Retirement is constantly on the mind throughout one’s career, as the idyllic lifestyle is a goal many people set out for as they continue on their career ladder. But while the US Government’s 2020-2021 Report on the Economic Well-Being of US Households found that 45% of people retired because they reached normal retirement agean even larger percentage — 48% — of individuals retired because they wanted to do other things.
These entrepreneurs may not be the stereotypically young CEOs Society celebrates, but franchising offers the older generation a chance to accomplish their dreams with a sense of sureness that they aren’t throwing away their retirement funds. The past couple years have upended long-held ideas about life and work, and people are now seeing retirement in a new light too.
These three franchising stories illustrate why would-be retirees decided to get ambitious instead of settle down.
Scott Passarella, 56 years old
Scott Passarella had spent more than two decades working in Corporate America for blue-chip companies like Nestle Waters and Pepsicola. But once he had gotten to his 40s, his mentality shifted from climbing the career ladder to assessing what he wanted. The realization that he had been in Corporate America for over half of his life made him reflect on the dreams he had for himself.
“I’ve been in corporate for over 25 years and every coworker I’ve ever known at that age has thought those same thoughts. And I really think it’s just a reflection of life. Whether they’re happy or unhappy in Corporate America, I think the thought [of entrepreneurship] just comes into play.”
It’s one thing to start a business when you’re a twenty-something with no life experience, but Passarella had a long-established career and 401k to think about.
Still, the thought of turning 80 and not accomplishing his dream of entrepreneurship in his 50s was a bigger risk he wasn’t willing to take. In 2016, Passarella channeled his passion for fitness and became a franchisee of Burn Boot Camp and opened his first location in Spring Hill, Fla. in 2018. Since then, he’s managed to grow and now has his third location in the works.
The backing of a franchise eased Passarella’s transition from the life he’d known as a corporate employee and is one of the reasons why he says he’d still start a business with a franchise if he could go back. For him, his age has proven how useful experience is when it comes to the business.
“Let’s look at the founder and CEO of Burn Boot Camp. He’s 33 years old. He’s way ahead of his time. He’s a visionary, he’s a progressive, he’s an entrepreneur. The guy is just years ahead of his time,” Passarella says. “But I have more life experience than him. He doesn’t have the life experience that I have. I really think that adds value to anything.”
Jeff Baker, 57 years old
While the pivot to entrepreneurship at an older age can be an emotionally fueled journey, it can also be a logical one. According to data from PricewaterhouseCoopers, only 36% of people feel their retirement planning is on track. Bloomin’ Blinds franchisee Jeff Baker is one such person who started thinking about entrepreneurship in his 40s after realizing that returning to Corporate America wasn’t always the stable option.
“To be frank, when you get to a certain point in your career, it’s pretty clear that you’re probably not going to go back to Corporate America. You’re not going to be hired again. And so we’re all looking for that next chapter. I think that’s why it’s becoming attractive.”
Baker knew he wasn’t at the financial point where he could “play backgammon for the next 30 years,” so he set out to look for the perfect franchise vehicle that fit his business aspirations. He stumbled upon the home-services category with the help of a consultant and found Bloomin’ Blinds in 2020. That year, he decided to launch the franchise in Los Angeles despite having no prior experience in the sector.
“For me, retirement isn’t what we think of in the Western world — you know, gold watch and sitting around and playing golf and that kind of thing. I think my retirement is sort of a gradual decrease in the physical and hands-on nature over the next few years, but operating this business and being actively involved into my early seventies,” Baker says.
For others looking to have the same financial freedom In retirement, Baker advises them to look sooner rather than later.
“Everybody that’s sort of in my age group — it’s not uncommon to have those changes where you’re no longer an employee anymore. And this is an outstanding time in one’s life — at least I’m finding — to do something that people often associate with young people coming out of school,” he says. “I would strongly encourage, even if one is still working and they’re waiting for the gold watch moment, start thinking about it now and maybe even make that shift voluntarily rather than when you’re out looking for the next.”
Related: 5 Steps to Gaining Financial Freedom
Roger Mellen, 60 years old
Roger Mellen was one franchisee who found his way into business ownership when he realized his savings weren’t enough to sustain his retirement.
“Everybody said, ‘Hey, save up a million dollars,’ — which my wife and I did — ‘and you can retire.’ It took our whole lives to save up that money. And then we said, ‘Well, this ain’t enough to retire,’” he says.
When his wife Julia lost her job due to Covid, they decided to invest their money into a Marco’s Pizza franchise. Both had some prior experience to lean on as Roger was an executive chef on the Norwegian cruise line and his wife was the food and beverage director. Roger had even owned a restaurant during his first marriage, but since becoming a franchisee two and a half years ago, he’s found that getting the brand name out there was much easier with a franchise.
“I love that your product’s being advertised all across the country, on TV, people know the product,” he says.
Now Mellen runs four franchises throughout Florida with a business partner. For him, he’s noticed a difference in his business mentality as a 60-year-old versus running his own restaurant in his 30s.
“The difference is, when you’re 35 you have children. So many expenses. I don’t have children, now that they’re grown up. I have grandkids,” he says. “I can concentrate on my business. I don’t have anything to hold me back.”
Mellen also notes that other older people have signaled interest.
“In fact, you wouldn’t believe how many older people that I have working for me, where they ask, ‘Hey, how much does it cost to get one?’ And so when they see the success, they see the great product, they see the wonderful customers. It’s a great business to invest in. They see it themselves,” he says.