Welcome to the new retirement. It’s about having the freedom to decide when and how you want to take a break from work — to rest, recharge or start a new adventure — no matter your age. In our Redefining Retirement series, you’ll learn how real people are living their lives to the fullest, and the steps they took to get there.

Here, a 20-something couple from Marlboro, New Jersey, share how their two-month honeymoon to Thailand inspired them to launch their dream business.

When we met in 2014, neither of us were certain of what we wanted to do with our lives. We just knew we wanted options — whether that was to travel the world or have the freedom to try new things.

Back then, we each held a few different jobs. Jessica worked at a factory and a body-piercing shop, while also holding a manager job at McDonald’s. Mihran worked in insurance sales and personal training, and he frequently invested our savings to help our money grow. Even though we were still unsure of what our future held, we knew that to have the kind of life we wanted we needed to save as much as we could now.

That included living below our means. Instead of going out, we invited friends over and hosted them at home. When we wanted to make a somewhat big purchase, like a TV, we researched obsessively to find the best deal. We shopped in bulk at Costco. All of these little things added up. Between being frugal together and savings we’d each already been building for years, we were able to save up $60,000.

When we got married in April 2015, we applied the same “below our means” thinking. We held our wedding on a Monday, and opted to serve beer and wine rather than a full bar. And we made everything: centerpieces, favors, all of it. We were able to have a really nice wedding with 80 people for only $6,000. A few months later, in November, we took out another $6,000 so we could spend two months in Thailand on our honeymoon. We’d always wanted to travel, and we chose Thailand because it’s so affordable that you can spend an extended period of time there without breaking the bank. Although we quit our jobs to do this, our bosses would have welcomed us back if we wanted to return. But we were ready for new adventures.

HOW OUR TRIP INSPIRED A BUSINESS

While backpacking around, we’d often talk about what the rest of our lives could be like: Do we use our savings to buy a franchise? Do we invest? Do we put off any big plans and keep saving?

The whole time we were having these conversations, we’d eat delicious crepes and smoothies that are sold all over northern Thailand as street food. Two weeks into the trip, we thought, crepes! They were so appealing as a potential business. People enjoy watching them being made, there are so many varieties and you don't need to feel guilty about eating them. Plus, they’re just plain delicious.

At that point, we weren’t sure how serious we were about launching a business, but it was still fun to walk the streets of Chiang Mai for hours trying to come up with ideas for it. We thought of names and concepts. We loved the idea of a Thailand-inspired jungle vibe to set our shop apart from the Paris theme that most crepe spots go for.


The Sirekans are a year into running their crepe business, with plans to open a second location early next year.
Courtesy of the Sirekans

Once we got back home, we got serious. We drew up a business plan and scouted out the competition to see if a crepe shop would be a profitable business in our area. We had our friends vote on names, and “Planet of the Crepes” won overwhelmingly. We took $40,000 of our savings and received $10,000 of funding from a family friend to launch the business at an outlet mall in our area of central New Jersey.

Our main goal is to make this business as big as we possibly can, including franchises someday. We don’t see any need to put a limit to our dreams.

We are so blessed that our family friend, and other people close to us, believed in our dream and helped make it happen. They informed a lot of our decisions, from taste-testing everything on our menu to helping us figure out how to serve a crepe with a runny sauce.

We opened Planet of the Crepes in September 2016, and from the first day it was wild. Both of us worked 18- to 20-hour days the first two weeks because we didn’t have employees. Things took off pretty quickly. There were people who came to the mall just for our crepes — some of them drove over an hour just for us! That was the best feeling.

Two months later our son, Raffi, was born, adding to a hectic but completely wonderful time of our lives. And we couldn’t ask for more right now: We’re about a year into owning our first crepe shop, with plans to add a second location at an upscale mall in Freehold, New Jersey, early next year. We also employ between three and 10 people, depending on the season — summer is our busiest time — and we’re proud to donate a portion of our profits to the Thai charity Gift of Happiness Foundation.

Our main goal is to make this business as big as we possibly can, including franchises someday. We don’t see any need to put a limit to our dreams.

Because we’re still only in our 20s, a lot of people are surprised when they learn we launched our dream business. We understand why: All your life you’re told to go to school, get a job, work in a cubicle for decades — and then, maybe sometime in the future, you can do something like we did. While that’s good for some people, it wasn’t right for us. We just wondered, why wait?

Here’s our advice to others, especially young people, thinking about doing the same thing: Do your research, take calculated risks and don’t be afraid. If you’re willing to put in the hard work, you can do way more than you ever thought possible.

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