Written by Eileen Godin, Times Leader Correspondent
LAFLIN — Ann Smith set out to do something she always wanted to in her golden years — she started her own part-time business called Life Stories Remembered, LLC©.
Smith, 69, has been a psychotherapist for 30 years in Kingston. She still runs her practice part-time, but she officially started a second business in 2008 collecting life memoirs and presenting them in a written, visual or audio format for families to keep for generations.
Smith is not alone in her entrepreneur endeavor. According to AARP, Encore Entrepreneurs, those 50 years old and older, are on the rise for many reasons, but the top three cited are job loss, an aging work force and lingering effects of an economic recession.
AARP noted people ages 55 to 64 between 1996 through 2012 have a higher rate of new business startups than those ages 20 to 34.
Smith’s desire to start her own business was not based on any of the above. She simply wanted to do something that would allow her to work from home and it had to fit in with her lifestyle.
Working with the Wilkes University Small Business Development Center, Smith was able to narrow down her ideas and decided upon preserving personal stories by utilizing her skillful interviewing techniques.
The SBDC offers many services to entrepreneurs, including helping shape their business model, developing a business plan, determining the feasibility of a business, finding financing, as well as helping with website development, social media and networking, said Chuck Pierce, assistant director of the SBDC.
“We have a team of people to help,” Pierce said.
Helping her sort through the paperwork, the SBDC became a resource she still turns to for information.
“There is a lot I did not know a lot about,” she said. “I never wrote a business plan and needed help with marketing.”
Smith said she hopes to keep a flow of clients, and with advice from the SBDC, she is learning how to promote beyond word-of-mouth.
“They have been a great resource,” Smith said.
The concept behind her business is simple. She provides an outline of questions to the person to be interviewed for review beforehand. They can edit what questions they would like to answer, Smith said.
Then, in accordance of the participant’s decision, the final product of the interview is provided as either a written memoir, a CD, DVD or a combination of the three. Prices vary on the package chosen.
“This is a labor-intensive business,” she said. “I know there is importance and value in it.”
Smith said she has had the pleasure of working with many interesting people, including the well-known area Judge Max Rosenn, a federal judge who served from 1970 to 2006 on the United States Court of Appeals of the Third Circuit in the Wyoming Valley.
“I had the opportunity to sit and talk with him about his childhood,” she said. “I spent about 25 hours interviewing him.”
After Rosenn died in February 2006, his sons, Professor Keith Rosenn, Florida, and Dr. Daniel Rosenn, Massachusetts, were presented with the transcripts. Keeping the transcript handy, Dr. Rosenn said he turns to it at times and reviews it.
“It is very interesting,” he said. “It brings him back to me.”
Having a remembrance of a family member to share with future generations holds value to the individual and family, Dr. Rosenn said.
Having recorded memories of daily life from family members can be an invaluable asset. Smith recalled interviewing a 96-year-old man for the Luzerne County Historical Society.
“He was a coal picker as a young boy,” she said. “Everyone has life experiences. Those little things about daily life are fascinating.”