At 39 years old, Vera Wang was planning her wedding but could not find a wedding dress she liked. Wang, who previously spent 17 years working at Vogue Magazine, always had a passion for fashion.
However, despite encouragement from Wang’s father who saw her pain point as a business opportunity, Wang was hesitant about the idea of starting a business. In an interview with CNBC, Wang admits that she thought it was simply too late for her.
By the time she was 40, Vera Wang had gotten married and founded her own company. She stepped into, and embraced, her new career as a fashion designer, a role that has allowed her to dress brides-to-be all over the world.
The phrase “it’s never too late” is echoed by four female entrepreneurs I spoke with who each started a business in their 40s. Each entrepreneur has learned a series of valuable lessons that come with pursuing your passion and leaping forward into the next, exciting chapter of life.
Lesson 1: Don’t Quit Your Day Job
Pia Soy is the founder of PIA, a clothing line that specializes in dressing apple-shaped bodies — which is to say, rounder bodies, often with a larger waist, but slender arms and legs.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Soy started making masks for friends and family using leftover fabric in her home. She enrolled in an interactive business course online in the summer of 2020 and decided to start a clothing line for apple-shaped women (and many women over 40, who have experienced pregnancy or menopause, have this body shape). This was inspired by Soy’s love for expressing herself through fashion and a desire to see more clothing options available for her body shape.
At 40 years old, Soy launched her business in November 2020 with a single wrap dress in three prints. However, PIA is not her sole priority. Soy also works full-time as a web developer for a large company during the day to support her family and three children. She feels fortunate that she has the opportunity to save substantially in the next year and financially prepare to transition into becoming a full-time entrepreneur in 2022.
“Leaving my full-time career as a web developer to focus on my business is definitely the goal!” Soy says.
Sarka Halas, director of Sarka Botanicals, agrees with Soy. Halas, who worked in financial journalism for more than 15 years, launched her skincare brand at 42 years old out of a lifelong passion for plants and formulating botanical skincare.
Her biggest piece of advice for entrepreneurs getting their start? Don’t quit your day job.
Halas notes that the financial stability of a full-time job, including healthcare and employer pensions, matters to women as they get older. Her day job currently funds her business, enabling Halas to max out her employer pension, private pension, and other investments.
“As a woman starting a business in her 40s, it is so important to me that I continue to secure my financial future,” Halas explains, noting that these are key years for building wealth ahead of retirement.
Going all in and quitting your job for the business? Halas recommends creating at least 12-18 months’ worth of savings to cover expenses.
Lesson 2: Create the Workplace You Really Want
Angela Boswell is 47 and the co-founder of The Drape, an online site for luxury, custom curtains at affordable prices.
Boswell spent 18 years working for a home textile company. This company was later acquired and dissolved, forcing Boswell into unemployment. She channeled her knowledge and passion for home textiles to start planning a business that aims to put a new perspective on an old industry and create a better customer experience. The Drape officially launched this past February.
Aside from her many years of experience in the industry, Boswell is also at an age where she knows what she wants out her career. She knows how she wants to be treated in the workplace.
“Starting your own company is not just about you and your product,” Boswell advises. “It is about all of the people that you will work with and that will be part of your team. It’s about creating an environment that is fair and supportive.”
Bringing this environment to life means Boswell has been able to create a team that supports and adds to her startup’s vision. These team members also share solid feedback and critiques. This gives The Drape the chance to implement new ideas and course correct in order to keep doing right by the customer, she says.
Lesson 3: Remember That ‘Age Is an Asset‘
That’s a direct quote from Kate Westad, founder of Palette by Pak and inventor of a washable, reusable travel container for personal care and beauty products.
For 17 years, Westad was a litigation attorney until she began obsessing over the idea of the tool, which she calls “The Original High Fiver.” Now Westad is 45 and focusing all of her time, when she isn’t with her four kids, on Palette by Pak.
Westad describes entrepreneurship as “having the time of my life.” She is passionate about sustainable impact beauty reusables and thrilled to couple the skills from her legal background with an untapped innovative and creative power. The end result has been the best of all worlds. She advises others to focus on a purpose-driven brand, showcase your talents on your own terms, and take your career into your own hands — regardless of your age.
“Age is an asset,” Westad says, noting that investors often value founders in their 40s—and beyond—because of their immense experience.
What if doubt still creeps in, that you are too old or too late to be an entrepreneur?
Westad advises thinking about your ideas, gifts and talents. Whatever you have, it is yours for a reason. Listen to your inner voice, step into the light, and claim these gifts.
“I can confirm that everything you have ever wanted is truly on the other side of fear,” Westad says. “Knowing you can bring a dream into reality? Knowing you are stretching yourself every day? There is nothing quite like it. If you’re dreaming about it, if you’re constantly thinking about it, if it wakes you up at night — you are already halfway there.”
Heather Taylor is the head writer for PopIcon, Advertising Week’s blog dedicated to brand mascots. She been published on HelloGiggles, Brit + Co, Joy, Business Insider, and more online outlets. Find her on Twitter @howveryheather.