Why does anyone start a business? Better yet, why is anyone starting a business after 50? From all the entrepreneurs I have known over the years, it is usually a mix of spotting a gap or need; a hunger to run a business the “way it should be done”; being in control of your life; or an urge to make a lot of money. In my experience, only a few entrepreneurs start off with the financial goal.
As a contributor to Prime Women, I have been impressed at the founders behind this online magazine. They embody the spirit of “prime women” in the 21st century – still full of ideas, energy and a lot to give. In particular, I have loved watching the team begin to understand social media and its importance, how search engines work and learning new skills to maximize these.
So, I gave myself a treat and interviewed Dorthy Miller Shore, the key driver behind Prime Women, to understand what gave her and her co-founders the idea, how did they go about starting a business after 50 for women and what have they learned along the way? Here I share Dorthy’s insights:
(And you should know that Dorthy was already an enormously successful businesswoman, having built one of the largest woman owned automotive advertising agencies in the US – click on the link to read more about her background)
1. Dorthy, why did the four of you start Prime Women?
It all began with a lunch followed by a spa afternoon at the Four Seasons after skiing in Jackson Hole. We have a great group of girlfriends, who have all had or are still running their own businesses and thought, “We have such fun when we meet. We should do a business together.” We tossed around some ideas, but then we started talking about magazines and internet information – none of us felt there was anything out there for us.
Women’s magazines tend to be for women in their 30s and 40s.. They might cover family, career advice and fashion, but the perspective of that age group is very different from the 50+. Today, women in their 50s, 60s and 70s are often on executive boards, so career advice can be more about getting non-exec roles, or starting their own business. Our interest in fashion may shift with age, but many of us still have a keen interest in dressing smartly for the occasion. Oftentimes we have more time for ourselves and a bit more money to enjoy the fun things in life – travel, wines, nice places to eat. Many of us are single, either always single or recently divorced or widowed. Dating tips, especially online, is a keen interest to as much of a third of our audience.
So the idea of Prime Women was born in 2014, to fill the gap of an online magazine that spoke to our generation. Not patronizing but matching our energy and dreams.
2. Who is involved?
Valerie Freeman, CEO at Imprimis, Jan Fletcher OBE, business owner in the U.K., retired entrepreneur, Dianne Patterson and myself. I became the CEO by default as I had the background in advertising and I was at a place where I could turn my business over to my daughter and her husband.
So there you have it, the famous four of Prime Women! The photo below was taken at Dianne’s 50th wedding celebration.
3. What was your inspiration for it, and how is it going?
Our initial goal was to have fun, and we thought maybe we could make money later on. We saw the need and felt that between us, we were the best people to fulfill this.
I love writing and was looking forward to writing articles on the site. We quickly realized we needed far more content than a few of us could ever write, so we built up a great team of contributors from our friends and contacts.
As it’s progressed, we are still having fun but can now see real potential for Prime Women. We took in outside investors to grow our website and expand into new opportunities. With so many women reaching retirement age, and yet wanted to continue working, we saw a need to develop a program to help them called Second Acts. We also expanded our Living Well events to nine cities in 2020. PW launched an online weight management program this year called PLATE, designed specifically for women approaching 50 and older. We are now developing videos to complement our articles across all categories. And our newest venture is Tastefully Prime, a lifestyle and cooking show that is in pilot stage now. We no longer call ourselves Prime Women but PRiME Women Media!
4. Did you have worries or fears?
No, no worries – but we should have! We laugh now remembering our view at the time of “How hard can it be?”
It is A LOT harder than we ever imagined. Because of my advertising experience, which was increasingly moving to digital, I felt quite comfortable with the principles of setting up this business. However, I have a lot going on in my life – I still chair Miller Ad Agency, I was in the middle of a Masters degree and my voluntary activities too – so time was probably the biggest worry. At the start, I never thought starting a business after 50 would take so much time.
5. What excited you about starting a business after 50?
My personality type loves puzzles, not the board type, but the kind that requires cognitive skills. This business is like creating a giant puzzle and pulling in different pieces until they fit, which is exciting and rewarding as they start to work.
It has been really exciting as we’ve expanded into all the new areas. With a background in advertising and media, I’m very passionate about the videos we are developing and especially our TV show, Tastefully Prime.
6. What has been the biggest challenge?
Publishing has really changed since we launched over five years ago. We were first chasing website visits because that was the benchmark only to learn last year that everything had shifted. Even big publishers were scrambling to find new revenue sources. Many of them started new programs so we followed suit with Second Acts, PLATE, and Tastefully Prime. We have found new sources of revenue so that we depend less on advertising. However, I expect that there will be more shifts in publishing in the coming years.
7. What have been the advantages of experience (age?!) and disadvantages in becoming an entrepreneur again?
Age is a great advantage when starting a business. It helps to know that nothing great is ever built overnight. When you are younger, you want things quicker, expect more and haven’t learned patience. That has been important in this business – to keep trying new things and being prepared to learn and change.
We couldn’t have done this without all our connections – and those definitely come with age. We have spent our careers helping others, and it’s been wonderful to have that support back from our contributors.
This is a 24/7 business and you do need energy – luckily I still have a lot! You need to be daily posting, watching, sharing – you can’t put up content and walk away. I am constantly reading blogs, subscribing to other magazines and staying on top of new ideas and trends. When we post an article now, I instinctively know which ones are going to do well.
8. Any tips about starting a business after 50?
Choose a business that you understand! We understood women of our age, but with hindsight we knew very little about an online magazine. It’s been a long, hard road to learn this.
Get outside expertise to advise you, and talk to lots of people in that market – people have been generous helping us to understand publishing.
I now realize that whatever business you are in, almost certainly social media will be important – so if you aren’t using it yet, start now! The longer you leave it, the harder it will be.
And, think ahead. Where do you want to be in 10 or 15 years into the future?
In the end, it doesn’t matter what age you are, starting a business is fun, always hard, but hugely rewarding! As author John Mason observes, “The secret to success is to start from scratch – and keep on scratching!” My best advice – “Just do it.”
Thanks so much Dorthy for this interview. It has been a privilege to be part of your team. I had a feeling, before I started this interview, that you would demonstrate all the characteristic traits of an entrepreneur – this blog highlights them and you have them all in spades!
Good luck to all of us – there is now a community of your writers – and we look forward to helping you with the next steps.