By Rich Sloan, StartupNation
It's 7 a.m. Larry Murphy has had his first cup of coffee, confirmed the weather on the computer in his basement office and stowed his rods and reels in the back of his truck.
He's not headed to the corporate headquarters to punch in. He's off to meet today's fishing clients at the lake. Just another typical start to the business day for this home-based boomer entrepreneur.
The baby-boomer generation has done well, and Murphy, selected as the winner of StartupNation's Home-Based 100 Boomers Back in Business category, epitomizes this segment.
Murphy, 47, is the sole owner and operator of outdoor-tour company Murphy Outdoors. He traded in his office job of 25 years for a boat and some fishing tackle. During his time at the Kansas City, Mo., technology firm DST Systems, where he worked his way up from computer operator into executive management, Murphy accumulated enough wealth to begin again on his own.
A rich generationAmericans born between 1946 and 1964 make up a huge chunk of the population -- more than 80 million people -- and are estimated to have an annual spending power of $2 trillion. That makes this group, by most accounts, the wealthiest population segment in U.S. history.
This wealth, garnered in many cases after time spent at large corporations, has often led to early "retirements." But in reality, many of these people left their corporate jobs to follow their own personal passions, from home, and hang the "Open" sign.
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Baby boomers are one of the largest segments of the home-based-business phenomenon and are significantly responsible for its rise across the country, says Jeff Williams, StartupNation blogger and chief coach of Bizstarters.com, based in Chicago. As of fall 2007, there are 27 million people over age 50 who want to continue to work well into their 60s, he says.
"We really established what it meant to be a workaholic," Williams says of the boomer generation. "We got used to working 60- and 70-hour weeks, and we can't move away from that very easily. The largest number of startups is coming from people over 50. They're really taking away from the 30-and-under people."
From hobby to home businessBack to our winner. Murphy recalls, "I had done real well with the company." Well enough that he realized he didn't have to work there anymore. "I really had the freedom."
Murphy retired from DST in May 2007 and launched his venture the following month. He runs fishing expeditions for small groups of people in the Ozarks region of central Missouri.
"It's one of the things I've done all of my life as a hobby," he says of fishing.
Murphy now runs the office part of his business from the basement of his home in Gladstone, Mo., outside of Kansas City. With the purchase of a new boat, fishing gear and a computer, his startup cost him about $53,000.
So far it has paid off. He has done slightly more than 30 trips since his launch, charging $150 for half a day of fishing for two people and $225 for a full day. His goal is to hit 100 expeditions annually.
His computer background allowed him to build his own Web site, through which he does most of his marketing. Murphy's skills helped when he needed to make his site visible on popular search engines. He completed the process by following the search engines' instructions "to the letter," he says, making sure he had important keywords on his Web site that would trigger a hit.
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"It isn't something that happens in a day," he warns of his optimization efforts on his Web site. "It takes three or four weeks sometimes."
Murphy also spreads word of his business by handing out cards at the many fishing tournaments he regularly attends. He's also put a sign on his truck.
Foundation firstThough Murphy retired relatively young, he suggests that aspiring entrepreneurs "stick it out" at their current jobs, invest correctly and secure financial stability before going out on their own. That way you can enjoy your new career more fully.
In our observation at StartupNation, a variation of Murphy's advice has also worked well: Start part time, in the evenings and on weekends, while you still bring in the day-job paycheck. Only when your home business has enough momentum to succeed should you remove yourself from the corporate world.
"I'm not doing it for money," Murphy says. "I'm doing it for fun."
Rich Sloan is one of America's leading entrepreneurial experts. He is co-host of StartupNation Radio, co-author of "StartupNation: Open for Business" and chief startupologist and co-founder of StartupNation, a leading online community and content site for entrepreneurs.
Published Nov. 5, 2007