Entering the business of biomechanically engineered tights, a
retiree joins many baby boomers who have become entrepreneurs late
When Kim Gustafson moved to Vail Valley in Colorado more than a
decade ago, he was 54 and had recently retired as an executive in
the office-equipment business. But he wasn't ready to stop working.
"I'm not the type of person who wanted to play checkers," he says.
Mr. Gustafson is one of a growing number of baby boomers starting
businesses later in life -- though that was not his original plan.
Initially, he worked as a ski instructor. But he found that
degenerative arthritis and the wear-and-tear of his rigorous skiing
schedule were exacerbating an injury he had sustained several years
earlier after falling from a ladder.
Mr. Gustafson sought treatment at the Steadman Clinic, an
orthopedic surgery center based in Vail, eventually undergoing five
knee surgeries. To continue to teach skiing, he was told, he would
need to wear a hard, cumbersome knee brace every time he hit the
As he grew accustomed to the brace, he began to wonder whether
people with less vulnerable joints than his might benefit from a
more pliable and comfortable form of knee support -- perhaps a pair
of tights. To explore this possibility, he turned to a group of
biomechanical experts at the Steadman Philippon Research Institute,
a branch of the Steadman Clinic.
Coincidentally, the researchers had been contemplating something
similar, and they began drawing sketches of nylon and spandex tights
embedded with bands of rigid fabric to protect the knees by
restoring them to their natural alignment.
Mr. Gustafson and scientists from the institute struck an unusual
agreement: They would develop the tights together, and if the
product reached the marketplace, the institute would receive
royalties to be applied to future research projects or the hiring of
scientists. Within two years, Mr. Gustafson started a company he
eventually called Opedix and began selling the biomechanically
engineered tights online.
His decision to start a business in his late 50s is far from
unusual. A report this year by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
found that late-in-life entrepreneurs -- ages 55 to 64 -- now make
up 23 percent of new business owners, up from 14 percent in 1996.
And the results of a survey released this month by the Pew Research
Center showed that baby boomers were less likely to say that job
security was "extremely important" to them than members of two
younger groups: millennials and members of Generation X --
suggesting an inclination toward entrepreneurship. …