- Associated Press - Monday, July 28, 2014

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. (AP) - After spending a career in public schools across northeast Oklahoma, Cindy Snodgrass decided to continue following her passion for helping students on her own terms.

Snodgrass and her brother, Mike Lingo, bought the Huntington Learning Center franchise in Broken Arrow four years ago. This year they purchased the Tulsa location.

“I am 58 years old and am working harder than I ever have in my life,” Snodgrass said.

But because she made the choice, it doesn’t feel like work.

“I am in charge of what I do. I have more control helping these children,” Snodgrass said.

Snodgrass, like many older adults, scratched an entrepreneurial itch and went to work for herself.

In 2012, nearly a quarter of all new businesses were started by people between the ages of 55 and 64. Business creation by older Americans grew more than 60 percent between 1996 and 2012, according to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

The U.S. Small Business Administration noticed the trend of older adults going into business and established a series of workshops for people starting a new career, said Larry Weatherford, spokesman for the Oklahoma City SBA office.

The workshops are popular in Oklahoma because of the many retired state, federal and military people living here, Weatherford said.

“These are the people who typically are able to retire after 20 or 30 years, but in many instances they have a lot of life left in them, so we offer seminars to help with counseling about starting a business,” Weatherford said.

Weatherford also works directly with military veterans in a Boots to Business program sponsored by the SBA.

The Service Corps of Retired Executives, or SCORE, also works with people starting a new chapter in their career, Weatherford said.

David Mosinski, the assistant district director of SCORE in the state, works with the Tulsa SCORE chapter, which has an office in downtown Tulsa and branches in Bartlesville, Broken Arrow and Grove, according to the website.

Mosinski said there is a mixture of people who come to SCORE looking for directions about how to put legs to their business dreams.

“They are young executives that want to start a business or people that are in their 50s or 60s that are tired of the corporate life and want to work for themselves,” Mosinski said.

Or, many have been forced into retirement.

“In some cases, two or three different times, and they refuse to back to work only to go through it all again,” Mosinski said.

These people believe they have a lot of talent and skills, but many of the older adults have little tolerance for risk, Mosinski said.

“They try to avoid putting too much of their earned assets that they have saved during their life into a new company,” Mosinski said. “They want the enjoyment of finding success but at the same time they want the security of their retirement funds.”

Senior adults know all too well what can happen if they fail, Mosinski said. They comprehend what is at stake, and they have a better chance of success than younger people, Mosinski said.

“Even though they are more cautious, they really make sure what they are attempting will work,” Mosinski said.

One factor seniors struggle to grasp is how social media is intertwined with marketing.

“Twitter, blogs, Facebook, the hashtag, the webinars, I mean it goes on and on,” Mosinski said. “It can be overwhelming for them.”

SCORE volunteers are able to give advice on a number of different parts of a business, Mosinski said.

“We are able to help in a number of areas: websites, retail management and marketing, and not just, ‘How do I open a business?’”

Snodgrass, who earned a master’s degree in education and worked in public schools in Pryor and Chouteau-Mazie as a reading specialist, was faced with a decision. She was in her mid-50s and associated with a reading program that was abruptly ended.

“I was discouraged,” Snodgrass said.

Not ready to retire, she started researching. Snodgrass looked for ways to continue pursuing her desire to make a difference in the lives of kids.

“It took me a year to see what was out there and what was a good fit for me,” Snodgrass said. She discovered Huntington and recruited her brother, Lingo, who served as a principal in the Coweta Public Schools several years.

One of the top challenges Snodgrass learned early in her new career was dealing with parents over priorities.

“The No. 1 thing I deal with, and I believe it is part of the culture in Oklahoma, is getting parents to give up that time to come here instead of spending it on sports,” Snodgrass said. “It is always sports. They would rather do less here and more on the sports.”

Snodgrass said she counsels many parents about how improving their children’s academics is more of a game changer for their children over the span of their lifetime than anything they can do in sports.

“I am surprised sometimes how difficult that message is to get through to dads,” Snodgrass said.

The message many middle-aged adults get, however, is that it is never too late to start writing a second chapter to their career.


Information from: The Journal Record, https://www.journalrecord.com

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