An Inspiring Story of Creating Success When The Odds Are Stacked Against You

How many people do you think could set up a business at the age of 76, with no prior experience in that industry, in a country that is pretty much bankrupt and being bailed out by the IMF in order to stay financially solvent (Ireland)……and make a great success of it in less than 12 months?

Sounds like the odds would be stacked against that doesn’t it? But that is exactly what a client I worked with for a few months last year did.

Betty Smith

Meet Betty Smith

(Important note: all the work I do with clients is held in the strictest confidence so everything you read here is published with Betty’s approval and kind permission).

I first met Betty when she signed up to do my Successful Women in Business programme (a programme that takes people through a step by step process to create the results they really want in their life and business).

She had signed up because she had a financial need to earn some money and she wanted to get some clarity about the best way to do that and work out a way forward.

As the programme progressed Betty came to one of the group sessions and announced that she had come up with a business idea and had started a food production business.

That is something I got to know about Betty quite quickly – she doesn’t mess about! She makes a decision and gets straight into action.

Her business idea was to produce Poitin (pronounced “po-cheen”) Marmalade and sell it as a premium product.

(For those of you that don’t know what Poitin is, it is an alcoholic spirit unique to Ireland. It can legally only be manufactured in Ireland – in the same way that Champagne can only be manufactured in the Champagne region of France).

At the tender age of 76 Betty was on the path to what would become a thriving business in just 12 short months. Thriving in the worst economic crisis Ireland has probably had in living memory. Thriving even though she had no prior experience of running a food business.

But before it got to the thriving stage, there were all sorts of challenges to navigate.

For example:

  • she needed money to cover the start-up costs of the business. But due to her age and the Irish banking crisis (most banks are being bailed out by the state to stop them going bust!!) she couldn’t get a loan. Betty was determined to find a way to raise that money. So she had a good sort through her house and sold a load of stuff and that gave her enough money to get started.
  • she had no experience of running a food production business so there was a mountain of things she had to learn about production, business skills, industry regulations and health and safety laws.
  • she faced a lot of negativity from some people. Including a number of people telling her that her idea had no potential. And even some patronisingly suggesting she should pack it in, go home and enjoy her retirement!

But Betty refused to be deterred by the many challenges that crossed her path. She found a way round each and every one and kept moving forward.

Twelve months on, her product is already in a national supermarket and a number of other retailers. She has a customer list that is growing all the time. She has been featured in 5 newspapers. She is now adding new products and considering expansion plans.

Her business is thriving. And so is she.

So what can we learn from Betty’s inspiring story of creating success when the odds are stacked against you? What insights can we find about how to create the results we want in our life and business – fast.

Betty and I discussed this at some length and here are some of the factors that contributed to her incredible results in such a short period of time:

  • She took action consistently and persistently  – no matter what.
  • She committed to learning personal and business skills that would help her achieve her goals.
  • She didn’t know “how” to make it happen but she let go of needing to know “how” and just committed to finding a way.
  • She experimented – a lot!
  • She didn’t allow herself to get knocked off track by challenges, setbacks, problems and negativity of others. She learnt from those things, implemented what she learnt and moved on – fast.
  • She was solution focussed, outcome driven and creative in her problem solving.
  • She reached out for help and created a good support network – me and the other participants on the programme, local business support organisations and her husband Jim (aged 80, who Betty tells me calls himself the “nuts and bolts” of the business).
  • She was willing to step outside her comfort zone – consistently.
  • Her mindset was “I have to find a way to make this happen now.” (As Betty pointed out to me, at her age, having a 5 year business development plan isn’t really an option – it HAD to happen NOW).
  • She made decisions fast, acted fast, failed fast, took calculated risks and repeated this cycle ongoing.

I asked Betty of she had any tips that she would like me to include in this article. This is what she said:

There are always challenges in life and business. Accept that and commit to overcome them. Experiment. There is always a solution. Take action consistently. Success isn’t a straight road. Keep a sense of humour.

Betty’s journey over the last 12 months is an inspiring example of what can be achieved in a short period of time, even when the odds are stacked against you.

Her story offers us all some valuable lessons and insights into some of the factors that contribute to getting results fast.


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Comments

  1. Eithne Buckley says:

    You are absolutely brilliant Betty ! I love your gutsy “can do” attitude ! You are a wonderful role model who proves that age isn’t a barrier to success and happiness. Well done! 
    Eithne Buckley (eithne@twoheartsmeet.ie) 

  2. Hi Eithne, you have hit the nail right on the head there. Betty certainly is a gutsy lady. I feel honoured to have worked with her – and all of my clients who continue to step outside their comfort zones in order to create the results that they really want.

  3. See, you are never too old to start something new!

  4. Absolutely. I think as a society it is time we stopped judging things by age.

  5. clairegraham says:

    Betty/Ali
    I think this article just about sums up how you did it.  I often think of your no-nonsense comments and pithy asides during our time together on the Women in Business course.  I also think you followed one of the cardinal rules for success in business – you kept it simple!  so keep doing what you’re doing and please get in touch as we’ll be needing several more orders of marmalade for The Old Mill Stores for the Spring and Summer visitors.  Claire  

  6. Hi Claire – absolutely, simplicity is king! Thanks for dropping by.

  7.  Hi Claire, agree – simplicity can make a huge difference to business progress. Complexity has a habit of holding progress back. Thanks for dropping by.

  8. Ali, Thank you for sharing this beautiful story of Betty with her “Can Do” attitude. Best of luck Betty in your future adventures. Betty, I bet you are having the best time of your life. Enjoy.

  9.  Glad you enjoyed it Diane. Betty is a great role model and inspiration for us all.

  10. This is awesome!

  11. So pleased you enjoyed it Michelle and welcome to my blog. Thanks for dropping by.

  12. Thanks for the welcome!

  13. Leslie Doughty says:

    Hi Ali. I’ve followed you on twitter for a long time but haven’t spent much time on your blog until today. Betty’s story is a wonderful example of how a dream and a focused plan of action can help you succeed. I am at a crossroads in life, my career, etc and wonder how to crystallize my ideas into a solid direction. I’m ready to move forward but not sure where to start. Thank you for sharing Betty’s story. I wish her every success!

  14. Hi Leslie, welcome to my blog. How exciting for you that you are ready to move forward in new directions. Not knowing where to start with a new direction is very common. I always find that breaking things down into the next tiny little step helps. Then each step will gradually lead to the next and so on. Wishing you every success as you take the next steps to creating a reality.

  15. Regina Cook says:

    Wow! Betty you look fantastic – being a successful business woman definetly agrees with you :)

    Ali, thanks for the fab post, great to get the inside tips of Betty’s exceptional journey. A true inspiration to us all.

    All the very best, Regina Cook

  16. Hi Regina – Glad you enjoyed the post. Hope all is going well for you.

  17. Patti Pokorchak says:

    I love Betty’s spirit and can-do attitude. Can be rare to find especially someone in their 7th decade. Good for her. What an inspiration to us all. I feel so much younger being only 59, so if she can do it, so can I!

  18. Hi Patti, she truly is a wonderful inspiration. And as you point out she is also a great reminder that age isn’t a barrier to creating the life and work you want for yourself.

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