Featured Founder: Dr. Suzanne Cook of Carpe Vitam

Featuring Academic Entrepreneur Dr. Suzanne Cook

“People aged 55 to 64 are twice as likely as those age 25-55 to be an entrepreneur.”

Introducing Suzanne! What keeps you busy?

I’m an academic entrepreneur. I’m adjunct professor in the Department of Sociology at York University and faculty fellow at the Trent Centre for Aging and Society. I am the founder of Carpe Vitam, and this is my company that helps me to share innovative knowledge mobilization with the broader public. I conduct research looking at later-life work and occupation, and career. I coined the term “redirection” to refer to this later stage of career among older adults as they pursue new directions. I believe that academic and entrepreneurial activities are complementary, and that in today’s competitive society, the competitive labour market, and our knowledge society, it makes a lot of sense to be an academic entrepreneur.

It was a colleague of mine who first told me that I very much embodied academic entrepreneurship with what I’m doing. I have two current research projects. The first one looks at later-life career development among older adults, age 50 and older. It is funded by the Canadian Education and Research Institute of Counselling, and I’m examining this topic within Canada with this project. Secondly, I have a research project with my colleague, Dr. Thomas Klassen, who’s also at York University. We are examining labour market adjustment programs among older workers, and we are investigating innovation of programs and services for older workers. We’re looking at Ontario, and then we are looking across the rest of the country, and then we are doing a comparative analysis with the United States. This project is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, and we received an Ontario Human Capital Research and Innovation Grant to conduct this research.

DrSuzanneCookBefore this, what did you do?

I’ve had a career prior to this, before getting my PhD in Adult Education and Community Development. I worked within private industry, I did some policy and community development work among various levels of government, and I’ve also worked with non-profits.

What is your day-to-day schedule like?

Day-to-day, my schedule varies. I spend time every day doing writing, working on academic manuscripts to contribute to scholarship in my field. I come into campus at York and I keep on top of my research projects, I meet with my research assistants. I also have meetings with other businesses, I network, and I also attend conferences. So, my day-to-day schedule is very dynamic, depending on the day.

Where do you find inspiration?

For inspiration, it’s really my participants and my research who inspire me. I am amazed by their stories, their journey of career development across the life course, and I find them to be really inspiring, amazing role models.

What are the biggest challenges or obstacles you’ve faced as an entrepreneur?

The biggest challenge that I’ve faced as an entrepreneur, looking back, it was probably start-up of my company. It always takes much longer to move from the vision, and to make it a reality, so I would say that that was probably the biggest obstacle; just the fact that it takes a lot of time to get things running.

What is one of the most important keys to success in your field?

I think that the key to my success is my amazing innovation and creative spirit, my creative energy. I also am very resourceful, so I find together that this really feeds me and is a vital part of who I am as an individual. I love tapping into that creative energy.

When do you feel most alive and ready to take on the world?

The times that I feel really rejuvenated are when I attend academic conferences. I love to be there, hearing about the latest research and connecting with colleagues; former colleagues that I don’t really see any more, but also meeting new people who share a passion for the same areas of research that I investigate.

What was your experience like working with the team at Now?

Now Creative Group helped me with my logos, for my website presence, and recently completed a poster for my current research project and some of the knowledge mobilization pieces that are coming out of that project, so I’m very excited about that. I am grateful for their creative energy and their innovation. I really love to be inspired, to see other people at work doing really creative things.

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What is your goal within the next 3 years?

My goal for the next three years is to complete my book on redirection. It is a timely topic, it is a very important topic in today’s society and I’m very keen to get my book out there, completed, and to share it with the rest of the world.

What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur?

The best thing about being an entrepreneur is that you’re constantly challenged, and that you really work for the things that you believe in, for the objectives and goals that you believe in, every day. That doesn’t stop. You wear many different hats, and so it really is a very vital and dynamic role to be an entrepreneur.

Anything else we should know about entrepreneurship later in life?

Sometimes we forget that it’s the older entrepreneurs who are, in great number, out there in Canada. So I want to really highlight here that people aged 55 to 64 are twice as likely as those age 25-55 to be an entrepreneur, to pursue self-employment. So it’s important to keep that in mind, that that is one of the new directions that older adults are choosing as they decide what comes next in their career journey. So you can expect to see a lot more older people who are self-employed and pursuing entrepreneurship, and some of them are pursuing social enterprise, social-purpose business, and some of them are pursuing more traditional models.