BSR Wisdom

  • Elizabeth White’s book “55, Unemployed, and Faking Normal” is a coping guide to being jobless after 50

    55 Unemployed Faking Normal Elizabeth White

    Elizabeth White, author of 55, Unemployed, and Faking Normal

    Recently on Paul Solman’s News Hour series Making Sense there was a story about Elizabeth White.  White recently self-published a book, 55 Unemployed, and Faking Normal.  The book is road map to coping with current economic realities.  55, Unemployed, and Faking Normal contains themes which are relevant to Better, Smarter, Richer.  We reached out to White to talk about her book.

    People facing these issues head on are those close to traditional retirement, or people who would normally be retired.  White herself has a distinguished career which includes working for the World Bank  and holding a senior executive position at a midsize NGO.  At one point she ran a chain of retail stores that sold African themed decor.  She closed the retail stores when she realized it was not working.  She did consulting for a few years after that, then everything went bust in 2008.

    White started blogging in 2015 for Next Avenue, which is owned by PBS.  Her blog was largely about the emotional aspects of unstable income. She includes discussions about the mechanisms that got us here in the first place.

    “My friends and I started telling the truth,” White said in an interview from her home in Adams Morgan, Washington D.C.  She and her peers “were looking at the rubble of Plan A.  What do you do?  How do you live a richly textured life on reduced income? Employment is still unstable, even when you did everything right.  Same for other events such a medical issue or divorce.”  People emailed their stories to White.  This conversation ended up in the blog.  The blog post got about a eleven thousand likes and a thousand comments in three days.   The blog posts struck a chord with those previously reluctant to talk about their situation.

    “Twenty-nine percent of older age 55 to 64 have not saved a dime,” White says.  “And among those who have saved, the median value of retirement accounts for that age group is about $100,000.  Now $100,000 is better than zero, but really how long are you going to last on that… three years maybe.” One of the main reasons White wrote the book was to let people know that they don’t have to put on airs with their circumstances.  No one needs to pretend that they are middle class, when in fact they are struggling.  “We need to speak candidly with each other. “

    Budgeting takes on new meaning.  It is about what you need to maintain a quality of life.  White if a lifelong learner, and enjoys going to conferences.  Rather than pay for the whole ticket, she will volunteer or blog in return for admission.  She knows of some who will split an entree with others so they can still have the experience of eating out.  It’s important to know what you care about.  White knows of one individual who drives beat up, raggedy cars. He saved $15,000 so he could buy a flute because music is what really matters to him.

    White also wonders if at some point the sustainability movement and the retirement crisis will intersect.  “Millions of us are going to have to make due with less.  We need to small up,” to figure out what materials things wee need to feel deeply content and grounded. We need a new conversation about what that means.”

    White talks about one significant aspect; the knowledge base of this demographic is not being tapped.  “The most educated generation in history.  Talent has been sidelined.  Millions of people are underemployed and unemployed.”  That said, people need to eat, it is time to be resourceful in finding income.  Many in the the 55+ age group won’t find work that pays what they once were making.  White says she had “to get off her throne,” taking jobs she would not have considered before.  Your skills, car and home are now assets that are now for hire, a la Uber, Fiverr,  and AirB&B.

    Youth culture is highly valued.  This affects older generations, in ways different ways.  “I was at the grocery store the other day and forgot to ask for my senior discount.  I got it anyway.”  The perception of being older but looking younger is in and of itself a quandary.  Looking young is celebrated.  White says we need to re-think what it means to be older.  It should be socially acceptable to be older.  “What are the advantages of aging, the attributes we hold up?  Matthias Hollwich in his book New Aging talks about the gifts of age.”

    White says she is struck by the loss of unengaged talent, which she says is a waste considering all that needs to be done.  She would like to see inter-generational teams of workers.  Places like The Encorepreneur Cafe, which offers a space for older adults to mix with not only their peers but invite multi-age interaction in a robust entrepreneurial environment.  Classes at the Cafe include Jackie B. Peterson’s Keys to Solo Business Success, May 4, 2017 .

    Watch the News Hour story on Elizabeth White here.









  • Solo Business Success: Michael Tevlin takes his freelance writing career to the next level

    Freelance Writer Michael Tevlin

    Writer Michael Tevlin of Tevlin Strategic Communication

    Michael Tevlin has a solid writing career.  After taking the Better, Smarter, Richer class, he stepped up his game.

    What the business does: market content and corporate communications.

