Thinking outside the square—creativity in retirement

Portrait Of Senior Female Owner Of Gift Store With Digital Tablet

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When we—my husband, Owen and I—wrote the first edition of Where To Retire In Australia, one of the questions we asked in the various places was, ‘If you moved here, could you get full or part-time work, or establish a business or a profitable hobby?’

This led to another of our books, Retire Bizzi, which has 101 case studies of people around Australia who had retired and not liked it, or who had retired but wanted to do something different.

We were referred to Carol Jones and her partner, Victor Pleshev, who live outside Mudgee, NSW. They escaped the city and went to live in their idyllic rural patch. It was, perhaps, not their choice, but harsh economic times meant a re-evaluation of where they lived and what they did. In the city, Victor was an architect with his own practice, and Carol worked in marketing.

Victor’s mother lived near to their country setting and she had trouble getting a good ironing board cover. Victor, the architect, thought about the challenge and designed a quality ironing board cover.

He didn’t stop with one. His ironing board covers are made of high quality, durable material and don’t move around on an ironing board. He and Carol have now sold more than 350,000 ironing board covers in 29 countries.

Fast forward a few years and Carol has a thriving business: selling not only Fitz Like A Glove™ Ironing Board Covers, but also log luggers, aprons, ‘travel bug’ shoe bags, brass bristle brushes, ‘Best Boy’ pressing cloths, and fragrant shoe fresheners.

She’s known as the ‘Ironing Diva’ and a ‘Paddock Paparazzi’ (she takes great photos of the wildlife and scenery around her home). Victor has an architectural practice and they both embrace country living.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? One of the many things I like about Carol is that she tells it like it is and doesn’t gloss over the details. Her business was no overnight success, but one of hard work, persistence, and planning.

While a background in marketing helped, Carol had to learn how to sell online, the ins-and-outs of social media, and how to reach her market—which is particularly daunting when you live four hours from the city with an internet and phone system that’s not always reliable.

A feel-good factor about the Fitz Like A Glove™ Ironing Board Covers is that they are assembled by a group of people with mental and physical disabilities. It’s a great story of a couple reinventing themselves and having a lifestyle with a capital ‘L’. See more here.

Bill Pearce, who is in his 60s, is another person who took a creative approach to solving a problem. He was watching television and saw an advertisement with a bowling ball being sucked up by a vacuum cleaner (to show the suction power of the vacuum cleaner). He could see another use for strong suction and set about creating the ‘Froglift’, an attachment for a forklift that saves a lot of bending and back pain.

Why call it a ‘Froglift’? Bill credits his graphic designer for the idea and says, ‘Well, you have a “Cat” for a Caterpillar machine, a “Dingo” for Diggers, so why not a “Frog” for a lifting machine?’

The ‘Froglift’ is no overnight success because he started the process more than 10 years ago.

When I asked Bill for any tips in creativity, he laughed and said, ‘You have to be a masochist and have to enjoy pain.’ He mentioned the thousands of inventions patented each year, with only very few ever reaching the market. Persistence is a must.

‘It’s very difficult as a single operator because you’re competing with multi-national companies,’ he said. This didn’t stop Bill and, with the help of his daughter, he’s online and networking, and selling overseas—particularly in South America.

Would he ever retire? ‘My bank manager wouldn’t let me,’ jokes Bill. He loves the ‘challenge of doing it, of creating something unique, and of sourcing the parts’.

Like Carol, I don’t think Bill will ever really retire—he has a passion for what he does, he loves creating, and likes solving problems. They’re both curious about the world, have taken the process slowly and done the research.

They have something to stretch their minds and a reason to get out of bed each morning. This is so important—and it’s an ageless concept.

Jill Weeks is the co-author of Where to Retire in Australia and Retire Bizzi.

Category: Lifestyle, Working

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