'seniorpreneurs'

By Sharon Naylor

November 4, 2011 6 min read

A growing number of seniors are going into business for themselves. According to the Ewing Marion Foundation, 55- to 64-year-old Americans have a higher rate of entrepreneurial activity than those in the 20-to-34 age group.

Scott Shane, professor of entrepreneurial studies at Case Western Reserve University, looked at a 2009 Bureau of Labor Statistics report and found that unincorporated self-employment increases substantially with age, and "incorporated self-employment is four times higher among those ages 65 to 69 than among those ages 25 to 34, and a whopping 25 times higher than those ages 20 to 24." Shane says, "Perhaps the older generation is more entrepreneurial, or perhaps they have more job skills and thus the confidence to go into business for themselves."

Anita Campbell -- host of "Small Business Trends Radio" and BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses -- says: "Many people at age 55 and up tend to be at a stage in their lives where they can afford to pursue long-held dreams of owning a business. They're empty-nesters and don't have the expenses they had while raising children."

In short, Campbell surmises that some seniors have enough financial cushion to take the risk of starting their own businesses. "On the other hand, it may be that those 55 and over are starting their own businesses due to being laid off and unable to get another job."

According to a recent USA Today/Gallup poll, 63 percent of American adults plan to work in retirement, and two-thirds say enjoyment of work is the key reason.

Launching a startup, no matter what your financial position right now, does carry some risks. If you're tapping into severance pay or your retirement account to launch your startup, the stakes are higher for your business to succeed. "Because at that age, you have far less time to start all over again if your startup doesn't pan out," says Campbell.

Still, even with the financial risk, "Launching a business in the golden years fills a void," says Allen Fishman, author of "7 Secrets of Great Entrepreneurial Masters." "(Seniors) find that after a period of time, whether it is months or years, they are missing the passion. Their lives no longer have the same purpose each day that they once had, and they want to recapture that feeling of purpose."

Fishman says that many of the "seniorpreneurs" he knows are not doing it because of income. They're enjoying the freedom and independence of owning their own businesses, and being fulfilled through fewer work hours per week than they had in an office environment.

*What Will You Do?

Seniors are using the adage "use what you know" and building their businesses based on their talents, work skills and the unique needs of their own demographic. In 2002, baby boomer Patricia Curry, an entrepreneur with aging parents, recognized a need for senior-themed gift items. She launched her site Wellhaven.com to provide a range of gift choices.

"We realize that the second 50 years can be as much fun as the first 50," says Curry. "That's why we offer lighthearted, funny gifts in our section Age-Less Humor. For the times when there is a special need, Helpful Gifts for Seniors can help promote independent living, making life easier for both senior citizens and their caregivers."

Other top sectors where seniors are launching businesses:

--Etsy shops, where they sell their crafts and wares.

--EBay stores.

--Franchises.

--Lessons for children, such as piano or art instruction and tutoring.

--Professional skills, such as computer repair, handyman work, copywriting and other talents that can keep you in business, and as busy as you wish to be.

*Where To Go for Assistance

Take advantage of the wealth of free information, online tools, calculators and other assistance offered to entrepreneurs through a number of reputable sites:

--The Small Business Administration recently launched a new website specifically for age 50-plus entrepreneurs: http://www.sba.gov/content/50-entrepreneurs. On this free site, you'll find information-packed articles on startup success tips and profiles of thriving senior entrepreneurs, as well as business calculators, links to grants and loans, tax updates, health insurance plan solutions, free business tools to help you create spreadsheets and presentations, and even a special eBay Business center to help you create and promote your eBay store. A smart place to start is the SBA self-assessment test to assess your readiness to launch your own startup.

--WomenEntrepreneur.com approaches the vast audience of female entrepreneurs with helpful articles and tools, profiles of female entrepreneurs, and links to grants, fellowships and other programs specifically for women.

--Startup America Partnership (StartupAmericanPartnership.org) just launched in September as an offshoot to President Barack Obama's push for small-business support in Congress. This new online network, run independently of the government, allows U.S. entrepreneurs to establish free profiles and access resources such as free software, discounted computer hardware, free business filing and other sizable "breaks" for seniorpreneurs. Startup America mobilizes the private sector's resources and expertise to help an expected 100,000 entrepreneurs over the next three years.

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