I think my entrepreneurial spirit has always been there although it definitely didn’t come from my family. I was brought up to think that I should get a good job and not take any chances. I have always loved being creative and my working life started with a job in the art department of a department store creating layout designs for advertising. I married young but then tragedy struck. My husband died and I was a widow at 20.
I then trained to be a florist, eventually owning my own florist shop. I remarried and had two wonderful children. My creativity then moved me to work for a newspaper as a paste-up artist. Computers were just coming into use and I soon was adapt at composition and started my graphic design career. I always did other things on the side, partly to bring in extra income and partly to satisfy my entrepreneurial spirit. Through network marketing, I sold children’s clothes, children’s books, and skin care products.
I was in my 40s and, sadly, my 15 year marriage was not working out. And then I discovered that I had a large tumour on my spine and I had to spend three weeks in hospital after having it removed. While I was recovering I had a lot of time to think.
After everything I had been through I decided to end my marriage. Within a few weeks I had no marriage, no job, no car and I had to sell my house and move my children away from their neighbourhood. Oh, and I was wearing a turtle shell back brace at all times I was upright! It was time to take action and do something different in my life. I signed up for a personal development course even though I could barely cover the cost. I was in a state of total surrender. My friends were worried by my total certainty that everything was going to be okay.
The course peeled away layers and got to the essence of me, who I really was. I discovered that I was a strong, something that I had covered up for so long. I started to rebuild.
At that point everything changed. I was offered a job as a graphic designer for a union. A car showed up and I received some money through an inheritance. The support and the money started to flow. I loved the work but after a while I felt restless and trapped in a 9 to 5 existence. I realized that as well as the design work I was spending part of my time coaching and counseling the colleagues who showed up at my office door. I got satisfaction from working with them and helping them. What I was doing was so much more than graphic design.
Having worked for other people for 30 years I wanted to take a year off to reflect on the future and play with ideas I had been playing with. I was in a supportive relationship with man I am now married to, so it was the perfect time to spread my wings. I started a graphic design company ‘Creative On the Move’ which evolved into event planning , a magazine and the base of the Fabulous@50 brand.
In 2007 I was 49 and I started to write a blog about what it meant to turn 50. I was feeling disconnected from people. I had been focusing on survival and bringing up my kids. I wanted to explore women’s feelings. In 2008 I formed Fabulous @50 to inspire, educate and empower women in midlife by bringing them together virtually and in person to network, share, care and grow. It started as a local meet-up group and grew quickly. I developed a website and after two years I had a trade show. From that, I saw the business potential of my vision.
I started the group, not just for a place to meet other women, but to be inspired by other women, to grow and, most of all, to move forward, letting go of the crap we women manage to carry around and finding something new to feel excited about being in this age of transformation. Although the underlying intent is serious, the women also have a lot of fun. I believe that if you can learn to laugh about the foibles of menopause or marriage, aging and aching, you’re half way to accepting them and getting on with your life.
The Fabulous@50 trade show has been dubbed a Martini Experience and includes exhibits ranging from designer purses to botox to belly dancing. But in the midst of the bling, there’s also serious information about health, finances, investments and personal development.
Early this year, 2016 saw the publication of my book, The Fabulous@50 Re-Experience. It started with the blogs and then I worked with a documentary writer who did all of the research. Writing was such a learning process. I have had so many wonderful experiences in the last 10-15 years. It has been like a university education. I have developed an inspirational talk based on the principles of the book which I love presenting. Eventually I will create workshops.
It is never too late to follow your dreams and be passionate about life. I am clear now about my purpose in life. I want to build a community of women across Canada to help women to come together and support each other, and encourage continuous learning and growth. Women are about so much more than the roles they have been allocated by society.
I am grateful for my strengths. I see the gifts in other people, even when they don’t see them themselves. I make people feel comfortable and I am sensitive towards peoples needs. Like a lot of women I have had to overcome feelings around ‘Who do you think you are?’ ‘Don’t get too big for your britches.’ I look for answers and don’t accept ‘that’s just the way it is’. I will persevere.
Everything has led to what I do now. I feel that I am divinely led to do what I am doing. The people around me and my relationships are very important. I value being honest, transparent and open, and being able to listen to my inner wisdom. There are lots of women looking for role models and I hope I am one. I want to show them the possibilities.
Through all of my experiences I have known that I am a strong person. There isn’t anything I can’t deal with.
My best advice to women becoming midlife entrepreneurs is to associate with like-minded people at your own level of development or higher. Don’t seek advice from people who will give you fear-based answers. You only need feedback that comes from a place of understanding.
Whatever you do, make space for what you most want to do. And remember, you don’t have to do everything yourself. It may take time but it is important to build a great support system.
And don’t overthink it – just get started!
Dianna Bowes Fabulous@50 Founder - CEO, Creative Director
2015 Winner of Stevie Award - Bronze - Female Entrepreneur of the Year in Canada
2014 Business Leaders of Tomorrow Award
2014 Winner of Stevie Award - Gold - Best Event - Bronze - Women Helping Women
2011 YWCA Women with Distinction - Turning Point Category
This story was published in a book called Hot Women Rock by Pat Duckworth.