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George Washington’s Senior Citizen Startup

In “Redefine Retirement with New Lingo” we discussed boomerang entrepreneurs, a term for people who start businesses one the retire from their previous career. While the term may be new, this idea is not new at all.  Many people, including George Washington, the first president of the United States, decide to get into new entrepreneurial ventures at a mature age.

Photo by Stephen Walker on Unsplash

Washington was born on February 22 and is one of the presidents celebrated on the President’s Day holiday. He is mainly known for his political achievements so some people do not know about his life as a business man.  SmallBusiness.com chronicles this other side of our first president in “10 Amazing Facts About George Washington’s 2nd Most Successful Startup.” He started a commercial distillery on his Mount Vernon estate at the age of 65, even though he did not prior experience of running a distillery. Washington knew about farming and his farm manager, “…convinced Washington that Mount Vernon’s crops, combined with its large commercial gristmill and the abundant water supply, would make the distillery a profitable venture.”

One key to the success of Washington’s distillery was that he had some of the raw materials needed, including land, the gristmill, and a water source, already available. SmallBusiness.com also points out that it was successful because of timing. When the distillery started, whiskey was overtaking rum in popularity, so Washington began this venture at a good time. He also sold his product in a barrels and did not pay for bottles, labels, or branding.

Unfortunately, as the article points out “Washington’s distillery lacked the succession planning to keep in operational.” (Note that a Fee-only financial planner is one of the professionals you can consult about succession planning for your business.) After Washington died, the distillery was sold and later what was left of the building caught fire. Another working distillery has been constructed in the spot where the original stood and it is part of the Mount Vernon historic site.