Lessons Learned From a Toy-Making Entrepreneur in Retirement


Lessons Learned From a Toy-Making Entrepreneur in Retirement

My Friendly Entrepreneur in Retirement

I spent many happy childhood hours with my neighbor, Mr. Abbott, who was an entrepreneur in retirement. I watched him make all kinds of wooden toys in his garden shed. Trains with carriages, dolls houses full of miniature furniture, pull-along animals — he could turn his hand to them all. There was always something new to marvel over.

Having me underfoot while running a home-based business must have hindered Mr. Abbott, but he never made me feel unwelcome. Even when he was busy in the run-up to Christmas, he still found time to teach 8-year-old me the basics of woodworking. This wasn’t the only thing I learned from him, in hindsight.

Mr. Abbott had become an accidental entrepreneur in retirement due to boredom. It had dragged him out of the house and into his “magic shed,” as I called it back then. It wasn’t just me who enjoyed his toys. They were an instant hit with local parents who ordered them as Christmas and birthday presents.

Word spread and his order book filled, until he was occupied year-round. That little red book contained everything he needed to run his business, and it went with him everywhere.

If he was with us now, Mr. Abbott would have the luxury of modern technology to keep his records up to date; but he was running his fun retirement business back in the 1960s.

Today’s small-business owner could also use a computer to share plans, step-by-step instructions, photos of the finished prototype, and even videos of the process, to a global customer base, providing passive income for years to come.

This opportunity is there for everyone now! You can take a skill that you have mastered over the years and use it to…

  • be your own boss
  • boost your retirement savings
  • prevent you from being retired and going crazy
  • ease loneliness
  • keep active
  • benefit others

Let’s consider each of these six logical reasons to become an entrepreneur in retirement.

Be Your Own Boss at Last

Becoming an entrepreneur in retirement will allow you to be more flexible — to work the hours you want, whether they’re first thing in the morning, last thing at night or at any other time to suit you and your family.

After finishing his supper, Mr. Abbott was able to go back to his shed and undertake those tasks that made little noise, like painting his creations. I found it comforting to look out and see light peeping out of the tiny windows, knowing there would be something new to admire in the morning.

Of course he didn’t have to work late. If there were no pressing orders needing completion, he could shut the door and relax with his wife in front of a roaring fire on winter evenings. It was his choice, and I envied this freedom.

Often his enthusiasm to create would win out, and he would spontaneously grab some paper and draw out plans for a new toy at the kitchen table, whatever the time of day (or night).

He was always open to business ideas presented by Mrs. Abbott, and even me on one occasion! Between us we designed a set of bookends featuring a pair of gray donkeys with black ears. He let me paint them and I owned the prototype well into my adult life.

Lessons Learned From a Toy-Making Entrepreneur in Retirement

Financial Freedom in Retirement

A wise man, Mr. Abbott once told me, doesn’t risk more than he can afford.

He advised me to start small, decide how much I could afford to lose, and not spend a dime more until I saw some income. This retirement business lesson has served me well through the years.

However, he also suggested I speculate to accumulate, reinvesting a percentage of the profit to build the business.

But don’t do this too quickly. Repurposing existing equipment can help you when getting started. Replace it as necessary when funds are available. For example, Mr. Abbott had amassed a complete toolbox during his years as a carpenter, some passed on from his father, that he could use straight away.

A computer, if one had been available, would have been an additional expense for him. Of course, since you’re reading this post, you most likely have one already. You might, however, need to budget for monthly software subscription fees.

You may also need to hire a bookkeeper, financial advisor, or even take on employees as your business grows and makes a profit. It depends on whether you just want to make enough extra money to provide a better quality of life, or you want to become a millionaire entrepreneur!

Preventing Boredom in Retirement

Bored Man
Boredom Photo courtesy Carol Leather

Remember, Mr. Abbott’s primary reason for starting a home-based business was not related to money, it was to prevent boredom in retirement.

After retirement, he became, in my mother’s words, a grumpy old man. He found it boring having nothing to do but the daily crossword. He needed something more to engage his brain. Starting a business brought back the amiable gentleman whom I later befriended.

A cabinet maker by career, he used those skills and found a new purpose in life. He never considered his time in the shed as working. Instead, it was his playtime.

I always remember something his wife told me.

