66-Year-Old's Biker Babe Shop Booms Big
While most 66-year-olds are planning their retirement party or looking into their Social Security benefits, baby boomer Julia Hutton was worrying about what she would do to stay busy during her retirement. As a result, Julia now has not one, but two full-time jobs thanks to her successful PR firm Orca Communications Unlimited, LLC and her retail store, Biker Babes and Beyond (BBB) in Cottonwood, Ariz.
Not the grandmotherly type, Julia bucks the system completely and can hardly be considered your average retired senior citizen. In fact, she is the opposite -- proving that there is no age limit on workplace success, and there is no magical age for retirement.
Julia's first company: Orca Communications Unlimited, LLC
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, Julia began to gravitate toward the business field, even though her degree was in social work. "I settled on PR work because it is so powerful; it can really foster change and make things happen," she said.
Julia worked for other companies for years when her mother's death brought her back to the Phoenix area in 1995. Still freelancing for her former employer in San Diego, Julia realized that she was capable of starting her own company, and that is when Orca Communications Unlimited, LLC was born.
She quickly made a name for herself in the PR world by basing Orca on an innovative cooperative-ads business model, which she had developed while working in advertising years before. Julia found that not all companies could afford a whole page layout, so she began designing cooperative ads, which take the revenue from four different companies and create one full-page ad. Then she would tie the four companies together (sometimes the companies would be as different as a lingerie store and a pet company) with one unifying tag line.
"I became known for these cooperative ads," Julia says. "I started cooperative media guides that would work as a roundup. It linked company websites and there were rules about non-compete, so these companies were still getting their names out there and the visibility to the masses without the huge price tag."
With Orca in the trusted hands of her son and longtime business partner, Julia retired in 2009 from the PR world because she no longer felt required to run the day-to-day operations of the company.
Julia's second business: Biker Babes and Beyond
"I got so anxious after about a week that I realized retirement was just not for me," Julia relates. She thinks that the best thing that came of her short retirement is that it gave her the idea for her second business.
While living in Cottonwood, Ariz., Julia began to notice that there were a lot of bikers that passed through on their way up to Jerome, a former copper mining town in the nearby mountains. "I saw all these bikers going up there and thought, OK, I'll open a retail store, even though I have no retail experience. I was so curious about these bikers and their world and their attraction to Jerome that I opened a store for them," she says.
She admits that being a businesswoman in the biker world is totally different. "Its just awesome. At first I thought these people must be evil and cruel; but I have quickly learned that they are the salt of the earth, and they really do a lot to help others. Many of them are CEOs by day and weekend warriors by night."
Julia took what she learned from the advertising and PR worlds and was once again able to apply it to another business. Based on a model similar to her well-known cooperative ads, Julia has used her bike shop to boost the local economy. Instead of pooling together funds from various companies to create one ad, Julia has brought together, bikers, celebrities, and local merchants to help infuse Arizona's economy with the proceeds from her store's first scavenger hunt, called "The Bad Economy Buster Bling Bike Hunt." Participants need to frequent certain local establishments and stores in order to collect the clues to the bike's location -- which "helps the local mom and pop shops," says Julia.
Future business plans
In the next couple of years, Julia plans to expand her BBB in two ways. First, she is interested in starting to sell franchise locations to help others "buy knowledge and keep from making expensive mistakes"; and second, she is working on expanding BBB's outbound sales. "We need people who will attend bike rallies in their state and sell our BBB merchandise."
Advice from Julia
- Surround yourself with really good people, who do what they say they will, when they say they will, and empower them. Do not micromanage them.
- If you are a senior citizens or approaching a more mature age, Julia recommends not buying into the fear of retirement since there is no magical age that dictates when one should retire. "Why waste the experience you've worked so hard to get? Use your rich experiences for their value and share them with others."
So after being retired for about a week, Julia started a company in an industry that she knew little about because she just, "did not fit into that [retirement] mold." "I felt cut off from mainstream society. I had the energy and the skills and the people and wanted to try something new. If it seemed like a fun thing to do, I would go for it," says Julia, "and I would encourage other people to do the same, regardless of age."