How to Find Your Prime Spark with Dr. Sara Hart
Are you a businesswoman who is 55 or older? If so, this episode is for you! Dr. Sara Hart is on a mission to help older women recognize and embrace their value in a society that may sometimes claim otherwise due to age. In this episode, Caterina and Sara discuss what it means to be a business owner over the age of 55 and how many opportunities exist for women to start something new. Women 55+ this is YOUR time – you have wisdom and experience and massive value to bring. Listen to this inspirational episode to help you find your spark!
About Dr. Sara Hart
Dr. Sara Hart is a lifelong advocate for social change and an inspirational, motivating speaker. She is passionate about Prime Spark, an idea that became a movement to change the way our culture sees and treats senior women. As a speaker, she provides controversial, cutting-edge ideas in an interactive setting. Sara founded Hartcom, a consulting company, over 20 years ago, focusing on leadership development, coaching, and team building. She also coaches women who know things need to be different in our society and who value the support of a coach and a like-minded community. Sara lives in Los Altos, CA with her cat, Mr. Bu.
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Expand Your Fempire Podcast #56 Transcript
How to Find Your Prime Spark with Dr. Sara Hart
Welcome to Expand your Fempire with Caterina Rando, the podcast for women in business on a mission. Sharing ideas to support you to grow and thrive. Now here’s your host, Caterina Rando.
[00:00:25] Caterina Rando: Welcome back to another episode of the Expand Your Fempire podcast. This is Caterina Rando, your host. And I am blissing because today we have a very special guest. Someone I’ve had the privilege to know for many years, who brings massive value, who brings a lot of vision, and is a trailblazer for women: Sara Hart, the founder of Prime Spark. Sara, so happy to have you with us today.
[00:01:01] Sara Hart: Thank you, Caterina. I’m very happy to be here. This is fun.
[00:01:05] Caterina Rando: Yay. Now, Sara, we’re going to talk all about Prime Spark. Before we do that, I always like to find out, what has your entrepreneurial journey been? Because like me, you’ve been at it many years and perhaps, I don’t know, it’s been a circuitous route. How did you get started? Give us the report.
[00:01:26] Sara Hart: Well, this was many years ago, Caterina. I had worked for Pfizer for 20 years and five of those years, I spent in the UK as head of HR for their research division in the UK. I came back to the research division, which at that time was in Groton, Connecticut. And I felt like I’d gone back to high school.
[00:01:48] It was a really good job. It was a wonderful company and I just couldn’t do it anymore. I just, I couldn’t do it anymore.
[00:01:57] Caterina Rando: Sara, when you say you couldn’t do it anymore, what do you mean? Well, what couldn’t you do anymore?
[00:02:02] Sara Hart: I just, I don’t know, Caterina, the whole thing. I was coming down an escalator one day at work, and I felt like I had a wetsuit on. And I don’t know anything more binding when you’re not in the water than a wetsuit. Yikes! I have got to get outta here. I…I’ve got to get out.
[00:02:22] And so, my friends said, “no, no, no, no, no, no, no. You have to wait until you can take early retirement.” At that point, I was 50 and I would have to have been 55. And I said, if I do that, my soul will be a raisin and it won’t make any difference what I do.
[00:02:40] So I sold almost everything I had. Sold a big house. Put what I had left in my car, and drove to San Francisco. And moved into a one-room apartment that I loved and people thought I’d had a nervous breakdown. Because at that point, you didn’t leave big, good companies. I mean, you just didn’t do it.
[00:03:04] But I don’t remember when I’ve been so happy as in my little one-room apartment in San Francisco. And people would say, “what do you want to do, Sara?” I don’t know what I want to do. All I know I want to do is go to the gym every morning and go to the coffee shop and drink coffee and read the paper until I’m done.
[00:03:26] Caterina Rando: That sounds great, my friend.
[00:03:28] Sara Hart: I know! Who has time to do that? So honestly, I did that for a year. And thankfully Pfizer had hired me back to do some consulting. And that got me through the year. And I realized I don’t want to work for anybody else, I want to work for myself.
[00:03:47] So I started Hartcom, my consulting company. And that was before the “dot com” era, so com actually stands for commitment, communication, and community. And then the dot com era came in. So it became Hartcom.com.
[00:04:05] And I promised myself, I would only do work I wanted to do. And so I had been in HR, I’d been in charge of training and development, which is what we called it then. And so what I loved to do was coaching and consulting and team building and offsite meetings.
