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I felt too old, too fat’: How 63-year-old beat demons to launch top business

A portrait image of Bernadette Janson, founder of the business, School of Renovating.
Bernadette Janson struggled with insecurities about starting a business at an older age. (Source: supplied)

The dream to renovate homes has been a long-held passion for 63-year-old Bernadette Janson.

Initially training as a nurse and later managing a café, all along, she dreamt of running a business helping others to renovate for profit.

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Janson's addiction to renovation started when she was 13, when her family renovated their farmhouse.

“I found that by transforming my surroundings, I could change the way I feel about myself,” Janson said.

In the years since, renovating has been a hobby enabling her to pursue a passion for creating beautiful spaces.

“I have been renovating for over 30 years. I live and breathe it and loved it,” Janson said.

Now or never

Seven years ago, at 55 years old, she retired from the café due to health concerns.

It was now or never to start her business in helping others to renovate.

However, her insecurities about starting a business at an older age crept in.

“I felt too old, too fat, too technically challenged; I could not sell to save my life. Plus my competition was, and still is, young, pretty thirty-somethings,” she said.

“I really had no idea where to begin. I had to figure out how to do things that I had never done before.

“It has been a steep learning curve; I knew nothing about running a business or marketing.“

The biggest drawback was her confidence.

“I wasn't willing to give up. I am a very competent renovator, this is important if you are teaching it,” she added.

“For the first few years, my husband kept saying to me, why are you putting yourself through this?

“I just couldn't give it up. Thankfully, today he doesn't say that anymore.”

'Just suck it up'

In 2014, she started the School of Renovating from scratch.

“I just had to suck it up and push through.”

Janson spent much of her time and money - $100,000 - on educating herself on running a business.

“I did lots of training; mentoring. And I learnt about sales, marketing, risk management and social media etc. I persisted until I felt confident.”

Teaching others to renovate, Janson also had to overcome her fear of public speaking.

“I knew I had to be out front and felt very uncomfortable about it.

“It’s not uncommon for older women to lose their confidence. I was terrified of public speaking, I also had to create video training, present at events, navigate the internet and sell my services.”

Her biggest challenge has been managing a team.

“It's not my natural strength and, in renovating, we employ subcontractors so it’s vastly different from what I had done before.”

Shot of a young businesswoman delivering a speech during a conference.
Public speaking and team management were skills Bernadette Janson had to learn. (Source: Getty)

Aside from teaching others to renovate, running her business entails employment contracts, managing events, managing the legal liability of a business with legal docs, disclaimers and social media.

“I’m still learning, and now, I’m currently learning TikTok,” she laughs.

She added that it took seven years for the business to gain traction.

“I am now 63 and have a business that I love and a successful podcast, plus I get to work with a bunch of gorgeous women transforming their lives and that of their families with renovating.”

Defining success

Janson defines her success in three ways.

  1. Creating meaningful change: The business is not only changing lives but it has a ripple effect. My clients are doing profitable projects with their partners, parents, friends and children and earning more than they thought possible.

  2. Meeting financial goals

  3. Engaging with the broader community

She encourages everyone to never give up on undertaking a dream career.

“I feel very passionate about women's empowerment. My mother was widowed at 45 years old. I saw first-hand that a man is not a plan,” Janson said.

“So many women are either dependent on their partners or struggling on their own, financially.

“Design your business around how you want to live your life. Be prepared for the ups and downs, but mostly joy. You’re never too old.

“We are living into our 90s now, and we still have so much value to bring to the world.”

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