to the blue rays in ordinary white light, which suppresses melatonin.
Shortly after retiring in 1996, Richard formed the Lighting Innovations Corporation, where he pushes the boundaries of lighting technology.
The corporation has received over $1 million in funding, and Richard’s work has won 86 U.S. patents, with more currently pending approval. He also serves as an expert witness in legal cases that center on his technical specialty.
“There are light bulbs that don’t make people sick and tired (and fat),” Richard writes, “and if we use amber eyeglasses, ordinary lights become harmless.”
Even though Richard is 93, he doesn’t see himself halting his mission anytime soon.
“I hope to keep working as long as I am able. I have more books I want to write. And being old does have an advantage – the young girls smile at me!”
Richard is a WWII veteran, a father of 4, grandfather of 10, and great-grandfather of 1. Richard also wrote a 9th book about his WWII adventures titled Prepare to Bail Out.
In the book, Richard gives first-hand accounts of some of his experiences during the war, including his 24 bombing missions over Poland in 1944, a 25th mission where his plane was shot down by the German Luftwaffe, and the series of events that occurred afterwards.
You can watch his full-length interview with Tom Meros in the following video.
Other Posts in this Series
- Introducing: The Inspiring Seniors Series
- 84-Year-Old Pat Boone on The Gold Label, Shark Tank, Aging, and the Future | Inspiring Seniors, Part 1
- Becoming a Model at 61 & Reuniting with a Long Lost Love at 68 | Inspiring Seniors, Part 2
- Getting a Black Belt at 60 & Launching a Podcast at 67 | Inspiring Seniors, Part 3
- Hiking All 58 National Parks at 79 & Writing His 27th Book at 80 | Inspiring Seniors, Part 4
- Trying Surf Kayaking at 66 & Growing a New Consultancy Business at 61 | Inspiring Seniors, Part 5
- A World Champion Powerlifter at 60 & Becoming a CEO at 62 | Inspiring Seniors, Part 6
- 10-Mile Bike Rides at 69 & Graduating at Age 62 | Inspiring Seniors, Part 7
- Writing a Math Musical at 60 & Skiing Downhill at 75 | Inspiring Seniors, Part 8
- Starting a Goat Farm at 64 & Joining a ‘Circus Family’ at 63 | Inspiring Seniors, Part 9
- Starting a Second Business at 60 & Writing About Light and Health at 93 | Inspiring Seniors, Part 10
- Publishing Her 14th Book at 70 & Appearing on Television at 62 | Inspiring Seniors, Part 11
- Developed a Fitness Program for All Ages at 77 & Hunting With a Pack of Beagles at 70 | Inspiring Seniors, Part 12
- Giving Speeches All Over the Country at 72 & Published 100th Book at 74 | Inspiring Seniors, Part 13
- Volunteer Blacksmith at a Historic Gold Mine at 67 & Co-President for the Master Gardener’s Board at 64 | Inspiring Seniors, Part 14
- 4 Things I Learned From Interviewing 29 Incredible Seniors | Inspiring Seniors, Part 15
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