[00:04:26] And so that’s what I did with Hartcom. And I did that for about 20 some years. I was very happy. You know, as an entrepreneur, there are times when this is great. And then there are times when you think, “holy cow, when am I gonna make my next money? This is getting serious. Oh, this is really good.” that’s what it’s like.
[00:04:50] And so I did that and then about, I don’t know, four or five, six years ago, I realized that I needed to sell a house I owned and, again, go through a major downsizing.
[00:05:05] I did that and wrote a book about it, The Upside of Downsizing: Getting to Enough.
[00:05:11] So most of the time, for a year or so, I did book readings and signings and sold the book and it did very, very well. And COVID hit and there were no more book readings and book signings.
[00:05:26] So I thought, “Okay, now what do I do?” And I don’t know where, but somewhere along the way, I got this spark. Well, actually a couple of doctors had not treated me fantastically, and I thought it was because I was older a woman and I thought “this is not right.”
[00:05:50] So I was working with a coach at that point and I was talking about this and she said, “well, are you should work with like your golden years?” I said, “no, no, no, no, not golden years. it’s that spark that you feel!”
[00:06:05] So it became Prime Spark because I think women over 50 or 55 are in the prime of their lives. It didn’t use to be true, but it is true now.
So it became Prime Spark because I think women over 50 or 55 are in the prime of their lives. It didn’t use to be true, but it is true now. -Dr. Sara Hart
[00:06:17] Caterina Rando: I’m 56, Sara, and I feel like I’m only getting my party started right now. And yeah, I feel like as long as I’m above ground, I’m going to be in action. I’m going to be bringing my gifts to the planet, I’m going to be uplifting lives.
[00:06:38] I’m Italian-American, as you know, and a lot of Italians, they work hard their whole life. Maybe they have a restaurant or I’m talking about my parents’ contemporaries. You know, they had a restaurant or they were a plumber, or my grandfather had a grocery store. My other grandfather was a Shoemaker.
[00:06:58] There was this idea that part of the American dream was that you do so well that at some point you can retire, right? And what we saw and what, what I’m sure is very prevalent in other communities too, is that as soon as somebody felt like they had achieved their American dream and now they could retire from it -their shoe store, their grocery store, whatever it was, what happens? They quickly hit the grave.
[00:07:32] Sara Hart: Right.
[00:07:32] Caterina Rando: Because they’re are no longer being useful. And that put in my brain early, because my grandfathers were both very happy when they were doing their thing with their grocery store, with their shoe shop. As soon as they retired, then they weren’t happy anymore. So, I get it. But a lot of people don’t get it.
[00:07:55] Sara Hart: I think if people will just pay attention, you know, watch just, just watch. I mean, yes. And that used to be true and we all have watched people work and have full lives and retire and die.
[00:08:11] Caterina Rando: Right.
[00:08:11] Sara Hart: We’ve also watched people work, have full lives, retire and not die and, and go and do… I lived in Ohio growing up and everybody’s dream was to go to Florida when they retired. And some people did that. Some people did that and then moved back to Ohio because they didn’t know anybody yet.
[00:08:32] That was, I think it was a different time. I think it was just, I mean if you look at people now over 55, especially women. Look at women, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85. I have a friend who’s 89 and she skis all the time in the winter.
[00:08:55] Caterina Rando: I love it!
[00:08:56] Sara Hart: I know it’s wonderful. There’s this magnificent film that’s coming out in September, called Lives Well Lived. And it’s by S ky Bergman. She’s a wonderful filmmaker. And it’s about older people. She interviewed 40 people between the ages of 75 and over a hundred.
[00:09:16] And one of them is a little Italian man, Caterina, that you will fall in love with if you see the film. He is 90 something and he gets up every morning and makes parmesan balls for his daughter’s deli. He is precious.
[00:09:31] Caterina Rando: Love it.
[00:09:32] Sara Hart: And there there’s a woman on there that does yoga. And I couldn’t do some of those poses when I was 20.
[00:09:40] Caterina Rando: Right.
[00:09:41] Sara Hart: So we can’t all do that, but a lot of us can do a lot of things.
[00:09:46] Caterina Rando: We can all do something is the point. And I think that it’s very important to find your spark, Sara. I feel like I’m very fortunate because I found my spark very early in life. I knew what I wanted to do with my life and I’m blessed to be able to do it.
[00:10:07] What I think you were talking about earlier was when people retire and then they go on to live a full life, usually because they find their spark, right? What their next spark is. It might be helping your daughter in the deli. And by the way, you know, my dad retired early from his city job as a mechanical engineer, but then he helped my sister run the cafe. And he still helps her.
