How a former teacher became an alpaca rancher by starting a retirement business

How a former teacher became an alpaca rancher by starting a retirement business

In any stock photo catalog’s search box, type “retirement” and you will see a lot of white-haired golfers as well as two beach chairs facing the sunset.

While the sedentary lifestyle of leisure sports and cocktails at midday might be appealing to some, it could actually be harmful to others. You can’t just get out of your work life, but you also need to be free from any associated routines, social interaction and physical activity (such as walking to the office).

What if retirement was more like work than a vacation on the sand? This is not an absurd idea. The rates of entrepreneurship in the 55-64 age group have been increasing over recent decades. This group accounted for 26% of all new business owners in 2017, compared to 15% in 1996.

People who have worked their whole lives might find the passive retirement life to be akin to freedom.

It is now more difficult to retire at 65 than it was a decade ago. One, we are living longer and more comfortably. One study showed that Americans who stay in the workforce cite their financial, social and work satisfaction reasons for not rushing to retire. Some people take on part-time jobs when they retire. The passive retirement life can feel like freedom to people who have worked their whole lives.

Sitting around is not your thing. Retirement is the time to start a business. Entrepreneurship is less risky than in your youth and keeps you active. It can also help offset the costs of a passion venture.

One small-business owner did exactly that, and found joy in his work after retiring. We have also collected a list of retirement ideas and tips for starting your own business.

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Maximus and Penelope

“Alpacas are just really nice, neat animals,” says Bernie. Maximus & Penelope

After 30 years of teaching, Bernie Rothrock accepted the offer from his brother-in law Tom to run his alpaca ranch. After retiring from a corporate travel executive role, Tom started the ranch as his own keeps-busy project. Bernie says, “He was the type of guy who couldn’t sit still.” “When he retired, his three-acre garden was his. He eventually decided to start a small ranch with alpacas.

Soon, however, Tom’s entrepreneurial drive began to kick in. The ranch grew to 133 animals during its peak and thrived as an breeding operation. Bernie and Marquita, his wife, moved closer to the ranch in order to start a new life as retirees. They had no plans for retirement at the time and decided to take a chance. Bernie says, “I had never worked in any animal handling capacity in my entire life.”

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Six years after Tom’s death, a lot of the herd was sold and the ranch was bought by new owners for their getaway home. Animals that were once worth $15,000 could now be bought for as low as $1,000. Bernie and his family decided to find good homes for the remaining alpacas.

Bernie developed a strong attachment to the alpacas during his time with them. The role kept him busy enough. Bernie was allowed to keep 11 alpacas as the new owners didn’t need the barn. He kept them as pets and had no plans to breed them. Bernie states that Alpacas are “just really nice, neat little creatures.” “And our grandkids absolutely love them.”

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Drew, Bernie’s younger brother, graduated college and moved north to Ottawa in Canada. Now, he works at Shopify as a theme specialist. Bernie says that his son approached him to see if there were any Shopify projects. Bernie was making his own beer (called Alpaca Wiz) at the time, but selling it to others was against state law. Drew suggested alpaca socks. Bernie says, “My sister in law had a ranch store.” “The socks made from alpaca fiber always sold well.”

The shorn coats from alpacas provide a wooly fiber that can be made into products like socks and mittens. Maximus & Penelope

Every year, alpacas must be sheared before the scorching Missouri summers set in. Although it takes five minutes each year, the process is grueling and can take five years to complete.

It’s a win-win situation, however: an alpaca with a cool summer haircut and super warm fiber to produce goods. Bernie says that the alpacas don’t like summers. “A lot of their time they’re inside the barn where fans blow on them.” Bernie cools the alpacas in the summer by hoseing them down. Then they line up like cars at the car wash. “Some alpacas will keep circling to get back in line.”

Last year, we started on Cyber Monday. Within one day, I called my wife and said, “We need more socks!”

After the annual shearing, the fiber is sent to a co-op where it’s made into products such as socks, hats and mittens. Because Bernie is providing the raw materials, co-op prices can be lower than wholesale.