“Bored people are boring! Find something you love doing while you’re young, so you can continue enjoying it when you retire.”

I made sure to follow her advice, and have several lifelong hobbies that I can pick from.

Preventing Loneliness in Retirement

You might think that spending every day in a garden shed would be lonely. I like to think that my presence helped to combat loneliness for Mr. Abbott, although many entrepreneurs wouldn’t rely on the next door neighbor’s child for this purpose!

Two wooden figurines standing togetherAs humans, we’re gregarious and need company. We might seek periods of solitude such as a quiet walk in the woods by ourselves, but few of us want such seclusion every day. A dog is a splendid companion and can help break the ice when meeting someone new, but it is difficult to have a conversation with a dog.

Becoming an entrepreneur in retirement might not be the first thing that comes to mind when dealing with loneliness. In fact, the general consensus is that it can cause the problem, not resolve it!

However, when you think it through, a business does not exist in isolation. You need customers, suppliers, social media followers, and a network of other people in the same industry in order to make it work. Communication by email, forum posts or comments on social media can help you keep in touch with them all.

Better still, video chat on platforms such as Zoom or Skype can allow a face to face conversation, where you can pick up on body language and expressions that aid understanding.

Then, when you have finished working for the day, get outdoors with that dog and greet the people you meet in person with a smile and a few words.

Man standing near lake
Morning solitude by the lake Photo courtesy Carol Leather

Ensure a Better Quality of Life as an Entrepreneur in Retirement

Staying active by regular walking is important to your wellbeing in later life, especially if you can do this by heading into the countryside, away from vehicle fumes and noise.

I have made this part of my online business by taking my camera along for the walk, to record the wildlife and landscapes surrounding me. I then write about my adventures on my Solo Build It! website.

The possibility of seeing something rare on my local patch, or even just getting a wonderful photo of a common species, motivates me to get up off my chair and go outside. I remember taking walks like these with my grandfather who, being retired, had the time to teach me the names of the things we saw. He instilled a lifelong love of nature in me.

Man walking by the sea
Daily walk by the sea Photo courtesy Carol Leather

If you’re less mobile, don’t forget that keeping your mind active is just as important. Stay young at heart and reduce your risk of memory issues by learning something new every day.

Ensure your brain gets a daily workout as the years march on. Starting your own business will inevitably involve learning new skills that will keep the gray matter healthy.

If you plan to create an online venture for the first time, our Retirement Business Mini Course can offer you the ideal introduction to all that is involved.

Who Else Benefits When You Become an Entrepreneur in Retirement?

No man (or woman) is an island, so the saying goes. If you set up your own online business in retirement this will inevitably impact others.

First there is your nearest and dearest. They may object to begin with, as your new business takes up some of the time they were hoping to spend with you once you retired.

Splitting your days between work and relaxation may take some trial and error — especially if you’re a retired workaholic, but with good planning you’re likely to have more time to share than when you were working for someone else.

Don’t forget that you get to make the rules, and if you want your family to join you on adventures beyond the office, you can. After all, if you’re going to travel you’ll want a partner to keep you company, if possible.

This might just mean taking the dog for a walk together, or it could include exploring a new area so that you can write about it on your blog.

Wood duck pull-along toyOf course the visitors to your blog or website will also benefit from your experiences. You can share your stories, knowledge, creative talents, or insightful thoughts on a useful product or service you’ve tested.

But how about using your business to benefit other people directly? Perhaps you have a favorite charity or cause that you would love to support financially. Or you know a group of people that you could help in a personal way.

Back in the 1960s our village held a big Christmas party for the children. Mr. Abbott knew most of them by name, and of course he knew whether their parents had ordered toys from him.

If he had any to spare, perhaps toys that hadn’t quite come out as expected, he donated them to go into Santa’s sack and they were handed out so that everyone had something new to play with.

An entrepreneur and a benefactor. Who could ask for more?

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Lessons Learned From a Toy-Making Entrepreneur in Retirement
Carol Leather

Carol Leather

Carol Leather is head of content at SiteSell. She started her first successful online business, www.needlework-tips-and-techniques.com, with Solo Build It! in 2006 and it's still going strong. She loves photographing and drawing wildlife. She shares her walks in the English countryside on her new site www.naturewalkswithcarol.com. When she is not busy with all the above, she works on her two art sites! All using Solo Build It!, of course.