Jan. 24, 2020
If you think the most successful businesses today were launched by young people, you'd be wrong.
In fact, a study from the Census Bureau found that the majority of successful businesses were founded by people who are middle-aged. More specifically, a founder who is 50 years old is 2.8 times more likely to have a successful business than a person who is 25 years old.
There is evidence throughout history that this is true. Keep reading to learn how some of the most recognizable brands and most successful companies today were started by people who were middle-aged.
When he was 50, Leo Goodwin started the insurance company, Geico.
Leo Goodwin was writing insurance policies when he decided to open his own company with his wife, Lillian. Together, they created the Government Employees Insurance Company in 1936 when Leo was 50 years old. In the first year, the company had 3,700 policies.
Today, Geico has 17 million auto policies and has become one of the most recognizable brands in the US.
At 62, Harland Sanders created the famous Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant chain.
At the age of 40, after serving in the military and working a number of different jobs, Harland Sanders ran a service station in Kentucky and served fried chicken to bring in more customers. Eventually, he became famous for his recipe. In 1952, Kentucky Fried Chicken started when then-62-year-old Sanders franchised his recipe to a friend in Salt Lake City, Utah. A decade later, the company had grown to hundreds of franchises, and Sanders sold his ownership for $2 million.
Today, KFC is valued at $12.6 billion, according to Forbes.
Ray Kroc created the now-famous McDonald's when he was 52.
In 1954, Ray Kroc ate at a restaurant run by two brothers, Dick and Mac McDonald. Kroc was impressed with their food and operation, so the following year, when he was 52, he turned their business into a franchise and created the McDonald's System, Inc. Overnight, the food became a success, selling the 100 millionth McDonald's burger just three years later.
Today, McDonald's makes $21 billion in sales and is considered one of the most recognizable brands in the world.
Bernie Marcus opened the first Home Depot with his business partner at 50.
Bernie Marcus was the chairman of Handy Dan Home Improvement Centers until he was fired in 1978. The following year, Marcus turned 50 and decided to open his own home-improvement store with Arthur Blank and called it Home Depot. The first store was 60,000 square feet, much larger than your typical hardware store.
Today, Home Depot is the largest home-improvement retailer, has 2,290 stores, and made $108.2 billion in revenue in 2018.
Martha Stewart was nearly 50 when she published her first magazine, Martha Stewart Living.
Martha Stewart started her career as a stockbroker on Wall Street, but she quit her job when her family moved to Connecticut in 1972. There, she restored a 19th-century farmhouse, sparking her interest in homemaking. Over the next few years, Stewart started a successful catering business. By 1990, Stewart was 49 and published the first issue of her magazine, Martha Stewart Living, which launched her highly successful brand.
The company went on to become an empire, encompassing more magazines, more books, and TV shows. Today, Stewart's company is worth $1.2 billion.
At 54, Wally Blume founded Denali Flavors, an ice cream company.
Wally Blume worked in the dairy industry for 35 years before starting his own business. In 1989, he founded Denali Flavors — which creates specialty ice cream for smaller dairies around the country — at 54 years old by using up all of his savings.
Today, the company makes $50 million in sales each year, according to Michigan Live.
When she was 55, Arianna Huffington launched The Huffington Post.
An immigrant from Greece, Arianna Huffington first worked as a writer, penning biographies. But it wasn't until she was 55 that the writer really broke ground when she launched The Huffington Post in 2005 and named herself its editor in chief. The commentary and news site slowly gained momentum. In a few years, the site was known as one of the most influential blogs in the world.
Huffington stepped down from her role in 2016. Today, the company is known as HuffPost and is still a well-read publication.
Julie Wainwright founded her fashion company, The RealReal, when she was in her mid-50s.
In 2000, Julie Wainwright was the CEO of Pets.com when she decided to shut down the company. After filling in as CEO at other companies, she decided to create her own. In 2011, she was in her mid-50s and launched The RealReal, an online marketplace that resells designer items. In its first year, the company made $10 million in sales.
In 2018, The RealReal had $207.4 million in revenue, and the company is still thriving today.