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7 Entrepreneurial Senior Citizens Making Money Online

by Sara Wilson

Move over teens, cyber seniors are taking over the 'Net! Senior social networking sites, online dating services for the grandparent set, and redesigned senior-friendly websites can only mean one thing: More than ever, the older generation is going digital. And, some cyber-savvy seniors are cashing in on their Web prowess -- rendering their golden years truly golden.

Gail Bjork, 64, creator of Digicamhelp.com
When Gail Bjork launched Digicamhelp.com in 2003, her intention was to simply help out friends who weren't quite sure how to use their new digital cameras. With no previous web experience, Bjork educated herself on Web design using online forums and soon was knowledgeable enough to create an 11-page site. The site has since flourished into more than 1500 pages on everything from camera settings to taking and processing photos.

Cyber bucks: Three simple words: Pay-Per-Click. As soon as Bjork heard about Google AdSense, a contextual advertising program that generates income when visitors click on ads embedded within the site, she decided to test it out. “The first day I made 10 cents,” she remembers. “Wow! That was 10 cent! I didn't have the day before and it just kept growing.”

Mimi and Bill Witcher, 64 and 62, founders of Computer School for Seniors
A decade ago, Mimi didn't know the first thing about computers. Now, at 64, she teaches computers at a junior college in Dallas, Texas to students ages 50 to 90 and is parlaying her computer skills into a profitable venture online. With help from her husband, Bill, Mimi spent two years getting Computer School for Seniors, an online computer/internet school, ready for its official launch just this past April. The Witchers don't allow any advertising on the site, but do charge a minimal tuition fee for students to access the virtual campus: $36 for six months, $58 for a year.

Cyber bucks: Making money was never the main motivator for starting the online school. But now that 400 students from across the U.S. and even Australia have already signed up, paying an average of $50 each, and interest is pouring in from 31 countries, the extra income has become a nice byproduct. And this is just the beginning. “It grows daily,” says Mimi. “I just work a couple of afternoons a week at [the junior college] and the rest of the time I'm here chugging away at my little website.” It looks like the Witchers have a busy retirement in store, but that doesn't phase Mimi. “I would like to continue doing this forever,” she says. “For my ever.”

Joan Wynn, 64, eBay PowerSeller
Joan Wynn loves to shop -- and it's finally paying off. While working, Wynn had collected shoes, clothes, fashion accessories, and perfume that she had never gotten around to actually using. So when she retired early from the corporate world, she decided to see if she could cash in on her purchases.

Cyber bucks: In 2006, she set her sights on eBay, and this time tried her luck as a seller. From October 2007 to January 2008, she made approximately $30,000. And she's still going strong. Through trial and error, she has navigated eBay and continues to learn new techniques every day. “I love eBay,” she says. "Our friends and family are amazed at how much I sell and the money I can make.”

Cara Lumen, 76, Internet Marketing Coach

At 76, Cara Lumen isn't the one learning how to use the Internet -- she's the one teaching it. An Internet marketing coach for the past four years, she teaches others, mostly women entrepreneurs in their 60s, how to plan the content for their websites and how to attract clients. She also does content editing and copywriting for her clients' Websites and eBooks. And when it comes to marketing herself as an expert, she is hi-tech all the way. She has published articles on the Web, written several eBooks, recorded an audio book, writes an ezine, blogs and creates occasional podcasts.

Cyber bucks: Lumen is projecting to make about $30,000 this year through her various projects and expects that figure to only increase as she continues to expand her services and grow her business. Says Lumen, “I love to learn and have a feeling that I'm probably one of the most Internet-savvy 76 year olds in the world.”

Bob Borovsky and Patrick Downs, 62 and 65, Online Retailers
iPhones and BlackBerrys may be all the craze these days, but Bob Borovsky and Patrick Downs felt that for busy seniors, such gadgets may just be way over their heads. So they decided to come up with an alternative: Jenda, a low-tech voice calendar and family message center that keeps track of important dates. They launched their user-friendly device exclusively online at BuyJenda.com in December 2006 and have been going strong ever since. Says Bob, “We decided to start with online sales primarily because of the power of the Internet but also because neither of us had any retail experience."

Cyber bucks: in 2007, Jenda's sales reached nearly $100,000 and they are hoping that number to triple next year. In the meantime, its success in cyberspace has been so impressive that it's starting to cause a stir offline as well. Jenda is scheduled to debut on QVC this September and Borovsky and Downs are in discussions with several companies to land Jenda on the shelves of several big box retailers.

Find these stories of "Senior-preneurs" inspiring? Read more profiles of business-savvy seniors now.

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