These inspiring women are achieving business success over 50, proving entrepreneurial spirit is not just for the young.
“Suddenly my life was on fast-forward — I found the courage to start again.”
Robin Lail, 78, Founder and Owner of Lail Vinyards
Robin Lail was the first woman to break a century-long line of male heirs to her family’s Lail Vineyards throne. Before taking charge at Lail, the wine expert co-founded two vineyards external to her family’s brand, serving as president of each for over 12 years and proving her strength in leadership to her father.
As a result, Robin sold out of those partnerships in the nineties with a vision of rejuvenating her family’s legacy, creating her own set of wine flights with her two daughters in 1995. Now, at 78 years old, the entrepreneur sees no reason to stop in her quest to revitalise Lail Vieyards for the 21st century.
Debera Johnson, 63, Founder and Executive Director of the Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator at Pratt Institute
Debera Johnson was the founder and executive director of the Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator, a laboratory and business research programme dedicated to the integration of sustainability and technology into apparel.
“Having been an active part of the environmental, civil, and women’s rights movements in the late ’60s, I can bring a perspective about the past to the present challenges facing this generation.”
She also founded the Centre for Sustainable Design Strategies at Pratt Institute in 2008 and led the integration of sustainability into Pratt’s art, design and architecture programs for over 15 years.
Mandy Cabot, 64, Founder and CEO of Dansko
Mandy Cabot built her specialised European footwear brand, Dansko, with a sincere aim to reorganise the state of the fashion industry by putting sustainability and positive working environments at the heart of what she does. In 2003, Mandy launched the Dansko Foundation to inspire, support and facilitate charitable giving to not-for-profit community-based groups.
“At this age, I have met so many fellow [women] who are just beginning the next chapters of their lives — high adventure, meaningful non-profit work, and no-holds-barred activism.”
To date, the Dansko Foundation has provided over half a million dollars to more than 80 not-for-profit organisations in and around Pennsylvania’s Delaware Valley. Mandy Cabot’s achievements don’t stop there — in 2005, the brand owner was set to sell Dansko to Timberland for $150 million, but declined in fear that handing over to a conglomerate company would take away the heart of her brand.
Debra Ponzek, 56, owner and operator of Connecticut-based cooking school Aux Délices
Debra Ponzek’s challenging beginnings in the hospitality industry are what shaped her passion for food and nurtured her desire to achieve business success. From the Aux Délices Riverside cooking school in Connecticut in 1995, to five hugely successful locations based worldwide in 2019.
“I feel fortunate to be in my 50s and remain so passionate about what I do! The biggest gift of this age is a sense of confidence and real satisfaction.”
She is critically acclaimed, with as many as 600 guests dining in her restaurants every night. Furthermore, Debra is a published food writer and after the success of four books, shows no signs of stopping.
For more stories of inspiring and successful women over 50, read our piece on the Female Baby Boomers who changed the world.