As more baby boomers approach retirement age, they’re finding that they are not ready to retreat to rocking chairs. Instead, they’re rediscovering an entrepreneurial spirit.
Our friends at The New York Times recently published an article on older entrepreneurs that got us thinking about the rise of senior businesses.
According to the Kaufman Foundation, about 20% of all new businesses in 2013 were started by people 50-59, and 15% were people 60 and over.
Crucially, many of these businesses are mission-based. If you’ve worked in insurance but have always had a hankering to open an organic bakery, you can do that in your second career. Or you can turn your hand to recycling, like 56-year-old Judi Henderson-Townsend, whose business, Mannequin Madness, upcycles old mannequins for sale & rental.
Obstacles, including funding difficulties and age bias, can be overwhelming. Micro-businesses can require as little as $1,000 to get going, but red tape may discourage many from even beginning the process.
To alleviate some of this difficulty, this week the U.S. Senate will hold a hearing titled “In Search of a Second Act: The Challenges and Advantages of Senior Entrepreneurship,” looking at the potential need for tax incentives and training programs for older entrepreneurs.
But it turns out the self-confidence that comes from decades in the work force—and being more comfortable in one’s own skin—may be just the ticket to get new businesses off the ground. “I could not have done this when I was younger,” says Henderson-Townsend of Oakland, Calif. But, she adds, “now I love the wacky, whimsical quality of being the Mannequin Lady.”
Many of the older women featured on The Story Exchange have embraced their new ventures with gusto.
Marion Hook had a 30-year career in education behind her when she purchased the Adobe Rose Inn & founded ARI foods—two bold moves that paid off.
Elizabeth Woods started Magnificent Quiche on her son’s 20th birthday, after working as a waitress for many years.
Engineering trailblazer Nada Kiblawi ran her own consulting company, NHK Consulting, for years. When she retired, she started a foundation to help Palestinian refugees continue their education.
Patrice Wynne retired from her bookstore in California to San Miguel Allende, Mexico, where she founded San Miguel Designs. She now works with local seamstresses to create recycled-fabric aprons & gifts.
We look forward to seeing more senior entrepreneurs as the trend catches on—proving that you’re never too old to learn new tricks.