Jane Pauley, AARP’s Brand Ambassador
Antoinette Little of Antoinette Chocolatier
Kerry Hannon, writer and reinvention expert
This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Jane Pauley: Hello everyone! Thanks for joining us.
I hope you enjoyed our Today Show segment this morning featuring Antoinette Little, a former law firm administrator who found salvation from stress in chocolate. After a blunt warning from her doctor, Antoinette retired early, went back to culinary school and in 2003 opened her own shop Antoinette Chocolatier. She’s found her dream job – she says that working with chocolate is like “zen,” and she’s felt that pounding stress just melt away.
Antoinette joins us in the chat this afternoon, along with Kerry Hannon, a reinvention expert who’s written about personal finance and retirement for U.S News and World Report, USA Today, Forbes.com, and AARP.org. She’s also the author of a terrific book called “What’s Next? Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job.” She’s going to tell us all how we can find what Antoinette did, that blissful feeling of loving what you do.
Hi, Antoinette and Kerry! Great to have you here.
Kerry Hannon: Thanks for inviting me, Jane. I’m really looking forward to the questions. Just to let people know– I’m Kerry Hannon, the author of Amazon best-seller What’s Next? Follow Your Passions and Find Your Dream Job. I’m a personal finance and career reinvention expert commentator and journalist, contributing editor and retirement correspondent for U.S. News & World Report and a featured contributor for Forbes.com on my blog, Second Verse. I write about second careers, retirement and small business. I also write a monthly column for AARP.com on great jobs for retirees! My most recent is: Great Holiday Jobs.
Antoinette Little: It's great to be here today. Thanks for joining me :)
Comment from VS: I am a 30 year-old woman. I found all the stories so inspiring and I have been up and down and with my studies and career choices throughout my twenties. I married young and, trying and trying to be a supportive wife, put my studies on hold just to get by. Any professions you can suggest that might be worth my time and the money at the age I am?
Pauley: VS, welcome to our discussion. I have been pretty sure from the start that young people were going to notice what we’re doing and aspire to having the freedom to explore their own potential, as those of us who are over 50 are beginning to do. That said I’m going to refer your question to an actual expert and see what Kerry has to say.
Hannon: There are some good fields with jobs today. Healthcare immediately comes to mind. Eldercare is growing fast. There are a variety of home and personal healthcare jobs. Green jobs and education are both on the rise too.
Comment from Ted: I’ve heard conflicting reports over the years, but lately I’ve heard more and more that dark chocolate (in moderation, of course) is good for you. It almost seems too good to be true! As someone who works with chocolate all the time, what would you say about chocolate’s health benefits?
Little: Ted, it's been proven now that dark chocolate has similar benefits to red wine. As long as it's in moderation and I believe that the amount is 1 oz a day, it is healthy and beneficial.
Comment from Lisa: Ted, it’s true! My mom is a diabetic and it’s been her salvation!
Comment from Ashley: Kerry, is now the time to be starting your own business (and pursuing your dreams), or is it better to ride this down economy out and wait for a more small-business friendly economic climate?
Hannon: Ashley, bear with me for the long answer:
It is a great time to start, but I always advise people to go slow. Here are some things to think about:
1. Find a mentor. Connect with someone in the field you're entering for guidance. Check out StartupNation.com, a site dedicated to small-business groups, or SCORE, a nonprofit that provides education to entrepreneurs. At SCORE, working and retired executives and business owners donate their time and expertise free of charge in person or online. The Association of Small Business Development Centers, a joint effort of the Small Business Administration, universities, colleges, and local governments, provides no-cost consulting and low-cost training at about 1,000 locations.
2. Do the prep work. You may have to study marketing, finance, and employment law. Sign up for a community college or certification program to get the necessary skills. You can begin by contacting your town's or county's Small Business Development Center. A three-hour course in the essentials of starting a business or e-mail marketing might cost as little as $15 to $30.
3. Write a business plan. There's no strict model to follow, but in general, a simple plan—which you'll have to submit to get a loan or other financing—should be about 20 pages. Here's what you'll need:
4. Line up sources of funding. Here are some ways to find the money to get started:
--Savings: Most start-ups are funded with personal savings. (This is where a severance package comes in handy.) It's advisable to set aside at least six months of fixed living expenses. Try not to dip into your retirement savings: You'll be subject to withdrawal penalties and income taxes and lose the tax-deferred compounding that could serve you well in retirement.
--Credit cards: Use plastic with care. It's fairly easy to tap into, but this should be a last option. Most cards have double-digit interest rates, a very high cost of capital to carry on your new company's books.
--Home equity loans: This is an appealing option because the funds are usually taken as a lump sum that you can pay off over time.
--Banks and credit unions: A tight lending environment has made borrowing a struggle. A solid business plan and a shiny credit record are prerequisites. You might try a bank that's familiar with you or your industry, or one that is active in small-business lending. To find a bank that offers SBA-guaranteed loans, check the "Local Resources" section of the agency's website. Keep in mind that a lender will still want you to put up collateral, usually in the form of a real estate asset. Plan to have some capital or equity that you personally put into the business. Lenders want you to have some skin in the game, so to speak.