Barbara Crowley worked in sales and marketing for 22 years. When her company was sold two years ago, she turned what had been her hobby into a full-time job. The website she created, called snabbo, gives midlifers a place to share pictures, photos and experiences.
An Entrepreneur Is Born
"I'd been working on the concept for a social networking site for two years when I went full-time on the project. It all started when my older daughter showed me Facebook, and I thought "Wow, that's great for your age group, but not for mine. I thought, why not have one for people my age, who could post pictures from the past that old friends would recognize."
She found a website designer and a 25-year-old programmer, whom she calls her mentor because she learned so much from him, to build the site from scratch. "I'm not trying to compete with Facebook," Crowley hastens to say. "I'm spinning quietly at the side hoping to create something just for this audience." So far, searching for like-minded people and participating in discussion groups are the most popular activities on snabbo. "We have a geographic search so you can find people in your own zip code."
Working For Yourself in Your Fifties
This is Crowley's first entrepreneurial gig, but running your own business runs in the family. Her grandmother took over the family liquor store in Kansas City at 57 when her husband died. Her mother started a business at 57 too. Now Crowley, who is 58, is doing the same. "My mother is eighty-five and she's totally girl-power. She's my biggest supporter."
Crowley loves her one-woman band. "I think about the site from the minute I get up in the morning until I go to bed. It allows me to be creative, to do research, and to meet interesting people." She admits to "huge" guilt that until the site turns a profit, she is not carrying her weight in the family finances. She has a masters in psychology and has passed the certification exam to begin a counseling practice part-time to bring in some income.
Her advice to someone starting out on her path: "Be patient. In the media, launching a website sounds like a Cinderella story. It's tempting to start incorporating that myth into your hopes and dreams. In reality, it takes a long time to succeed."
She's applied for a research grant from The National Institute on Aging to fund a study investigating the internet behavior of midlifers." Meanwhile, Crowley says, "The website is my baby and like a baby, it continues to grow."