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Facing — or maybe regretting — your retirement? It is not too late to do something different

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Working for yourself can be a good way to do something different later in life. That is how two Baldwinsville women shifted gears. Here are their stories.

Robin Mack, owner of Sweet Dream Candy Shoppe

Mack’s serpentine route to entrepreneurship began when she earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Nazareth College followed by a short stint as a circulation manager at a magazine. She earned a nursing degree at Onondaga Community College and spent 20 years working as a nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Auburn Community Hospital. But her biggest career switch was yet to come. In 2018, she discovered that she wanted to open a candy shop.

She loved the small mom-and-pop shops in Baldwinsville and wanted to open a store featuring a mix of nostalgic penny candy in jars, children’s favorites, chocolates and other sophisticated treats.

She thought she could make the business work but she realized that she could not rely upon walk-in business alone. Supplying weddings and birthday parties has been important sources of income.

Providing a self-serve candy table is a big trend for events. Personalized favors are also a popular item.

By April 2019, she opened the store, Sweet Dream Candy Shoppe. She was 55.

Mack drew on her business school classes about retail management. She was just getting into the swing of the candy business when the pandemic hit. However, curbside service, delivery, online ordering and creating baskets for frontline workers has helped buoy her business, along with at-home activity kits for children involving candy.

Since candy is a food (and, for some, a food group!), Sweet Dream could stay open as an essential business. Since Mack is a sole proprietor, that helped her keep the doors open last year. She has begun re-opening for candy events.

“As a nurse, I had a guaranteed income and knew what the future looked like for financial stability,” Mack said. “This is it for us. My husband is semi-retired. This is our bread and butter. There’s that worry.”

She also has less time off than she did while she was nursing.

Despite these challenges, she tells people to not fear entrepreneurship as their encore career.

“If you have a good plan and ideas to support what you’ll do, go for it,” she said. “It’s heartwarming that this community is so supportive. I think that they’re like this anyway, but the pandemic escalated that sense of shop small, that we need to support family-owned businesses.”

She is a member of the Baldwinsville Chamber of Commerce.

Barbara H. Stone, president of Build Your Path, LLC.

Stone founded Build Your Path after scaling the corporate ladder for 25 years in the manufacturing industry. She felt discontent as a senior executive.

“I started a road of discovery as to what I wanted to do. I really needed to find a purpose in my life,” Stone said.

For five years, she considered how she could use her skills in her own business. Stone eventually realized that she constantly coached employees; however, she was not a certified coach. On Dec. 31, 2018, she completed her certification, quit her job and began Build Your Path. She also serves as a business coach and counselor at WISE Women’s Business Center in Syracuse.

At first, Stone did not feel certain that coaching would work out for her. In fact, when she quit her job, “I was shaking in my boots,” she recalled.

Many of her clients realize that they feel as Stone did before she started Build Your Path.

“You need to know your values and what’s making you tick so you can be happy,” she said. “Isn’t that what it’s all about?”

She loves knowing that her encore career can help people become better at what they do—or, like she did; switch gears altogether—through a variety of exercises. One of those is Best Possible Self developed by Laura King, Ph.D. in 2000.

“If everything were to be OK, what would you want your life to look like?” Stone said, representing how she would begin the exercise with clients.

Clients look past any real and imagined barriers to see what they really want.

Though she has been successful in coaching, she wants to try some other things while continuing to coach, including writing books, including children’s novels.

“You don’t know until you step out,” she said. “Is it scary? Yes. Unfamiliar territory? Yes. Risk? Yes. I support and hold people where they’re at. It’s important to meet people where they’re at.”

She believes that anyone beginning a business should select something about which they are passionate, not just something at which they can make money.

The next step should be gathering information.

Is there a demand for that service or product in the area where it will be sold? Is that market already saturated?

But Stone said that people need not plunge in right away.

“It’s just about starting to dip your toes in,” she said. “Take a look at different roads you’d like to go down. If coaching didn’t work for me, I’d try something else. There’s no right or wrong but what taps into you. Once you go down that road, you won’t know what else will open up to you.”

Photo: Robin Mack stands at the register of her Sweet Dream Candy Shoppe, which she opened at 55 years old.