THIS MONTH I AM CELEBRATING an important anniversary. I know this because LinkedIn told me so.
You see, in 2017 I founded my zero waste event services company, Happy Planet Running. And this month marks the start of my fourth year. Holy smokes. It really does feel like just yesterday I was filling out the incorporation paperwork and filing it with the State of Michigan. And I had an attorney as my registered agent, and business insurance, and business cards. It was real.
And I’d started it at age 55.
I am not the first person in my family to start a business in his fifties. My father was let go from an executive position when Burroughs and Sperry merged into Unisys (and inconsequentiality), with all three of his kids in college. The script called for finding another large company to work at until 65 and the gold watch. Instead he founded his own PR firm and ran it until just before he died at 76. It paid the bills and kept him comfortably busy and connected to the world.
I asked him once, “Dad, why have your own business at your age?” At the time, I was full-time corporate and enjoyed it, like he’d done most of his professional life. His answer, “Because it’s the only way to do it,” surprised and amused me. My friends who owned small businesses spent a lot of unpaid time and effort behind the scenes doing the paperwork and other mundane stuff. I just couldn’t see myself doing that.
And yet here I am, and I supported 41 events last year, and will likely do the same number or more this year, God willing and we survive the latest virus scare.
I call the evolution of all this both inevitable and unexpected. Inevitable because like my dad, I can’t handle sitting around doing nothing, even when I intentionally carve out time to do just that. Like when I voluntarily cut back to part-time employment in 2015 to “pursue other interests” – which was true.
I’d wanted to do more running, more long bike rides, more volunteering at events, and get back to creative writing. And I did- up to a point.
The unexpected part was what I actually ended up doing with most of that freed-up time.
The key was seeing dumpsters fill up with event waste that could have been recycled or composted, and getting fed up enough to do something about it. Which led to research into Zero Waste practices, which led to volunteering at a Zero Waste event, which led to pitching it to an events company in Ann Arbor, and, eventually, creating a business that continues today.
So far, no one has asked me why I would start a company “at my age.” Perhaps that’s due to 21st century business realities, where startups sprout up like weeds and no one expects to work at one company for forty years. But if someone does, I have an answer ready.
“Because it’s the only way to do it.”