10 Entrepreneurs Who Made It Big In Their 40’s (And Beyond)

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We face barriers every day in our lives. Some of these barriers are put there by others, by circumstances, by life in general while others are self-imposed. Yet, it’s hard to recognize the difference between the two.

Barriers in life could be an illness, a death of a loved one, being laid off or even a natural disaster. These things are unpredictable, real and generally life changing. Then there are those barriers we perceive or put on ourselves. Too young, too old, not educated enough, not connected enough, not living in the right place or time. And these barriers become self-fulfilling. Paralyzing, even. As long as one sees something as a barrier, it will remain so.

But there are those who see these barriers as nothing more than life or circumstance. They don’t see them as barriers at all.

Take too old. We tend to see age at a very limiting thing. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks is a clichéd term but clichés become that for a reason. To prove age isn’t limiting, here are 10 entrepreneurs who made it big after 40, some by re-invention, others by persistence.

Henry Ford

Henry Ford

Henry Ford worked as an engineer for the Edison Illuminating Company but his real goal was to create a horse-less carriage. After making some proto-types of different vehicles, Ford left Edison and created the Ford Motor Company in 1903.

The Ford Model-T was introduced in 1908, when Ford was 45 years old. But the automobile wasn’t the only innovation Ford would create, his assembly line method of manufacturing cars made for increased efficiency and became the standard for all types of manufacturing across the world.

Ford changed the way the world worked, the way the world got to work and the way in which assembly worked and if he stopped at 40, the world would be a much different place.

Giorgio Armani

The ultimate success in fashion is when you are known by just your last name and that name, Armani, is synonymous with high fashion, but that wasn’t always the case.

Armani started in the fashion industry as a freelance designer, working for a number of different companies. It wasn’t until 1975 at the age of 41 that Armani launched his own brand of formal wear and suits which has expanded to perfumes, jeans, accessories and retail stores worldwide.

Still going strong at the age of 81, Armani’s net worth is an estimated $7 billion.

Harland (Colonel) Sanders

Harland (Colonel) Sanders

Harland Sanders had a number of jobs in his life. He served in the army, worked for a railroad company, sold insurance, worked for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, ran a ferryboat company and was a tire salesmen for Michelin. He then sold food from his roadside gas station in Kentucky and then from a hotel in North Carolina. That is to say he tried and failed many many times over.

It wasn’t until 1952 at the age of 62 that he opened his first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise restaurant in Utah. Even then, Sanders had to drive over the United States looking for restaurants to franchise with his secret fried chicken recipe. And grow it did, as of 2016, KFC now has over 18,000 locations across the world.

Plus, without his perseverance, there’d be no Double Down.

Carol Gardner


When you’re divorced, in debt from said divorce and nursing a broken leg at the age of 52 – you may a little feel down or sorry for yourself.

Buying a dog to cheer herself up and then winning a local Christmas card contest for a year’s worth of free dog food – Carol hit a winning combination. She created her greeting card company Zelda Wisdom (named after her bulldog) and it grew to a worth of an estimated $50 million.

Broke at 52, millionaire at 55.

Donald and Doris Fisher


Donald and Doris Fisher opened a clothing store in 1969 at the ages of 41 and 38, respectively. The year features prominently on a lot of their clothes from their now $16 billion a year clothing corporation – The Gap.

Yes, the Gap which created offshoots of Old Navy and Banana Republic. While Donald Fisher passed away in 2013, the company is still going strong and employs over 18,000 people worldwide.

Julia Child


Julia Child majored in English, she worked as a copy writer, then worked in Strategic Services during WWII (as she was too tall to join the Women’s Army Corps), and she didn’t attend Le Cordon Bleu until she was 38 where she was introduced, and fell in love with French Cuisine.

Her first and most famous work Mastering The Art of French Cooking was published in 1961 when she was 49. The books popularity combined with her knowledge of cooking and her affable nature gave her her very own television show, at 51.

And, finally, after she passed at the age of 91 she was paid the ultimate compliment – being portrayed by Meryl Streep.

Tim and Nina Zagat


Before the internet brought us Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google reviews, etc., there was one accepted guide to the best restaurants in any major city – Zagat. At its height the Zagat food guide was available for over 70 cities across the world.

The first issues was published in 1982 by Tim and Nina Zagat, two corporate lawyers with a fondness for restaurants and fine dining.  By interviewing others and rating different things from atmosphere to pricing, they stumbled into what would become the go to book for any traveller or foodie looking for great dining experience.

While Zagat has fallen by the wayside recently, Google acquired the company for $151 million in 2011 – not a bad pay for what started as a small book in New York.

They didn’t publish the first version until they were 42.

Robin Chase

Chase thought there was a gap between those who owned cars and those who could not afford to. Chase founded car-sharing company ZipCar in 2000 at the age of 42. A common-place idea now, but a ground-breaking concept and business in the year 2000. Despite hiccups on the first launch, ZipCar grew to over 900,000 members and over 10,000 cars on the road in 2015.

ZipCar was acquired by Avis in 2014 for $491 million. Not a bad sum.

Wally Blume

It doesn’t matter what you do – if you could quit your job right now and make millions selling and developing ice cream flavours, you’d probably take that deal. That’s exactly what Wally Blume did.

After working for others in the dairy business for over 20 years, Wally had some ideas for some new ice cream flavours. He started his company, Denali flavours, in 1996 at the age of 57. With the success of his most popular flavour, the now ubiquitous Moose Tracks, The business has grown to over $80 million-$100 million in annual revenue.

Some retire at 57, others become multi-millionaires. Not that there’s anything wrong with either choice.

Tony Horton

Tony Horton

Growing up personal trainer Tony Horton wanted to be an actor, a dream he kept into his 40’s. But when musicians like Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen want you to be your personal trainer, you put your goals on the back burner.

Horton always had a passion for fitness and nutrition. In 2003 he launched P90X a 90 day, home work out system that exploded with popularity. Horton was 45 at the time of launch and at 57 has built P90X into a fitness series and regimen that has grown to include work out gear, clothing and its own supplement and recovery line.

That’s just entrepreneurs. There are writers who didn’t publish until they were 60, award-winning actress’ who didn’t their first role until their 40’s and the founder of McDonald’s didn’t open it until he was 52. A man who all college students owe a great debt (sorry for using that word, kids) to, Ando Momofuku invented the Ramen noodle when he was 48.

So what’s age? Just a number. I know that’s been said, but again clichés become such for a reason. Maybe you need to keep pushing, maybe you need to further look into your passions or maybe you need to reinvent. But you keep going, you never stop. There is nothing stopping you except for yourself.

Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right.

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