Yuanyuan Yin and her husband, Dylan Murphy, were both building successful careers at IBM when two events caused the Newton couple to reassess their busy, corporate-focused lives.
Early last year, Murphy’s brother, Josh Krauss of Long Beach, N.Y., unexpectedly died at age 32. A few weeks later, Yin endured a lengthy hospitalization and recovery from severe food poisoning while visiting her family in China.
“After those experiences back to back, we just said, ‘What are we doing? Are we leaving the mark we want?’ ” Murphy recalled. “A lot of priorities got reset when we realized what was really important to us: family, friends, and doing something we’re really passionate about to help this world beyond our personal careers.”
Yin, 31, and Murphy, 32, quit their jobs to start a business that would add inspiration and meaning to their lives.
SuperHealos , which they launched with cofounder Kathryn Jones of Milford in December, offers morale-boosting hospital gowns, capes, and accessories to comfort and empower children coping with medical issues, grief, bullying, and other challenges.
They are among a growing number of established professionals who are running or starting their own business, according to Andrew Corbett, professor of entrepreneurship and faculty director of the John E. and Alice L. Butler Venture Accelerator Program at Babson College in Wellesley.
“There’s a misconception where we look at entrepreneurs like rock stars and think, ‘I can’t be like that. I can’t do that,’ ” he said. “The fact is, there is a proven method of teaching the entrepreneurial skill set and mind-set, which I firmly believe are valuable for any of us.”
Corbett is a coauthor of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s 2013 United States Report , which showed that 39 million Americans, or nearly 13 percent of the 18- to 64-year-old working-age population, were running or starting their own business — the highest rate of entrepreneurship reported among 25 developed economies in North America, Europe, and Asia.
There were seven female entrepreneurs for every 10 males, with entrepreneurship rates peaking in mid-career (20 percent in ages 35 to 44) for men and early to mid-career (13 percent among both ages 25 to 34 and 35 to 44) for women. Yet, Americans in the 55- to 64-year-old age group emerged as the fastest-growing segment worldwide.
Mid-career and senior entrepreneurship makes perfect sense, Corbett said, since mature workers generally have broad experience, a modicum of financial independence, and greater risk tolerance. Regardless of age, he said, entrepreneurship is an attainable goal.
Although Jonathan Gouveia isn’t from an entrepreneurship-minded family, the 42-year-old North Reading resident said he “just dove right in” after settling on a plan to make some additional income in late 2002.
Having been in several weddings, he reflected on the variety of groomsmen gifts — among them, an action hero figurine and a cooler filled with Bud Light — that suggested the grooms had struggled for ideas.
After his research confirmed the market opportunity, Gouveia launched Groomsday (www.groomsday.com) in early 2003. The website sells traditional gifts such as beer mugs and steins, along with personalized whiskey barrel signs and the Scorzie Koozie, a beer chiller and game score keeper.
Gouveia, who works full time at a search marketing agency in Waltham, said his business generates a “modest” income, and is preferable to a second job outside the home.
“You really have to work hard, especially when you first get a business going, but I like being my own boss,” he said. “I like . . . calling my own shots. Even if they’re wrong sometimes, they’re still mine.”
Three Concord residents are pinning their entrepreneurial hopes on the Doggy Ditty, a cotton bag with water-resistant lining and a 4½-foot leash/carrying strap. It is aimed at dog owners wanting to carry items such as plastic bags, treats, a ball, keys, and cellphone while out walking their pets.
Eight years ago, Tina Labadini left her job as an office manager for her husband Kevin’s landscaping and car wash companies to open Tina Labadini Designs, specializing in stationery, housewares, and children’s clothing adorned with her whimsical artwork. Last fall, the 44-year-old mother of three collaborated with designer Paula Lublin, 41, and entrepreneur Mimi Rutledge, 53, to add a line of their patent-pending Doggy Ditty bags.
The idea for the Doggy Ditty came up while Labadini and Rutledge were walking their dogs in Walden Woods about a year ago. The women brought in Lublin through a mutual friend to design the prototype. The finished product launched in November, and is available online (www.tinalabadini.com) and in 20 New England stores.
“A partnership is always an adventure, but it makes me very happy to create a product with these fabulous women,” Labadini said.
Meanwhile, the founders of SuperHealos (www.facebook.com/superhealos ) recently exceeded their $10,000 goal on Kickstarter.com to publish their first educational coloring book. They also plan to design new hospital gowns with SuperHealos characters, and sell other companies’ products.
“Massachusetts is a great place to start a business,” said Yin, an MBA student at Babson who used the accelerator program to develop SuperHealos. In addition to support from Babson, including three months of free office space through its Hatchery Program, Yin and her husband have attended workshops organized by MassChallenge and benefited from several state government resources.
At Babson, aspiring business starters can also take advantage of undergraduate programs, a weeklong Entrepreneur’s Boot Camp, and open enrollment classes.
And there are other ways to learn about entrepreneurship.
Middlesex Community College has opened an Innovation Development & Entrepreneur Assistance Center in Henderson Hall on its Bedford campus. The IDEA Center connects students with resources and expertise to help organize, launch and manage successful new ventures. Its speaker series is open to the public.
TechSandBox, an innovation incubator in Hopkinton, provides a variety of programs geared both toward technology-based startups and general business topics such as marketing and financing, said founder and CEO Barbara Finer
Since November, the Shrewsbury Public Library has hosted monthly meetings known as the Greenhouse for Entrepreneurs, where people who want to get their ideas going or are willing to share their experience can mingle. The free series is facilitated with the help of Krosslink.org , which aims to foster local entrepreneurship through public libraries.
That kind of networking is essential for the success of fledgling startups.
“The process can be lonely and very difficult, especially in the beginning, which is why it’s so important to go out and talk to other people doing it,” Yin said. “They’re everywhere.”