Tom Hendershot

Grand Rapids, MI

“I create and build so that, when I leave this earth, I leave a mark, an impression in some small way.”

During two 16-year careers, one as a Grand Rapids, Michigan police officer and another in corporate security, there wasn’t much opportunity to pursue my interest in natural history. Then one day, retirement…OMG! I could go to fossil shows and dig for dinosaur bones in the Badlands of Montana and Wyoming – life-changing experiences that opened up a whole new door for me.

The idea for my business happened in a pick-up truck. I was heading out to a Wyoming dinosaur dig with a guy who told me how excited his two kids were by the dinosaur exhibits at museums. It dawned on me that high-quality dinosaur poster art might sell well in many museum gift shops, which are a vital source of revenue to help ensure the museums’ continued existence.

It was not exactly an expense-free venture. I hadn’t learned about how a small business operates, how to budget, plan, organize and then do it. I didn’t know sales or marketing. It was a lot of trial and error – I took the advice of wise people. That’s a good thing for anyone in my stage of life, listen to people who are your seniors or juniors, learn about their path and pay attention to things that make sense for you.

Tom HendershotI invested some of my life savings and sold the posters wholesale to regional museums, but also the Smithsonian. I also began to design and build exhibits on the Ice Age and Dinosaurs that museums could use to help schools meet a host of science and natural history teaching needs.

Some of my friends say, “I know you’re having fun, but I just do not get it.” I guess they don’t understand my version of “retirement.” I can do anything I want to…sleep, play golf. But I’m also a businessman because I do charge for what I do, and my business is profitable.

My encore is much more to me than running a small business. I’ve had so many heartwarming moments watching children with wide eyes and big smiles encounter my work in museums.

I create and build so that, when I leave this earth, I will know that I leave a mark, an impression in some small way.