Bernie bought socks worth $1,000 and launched them on a website just in time for Cyber Monday 2015. He was optimistic and thought that the socks would make great Christmas gifts in the worst possible scenario. He says he was overwhelmed by the response. “Within one day, I called my wife and said, ‘We need more socks!’”

Maximus & Penelope, named after the two alpacas that live in the herd, is now a thriving Shopify shop. It’s run by a retired man with no business experience. Drew was a big help to his father in getting the store started, but Drew believes his dad should be given more credit. Bernie has been running the ranch and business day-to-day operations without any assistance from his son.

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Bernie and his herd are happy to break even, have a little more money, and can travel the world and retire in peace. Although growth is not on Bernie’s radar, he is still a budding entrepreneur. He says, “I didn’t have the entrepreneurial bug.” It was a matter of chance. It was a matter of luck.

How to start your own business after you retire

Bernie’s business helps him fund an interest and still spend plenty of time with his grandkids. Maximus & Penelope 

Bernie’s story is a case of entrepreneurship finding him. As a way of keeping himself busy during his idle time, he started a business. Entrepreneurship may be for others a way to an end. A 2019 survey found that 64% of Americans will be able to retire with less $10,000 in savings. This survey also showed that 64% of Americans will retire with less than $10,000 in savings. Most likely, they will continue to work after retirement .

These people may be well-suited for entrepreneurship. These people have more life experience, possibly more business experience, and less responsibilities. This age group may have lower risk: pensions are available to provide support, the children are independent, and living expenses are usually lower.

Before we show you how to start your business, let’s talk about why starting a business after retiring might be the right thing for you.

Five reasons to be an entrepreneur in retirement

You may have asked yourself the question, “Should a business be started after I retire?” The answer depends on your retirement income requirements, goals, and personality. While there are many benefits to starting your own business after retirement, you still have time for R&R.

1. Keep active

Studies after studies have shown that staying physically active can help you avoid health problems and extend your life. Keeping active can lower the likelihood of Alzheimer’s.

Small business requires both physical exertion (packing orders and trips to the postoffice) as well mental exercise (writing product pages copy, planning marketing campaigns). People with limited mobility can also run their business from home, which allows them to choose how active they want to be.

2. Follow your passion

After having worked for over four decades in the same boring desk job, my father retired three years back. He is actually a talented artist. If he had not taken the practical route to support his family, art is what he would have chosen.

My dad was a creative person who worked in his basement in the evenings. He loves to tinker and has been doing this full-time since retiring. He is able to follow his passion, and not be held responsible for providing. It’s a hobby for Dad right now. But with all his time and Shopify as his daughter, he has no barriers to turning it into a small business.

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3. Your pension and income can be supplemented

You may depend on a reduced income depending on your circumstances after retirement. Small businesses can help you pay down debt, stay on top of your bills and save for the unexpected. Bernie and his wife, Cindy, say that they don’t worry too much about whether or not they will be able to travel to visit their children. The extra money from the business helps them ease the financial burden.

4. 4.Invest in a hobby

Bernie’s goal with Maximus & Penelope wasn’t to provide for his family. He and his wife have two grown children and live comfortably on teacher’s pensions. He still loves alpacas, regardless of the success of his online shop. It’s his hobby that brings him joy. The online store makes enough profit to cover the costs of raising the animals.

Find your passions and hobbies to find something that gives you joy, even if the ultimate goal isn’t making money.

This is true for hobbies such as woodworking and needlecraft. You can sell handmade items online, at local fairs, to pay for materials or fund your retirement hobby.

5. Stay social

Despite the fact that loneliness among people aged 50-74 has declined in recent decades, almost half of Americans still feel lonely sometimes or always. Sometimes, leaving a job means giving up all of the social interaction one has with coworkers.

Some of the interaction with customers, suppliers, postal carrier, and other professionals could be replaced by starting a business. You can also find support and friends in IRL and online communities for small business owners.

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Ideas for retirement business


A great option for retirees is to open an online store. It doesn’t require much mobility and can be operated from home. You could also consider an alpaca ranch.

