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Celebrating Older Entrepreneurs: Meet Mary Beth Currie

Celebrating Older Entrepreneurs: Meet Mary Beth Currie

By Susan Williams

In our continuing series of Celebrating Older Entrepreneurs,, we are pleased to introduce you to Mary Beth Currie.

Mary Beth Currie, Founder and President, Ralston Williams

What motivated you to become an entrepreneur later in life?

I had been practising law for more than 25 years (and still loved it) when one day at the gym I injured my rotator cuff. I could not raise my arm above my waist at my back so I could not zip up my back zipper.

When dressing in the morning, this was not a huge problem as someone at the gym or at work could zip me up…but at night, if my husband was travelling, I had to fight to get out of those clothes that had back closures.

About the same time, my mother’s arthritis in her hands was worsening so that she also could not fasten any back zippers or buttons of any type. Both experiences got me thinking – why is it that shapely clothes seem always to zip up the back? Can sophisticated clothes not be created with front closures that will still provide a fitted, shapely silhouette but which are easy to get on or take off?

I was confident the answer had to be yes but I could not find those clothes.

So, inspired by my rotator cuff injury and my mother’s struggle with arthritis, I decided to leave law in 2013 to develop the clothes I wanted when I could not zip up a back zipper. I returned to school to study fashion design. When school was over, in the late fall of 2015 I created Ralston Williams to provide an innovative and ingeniously easy to wear line of clothing that combines fashionable practicality with beautiful styling using luxurious fabrics.

My clothes offer women who have restricted hand mobility style and independence in dressing. I think that is pretty motivating. For those who do not have hand mobility issues, the clothes combine style, fit and functionality – and look great. That’s also motivating.

What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur?

I love seeing how great my clothes look on so many different people of all shapes and sizes. There is great satisfaction in seeing something that I was responsible for creating looking so good in its finished form.

What is your biggest challenge in being an entrepreneur?

Figuring out how to get to the next customer. I have a core base of very loyal customers who return season after season to buy my clothes. But outside that circle, it’s been difficult to have stores buy my clothes. I knocked (and am still knocking) on doors and making cold calls to both agents and boutiques trying to sell the line. Until I reach a certain size, agents are not interested in representing the line and boutiques seem to prefer to buy their stock through agents. So, increasing my sales has been the biggest challenge.

What advice would you give to other budding older entrepreneurs?

Assess your own skill sets, and then find others who have skill sets which complement yours (for example, I hired a fabric specialist to help me pick out my fabulous fabrics, I have someone who understands Facebook run my social media). Seek out mentors who can provide guidance and introductions to others in your industry.

As we close out our series on older entrepreneurs, it’s been wonderful to see first hand how creative, passionate and focused these entrepreneurs are. They are all making a difference and are showing that being an entrepreneur later in life not only benefits them, but also allows them to also share their knowledge and experience to all those around them. 

Meet our other two entrepreneurs;

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Susan Williams is the Founder of Booming Encore. Being a Boomer herself, Susan loves to discover and share ways to live life to the fullest. She shares her experiences, observations and opinions on living life after 50 and tries to embrace Booming Encore's philosophy of making sure every day matters.

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