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Retirement: The Best Time to Start for One Entrepreneur

76 year old Bob Moore retired at the age of 50 in 1978 and moved to Milwaukie, Oregon. He had sold his successful mill business and was planning to go back to school. One evening, while strolling with his wife around his new neighborhood, he happened upon a 100 year old mill that was deserted and dilapidated. The memories of machinery humming, the smell of the grain, and the belief that whole grains are a better way to eat proved too strong to ignore. After much planning, market and demographic research, scavenged wood from an old horse barn and mill stones first used in 1872, Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods was in business.

This time around, Bob’s concept was to create a real old fashion purchasing experience, so he built a retail store within the original mill which allowed customers to watch the milling process. Virtually everything, including the self-printed grain bags, is 100% authentic. Within a year, a large local grocery chain put in a nutrition center specializing in whole and natural foods. Their buyer saw some local TV coverage on the mill and asked Bob to package whole grain flour and cereal. As he puts it himself, he had to “get serious real quick”. Long hours, sometimes 24 hours a day, the addition of partners, direct relationships with grain farmers, and self packaging resulted in a business that spans from raw grain direct to the consumer’s table. Now Bob’s Red Mill products are sold all over the US, Canada, and Asia and the retail store serves over 2000 customers a day.

Don’t labor under the illusion, however, that it was just a matter of hard work; it was a matter of character, too. Bob believes he’s been influenced by Winston Churchill and Churchill’s deep sense of conviction in what he believed was right. Bob’s conviction was sorely tested 10 years into the business when someone started burning buildings. Bob’s mill complex was burned to the ground. At 60 years old, it took Bob and his wife, who had to come out of retirement again, three days to decide they weren’t going to let the fire destroy their lives. They went looking for another location and, within three months, got the equipment together and began producing again.

For three years the Moore’s could only make interest payments on their loans, but they never gave up. Everyone, customers, employees, friends, bankers and local politicians, supported their efforts. It took 15 years to get back what was lost. The new mill complex, completed last year, has a restaurant, a bakery and an outlet store on a beautiful tree-lined property with a stream and an 18 foot water wheel. What was once a two acre parking lot is now an experience in healthy living.

The Small Business Professors' Words of Wisdom

Bob Moore is an inspiration to the over 50 crowd. His methods of accomplishing things, making lists of dreams and desires and using them as motivation, an open style of leadership – explaining his goals and asking for help in meeting them, and always realizing that the next decision could be a wrong one, combined with his never say “die” spirit keep him young no matter what his chronologic age.

Retirement is happening to many of us at an age where we still have much to give. Starting something new at a later age may actually make more sense than giving up a lucrative career. A retired airline pilot I met has started a small business captaining local sightseeing and pleasure cruises. He works 4 days a week and will never be running something the size of the Red Mill operation, but he’s happy to be making his own schedule and doing something he loves. Retirement may be the best time to look at your options and try something.

  • Case History: Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, Inc., www.bobsredmill.com
  • Entrepreneur’s Strategy: After retirement, start with something you know.
  • Could This Work For Me? Thinking of retiring? Consider how what you know could be parleyed into a profitable business.

Don’t labor under the illusion, however, that it was just a matter of hard work; it was a matter of character, too.