What business is the best for retirement?

Your knowledge is the best source of retirement business ideas. Find your passions and find something that makes you happy, even if the ultimate goal is to make money. Are you a fan of travel? You can start a blog about travel and promote a store that sells related products. You can also tap into your professional experience. Have you worked in corporate interior design? Consultations for small residential projects are available.

These are just a few of the great business ideas that retirees can consider:

  • ServicesServices to sellLike pet sitting or landscaping–activities that keep you socially active and physically active–focusing on your local community and choosing your own hours.
  • Dropshipped productsThis is one of the best.The most hands-off ecommerce businessThis is ideal for entrepreneurs looking to make extra money quickly, especially if mobility is an issue.
  • Handcrafted productsThe church bazaar can be taken to the next level. What do you do in your spare time?Make and sell thingsIt can be anything, from wooden dollhouses to prize winning pies to crocheted pillows.
  • CoursesYou have a lot of work and life experience. What can you do to make your knowledge monetizable?Make instructional videos or sell PDFsDigital products are more labor-intensive upfront, but they offer great margins and require minimal effort over the long term.

Continue reading:Here are 12 strategies to help you find your first profitable product: How to Find a Product To Sell

Get inspiredLearn from 9 Inspirational Entrepreneurs over 50 to Improve Your Life

Four questions to ask yourself before you start your retirement business

You don’t need an idea to start. Shopify allows you to start a free trial and test your store before you make it live. Start with some free resources to help you get started building your website. Next, consider these important questions:

1. What financing options are available for your new business?

Imagine if we said that you could start your own business with $0 in capital. It is possible. It’s possible. To fund your project, I wouldn’t recommend reducing your lifestyle. If your project needs startup capital, there are several avenues you can pursue.

Some tips

  • Plan ahead.You can start saving for retirement now, even if you are still quite a ways away from retirement.
  • Start small.Do not invest in a business idea just because you are passionate about it.You can test your idea with a small audienceStart with little inventory. Bernie invested $1,000 and began with one product. He says, “We thought, We’ll start with socks and judge interest there.”
  • Keep it simple.You don’t need to hire a developer or designer right now.Shopify theme for freeYou can create simple designs using a tool such as CanvaUse a logo generatorAndMake your own product photosUse your smartphone.
  • Borrow against your retirement savings.You can borrow up to 50% of your total funds from the US 401(k). For specific rules in your region, check with the local government.
  • You might consider a micro-loan.Keep an eye on theWebsite of the SBAFor small loans or grants that are specific to your age group, you can go to your local government’s site for small businesses.
  • Get expert advice.Talk to your financial advisor before you start any business.

2. 2. Can you be true to yourself and learn from others?


Bernie has 30 years of experience as a teacher and is a master wordsmith. He is responsible for all the site’s copy and product descriptions as well as blog posts. He learned how to build and maintain a website with the help of his son.

You don’t have to be old to learn new skills. Many cities offer free classes for seniors, including basic web design and computer skills. Look for programs that cater to older people or retirees.

3. Have you thought of an exit strategy?

It’s possible to retire with a lot of energy and the ability run your business independently. But what happens if you can’t? What is your plan in case you are unable to continue managing the business because of health issues? Are you able to talk with your family about what your wishes are?

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We don’t want 26 alpacas in an area we can’t manage.

Bernie said he was a witness to many others like him entering the alpaca industry at an older age. He says, “You are just one health problem away from not being able to take care of your herd.” He’s keeping the company small because of that. “We don’t want to be stuck in a place with 26 alpacas we can’t manage.”

4. What about a family-owned business?

Start a family business to bring your family together, and leave a legacy for your children. Drew and Bernie may live in different places, but Maximus & Penelope is the glue that keeps them connected. Bernie’s wife, Penelope, has joined the team and is now caring for her grandchildren. She’s also managing the store’s social media accounts.

Drew says that his dad was a little nudge but that he now runs the shop on his own. Bernie claims that managing Shopify is his favorite part of his day.

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