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Boomer Entrepreneurship After Turning

Older entrepreneurs bring experience, passion, and the determination to finish what they started!

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Career Development for the Next Stage of Life

"I was in my 40s, and I started to see that in TV production, a lot of guys never survive past that," said Janek Boniecki, now 53. "I began to look for something for the next stage of my life."

I've been an entrepreneur and small business person most of my life. My father was. My brothers and sister are. It's in my blood and it probably always be. Not because it is better, more lucrative, easier, etc -- but because it is about innovation and caring about what I do. It's about the "pursuit of happiness" and being part of your community.

I've followed other entrepreneurs' journeys, and find that many are what are called "serial entrepreneurs". They don't invest everything in one idea. They aren't the wild successes you read about in most magazines. They are complex people with diverse talents, needs, community influences...and a desire to make things better.

Let me clarify a couple definitions. A small business person is someone who serves a local or specialized clientele with a specific service or product. An entrepreneur is an innovator who aims for faster, larger growth -- with national or international visions of success. Just so we're clear that there are different kinds of start-up businesses...

Knockoff Classic Business Models

Many small businesses are inspired by a personal interest or passion. That was the case for Janek Boniecki who grew an interest in a pottery style into a business ... after several other twists and turns in his career.

His Bauer Pottery Co. of Los Angeles, which turns out 85 different Bauer items that are sold in shops nationwide and online, has 23 employees and last year had sales of $2.7 million. In October, he bought the 40,000-square-foot factory near San Bernardino where the pottery is made.

How did he get there? He started with some business experience in entrepreneurial projects (with a lot of sales/marketing yeast!), corporate exposure, and kitchen-table product development and business development. All those trials by fire prepared him for his high-growth business venture.

Innovation on a Small Scale

Innovation is not just about developing a product (or service). It is about constructing an ecosystem in which the product, the end users, the manufacturing process, the suppliers, the marketplace and even government compliance all are mixed together in a batter that has a high risk of failing a few times before the recipe is refined enough for debut into the world of commerce.

Innovation on a small scale, in the safety of a friendly community of family and friends is a HUGE asset for inventors, creatives, makers and DIY dreamers. We hear about 18 year olds who are able to present their creative invention to venture capitalists and they are an overnight success. We hear about them because they are the EXCEPTION! But America is built on the millions of small scale innovators who try, try, try harder and fail numerous times before they either give up or hit an idea that works in the heated oven of business that makes the invention's recipe raise or fall!

Green Tech Innovation... Again

Green tech is probably of interest to you since you're on our California Green Solutions website. do older inventors cope with the high stake games in alternative fuels, environmental cleanup, organic foods, and LOHAS personal care niches?

Some of these niches lend themselves to a lifetime of scientific research and experience. Take Chris Young of Biotech Restorations, for instance. He and his research partner Dr. Val Paynter have brought all their experience and knowledge to a focal point in their business. Their age is part of their technology and business ecosystem. Their judgment and experience have been honed over time and their solution is better because of their experience, ethos of cost efficiency...and deep concern for their community.

Not all green tech innovators bring that level of integrity and practical experience to their business concept. Hence, short sighted business niches such as ethanol, biofuels, etc. that haven't looked carefully beyond the financial potential to the practical consequences.

BrightSource's novel solar thermal solution that is the darling of California's Silicon Valley is a survivor of early entrepreneurship trials.

On the scorched floor of Israel's Negev Desert blooms a field of 1,640 robotic mirrors that behave like sunflowers.

Slightly larger than pingpong tables and guided by a computer, they turn imperceptibly to follow the sun and focus its rays on the pinnacle of a 200-foot tower, where a water boiler will soon start producing high-pressure steam.

This futuristic assembly is Arnold Goldman's scale model and testing ground for five larger solar fields his company plans to build in the Mojave Desert to supply up to 900 megawatts of clean energy to California in the next decade.

Goldman is a UCLA- and USC-schooled Israeli entrepreneur who built the world's leading solar thermal power company, Luz International, in the 1980s, then watched it go bankrupt in 1991 as oil prices dropped and California decided not to renew property tax credits for solar producers.

Now he's a player again, and his comeback illustrates the extent to which solar thermal power is regaining favor with policymakers and investors.

His new company, Oakland-based BrightSource Energy Inc., signed a power-buying agreement with Pacific Gas & Electric in April; it is believed to be the largest in the history of solar power and would produce enough electricity to power 540,000 homes each year. (source)

BrightSource's new green tech venture is sweet vindication for Goldman, a slight, bearded man who admits that he was personally shattered by the failure of his first solar venture because he saw solar power as a way of saving the world.

Goldman drifted into other ventures. He said the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate change let him dream again that solar power could produce most of America's electricity.

Goldman began reassembling his best Israeli engineers in 2004. Like a Hollywood sequel, he named the new venture Luz II and founded BrightSource as its parent company to seek California contracts.

The company secured its first major infusion of venture capital in 2006 from VantagePoint Venture Partners, which remains BrightSource's largest equity holder.

"The idea of coming back together to finish what we started was electrifying," Goldman said.

What more can we say about older entrepreneurs...we keep on coming back to finish what we started!

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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