Lynda Smith – The startup story of a social entrepreneur on a mission to encourage baby boomers to have second careers to positively impact society

As the world’s population ages, and the baby boomer generation (those 50+) are looking to make a difference in the next productive phase of their lives, Lynda Smith’s Refirement Network in South Africa is there to help. Instead of retiring, the focus is on refiring – harnessing the energy, passion, skills and commitment of those people with vast amounts of experience and expertise, to make a difference in society.

LoA had the pleasure of meeting Lynda Smith, the founder of The Refirement Network, and finding out more about this incredible vision and mission.

What does your company do?

At The Refirement Network we believe that modern life affords us many options to traditional retirement that can provide financial reward, intellectual stimulation, flexibility and freedom, emotional fulfilment and overall wellbeing during your mature years. We aim to educate Individuals 50+, Corporates and other interested parties, to plan and pursue various alternatives to traditional retirement – including coaching, volunteer work, starting a second career, starting your own business, travel, learning new skills and enjoying family and friends. Our programmes include: Strategy, content and workshops for Corporates around the aging workforce and loss of skills; Coaching individuals and groups both online and offline globally; Doing keynote presentations and workshops on the challenge aging brings to a 21st century world; Building Refirement Communities around South Africa; and Designing and developing an online skills bank.

What inspired you to start your company?

I am a social entrepreneur and passionate about finding solutions. I worked with a company that worked with disruptive factors happening in a 21st century world and as a 50+ woman, heading into this disruption, I wanted to find out how I could impact and influence individuals to take on second careers and impact society. Older skilled individuals working with younger bright entrepreneurs is part of the vision to grow the economy. The baby boomers ( 50+ generation) are the first generation that will have an extra season of life. The question is, what will they do with this extra time to bring meaning and money into their lives to sustain them for this longer life trajectory?

Why should anyone use your service or product?

My services educate individuals and companies around the trend of longevity. I offer solutions and inspiration to help educate and change mind-sets so that individuals can take responsibility for their lives and not live out their later lives in poverty. I offer a new sunrise rather than a sunset for people over 50.

Tell us a little about your team

My business has been in hobby mode for the past five years as I was the CEO of an early childhood foundation ( my own second career). I am just getting started again and work in collaboration with a number of coaches and a web designer. I believe that in time we will create Refirement communities and champions who will impact local communities.

Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?

I am the oldest child of an entrepreneur who developed a pulley for the Platinum Industry in the 1960s. The birth of my children, triggered my entrepreneurial journey into the world of early childhood. I ran my own business for a number of years and then was a shareholder in a National South African educational company called Smile Education. I was the Sales and Marketing Director and had a sales force of more than 4000 women. Children and women have always been my focus. We sold this company and I joined MySchool in 2003 as a consultant to help take the model from pilot to scale. Today Woolworths owns this business that donates more than 5 million rand per month into school bank accounts. Refirement Network started in 2007 when I turned 50. In 2010 I was asked to help pioneer a social enterprise called BrainBoosters to help change the understanding of how important parenting and early brain development is for our children. I was the CEO of this NPO until Dec 2015. I plan at the age of 59 to now focus on my next journey as an entrepreneur in growing Refirement Network .

What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?

I want to educate and help grow a skills banks. I want to influence at least 10% of the South African over 50 population to take on a second career in their area of skill, experience and passion. We have many challenges in education, health and business and can find many inter-generational solutions to help grow our economy. I believe this will add more than ONE MILLION years of change . I also want to engage and educate other nations in Africa to work through what the disruptive factor of longevity is doing in their nation and help find solutions.

What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?

I love to connect people who together can do more than they can do on their own.
I am a natural networker and love to match ideas and people to bring social change.
This can only be done one person at a time but the collective tipping point makes my heart happy. We all need money and meaning in our lives. My work gives me this purpose.

What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?

I have been an entrepreneur for more than 38 years. Some lessons have been learnt the hard way through failure – but failure is not fatal. It helps build character and learning for the next round. I value people and relationships and this is my most important asset. We need to be realistic. Often we are so passionate about an idea and cannot see the pitfalls. It is important to have an advisor/coach/friend who can help you have helicopter vision rather than being stuck in the forest. Be resilient. Believe in yourself.

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