To paraphrase a commercial phrase from years ago, it isn’t your grandfather’s entrepreneurship. In fact, the new version isn’t only for twenty- and thirty-somethings. The fifty- and sixty-somethings are, in increasing numbers, looking to launch what AARP describes as “encore entrepreneurship.” And the infrastructure to give those new entrepreneurial notions a boost is growing too, including in Connecticut. The most recent gathering, at the reSET business factory in Hartford, brought solid attendance and an array of experts to work with individuals with a full career under their belt, but nonetheless looking to start their next career.
AARP and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) hosted the free educational and networking “Boot Camp” seminar for Connecticut entrepreneurs and small business owners. reSET, usually populated by a predominantly younger set of entrepreneurs, indicated that age and entrepreneurship are not mutually exclusive, and Community Developer Brandon Serafino went on to explain the availability of working space, expert mentors and consultants is areas ranging from law to accounting to marketing on hand to provide guidance.
Nora Duncan, state director of AARP, led the program presentations and described a strong portfolio of services available – and some surprising numbers that reflect the strength of encore entrepreneurship nationwide.
It turns out, she said, that there is research to show that not only do more older people start businesses but also that businesses started by older people are actually more successful on average.
A study by the Kauffman Foundation found, for example, that the average and median age of U.S.-born tech founders was thirty-nine when they started their companies. Twice as many were older than fifty as were younger than twenty-five.
A recent report in Business Insider indicated that one in three new businesses in the U.S. were started by an entrepreneur age 50 or older. Describing “running a business as the new retirement,” the news report cited an infographic in easylifecover that highlighted those aged 55-64 in the U.S. have actually had the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity in the last 10 years, noting that the founders of McDonald's, Coca Cola, and Kentucky Fried Chicken – among others - were all over 50 when they established their businesses.
The interactive “Boot Camp” event at reSET – open to people of all ages with a special focus on the 50 and over –included short presentations from local resource organizations, networking opportunities and valuable information on the programs and tools available to potential business owners. Attendees were updated on the necessary steps and tools to launch a business, and had opportunities to talk one-on-one with local mentoring organizations, lenders, small business advisors and community leaders for advice and assistance.
AARP state offices and U.S. Small Business Administration District Offices are in the midst of hosting events for Encore Entrepreneurs specifically designed for those age 50 and older who want to start or grow a small business. Summer of Encore Mentoring events are being conducted during June, July and August, in Connecticut and around the country. (Next event is June 29 at CCSU)
Among those on hand at the reSET event in mid-June were representatives of the Office of Secretary of State (where new businesses are registered), Hartford Economic Development Corporation, and the Connecticut Small Business Development Center. SBA Connecticut District Director Anne Hunt outlined the businesses expertise available at offices throughout the state to support business start-ups and help navigate the hurdles that new businesses face.
The SBA-AARP strategic partnership is designed to jointly counsel, train, and mentor encore entrepreneurs on small business creation. For many 50+ individuals, officials say, entrepreneurship training is the toolkit that empowers them to use their experience, knowledge, and skills to become business owners and job creators. Since the partnership began in 2012, the SBA and AARP have educated more than 300,000 existing and budding potential encore entrepreneurs nationwide.
reSET serves all entrepreneurs, but specializes in social enterprise ― impact driven business with a double and sometimes triple bottom line. In addition to providing co-working space and accelerator and mentoring programs, reSET aims to inspire innovation and community collaboration, and to support entrepreneurs in creating market-based solutions to community challenges. The organization’s goal is to “meet entrepreneurs wherever they are in their trajectory and to help them take their businesses to the next level.”