Jenette Goldstein Starting Over After 40: The Success Story of Jenette Bras

Being a card-carrying lifetime member of 'The Itty-Bitty-[you know what]-Committee', I've never had this problem, but apparently it's not all fun and flaunt for the genetically gifted woman: Having large breasts can not only be uncomfortable if the proper brassiere isn't fitted, but they don't always look right either.

Actress and model Jenette Goldstein, gifted with a curvy figure herself, saw a deficit in the lingerie department when it came to her needs, so she took upon herself to correct it by starting her own business -- Jenette Bras -- after she'd already enjoyed a successful career in the arts.

Starting over after 40 is becoming more and more prevalent thanks to some bad things (budget cuts from Social Security; changes in official retirement ages) and some good things (the rise in entreprenerialism with the advent of the PC and the proliferation of social networking; longer lifespans). Tina B. Tessina, author of 'The Ten Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make After Forty,' says her motto is borrowed from female Victorian novelist George Eliot: "It's never too late to be what you might have been!"

-- See average salaries for people age 45-65.

Tessina explains: "Women often reinvent themselves after 40, because before then, a woman's life is usually about other people: parents, boss, children, husband, etc. After 40, some of those relationships have changed a lot, freeing women up to be 'who they might have been.'

"It's a scary, exhilarating adventure, and definitely takes courage. But, then, so does being an actress, giving birth, and love -- things women do a lot. Overcoming fear is a great way to grow your soul -- and become a happier, wiser and more fulfilled person. Yes, there might be disappointments and problems along the way, but that happens even if you stay inside your house; so it's worth the risks to get out there and do what you want to do. No one ever succeeded without overcoming fear, disappointment and obstacles. It's how you learn."

For Goldstein, the most challenging thing about starting a business after 40 -- as opposed to what she's heard from younger entrepreneurs -- was that there was a tonal shift in her life. "In my case, I've had to adjust to a change in role: from working for other people to working for myself and directing other people. I had very good models for being in charge; I strive to be worthy of them. I guess it's pretty scary for anyone, but after 40 you have the whiff of mortality in your nose. And you have people counting on you -- your kids, and people like that. Everything weighs a little more."

Are you thinking of starting over? Opening a niche store of your own? Just doing something different? Goldstein offered some great advice and inspiration in a Q&A session:

Q. Tell us a little bit about your background, and how being in James Cameron's Aliens put you in the spotlight as a symbol for an empowered female role model -- with great roles in Near Dark and Lethal Weapon 2 to follow. This was around the time of the 80s 'buff babes' era of Linda Hamilton and Angela Bassett, was it not?

A. Yes. I grew up in the slums of Beverly Hills. My father rented an apartment just inside the city limits so my brother and I could go to school there. It worked out well for me. I decided to be an actor at a very young age, and Beverly Hills High had an exceptional drama department. From there I went to UC Santa Barbara for a couple of years, then to study acting full-time at Circle in the Square in New York, then I married a British veterinarian and moved to London, which allowed me to do a year of post-graduate study at Webber-Douglas. I was lucky to be trained in both American and British methods. I like to keep moving. I was doing a lot of fringe theater around London, beating my Yank head against the iron wall of the British theater world, and I had days free.

I discovered this fascinating subculture of bodybuilding at Hyam's Gym in East London. It saved my sanity, because in bodybuilding, effort equals results. There was a handful of women lifting weights there at the time. The owner's daughter was there, and myself, and a couple of girls who were hanging out there to keep an eye on their boyfriends and started getting really buff. That's how the world changes!

I wore a sleeveless blouse to audition for a bit part in a movie I thought was about immigrants without papers, and it was my buffed arms that got me the chance to try out for Vasquez. What Jim Cameron did with female action in ALIENS that was really groundbreaking is that he treated it as perfectly normal, as though there had already been 20 movies about tough-girl Marines blasting monsters. You know you've really been empowered when it's not worth mentioning anymore.

Q. Have you seen any shifts or significant changes in women's body issues in the past 20-plus years, and does that have anything to do with why you decided there was a niche for fitting the full-figured woman? (Or "real-sized" as some say – but is it really real, or is the bigger bra demand coming from the implant boom?)

A. Let me clear this up right away: the demand for correctly fitted bras is coming from better-informed consumers. It has NOTHING to do with implants. It has NOTHING to do with people getting fatter -- that's a separate issue. I don't specialize in full figure, I specialize in full breast. I'm a 32 ribcage, G cup. Very common size, but good luck finding it at the mall. American bra retailers have been misleading women about their true size in order to sell them shoddy goods, that's all. My business plan is telling women the truth in order to sell them quality goods. Radical, huh?

Q. Totally rad. OK, so what's the best thing about starting a business and having a second career? I mean, is it as simple as "look at the big picture, don't sweat the small stuff," and so on?

A. Second careers are a blast actually. It's a rebirth, a new adventure. Decades' worth of dormant insights get reactivated. You may not be able to work the computer thingie, but Honey, you can work the system. I'm an actor, my husband is an artist. Our skills are applicable to all the presentational and customer-service aspects of retailing. In fact, we're overqualified. And compared to someone who's been in retail for years, we have fresh eyes.

By the way, I DO sweat the small stuff. Or I hire someone to sweat it. Details count. The small stuff is what the big picture is made of, right?

Q. Right. That's why you're the business owner and I'm the interviewer! Last, would you please share one piece of essential advice to any woman who is thinking of opening her own store or boutique?

A. Beware of the prevailing opinion, especially when it conflicts with your own sense of how your business works. I knew my bra fit store was an intimate, hands-on proposition, but everyone told me I'd make a fortune selling online. I didn't, and what really hurts is that I knew I wouldn't. That's not the business I'm in. Setting up the e-commerce site was a waste of resources at a critical time. Conversely, I endured a great deal of skepticism about my decision to locate my store in a lesser-known, but hip, neighborhood away from the main shopping drag. My store isn't for browsers or impulse shoppers. I calculated that I was a destination store that women would be willing to travel to, and this turned out to be right. In bras and business plans, one size does not fit all.

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