This story was published in partnership with The 19th, a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom reporting on gender, politics and policy. 

Mary Rawles worked full-time as a school teacher while raising two children but noticed over the years as her kids got “fitter and smarter,” she gained more and more weight. She transformed her personal health in her 50s, retired in her 60s and, now, in the midst of a pandemic that has disproportionately isolated older adults, the 73-year-old has launched her first business: online workout classes and weight loss support.

“I wanted to offer the same to other women,” said Rawles, who is based in the San Francisco Bay Area. “You can still change; it’s never too late.” 

Rawles said she has long had entrepreneurial aspirations, but she didn’t have the confidence or foresight to pursue them.

Mary Rawles, a former teacher who lives in the Bay Area, launched her own business at age 73, providing online workout classes and weight-loss support.

“I used to think of aging as a period of decline,” Rawles said. “For me, so far, the 70s are the most exciting decade I’ve lived. I have more time because I’m not raising kids and I’m retired, so I have a little bit of economic security. Because of that, it’s a time where I can really grow.” 

Over the past several years, the number of women-owned businesses climbed to nearly 13 million — 42% of all U.S. businesses — and grew at double the rate of all U.S. businesses, according to the 2019 State of Women-Owned Business Report, which is based on U.S. census data.

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