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How My Retired Dad Turned a Hobby into a Business

He is good at what he does — and loves it too good to stop just because he turned a certain age

By Lazetta Rainey Braxton

Editor’s note: This article is part of Navigating Change, a Next Avenue initiative made possible by the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation and EIX, the Entrepreneur Innovation Exchange.

If you are nearing retirement or are a hustling hobbyist, my dad's story about navigating the challenging change from a restless retiree to an enthusiastic local business owner may inspire you.

Headshot of a man who is working outside. Next Avenue, hobby into business
Melvin Rainey  |  Credit: Lazetta Rainey Braxton

As my dad, Melvin A. Rainey, Sr., was approaching retirement, our family wondered how he would redirect his energy and money. As a construction worker for more than 45 years, he enjoyed beautifying buildings, operating equipment and bonding with co-workers.

"My work is my art; having creative outlets keeps life fun and interesting."

For him, weekends weren't for resting; they were for fixing or improving something around our home and yard. Why does my dad enjoy working so much? He reflected, "My work is my art; having creative outlets keeps life fun and interesting."

Dad also loved to scour the countryside near our home in South Hill, Virginia, searching for deals on tools and equipment — once adding a dump truck to his inventory!

Mom reluctantly accepted him as a crafty tradesman like actor Redd Foxx in the 1970s sitcom Sanford and Son and worried about how his "collectibles" would multiply in retirement.

Seeing and Seizing an Opportunity

I, as their financial planner, saw an opportunity to harness his passions, earn side money and ease my mom's financial and emotional worries. This moment presented my next biggest challenge in guiding their financial planning journey: helping my dad shift his mindset from hobbyist to business owner.

So, how did his tinkering blossom into a local business? Here are the steps that ignited his inner entrepreneur, paving the way for successfully making that transition on his own terms:

Share His Talents with His Community

My dad believed in serving others, even at his own expense. Despite his strenuous work conditions, bodily injuries and inadequate pay, he went above and beyond as a faithful employee. He loved giving and couldn't imagine charging for the work he enjoyed doing outside his job.

I helped him see that people who respected him wanted to compensate him, even if he wouldn't accept it. Why not formalize this exchange, honoring his time and talent for their treasures? After "asking around town and seeing what I could charge," my Dad agreed to launch his business — under one condition: freedom from excessive paperwork. This hurdle was tackled in later steps.

Turn the Business Idea Into a Viable Concept

Birthing and naming a business is akin to the joy of having a newborn baby. Over family texts, "Melvin's Touch" emerged as the choice for his business' name, filling him with pride and possibilities.

Next, I asked him to list activities he enjoyed. Money wasn't a primary driver, so only his most fun activities — landscaping and hauling — became business services. He left his other handyman activities behind.

"I love tidying up lawns and making each job my masterpiece," he beamed. My requested list of family and friends who'd benefited from his skills revealed a potential client base of retirees and busy families. He was excited to know he could stay active in retirement and use his "collectibles."

Mom, to say the least, was thrilled!

A man driving a truck and waving out of the window. Next Avenue, hobby into business
Melvin Rainey at work  |  Credit: Lazetta Rainey Braxton

Expand His Team and Launch His Business

We worked with a trusted lawyer, one of his high school classmates, to form my dad's Limited Liability Company (LLC). Before the meeting, we jumped on the Virginia State Entity Search website to make sure no one else in Virginia had registered a business named Melvin's Touch. The attorney filed for dad's LLC in Virginia and secured his IRS Employer Identification Number, or EIN, at an affordable cost.

Dad was ecstatic to learn about tax write-offs for legal services and other expenses he'd paid out of pocket as a hobbyist!


Knowing his aversion to digital recordkeeping as a baby boomer, and desiring not to overwhelm his CPA, I suggested a simple approach: a receipt booklet in his truck for sales records, an expandable folder for receipts, and a notebook to log income and expenses.

Keep the Paperwork Simple

He deposits all of his income in his business bank account, pays expenses with business bank cards and reconciles transactions monthly to his statements. During tax time, he tallies his income and expenses by category. This system works perfectly for him and his CPA. In the future, he may graduate to an online bookkeeping tool, such as Quickbooks or Xero.

My dad is grateful for the assistance of his business midwives — his attorney, CPA and financial planner — in birthing his business. We also explored business insurance based on his small "boutique" business structure.

Promote His Business

The apple doesn't fall from the tree when it comes to enjoying equipment and tools. Like my Dad, I am a creative hobbyist. This proud GenXer created the logo and chose the brand colors and typefaces for my dad's new business with the online design software Canva and some heavy vetting from my parents and siblings.

"Keeping a work environment going on your own terms, while enjoying true hobbies like fishing and traveling, is very gratifying."

I encouraged him to invest in small client-appreciation gifts, offering my marketing consultant services at a nominal cost. He agreed, and I relished wrapping Christmas boxes filled with gift cards and candy.

When I used his logo for holiday notes, it sparked his imagination. He wants business cards and a magnetic decal for his dump truck! I'm excited to play around with building his website using Canva templates or even AI.

My dad's story is about more than turning a hobby into a business; it's about embracing new possibilities. For my dad, "keeping a work environment going on your own terms, while enjoying true hobbies like fishing and traveling, is very gratifying."

He reminds us that it's never too late to find and monetize your own spark and leave your mark on the world. Take inspiration from Melvin's Touch, grab your own toolbox and embrace your passions. The future holds endless opportunities, waiting to be birthed and shared.

Lazetta Rainey Braxton
Lazetta Rainey Braxton Certfied Financial Planner Lazetta Rainey Braxton is co-CEO and co-founder of 2050 Wealth Partners and CEO and founder of Lazetta & Associates. She is passionate about amplifying diversity, inclusion, equality and belonging in the financial planning profession and does so through financial planning, public speaking, writing, consulting and coaching. She was named a 2021 Crain's New York Business Notable Black Leader and Executive as well as one of the Top 10 of Investopedia's 100 Top Financial Advisors in 2020 and 2021. In all her endeavors, she is on a mission to create wealth for the common good. Read More
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