Senior Startups

Why older entrepreneurs are turning to a young person's game

At age 72, Poppy Bridger decided her time had come. To go into business, that is. The PhD chemist had retired after a 45-year career as a precious-metals specialist at several large laboratories, but the life of leisure bored her. When a small lab came up for sale, Bridger didn't hesitate. She took her $250,000 nest egg to buy the Anaheim Test Laboratory in Santa Ana, Calif., with her two children cheering her on. In her business, there are constant surprises. One day, she's analyzing a car-accident fragment for metal fatigue, the next she may be testing the authenticity of a platinum heirloom. "I never know what will walk through the door," says Bridger, now 77, with obvious relish. A gutsy move at her age? Well, yes, considering that her savings might have been invested more safely elsewhere. "I knew this was risky," says Bridger, who plans to eventually pass the lab on to her son and daughter. "But I was determined to make it work."

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