An Entrepreneurial Retirement
Entrepreneurs: Linda Harrington and Jeff Furst (Married)
Age: 59 and 58
Degree: Linda has a MSW (Master’s in Social Work) from the University of Illinois (Chicago, IL) and Jeff has a BA in Business Administration from Grove City College (Grove City, PA).
One Word That Describes You: Lighthearted
How We Met: In my search for interesting entrepreneurs, my COO connected me to Jeff and Linda where I fell in love with their story. Thanks, David!
The Case Study: We hear plenty of stories of young people choosing an entrepreneurial path, but have you thought about building a business as part of your retirement plan? When I first spoke with Jeff, and he explained that he and his wife were building businesses as a retirement income stream, I just knew I had to tell their story.
Jeff and Linda hadn’t socked away the “billions of dollars the gurus suggest”, so when they started to plan for retirement after two successful careers, they began thinking of ways to supplement their savings. I am totally stealing this idea when I retire! Jeff and Linda’s goal was simple: they wanted to find a way to build a business they enjoyed that created supplemental income. In order to do this, they started making a wish list of the type of retirement life they wanted. To start, they knew that they wanted to move away from the city. They were tired of traffic, felt too disconnected, and wanted to find a smaller community where they could contribute. While still working full time, they began traveling around the state of North Carolina in 2011 to try to find a community that fit the bill. In 2013, Jeff and Linda discovered a town called Washington during their travels. After first discovering Washington, they kept going back because it just felt like home. Washington is right on the water, has good bones, and is where Jeff and Linda ultimately decided they would settle to create their business.
During their visits to Washington, they stayed at a B&B called The Moss House. In 2015, the owners of the Moss House put the home and business up for sale. Jeff and Linda only wanted to purchase the house, the owners agreed, so in January 2016 Jeff and Linda bought the house and the B&B was shut down. The original plan was to keep the B&B closed for at least 5 years, so the couple could open it back up upon retirement. However, Jeff lost his full time job in 2017 and they suddenly needed the stream of income. Luckily, they were able to rent the house using AirBNB and HomeAway to start creating income. You know what they say about the best-laid plans. The launch of their Inn business came about 4 years earlier than expected, but thankfully the business took off right from the beginning and has been growing ever since. At first, Jeff and Linda weren’t sure how well they’d like hosting others in the same home as them, but it has turned out to bring them both joy. They love not only hosting their guests, but learning more about them and sharing their love for the little town of Washington.
As part of their entrepreneurial retirement plan, Jeff and Linda also dreamed of opening a store front. The idea first came to mind back in 2007 when they started dating, so when the two moved to Washington, they knew this was the perfect place to open their store. In 2017, when Jeff lost his job, the push for their store front escalated and they started searching for the perfect building. After looking for places to rent, they ended up co-purchasing a commercial building with a dear friend in late 2017. Launched out of necessity for more income, their second business was born: property management. Some of the space was already rented, and part of it needed some renovations prior to renting. Jeff, Linda, and their partner began managing the already rented space, while Jeff and Linda planned to work to renovate the rest where they ultimately will host their third business.
In early 2018, Jeff and Linda built the online presence for their third business, called Flying Pig Provisions, with the help of their fantastic marketing partner, Well Refined (https://wellrefined.co). Later in 2018, they opened a temporary location for Flying Pig Provisions in a wonderful retail space called Purser's Chest Interiors and Antiques. Purser’s Chest Interiors and Antiques is a collection of small stores in the heart of the Harbor District. Jeff and Linda will be there until the time is right to open their own storefront. Don’t worry, I promised them a follow up interview so we can get the updates!
While Jeff and Linda’s three businesses are all in their infancy, they are already generating income. Since they live at the Inn, the costs are the same as home ownership, so its success has generated a nice income stream for the couple. The property management business is generating a small amount of income and will continue to grow as renovations are completed. Lastly, Flying Pig Provisions is off to a great start and we are all excited for the launch of their official storefront. According to Jeff and Linda, even though none of this has really gone to plan, they’ve made great strides towards achieving the retirement life of their dreams. Congrats to Jeff and Linda for jumping in head first and creating successful businesses to supplement their savings!
Nature vs. Nurture: The question is: what does it take to be a successful entrepreneur? Are some people born to be successful entrepreneurs or did they learn the skills necessary to make it?
Naturally, Jeff and Linda are both hard workers. They know that when times get tough, they have to roll up their sleeves and get the work done even if it isn’t fun. Each of them has also always had a bit of a “vocational wanderlust” even before they met each other.
Nurture can also take some credit for the couple’s success as they had both dabbled in a little bit of business prior to this undertaking. Jeff came from a consulting background, and Linda had a private therapy practice, so they weren’t completely unfamiliar with what it takes to run a business. It was also noted that both of their fathers were businessmen, so they learned from a young age that you can be successful from an entrepreneurial path. While both Jeff and Linda learned about business from family and along the way, they don’t complain or procrastinate, they just get it done!
Adversities: Jeff and Linda state that their biggest adversity is having little to no previous experience in starting businesses themselves. I am working with some awesome people to develop startup resources for this exact reason! The learning curve has been steep trying to understand everything from the governmental requirements and financials, to inventory management. In the beginning, they found these things excruciating and the unknowns kept popping up at every turn. Luckily, Jeff and Linda were both willing to push through the times that weren’t so fun, but necessary, in order to achieve their goals. The good news is, they both state that once they started to learn the ins and outs of starting a business, it got a lot easier and the struggle was only temporary.
“Expect the unexpected,” advise Jeff and Linda.
It is true that while planning is an important step in starting and running a business, things will often not go as planned and that’s ok! Jeff and Linda want readers to know that when you understand that things won’t always go as expected, it makes the ride a whole lot more fun. This is fantastic advice and quite true!
Long Term Goals: As Jeff and Linda move into the retirement phase of their lives, their long term goals center around their current quest for the retirement of their dreams. First, Jeff and Linda want work that creates a financially comfortable lifestyle while allowing the couple to spend more time together. They also plan to fully immerse themselves into the community that they care for and that cares for them. This includes more long, rich conversations with good friends and more short, friendly conversations with strangers. Lastly, Jeff and Linda’s businesses are all within 500 feet of each other, so they hope to continue having a “walkable” life.
Gwenalysis: In my humble opinion, building businesses as part of your retirement plan is genius! Everyone thinks that you have to be a certain age or education level to start a business, and that simply isn’t true. Jeff and Linda were both in their 50’s when starting this journey, and have been able to build not just one, but three businesses already. They first developed their vision for the retirement life they wanted, and starting building businesses that aligned with that vision. Brilliant! That is exactly how it’s done, folks. You don’t have to get rich quick or become a billionaire, you can build a business, or multiple, that simply help to supplement your salary or savings. Jeff and Linda enjoy the work involved in running a store and an Inn, so even though parts of the process haven’t been fun, the results are worth it. They are making their vision a reality. This story inspires me, not just because this retirement idea is brilliant, but also because it shows how you can reverse engineer your businesses to fit your lifestyle of choice. Jeff and Linda have such great attitudes about the frustration of starting without much experience and I loved getting to know them and their story a little bit better from this process. Entrepreneurship is for everyone, and to conquer the learning curve adversity that Jeff and Linda mentioned, I’ll be created some resources, with the help of business experts, to get aspiring entrepreneurs on the right track. Thanks again to Jeff and Linda for sharing their beautiful story of creating the retirement of their dreams!