Asking a group of people what they believe is the most popular age for entrepreneurship is an intriguing way to start a conversation. Steve Jobs (Apple) and Bill Gates (Microsoft) may be noted among elderly folks, and younger individuals may say Evan Spiegel (Snap) and Jack Dorsey (Twitter). Someone is often quoting Mark Zuckerberg’s famous)Stanford University commented years ago that “young people are just smarter.”
However, the elder age is fast becoming America’s entrepreneurial hotspot. The aggregate data tells the story. According to the Kauffman Foundation, one-quarter of new entrepreneurs in recent years have been between the ages of 55 and 64.
Three times the likelihood of success
Older entrepreneurs do better as well. According to four economists in “Age and High-Growth Entrepreneurship,” a research study published in the journal American Economic Review: Insights, a 60-year-old who begins a new firm is three times more likely to succeed than a 30-year-old peer.
According to Guidant’s Financial 2022 Small Company Trends report, baby boomers (57 to 75 years old) account for over half of small business owners, compared to 7% for Millennials (ages 26 to 41). In the most recent U.S. Census Annual Company Survey, business owners aged 50 to 59 outnumber those of any other age group.
The data is brought to life by the first-person tales of founders 50 and older in Next Avenue’s America’s Entrepreneurs series.
Meet Some Successful People
Ever since he was 13 years old, David Sperstad has dreamed of running a bike store, a dream he and his wife Susan realized when they launched Touright Bicycle Shop in Little Falls, Minnesota.
Lori Volk, 50, resigned from her school district employment when funding for her position ran out; two years later, she founded Lori’s Original Lemonade in Ventura, California.
Rosalie Guillam, 52, retired from a long career in human resources in France and relocated to Sarasota, Florida, in 2005; in 2009, she and her daughter launched the French dessert restaurant Le Macaron, which has now been franchised across the country.
There can be no doubt that these and the other founder tales in the series are astounding. Several themes arose from the series that future encore entrepreneurs should be aware of.
Entrepreneurship Is a Lot of Work
Starting and operating a business is gratifying, challenging, and innovative, according to every entrepreneur in the series. A startup is also hard labor.
Kerry Mellin has been a TV costumer for almost three decades. Her job was enjoyable, although it was physically demanding, and she could tell that her time as a costumer had ended. When she was cleaning out a barn in 2014, her thumb joints were painful, and she could barely grip the broom. She improvised a remedy, and EazyHold sprang from that traumatic experience. The silicone cuff makes it simpler for persons with impairments of any age, such as elderly folks with arthritis, to grip items without pain.
Mellin and her two sisters started a company right away, and they each put in $7,000 and began researching and testing the product. Eight years later, Mellin admits that operating EazyHold is still “a lot of labor.” She states it’s fantastic one day and difficult the next.
Darrold and Martha Glanville’s experience and incredible achievement stand out. They retired in 2006 and relocated to rural North Branch, Minnesota (population 10,585). Sunrise Flour Mill grew out of their hunt for wheat that didn’t cause Darrold’s gluten allergy, and the heritage wheat worked.
Their company began by selling heritage wheat at farmers’ markets and has grown into a corporation with a 5,200-square-foot facility, staff, and other various products available online.
According to Darrold, the first thing he believes is that you need a lot of energy, and you need a lot of reserve energy. A lot of work will be required. Martha added that they didn’t expect it to develop as much as it did.
Flexibility is essential (as Is Determination)
Business plans assist anybody considering beginning a business in thinking through and refining their concept. The plans include the fundamentals, from funding to marketing to pricing. But be prepared to abandon your well-thought-out strategy several times.
Stephanie Weinberger, for example, grew the Cocoa Exchange from a New Jersey trial into a nationwide company for Mars Inc., the family-owned food behemoth. But when Mars shuttered the division, she was 56 years old and wondering what would happen next.
To cut a long tale short, she collaborated with several former colleagues, all over the age of 50, to launch LifiBifi, a marketplace for small enterprises. (LifiBifi is an abbreviation for Little Fish, Big Fish.) Weinberger stressed the necessity of adaptability in her experience thus far. She advises you to just roll with the punches. You must have the ability to turn.
Put another way, the capacity to pivot demonstrates the resolve to endure. Think long-term, Mellin explains. Things take time, especially when bringing a brand-new product to market.
A Startup Requires a Village
You need a support network and individuals you can rely on to establish your business. It is important to identify what you do well and what you don’t know or understand. Weinberger and her cofounders are excellent mentors. The most important thing is identifying your competence areas, adds Weinberger. And hire folks for the areas you don’t know anything about.
The three sisters behind EazyHold each bring a unique skill set to the family company. Aside from the costumer, another sister was an educator, and a third had studied painting. Their abilities complemented one another. “I trusted them,” Mellin adds.
Use Professional Resources
Several resources are available for knowledge and coaching, but not many are expressly geared toward the midlife entrepreneur.
Several founders highlighted SCORE, a non-profit organization linked with the Small Business Administration that focuses on advising and mentoring businesses, in their first-person experiences.
Public Private Strategies, in collaboration with AARP, provides a learning platform for the 50+ Small Business Resource Center. AARP also has a program called Work for Yourself@50+.
Consider the following: What Comes Next?
What exactly is your “exit strategy”? That is business jargon for what you will do with the company when you do something different. Mellin, for example, is 65 years old, and her sisters are five and six years her senior. They are prepared to retire.
Mellin’s son and his wife are buying out her older sisters. Mellin is pleased that EazyHold will continue to be a family business, and she will eventually hand over the company to her son and daughter-in-law. But not quite yet.
She says she is excited to start the next chapter. She gets to be in business with her kids. They are bringing a lot of ideas.
Darrold and Martha Glanville are approaching the age of 80 and believe it is time for them to retire. They want to sell the Sunrise Flour Mill to someone passionate about providing the best flour to customers and who they can trust to uphold the mill’s objective. They are seeking folks interested in pushing the firm to the next level, Darrold adds.
Don’t undervalue seasoned business owners.
Taking a step back, there’s another point to make. The tales in America’s Entrepreneurs shed light on the unappreciated promise and opportunity that the aging population brings. Wall Street, Washington, D.C., and state capitals view aging demographics primarily as an economic and social issue, as well as in most academic and media discourse. The depressing message is that an aging population will reduce the economy’s dynamism and society’s readiness to adapt – or so we’re informed wrongly.
There are certain benefits for older persons who seek entrepreneurship and self-employment. Teemu Kautonen, the author of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report “Senior Entrepreneurship,” says that senior entrepreneurs have some underappreciated benefits when beginning a company.
The Benefits of Age
According to Kautonen, a Finland’s Aalto University professor, older entrepreneurs may have more developed networks to draw on, more job and industry experience, more technical and management abilities, and a stronger financial position to support their enterprise.
Prosperity does not have an age limit. Older and senior entrepreneurs are creating jobs for themselves and others, wrote the authors of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s special study, “Senior Entrepreneurship.” These elderly and senior enterprises pay billions in taxes. The founders featured in America’s Entrepreneurship series are not anecdotal or exceptional. They are part of a larger trend, a grassroots effort to dispel myths about the link between age and business.