You're Never Too Old To Start A Small Business

At a time when people turn 50 years old and start to think about retirement, there are some people like George Brydon who are just catching their second wind.

Brydon is part of a new clique of entrepreneurs known as encore entrepreneurs who are starting their own businesses just when others their age are planning on slowing down and taking it easy.

“I was a regional vice president for a large corporation that was involved with paper and janitorial supplies,” recalled Brydon.  “I worked in the business for 30 years.  In 1999, the company was sold and went through a reorganizational change with new leadership.  I guess my tolerance for change wasn’t that high so I decided it was time for me to leave.”

After a stress inducing corporate career, you can literally say George went sailing off into the sunset.  He and his wife moved to St. Petersburg, Fla. where they moved aboard a sailboat with their daughter.   But that wasn’t the end of this story.  George wasn’t ready to drop anchor and settle down.

“Back in 2000, I ran across a business that was in trouble.  They had just lost a contract with a movie theater chain and it was in bad shape,” recalled Brydon.  “I saw the opportunity to take it over and thought it would be something to keep me busy and make a little money.”

Brydon didn’t realize how the business would grow and put him back in the ranks of the work-a-day world but this time as a business owner.  He formed Premier Chemical in 2000 and began to sell cleaning products to distributors.

“Intellectually, I knew about cash flow and I did end up chasing it the first year.  But this was a business I was familiar with as I worked in it on a much larger scale in my previous career.  But now I was doing the sales work myself and I never had so much fun interacting with customers.”

George admitted having a pension from his previous career provided him a financial buffer other entrepreneurs don’t enjoy.  But he stressed that entrepreneurs should not get into anything they don’t know about.

“Do what you know and love what you do,” said Brydon.  “Unlike the corporate business world, small business owners manage many small pieces.  It can be a little lonely because you don’t have a lot of people to collaborate with like you do in a large company.” 

Four years after forming Premier Chemical, a new opportunity arose when he had a chance to buy manufacturing equipment that produced Styrofoam “peanuts” used in shipping packages.  Now that he expanded into the packaging business, Brydon rebranded his company CleanPak Products which is its name today. 

“Expanding the business to handle this product made good sense for CleanPak Products.  We sold to distributors in the same geographic area as our cleaning products, they were lightweight, and filled the excess capacity of delivery trucks,” said Brydon.

What used to be a 5000 square-foot business grew to 25,000 square feet. 

When rough economic times hit the nation in 2007, CleanPak Products was pressured like many other small businesses.  The business was already competing in a highly competitive market where customers change frequently.  With customers cutting back or going out of business altogether, things got even more competitive.

"I was transforming my packing peanut business away from Styrofoam to a new biodegradable packing material and I needed capital to do it.  Problem was no one was lending money.  I learned about an SBA loan through Sun Trust bank and applied.  I was able to get a loan through SBA when no one else was lending,” said Brydon.

Brydon received a $225,000 SBA 7a loan from Sun Trust bank.  Because of this loan, he was able to remain competitive with a more improved, green product.  Today, about 25 percent of CleanPak Products business is selling biodegradable packing material.

CleanPak Products is four to five times larger than George Brydon imagined or intended it to be when he formed the company in 2000.  Today he has eight full time employees and two part time employees.  He sells to more than 120 distributors and in addition to the Florida customer base, he exports to the Caribbean, Ecuador and Mexico. 

“I’m committed to growing my business by helping my customers grow their business,” said Brydon.  “It’s easy to get an order in this business but what I want to build are long term relationships with customers.”

For someone who literally planned to sail off into the sunset after a successful corporate career, George Brydon has found success as a small business owner instead.