"When you've lost everything, you realize that it's important to do what you
want to do," said Gary Bodley.
Next to him, on a zebra-print love seat near a set of turquoise tables, his wife, Lili Batista, nods her head.
"What we thought was the worst thing in the world ended up being the best thing," she said.
Bodley and Batista are proudly showing off The Painted Ox, the re-purposed furniture shop they opened in West Palm Beach in April with a friend, Trisha Pitts.
The shop brims with colorfully re-imagined vintage furniture. If Katy Perry married the ghost of Elvis, they'd shop here.
The store is one of two new comeback businesses that Bodley and Batista started after the recession body-slammed them into a financial sinkhole. They lost $8 million in investment property as well as Bodley's real estate appraisal firm to the housing market meltdown.
Starting over, they decided to create businesses doing what they loved: interior design for Batista, 58; home renovation for Bodley, 50.
A real estate broker, Bodley started a company with partners, to buy and rehab houses. He's sold five so far "and has six in the pipeline," he said.
Unable to find new jobs, recession-bruised "Boomerpreneurs" like Bodley and Batista are creating their own.
That stereotype of a 21st century entrepreneur as a swashbuckling 20-something hipster with a hoodie? Swap it for an image of a boomer in relaxed-fit Dockers reaching for reading glasses.
Boomers started nearly half of all new U.S. businesses last year, according to the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, which tracks entrepreneurship.
The rate of business creation by older workers prompted Kauffman researcher Dane Stangler to say the country is in the midst of an "entrepreneurship boom -- not in spite of an aging population but because of it."
Older boomers from 55-to 64 created 21 percent of new companies last year, up from 14 percent in 1996, according to the Kauffman Foundation. Those slightly younger, from 45-to-54, added another 28 percent.
Locked out of the job market with an unemployment rate for those 55 and older twice what it was before the recession, boomers are choosing between the reduced pensions and benefits of forced early retirement or going out on their own.
Others who don't need additional income are finding there's not enough golf in the world to keep from being bored in retirement. They miss feeling productive and valued.
"We still have this antiquated notion that when you reach a certain age, you're out of the game and on the shelf," said Bill Zinke, president of the Center for Productive Longevity, an advocacy group for older workers. "People who remain productive and engaged live longer, have greater health and better satisfaction in life."
Self-employment rises as workers get older and more experienced, according to Harvard economist Edward Glaeser. Writing in the New York Times last year, he praised West Palm Beach as an entrepreneurial hot spot stemming from retirees' high rate of self-employment. (Other economists give the entrepreneurial crown to several cities in California.)
Glaeser wrote, "...our image of 70-year-olds needs to change from Florida retirees to Florida entrepreneurs, who find ways to make a bit of cash doing
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