{Business} 3 FOFs with Late-in-Life Career Successes

Every FOF has a moment (or multiple moments) when she wants out of her daily grind…but how many of us actually do something about it?
Here are 3 women who stopped dreaming and took action.

Julie Harrison, Over 50
Opened a Pilates Studio in her early 50s

“You’re never too old to have a mentor or to listen to your gut. Sometimes in hindsight you realize your gut was telling you something, but you kind of block it out. But if you really are honest and say, ‘Okay, what am I really feeling?’ It’s usually right on.” -Julie Harrison

Prior to turning 50, FOF Julie Harrison was a career chameleon.

A quick stint as a piano teacher (“I couldn’t stand it”) led to administrative work with symphonies in Austin and London, and when her first marriage ended in divorce, Julie circled back to Texas for another symphony job, this time in Dallas.  She shifted from music to fashion (“don’t ask me how”), landing marketing jobs at Neiman Marcus and Stanley Korshak.

“All along, I continued with ballet as my exercise,” Julie says. One day her dance teacher came back from a trip to California with news about an exciting new exercise. “This was back in the late ’80s,” Julie recalls. “She said, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s this thing called Pilates, and it’s so wonderful!”  Julie left fashion to become a certified Pilates trainer and after her second husband died in 2001, she wanted a job that was flexible enough–no pun intended–to enable her to also raise her young daughter. When she opened her own Pilates studio, she had finally found her true calling.

Now, Julie runs a successful private Pilates studio behind her home in Dallas, Texas where she teaches clients how to be fit, flexible and age gracefully.

Ann Hand, Age 75
Started her jewelry business at age 53

“I was always doing something—importing baby clothes, getting my real estate license, painting—I was searching.” -Ann Hand

At age 53, Ann’s search proved fruitful when she started her Washington D.C.-based jewelry business, Ann Hand Jewelry. “I was married for 57 years and never wanted anything to interfere with that,” she says.”I would always try to be as available as I could but still have my own life so I had a lot of hobbies.”

When her kids started leaving the nest she began stringing beads made out of the Washington Post and wall paper paste in her basement. In the early 90s, her jewelry “hobby,” became a full-fledged business when Senator Sam Nunn’s wife asked her to create a pin to commemorate the Statue of Freedom. “There was a huge celebration for the unveiling and all the guests were given a pin,” said Ann. “The First Lady wore one, and that put me on the map.” Now she has the go-to Washington D.C. jewelry shop for the political elite. Hilary Clinton wore her Ann Hand Liberty Pin to meet Mother Teresa. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright wore hers to take her oath of office. And on and on…

How did Ann find success so late in life? “Serendipity!” she says.

Iris Johansen, Age 72
Reached the height of her fame as a New York Times best-selling writer in her 50s

“I worked so hard raising the kids, and I suddenly realized when they reached their teen years that this wasn’t going to be all my life, so I decided to dive in and just start writing again.” -Iris Johansen in an interview with The Atlanta Journal Constitution

FOF Iris Johansen spent her career as a reservations agent for Eastern Airlines, but was always itching to write (she even recalls penning a story about shoplifting as a child). She began writing in the evenings while working during the day for the now defunct Eastern Airlines. It wasn’t until her children left for college though, that she was able to focus her full attention to her writing career.

“It’s an insecure life, writing, and I had kids to support,” says Iris. “I’d go in at 5 in the morning and I’d write, and when I got home at night, I’d clean up the stuff and then I’d write some more, and in the meantime, I was taking care of the kids and taking care of business.”

Now, 72-year-old Iris has written more than 70 books and made the New York Times Best-Sellers list 20 times for her novels.

Do you know a woman who’s found success after fifty? Comment below and tell us about her.

Image via Millie Motts