Want a second act? Keep going by parlaying a passion into a successful home-based business
By Connie Proteau
All it takes is an interest, an opportunity or an idea. Many retirees are finding that supplementing a pension with a home-based business is easier than they imagined. In fact, most would hesitate to use a four-letter word like “work” to describe their means of earning extra cash because they’re having so much fun.
When Donna Smith of Noelville, Ont., took a course in entrepreneurship shortly after leaving Toronto for a rural lifestyle when she was in her early 50s, it opened her eyes to what she really wanted to do to earn money. Smith, a single parent, had spent the majority of her working career as a secretary and being told what to do.
“The course showed me a different side of life and to love what you do. And I always dreamed of looking after animals,” she says.
With a home on 80 acres, she was able to regularly board a dozen dogs at a time. Since selling that home several years ago and moving to a smaller property, she continues to offer pet-sitting on a comparative scale. Now, at the age of 72 with four dogs of her own, she often has two extra pets boarding with her plus she offers dog-walking services for a steady clientele in nearby communities. She charges a boarding fee of $15 per animal, which includes two walks a day – exercise she enjoys, too.
Soon after starting her pet-sitting business, another opportunity came her way when she was asked by an acquaintance to teach piano to kids in the community. Though she had musical training up to the Royal Conservatory of Music Grade 8 level in her youth, Smith says, “I was nervous because I didn’t think I was qualified,” but she soon had five students in her first year of teaching.
Now 14 years later, she has 17 students and charges $10 for a half-hour of lessons. While start-up costs for her businesses have been minimal, overhead expenses include gas in her tank to pick up animals, which, she says, helps put her in control of both the animal and her schedule and, since she prefers to teach in her students’ homes, this adds travel costs as well. Besides these part-time businesses, she also finds time to work 14 hours a week at two nearby libraries. Being active with pastimes she loves is important to Smith, whose income of CPP and OAS, she says, is only enough to live on if one is frugal. But her motivation for having extra jobs isn’t all about the money. “I like to have a reason to get up every day and to have somewhere to go,” she says.
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