    Michael’s journey of re-creation, re-visioning, and re-imagining:  Michael Tevlin describes it as “the career equivalent of driving off a cliff” when he left the corporate world to be freelance writer full time.  He earned a Master’s degree in Journalism from the University of Oregon in 1981.  Already established as a corporate communications writer for PGE, he then decided to strike out on his own in 1996 when he was in his early forties.  With the advent of the Internet, it was easy for him to get his solo business writing career going.  He was able to retain PGE has a client as well.  Michael has had a variety of clients over the years, including Tri Met and the Portland Development Commission.  His interests got a little too broad before reeling it back in.  He has continued his interest in high tech.

    By the year 2000, Michael got interested in the sustainability industry.  “There is always an opportunity to learn more, to really understand the business,” he says.   Michael is passionate about renewable energy, and has made that his deep and narrow niche, taking a page from Jackie B. Peterson.  At first, he limited his geographic area to Portland, Oregon.  Now he has clients around North America, and fewer in Oregon.

    Lessons Learned: Michael describes freelancing as a writer as a “roller coaster ride of feast or famine,” adding that 2016 was his best year yet.  Marketing is ongoing.  “It took a long time to understand that and make it happen.”  What works?  “Constantly looking for companies,” in his industry niche.   He uses Hubspot to keep track of contacts.  He also uses LinkedIn.  “I’ll read about a company in a trade magazine, find the contact on LinkedIn and send a warm email.”  Michael stresses that it is important to have a niche.  “Your niche does not have to be an industry; it can be your style.” 

    Michael really loved Jackie’s class.  He has had follow up meetings with classmates.  He has also found peer group Facebook forums to stave off isolation.  The Facebook forums are good places to go to ask questions.  That’s one way he has checked to find out if he is charging fees appropriate to his industry, and turns out he has.

  • Encore Entrepreneur Stories: Finding a niche as an independent health clinic audit consultant Roberta Kaplan

    Roberta Kaplan, owner of InnovaHealth

    Independent health clinic auditor Roberta Kaplan, MPH, MS, PA, and owner of InnovaHealth.

    Health Innovations owner Roberta Kaplan lands on her feet with a specialized encore career as an independent health clinic auditor.

    What the business does: Independent health clinic audit consultant for Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

    Re-visiting, Re-creation and Re-Imagining: Roberta Kaplan was working for the Oregon Health Authority.  She did this for two years, conducting clinic visits through the Patient Centered Medical Home Program.  She started to collect unemployment insurance when she was laid off at 62.   Her unemployment benefits were going to run out when a letter came in the mail stating she might be a candidate for self-employment. She was able to get support while starting her business.  Roberta had never considered self-employment.  She didn’t know where to begin.

    Someone suggested that she do clinic audits on a large scale.  She had to write a business plan, and started to do research.  A friend suggested she apply to the contractor companies who provide oversight for Health Services and Services Administration (HRSA).  HRSA clinics are government run programs that provide full services including medical, dental, behavioral care to vulnerable populations.  They also cater to those who are under-insured, or on Medicaid.  She put together her small business as a health clinic auditor.  InnovaHealth was established.

    What’s working now:  Roberta keeps busy, typically during the warmer months.  Travel to far flung locations is easier from March to October.  Many of the clinics she audits are in remote places such as Bethel, Alaska, where travel is easier in summer.  There are 1,350 federally funded health clinics around the country.  They in turn have multiple sites totaling 5,000. There are 33 HRSA clinics in Oregon, including Outside In and Wallace Medical Concern.  For people in remote areas, these clinics are the only access to health care.

    Roberta flies up to 80 times a year.  She often flies out at the beginning of the week, works 12 hours days, returns home Thursday.  She writes the report over a weekend, then gets paid upon turning in the report.  Typically she’s off again come Monday morning.  The winter months are quieter and essentially with little to no work, so she attends networking events.  She audits college classes to stave off isolation.

    BSR wisdom: Roberta writes:  “I was excited and scared about the prospects of starting out on my own. There was so much that I didn’t know and it took a while to get everything organized, even with resources available.  I underestimated my capabilities, and I have grown in confidence over the last few years.”

    She concludes:  “Being self employed is not for the faint of heart. Do your homework. Do market research; look at the resources that are available through the SBDC, the SBA; Oregon certification programs; do informational interviews. Look at your finances. Can you swing the financial impact of starting a new business? Do you have a safety net? Is this all feasible? It takes several years to turn a profit. Understand your motivation. Are you the kind of person that likes the independence? Are you a self starter?  Really understand the importance of a business versus a hobby.”
    Jackie B. Peterson offers classes and workshops on solo business.  Subscribe to her newsletter and keep up on classes and workshops offered.
    For more information on how the SBDC can help you with your self-employment ideas, visit:
    For help from the SBA visit






  • Encore Entrepreneurs Stories: Marketing for Service Providers at Don Nasca’s Service Store USA

    The Service Store USA wonder and founder Don Nasca

    Don Nasca, founder and owner of The Service Store USA, a marketing platform for service providers.

