We are learning that many of our Third Half members have entrepreneurial dreams for their next chapter. This seems understandable. After a lifetime working in a corporate environment with the requisite mosaic of bosses of varying abilities, the thrill of being one’s own boss while nurturing a personal passion is quite liberating. Meet Peter Nash, Susanne Greelish and Laurie Peck, the team behind GingerGems and learn about their path to launching their startup and how their Clifton Strengths, an assessment we use at Third Half Advisors, paved their way forward.
"Life’s too short to be miserable all the time, so make a change. Sometimes you know exactly what that is and sometimes you don’t, and it’s all about exploring what’s possible."
– GingerGems co-founder Laurie Peck
There is some very good news for our Third Half dreamers: the success rates for older entrepreneurs is quite positive. A recent study conducted by the Census Bureau and two MIT professors revealed that A 60-year-old startup founder is 3 times as likely to “found” a successful startup as a 30-year-old startup founder— and is 1.7 times as likely to “found” a startup that winds up in the top 0.1 percent of all companies. It appears that years of developing expertise, skills, and connections are all on the right side of our budding Third Half Entrepreneurs.
But let’s not kid ourselves. This type of transition is daunting and scary. Leaving the comfort of a secure job to hop on the rollercoaster ride of owning one’s own business is not a light decision. It’s downright scary for most Third Halfers. However, with an ample amount of passion and the right mix of collaborators, Third Half businesses are sprouting up successfully everywhere.
As a way to ensure the participants in our own programs prepare successfully for this kind of next step and find good partners, we coach them to be very aware of their top strengths (using the highly reliable CliftonStrengths assessment). We believe that people who understand their very best individual strengths and can identify their own dominant themes, as well of those of the people around them, are much better equipped to thrive in their Third Half pursuits. This is particularly true when trying to de-risk the tumultuous entrepreneurial world in the Third Half.
An Entrepreneurial Collaboration
One such terrific example of a great Third Half entrepreneurial collaboration involves one of our advisors, Peter Nash, who joined forces with Third Halfers Susanne Greelish and Laurie Peck.
Susanne had been nurturing a dream of bringing healthy ginger treats to market. She had been a very successful salesperson in the food service industry for decades but was losing her enthusiasm for the corporate environment. “I’ve always wanted to do it my way, but I never wanted to be a boss,” she says. After having battled cancer 3 times, Susanne decided it was time to trust her gut (literally!) and focus her efforts on work that meant something to her, personally. And the idea for “GingerGems” was born.
Susanne felt the pull of her vision so strongly that finally just “had to go for it” and left her full-time job to reluctantly become her own boss. Given that Susanne has lots of relationship skills as her dominant traits, she knew she needed a good team to get her vision off the ground. So, her next focus was “who” she should work with to make this venture a success.
Building A Team of Third Halfers
Susanne first turned to her long-time friend, Laurie, with whom she had created a jewelry company five years before when Laurie was going through her own transition. At that time, Laurie had just lost both a dear friend and her beloved father. She felt depleted and no longer found her work as a senior HR executive fulfilling. With the support of her husband, Laurie quit and leapt into the unknown. Fortunately, Susanne was there to “catch her” and inspire her to create Dovera Designs together.
Laurie loved Susanne’s entrepreneurial enthusiasm and knew she could compliment the rapid idea generation she was hearing from Susanne. In her previous role in HR, it also turns out that Laurie already had an intimate knowledge of the power of collaborative strengths through the Clifton assessment. She just knew they were a good fit. Laurie’s top ten strengths for example, include Achiever and Maximizer. She’s competitive and constantly looking forward to the next steps, wondering what the long-term plan is, etc. These are great strengths for the start-up world when that extra push is needed to succeed. Laurie’s penchant for Strategic thinking also means that she is very good at absorbing and analyzing information which helps her make great decisions. This is extremely complimentary to Susanne’s strengths which manifest themselves in lots of creative ideas and developing a great networking to distribute products. With Suzanne’s products concepts and Laurie’s business acumen, the two were meant for each other. When Susanne presented the idea to launch another business together, GingerGems, Laurie was quick to sign up.
To round out the team, Susanne and Laurie knew they also needed someone to help execute their great ideas and strategic plan. Enter Peter Nash who Susanne met at an entrepreneur networking event at the Cambridge Innovation Center outside of Boston. The good news is that while finding that “right” partner can often be serendipity –we know there are lots of Third Halfers in transition who are out their networking and looking for each other!
Peter, also in a Third Half transition, had a great background in start-ups. Peter particularly enjoys “solving puzzles and working with a team” to grow a product with a real preference for “environments where people can be open, share ideas and collaborate.” Moreover, his unique collection of CliftonStrengths revolve around strong execution themes of organizing and creating structure— something start-ups often desperately need. Finally, Peter really “gets” the importance of working well together. Harmony happens to be his number one strength. “You, as an individual, can create the structure, but ultimately in order to build something interesting, it takes a team,” he says. “It’s not just me out there. The desire to help people get along - that’s the only way you can build something.”
Peter’s interests were exactly what Susanne and Laurie were looking for in an additional partner. This kind of partnership with complementary strengths is alchemy for creating a new business. Now, GingerGems proudly presents four flavors and no one is looking back. Beyond the collaborative strength of this threesome, for Susanne - having her long-time friend Laurie make this business leap with her as a partner also just made everything better. When asked what she would say to other Third Halfers contemplating a similar change, Laurie has some important words of advice: “Life’s too short to be miserable all the time, so make a change,” adding “sometimes you know exactly what that is and sometimes you don’t, and it’s all about exploring what’s possible.”
Check out GingerGem’s website here. We highly recommend these treats—they’re delicious! Make sure to check out our other Third Half Masters stories to learn more about others who are transitioning from their corporate career to “what’s next”. And if you are interested in learning more check out our upcoming programs here.