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In Search of a Second Act: The Challenges and Advantages of Senior Entrepreneurship

AARP testimony to the Senate Special Committee on Aging and Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship on the challenges and advantages of senior entrepreneurship

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Creative Entrepreneurs Go Green

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Among Penny Johnston's many eco-friendly businesses is one in which she makes colorful doormats from rope discarded by lobstermen. — Photo courtesy Maine Float-Rope Co.

As millions of feet of old polypropylene rope filled wharves and warehouses along the Maine coast, Penny Johnston saw a chance to clean up. So was born the Maine Float-Rope Co., which today produces colorful doormats from the indestructible discards of local lobstermen.


Case in point is Michael D. Perry, who saw his new business gain a foothold in the Pacific Northwest. Today, his seven-year-old Virginia Beach, Va.-based company, Building Logics, has gone national, and he has reported a 25 percent growth each year for the past three years.

Perry, 51, an engineer with an interest in architecture, builds green roofs, which sustain grass or gardens and conserve energy and water. He admits that “the whole idea is contrary to everything we’ve ever learned about roofs.”

“Roofing always has been totally opposite of environmental perspectives,” says Perry. “We used asbestos, which is good for what we do, but bad for every other reason. If anything ever grew on your roof, it would void your warranty. All roofs are designed to get rid of water as quickly as possible. But now, we’re planting and growing stuff on roofs intentionally.”

Winning the acceptance of builders and building owners initially was difficult. “It required a 180-degree turn in thinking,” Perry says. Although the recent slump in construction has hurt his bottom line, he is optimistic.

“In our industry today, this is probably the hottest technology available,” he says. “We’re excited about the future.”

So is Penny Johnston, who sold 100 Maine Float-Rope doormats when she introduced them at the New England Products Trade Show. In addition to finding a new use for the old rope—which otherwise would have been ground up and made into plastic pots, or dumped in a landfill—she donates a percentage of each sale to the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation. “I’m happy I’m doing something good,” she says.

Susan Q. Stranahan is a freelance writer in Chebeague Island, Maine.

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