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Janska's Erickson Breaks Mold for Older Entrepreneurs

Obviously I didn't know 10 years ago that we would have a multimillion-dollar fashion clothing line. I believed I was supposed to be doing what I was doing. Certainly there were days when there were doubts.

I feel that it's given me some purpose to believe that what we're creating in Janska is actually bringing comfort to people and making their lives better. I feel that the company for me is purpose-driven; it's not profit-driven, although we definitely want to be able to cover our costs and pay salaries, but it's just the belief that there is meaning.

What about the financial challenges for baby boomers starting a business?

Erickson: We were living off our savings. My husband was an attorney. He had put some money away for when he retired. We used that money to live on and I had an investment I cashed and put the money into the company; we just were self-funded. We also have three children, and two were still in college. So it was just a time that we were careful and we didn't live extravagantly and kept believing that this was what we were supposed to do.

What's the best piece of advice you got when you started?

Erickson: One of the things that an adviser had said was a couple of reasons companies fail -- one of course is being underfunded, but also because they don't ask for advice. For me those two things were really important. We knew that we needed other people to help this company to succeed. I knew that I needed to be willing to ask questions and say "I don't understand this."

It's amazing how many people out there are qualified to help and are willing to help, so it's not like we're on our own.

What are your plans for Janska?

Erickson: I think we will see it again having more different designs and more collections in other fabrics. We're still trying to use all American-made fabrics.

Last year we did $1.5 million [in sales] and we're on track to do $2.2 million this year, and our budget [projects] $2.8 million to $3 million for next year.

I would love to see us go international. We have one store in Australia that carries our things, one store in Japan that carries and now several in Canada offering Janska in their boutiques. We're just starting to explore that international base to see if there is a place there for Janska.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

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