    Don Nasca helps “professionals increase their income, improve their livelihood, and expand their network” at the Service Store USA.

    What the business does: marketing for service providers.

    A career in programming eventually led to a venture in creating a platform that offers marketing for service providers.  When he was 55, Don Nasca first got the idea for an online platform where professionals could offer their services.  Don was particularly interested in keeping the market in Oregon and Washington.  There are other platforms like The Service Store USA, such as UpWork and Freelancer. Don, however, keeps it local and does not have providers bid on their services.

    Don’s own career in the technology field began in New Jersey.  He was the son of a single mom who had developed an interest in HAM radio.   When he was thirteen, a family friend who was also into HAM radios took Don under his wing and encouraged Don to continue his interest in technology.  Don later became a engineer in the 70’s, and later got into technical sales.  He also earned a Master’s in Business Administration from Portland State University in 1995, and launched the university’s radio station, KPSU.  He continues to have a day job in technology.

    Don first got the idea for what is now The Service Store USA in 2008.   He wanted to create a platform for professionals to offer their talents at the local level.  The difference would be leaving out the lowest bid aspect.  Don really wants to see people who are underutilized with their experience, talents and skills succeed.  Requirements include having a tax ID, a bank account, and pay a deposit.  Participants get a rating upon completed work.

    What is working now:  The goal of The Service Store USA is to help people help themselves, but has to make money to prove it.  Having a team with the right people is optimal, and it took awhile to get to this point.  “It doesn’t matter how good the idea is, a group of good people willing to do the work at a reduced rate.”   The Service Store USA is also the first of its kind using Amazon Payments.   Don’s business is the first of its kind to do this on Amazon.

    BSR Wisdom: Upon reflecting on the path that led to The Service Store USA, Don says he would have spent more time developing a viable product.  But now his business is “selling a connection between two parties,” which is what Don wanted to see happen.  Don also wanted to give back, and has the means to do it.

    For those interested in looking into doing similar work, Don said he used these sites for assistance: Assembla for project management, and Slack for communication.

    Visit Don’s site, Social Entrepreneur Meet Up Group, a networking group for those who want to give back, with either a for-profit or non-profit venture.

    To learn more about Jackie Peterson’s solo business classes, subscribe to her newsletter.


    The Service Store USA sign

    How the Service Store USA works.



    Social Entrepreneur Meet Up QR code

    QR code for Social Entrepreneur Meet Up

    Social Entrepreneurs Meet Up Flier

    Social Entrepreneurs Meet Up Flier





  • Encore Entrepreneur Inspiration: Bill Saphir’s Change Management Consulting Services small business

    Bill Saphir’s business, William H. Saphir, LLC, provides change management consulting services to healthcare providers, focusing on supply chain process.

    Bill describes his chronological age as 70.  Then he adds,”I don’t think I look that old nor do I feel it!”

    What the business does: His business is still in the beginning stages, but has found people interested in the concept.  He has been working with Jackie on honing his focus and developing his presentation skills.

    Re-visiting, Re-creation, and Re-imaging: Bill has a solid background in business and healthcare.  He has three college degrees, including two master’s degrees. Bill has over thirty years of leadership and management experience.  He has worked for Cardinal Health and for a large urban teaching hospital.  He thought about how to put the pieces together.

    “The supply chain,” he writes,”is a continuous loop of three components – supplies, information, and money – going back and forth between a consumer, a buyer, a distributor, and a manufacturer.”  Identifying his target as the healthcare market Bill considered how the consumer’s information could reduce the cost of supplies.

    Demand Planning is a concept that utilizes in information based on future demand for supplies.  Instead of filling storeroom shelves based on historic trends.  This concept is still being used in the healthcare world but the consumer is being left out.  Bill’s business concept; “Utilizing my consulting services in change management, my concept brings the consumer into the arena which benefits all the Supply Chain components.” This produces greater efficiencies throughout the system which translates to less waste and lower operating costs for all the players.

    The BSR take away: Bill used his rock-solid understanding of business and health care to craft a compelling business concept that is beginning to gain traction.  Look back at your history, think about what you can do, are good at, and love to do.  Then start researching the market.  When those all come together, you are really in business.


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