By Eric Seiverling
As founder and owner of his small business The Geezer Squad, a computer training company for seniors, Franklin Stiner works upwards of 40 hours a week and oversees his company’s advertising, accounting, scheduling, and procures the help of local independent contractors when he becomes overbooked.
He visits his clients personally by driving to their homes throughout the Pittsburgh, Butler County, and Greensburg areas.
He also divides his time by teaching computer classes at Community College of Allegheny College and local senior centers.
Did we mention he does all this at the age of 72?
After retiring from a 30-year career as a sales manager with Mercedes Benz eight years ago, Stiner got the itch to once again enter the working world, and started The Geezer Squad at the age of 64.
“I took a year off when I retired and remodeled my house, but I got bored pretty fast” Stiner said from his Plum Boro home that doubles as his office. “I’m not a couch potato. You can only do so much yard work and you can only play so much golf. I missed the contact with the public.”
Stiner said he became tech-savvy at Mercedes Benz, where he had to learn how to write sales reports, emails, and schedules to keep track of his employees’ sales goals using office computers.
After he retired from Mercedes Benz, the idea to start The Geezer Squad fell into his lap.
“My neighbors bought a computer and asked me to teach them a few things,” he said. “And then, an uncle bought a computer and asked me to teach him a couple things. I soon realized this is a viable business. I registered the name The Geezer Squad with the State of Pennsylvania, I placed flyers in the local library and I advertised with the Oakmont Chamber of Commerce. It didn’t happen overnight.”
Stiner isn’t alone.
Seniorpreneurs, people 50 and older who start their own company, are becoming a driving force in the American economy.
According to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, startups by people aged 55-64 now make up a quarter of all new entrepreneurs in The United States.
And Duquesne University’s Small Business Development Center is now offering Work For Yourself@50+ workshops throughout the Pittsburgh area.
Stiner is quick to offer the advantages of becoming an entrepreneur.
“I work out of my home, I enjoy the freedom, and these are all my own ideas that I created,” he said. “I don’t have somebody breathing down my neck. I wish I could have done this 30 years ago.”
Stiner does credit his experience at Mercedes Benz with helping him get along with the seniors he encounters when he sits down with them at their computers.
“I learned a lot about reading people,” he said. “But, the big thing is I’m their age. Young kids speak a different language to seniors when it comes to computers. I just go into their homes and keep them at ease. Everybody has different interests and uses for computers and people have different operating systems. Once they learn how to do some online searching, shop and bank online, they’re quiet happy. I feel good when I leave their homes because I help to enrich people’s lives.”
But Stiner has also discovered that being an entrepreneur means keeping up with the latest trends of his newly-chosen profession.
“This is a whole new industry for me so I’m constantly learning to find out what’s out there,” he said. “The industry keeps changing and I have to learn on my own. Unfortunately, I don’t get paid for learning.”
Despite the hard work of being an entrepreneur at a later age, Stiner loves his job, and doesn’t hesitate recommending other aspiring seniorpreneurs to follow in his footsteps.
“Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean your life is over,” he said. “You don’t want to become a vegetable. You need something to look forward to every morning. Follow your dreams and start another chapter in your life.”
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April 25, 2018