Rachel Roth has been giving homemade nuts away as Christmas presents for years, but between 2012 and 2013 she made a business out of it.
Roth, who previously had been a fashion journalist, has always been interested in food. She created gourmet picnics for the Tanglewood Summer Music Festival, as well as Rachel’s Guiltless Cakebreads. When friends tried her nuts, which are made with a secret sea salt sauce and now include chocolate, they told her she had something worth selling. When she started testing the market, selling them at an art opening in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood and at the Williams- Sonoma
on 59th Street in New York City, she knew they were right. She called them “OperaNuts,” in honor of her love for the opera.
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Her recipes aren’t her only strengths, though. Roth, who gives her age as “older than 65 but younger than 100,” uses her experience and age to make her business successful. The business has taken off, Roth has shipped her nuts to more than 30 states, as well as France, Spain, Denmark, the U.K. and Australia.
Roth spoke with MarketWatch about her business and the challenges of starting one later in life.
MarketWatch: What does it take to make a business go from idea to reality?
Rachel Roth: You have to have a solid background. Mine is in marketing and I did a lot of research. I wanted to find something that was not around, that somebody couldn’t knock off. It was the research and the trial and error that got it going. I am an honest person so I had that believability taken care of. What I didn’t have was the technical know-how. So I took a course at the library, one New York Cares offered as a one-on-one tutorial in computers every Thursday night. I’ve been going for seven years.
Whatever I do, I’ve always got OperaNuts or certainly my cards. One side has the information on it and the other side has a picture of the OperaNuts. That’s been an important part of the marketing. I don’t think people quite realize what it takes and how much it takes to get something going. Every inch of the way has to be calibrated.
MarketWatch: Are there any challenges starting a business later in life? What are they?
Roth: I should tell you that as someone older, I have a very sound mind and health body, that’s really important. You can’t have a hip replacement or heart issues and start a business. I have a high level of energy, for starters. As far as being older though, I thought it would be a problem. Finally I said it to someone, a darling young woman who has become one of my dearest friends, and I said “I don’t know if I should say anything about my age,” and she said “your age is an asset, and you are an inspiration.” I listened to her.
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MarketWatch: What are the benefits of starting a business later in life?
Roth: I have all of this experience. I worked at Liz Clairborne when it was a $2 million company and it grew to $20 million while I was there. I have seen how this stuff happens. I have experience as well as enthusiasm. Often times when you’re older you have the experience but are burned out and don’t have the enthusiasm, but when you’re younger you have the enthusiasm and not the experience. I’ve got both.
MarketWatch: To many, retirement begins at a certain age, and the traditional image of retirement is leaving your job and relaxing. What does retirement mean for you?
Roth: An opportunity to do something else.