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Starting a Business at 60 – ‘It all Began with a Shoebox’

Starting a Business at 60 – ‘It all Began with a Shoebox’
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It all began with a shoebox.

Several years ago, sisters Judith Unzner and Marcia Cope-Hart stumbled across a shoebox filled with snippets of paper inscribed with sayings penned by a family member. The quotes were whimsical, edgy, and thought-provoking. The sisters were inspired. The world needed to read these words, but the family member had no interest in publishing them. Judith and Marcia were undeterred, and a light bulb went off.

Knowing how much their family member, who goes by the pseudonym JJ Mae, loves art, the sisters suggested using the sayings on paintings. What if they created visions based on the quotes and found an artist who could make those visions come to life? And what if they started a business and offered those unique paintings with the inspiring quotes to the public?

With bated breath, they presented the idea to JJ Mae. She had only one requirement, “They must be real – and yet surreal.” It was all the direction Judith and Marcia needed. Just like that, Original Quote Paintings LLC, where every Quote Painting is a conversation piece, was born.

“I have business experience,” said Judith. “Our uncle was prominent business man from the Midwest. He took me under his wing, and with his tutelage, I was able to be part of several businesses. I also have an extensive communications background.”

Marcia is, by trade, an opera singer. Retired now, she noted that, “It was serendipitous when we found the shoebox – because we were both ready.” Judith’s business acumen combined with Marcia’s creativity made the enterprise a natural fit.

Everyone in the family is into the arts, so the whole family plays a part in the business. But the roles are clearly defined. “We work extensively with our artist and our author,” explained Judith. “And then we bounce ideas off our family. We are the officers of the company; however, they add a lot of insightful input.”

From a business standpoint, the sisters knew they were on to something special in the art world. “When we hit upon the idea to put these words on a piece of artwork, we knew they’d just come alive,” said Judith. “And this collaboration between an author and an artist – in a collection of work – has not been done before. It was a unique idea that we thought might work.”

The sisters had plenty of passion for the new endeavor, and they’d done their homework. But making their vision a reality didn’t happen overnight. “It involved a great deal of travelling to find our extraordinary artist Dan Budde, to consult with experts and then, of course, the time to get our custom website built,” said Judith. “So it was two years in the making.”

Original Quote Paintings LLC launched in late October, selling an initial collection of four Quote Paintings available in open edition prints and hand-enhanced limited edition, gallery-wrapped giclées on canvas. A second collection is underway.

Off to a promising start with their new company, the sisters have some pointers to for other people looking to reinvent themselves over 50.

“When you start over, and you’re over 50 years old, you have to be sure that you don’t let negative experiences from the past cloud your dreams,” advised Judith. “If you have a vision and you want to change your life then, besides a tremendous amount of hard work, you have to believe in what you’re doing. It helps if others around you believe as well.”

“Having someone to uplift you is so important,” agreed Marcia.

Author JJ Mae and artist Dan Budde are over 50 as well. “Dan had always dreamed of doing something outside the box. This is a dream come true for him,” said Judith. “JJ Mae just wrote the quotes as creative outlet for herself, so she was thrilled to have the quotes presented to the world.”

So both sisters emphasize the importance of being open to opportunities. “You can just be going along, doing your creative work, and somebody can come along and change your life,” noted Judith.

They also underscore the value of persistence and being in it for the long haul. “Keep going with the work you’re doing. Keep believing in it,” explained Marcia.

Perhaps most important is time away. New businesses can be all consuming, so you’ll need to take regular breaks. “Sometimes we need to just get away from the office and the house,” said Judith. “We just go off somewhere, fix a cup of coffee or a Bloody Mary and talk.”

At the end of the day, it’s the Quote Paintings that carry them through any challenges.

“When you have beautiful artwork to look at, it’s very inspiring,” said Marcia. “That creative process is what keeps us going.”



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