[00:10:32] He still helps her with some of the building management and staying on top of updating projects. And he still does a lot at 89 to support my sister and her business. And he owns a laundromat. So he definitely has no shortage of things to keep him busy and to contribute. And of course, he takes a walk every day. And by the way, my dad’s a vegan at 89.
[00:10:59] And so Sara, let’s talk about, how does someone find their spark or their next spark? Because sometimes something happens like you’re saying, you know, we do something for a while and then we’re like, “okay, well, I’m, I’m just, I’m done with this.” How do we get find the next spark?
[00:11:16] Sara Hart: Well, it can take a while or it can not take a while. I mean, it’s such an individual thing. I think that, for me, for example, the time between my corporate day job and establishing my own company, it took me a year. Now we don’t all have that kind of financial luxury. I understand that.
[00:11:40] Caterina Rando: Right.
[00:11:40] Sara Hart: But we can take really good care of ourselves. There’s a time between when we’re busy, busy, busy, busy, and are ready to do something else and until we find that thing. And that time in between is a very, very precious time, and we need to nurture it. And by nurturing it, I mean, we really need to nurture ourselves.
[00:12:03] We need to be gentle with ourselves. Know this may take a while. But stay open, not shut down, not stop going places, which hasn’t been all that easy this past year and a half. But to stay open and to think of things like when I was a little girl, what are some of the things I dreamed about doing?
[00:12:30] Like when I was a little girl, I remember very well. I wrote a book that was probably three pages long, but it was a book about a woman who swam from the East Coast of the United States to Europe. And I was so proud of my book and people thought it was really funny that a woman would swim from the United States to Europe, but I liked my book.
[00:12:53] And so I thought of that someplace not too long ago and thought “isn’t that interesting? I did that.” And now if I could find a patron to pay me to write, I would probably just write most of the time. I love to write.
[00:13:12] So I think you need didn’t think about, when I was little and fantasized about things or what I actually did. What did I do during playtime I had, lots of fantasy friends and did all sorts of things with them. So we can think about that.
[00:13:28] We can think about, “if I didn’t have to worry about money at all, what would I do?” And most of us don’t have that luxury, but I think it’s a good way to think about it.
[00:13:40] What would I do if I didn’t have to worry about money at all? Because when I coach people, I will hear people say, “I’m just going to leave my job and start my own company.” I say, “Whoa. Can you do that financially?” I mean, I wasn’t responsible for anybody, but me. And for people who have financial responsibilities, that’s a much bigger deal.
[00:14:00] But you can still dream. You can still start to do some of the things you had in mind. And the thing about when I retire, this is what I’m going to do. Now, some people think, “When I retire, I’m going to sit down.” Yeah, maybe.
[00:14:15] Caterina Rando: That’s good for about a week maybe.
[00:14:17] Sara Hart: Yeah, right? I mean, how long would that last? I can’t make myself do that now. So I think that you can stay open. You can try things. You can listen to what other people are doing. There’s all sorts of stuff. Classes you can take online now, that’s one of the good things has come out of COVID so much online. I would just stay open and be gentle with yourself.
[00:14:42] Caterina Rando: That’s great advice. Stay open and be gentle. Now, Sara, here’s what I want to talk about because. You know, I have clients that have started businesses in their sixties or seventies and they’re doing great. My concern though is for the gal that wants to get started, 60, 70, and she’s doubting her ability to do it because she’s having some ideas that she’s too old.
[00:15:13] And what do you want to say? Because this is what really, I think, is the difference. You know, you talked about the person who had done yoga their whole life or most of their life, they’re able to do it at 80 or 90 because they didn’t pick it up at 90. Not to say that some people don’t pick up athleticism later in life.
[00:15:35] But people that have never been an entrepreneur, now they’re 65 or 70 or older and they like the idea of starting a business, but they’ve never done it before. And maybe their limiting beliefs get in the way. What do you want to say to that gal?
[00:15:51] Sara Hart: Well, we’d have to really work with that because our society sends us such awful messages about being older and especially an old woman. Because we sort of, as women become unimportant. At 45 or 50. I mean, once we’re not little and cute and they can have babies, we’re not worth very much in this society.
[00:16:13] I would guess that,
[00:16:15] Caterina Rando: Don’t you think that’s changing though, Sara?
[00:16:16] Sara Hart: A little bit. It has a long way to go, but yes, I think it is changing. I think we’re watching it change. I think there’s a major change coming and we’re watching the beginning of it.
[00:16:26] Caterina Rando: Yeah.
[00:16:27] Sara Hart: So I would encourage her to learn about women who are doing things and who started things very late in life. And there’s all sorts of, search it on Google if she has access and is even fairly computer savvy to search on Google. I mean, if I can search on Google, honestly, almost anybody can see search on Google. And to look for women who were older and did start things,
[00:16:53] One of the real crimes, in my opinion, is that so many women, spend the real productive years of their lives taking care of everybody else but them.
[00:17:06] And then all of those people no longer need as much care. And these women, when I talked to them, feel as if they have no skills. And that is such bunk.
[00:17:17] Caterina Rando: Right.
[00:17:18] Sara Hart: So to help that woman understand from what she has done, she may have raised several children. She may have kept taking care of a household. She may have kept track of multiple calendars. She may have done the finances. She’s probably been on countless school committees. She may have been on boards. So to help her learn, what are all these skills that you’ve developed that neither you, nor society values, but are golden for helping you find what you might do next.
…what are all these skills that you’ve developed that neither you, nor society values, but are golden for helping you find what you might do next? -Dr. Sara Hart
[00:17:49] And then to do the same thing about dreaming, what it is you would like to do. How can you take those amazing skills and apply them to that?
[00:17:59] Caterina Rando: Right. Estate management, you know, there’s a whole industry called estate management that you run people’s houses for them, which can be very lucrative and a very good job. And then there’s professional organizing, which is definitely something I’m never going to do.
[00:18:15] Sara Hart: I’m never going to do .
[00:18:16] Caterina Rando: But you know, that’s a big skill too. And also the loving, kindness, caring part of all that can be monetizeable as well in a variety of ways. That’s part of what coaching is, life coaching.
[00:18:32] Sara Hart: Yeah. I think that there are all sorts of opportunities that are gonna grow because of our aging population.
[00:18:42] Caterina Rando: Right.
[00:18:42] Sara Hart: So what are services that this woman that we’re talking about, what are services that she is really skilled in providing and how could she do that? Because if she wants to do that and takes that and applies it to an aging population, I think there’s going to be wide open.
[00:19:00] Now you do have to add to that, all of the skills of running a business, which…
[00:19:08] Caterina Rando: …we know are many.
[00:19:09] Sara Hart: Which are many. And so I would really encourage her if she’s serious, I mean, if she really would like to do something to start taking some of the free or really low-cost things about how to start your own business. How to do a financial plan. How to do a business plan. And all of that kind of stuff.
[00:19:29] And she may actually be better at it than she realizes because she may have done a lot of it for her family. So even if she doesn’t think of herself that way, I would encourage her to start thinking about all you need to know to actually run a business. Even if it doesn’t become a big lucrative business, you’re going to need some rudimentary business skills in order to make it go at all.
[00:19:53] Caterina Rando: Well, Sara let’s not forget two things that, you know, I’m a big proponent of. One is get in a community of other like-minded, like-hearted women that are your age or around your age. Or that are advanced in years, that are doing it, so that you have some friends and some role models that you develop.
[00:20:15] Sara Hart: And some people who will have information that you need.
[00:20:17] Caterina Rando: Right, exactly. And of course get a good business coach or mentor, and a mentor could be somebody that is doing what you’re doing only they’re further along in business. It doesn’t have to be even a paid thing. You definitely want role models to watch and glean from.
[00:20:36] And that’s part of the value of the internet as well. You know, if somebody wants to be a yoga teacher, they can go to Instagram and see a hundred thousand yoga teachers and what they’re doing, right? There’s no shortage of resources these days. Don’t even get me started with YouTube, all the information that’s available there on whatever you want to do.
[00:20:59] It’s just like Amazon. Sometimes all you have to do is think up what you want. And it’s shocking to find that it’s there, right?
[00:21:07] Sara Hart: Or Google blows my mind. I have asked the most crazy questions of Google. I sometimes feel like going into the hardware store and say, “you know, I need a thingy that looks like this, that goes into a Jimmy boo, like, you know, that does this.” And the guy knows! That’s exactly what Google does.
[00:21:25] Caterina Rando: Exactly. Exactly.
[00:21:26] Sara Hart: Yeah. I think you’re absolutely right though, Caterina, for the woman who is wanting to do this to find a group of women, because we don’t have to do this on our own. None of us does this on our own. You just don’t need to do it on your own.
[00:21:41] And I think for some women, as they get older, they lose touch with friends, especially women who have been in the workforce and are no longer, Because a lot of their friendships may have come through that. She shouldn’t think she has to do this on her own because none of us, none of us, does it that way.
[00:21:59] Caterina Rando: Right. You know, I want to say something about this. Yesterday, Sara, you met my new BFF, Gail who’s in South Carolina. I would imagine she’s about my age and my point is that there’s this idea that you can’t make friends -this is another limiting belief that I’ve seen- that you can’t make new friends as you get older.
[00:22:22] And I want to say that I’m making new friends all the time. The thing is though, it’s not just every Mary Jane and Sheila. They’re new friends that are like me, that they have their own business, so we have a lot in common.
[00:22:38] And I do want to make the point that one of the beautiful things that happens when you start your own business in your fifties, sixties, seventies is that, guess what? There’s other gals, just like you, that would like to meet you and support you and become friends.
[00:22:58] And that doesn’t happen if you are 60 70, 80, but you don’t have any common new thing to meet other people for. I want to point that out because we can make friends at any age and then we can build a network at any age that can really enrich our life.
[00:23:21] You know how much I feel that our community has enriched my life and I plan to have the community as long as I’m above ground. And that means that my life will be rich. And that’s the other thing I want to point out because women in community is a very powerful thing.
[00:23:39] Sara Hart: That makes me think, Caterina, of one of the things I do think that we need to pay attention to if we are this woman that we’re talking about. People who even may be good friends or loved ones are not necessarily going to be supportive.
[00:23:59] Caterina Rando: Right.
[00:23:59] Sara Hart: Of this newfound interest and effort.
[00:24:03] Caterina Rando: They might be the opposite of supportive.
[00:24:06] Sara Hart: Yes. I mean, I did know one woman, I didn’t know her real well, but she did talk about how her husband was really upset because he wanted her home to make his lunch. And she and I had a long talk about that. And so there may be some long patterns that are going to need to change.
[00:24:26] Caterina Rando: Right.
[00:24:27] Sara Hart: There may be some friendships that they may need to go by the wayside, which is very sad. But if I’m really clear about what I want at this point in my life, who I am, what is important to me, where I’m going, and I have a sense that I’m being held back by anybody, then I need to really look at that relationship.
[00:24:52] I mean, I’m not advocating everybody run around and get divorced at that point. But you really need to draw some firm boundaries and say, “This is who I am. This is where I’m going. This is what I’m going to do. And you’re welcome to support me in doing this or get out of the way.”
But you really need to draw some firm boundaries and say, “This is who I am. This is where I’m going. This is what I’m going to do. And you’re welcome to support me in doing this or get out of the way.” -Dr. Sara Hart
[00:25:10] Caterina Rando: Well, I agree, Sara. Hey, let me say this. Yes, I’m not advocating people get divorced, if they’re happy in their marriage. What I am advocating though, is that they do ask for what they want. And here’s the thing, though, it’s not enough just to ask for support. We have to tell people what support looks like.
[00:25:27] ” I would like your support and support looks like four out of the five days a week, you make your own lunch or I’ll make it for you ahead of time. And you’re going to be very happy. That’s what support looks like to me as opposed to whatever you think support looks like, which oftentimes is giving me advice that I don’t want.” Right?
[00:25:51] Sara Hart: Yes.
[00:25:53] Caterina Rando: Well, Sara, this is a very good discussion that we’ve sparked today and hopefully we’ve given a lot of thought to our listeners about this hot topic of keeping your party moving for as long as you continue to be passionate about it. Let’s tell everybody how they can get in touch with you. You have a book called Prime Spark. You have a community. Let’s give them the report.
[00:26:21] Sara Hart: Thank you, Caterina, and I would love to do that. To find out more about Prime Spark, probably the easiest thing to do is go to my website, which is www.primesparkwomen.com. So primesparkwomen.com.
[00:26:38] There is a contact there that you can put your name and your contact information. You will be added to our email list. Then from that, you receive blogs as I write them or announcements of things going on. Also on the website is a button for the Prime Spark Membership Community. It’s a wonderful community of women just it’s actually sterling. So read about that. And if you think you’d have any interest in that, let me know if you’d like to be on the waitlist. And my email is Sara Hart, firstname.lastname@example.org. So it can’t be any more redundant, email@example.com. I would love to hear from you.
[00:27:28] Caterina Rando: Thank you, Sara. All right, everybody, go spark some new ideas, go spark some new businesses. Because whatever you’re doing, there are people that would like to be served by you. Thank you, Sara.
[00:27:43] Sara Hart: Thank you, Caterina.
[00:27:45] Caterina Rando: Bye-bye.
We hope you enjoyed this episode of Expand Your Fempire with Caterina Rando.