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After six years of recession, the US is solidly on the road to economic recovery and as the dust slowly settles, it appears that Baby Boomers have been among those hardest hit. People within this demographic have found themselves in the precarious position of being out of work, near retirement, and forced to compete with younger workers willing to accept entry level salaries. As a result, a surprising number of job seekers have simply given up on finding a job and opted for early retirement despite having diminished 401K accounts. Others have responded to unemployment or underemployment by venturing out on their own and becoming entrepreneurs, which has created a wave of what are being termed “Boomerpreneurs.”
While the term entrepreneur might evoke pictures of baby faced tech geeks in Silicon Valley, the reality is that the majority of new companies are founded by people between the ages of 55-64. In 2013, 25% of all businesses were founded by Baby Boomers. In addition, older entrepreneurs aren’t simply working as consultants or using self-employment to supplement retirement income; they are creating sustainable businesses and generating jobs.
Why Seniors Make Good Entrepreneurs:
- Experience. Baby Boomers have the invaluable asset of years on the job. They have held management positions, dealt with failure and success, and learned to adapt. This also means that they are better equipped to foresee potential problems and be confident and decisive in the way they confront challenges.
- Studies have also shown that boomers are less averse to risk. They are at a point in their lives when they no longer have to worry about supporting a family and can more easily recover from financial losses.
- A lot of boomer entrepreneurs have alternate sources of income that make them more financially secure and able to safely invest in starting a business.
- Years spent in the community and workforce also means that Boomers have an established network of potential clients and collaborators to draw upon.
- While this one is certainly up for debate, there is some credence to the argument that boomers have a strong work ethic and are able and willing to put in the long hours that starting a business requires.
What Kind of Businesses are Boomers Starting?
The simple answer is: all kinds. From technology based firms and niche specific services to clothing lines, Boomers are using their wide range of experience to make their mark in a variety of fields. Here are just a few examples ofsuccessful boomer businesses that have started over the past few years:
Delena Stout started Brookside Bakery and Bath after being laid off from her corporate job. Her idea to open a shop that focuses on pet nutrition and offers a self-serve pet bath area came about as a result of her struggle to find healthy options for her sick St. Bernard. After securing a small loan, she was able to set up shop and since then she has opened additional locations.
Pearl Malkin started her first startup, Happy Cane, when she was well into her 80s. Her business dresses up boring walking canes with artificial flowers and sells them on Etsy. She was able to raise the necessary capital to start creating an inventory through a Kickstarter campaign that raised $3,500. Her efforts have been successful enough that she is planning on hiring several employees in the near future.
Visit Senior Entrepreneurship Works for more profiles of “Boomerpreneurs" and Elizabeth Isele's blog Savvy Senior Work for more ideas and inspiration.
While Boomer entrepreneurs are using their skills to cater to a variety of audiences and consumers, there is also a notable trend of boomers creating products that address the needs of their generation. While the vast majority of companies have been slow to respond to the demands of this large and wealthy segment of the populations, Baby Boomers themselves are finding creative solutions to the unique challenges of a generation that finds itself nearing retirement and having to care for their own aging parents.
For example, AmeriGlide, started a distributor program that allows entrepreneurs from across the county to open stores in their community. Most new distributors are Baby Boomers who were introduced to the mobility industry after having to help family members purchase and install stair lifts, lift chairs, mobility scooters, and other devices. Who better to lead the way in offering products and services that meet the needs of Baby Boomers than those within that population?
Throughout the years, Baby Boomers have been instrumental in igniting and perpetuating social and economic trends. They have gone from counterculture activists in the 1960s to innovative entrepreneurs willing to take financial risks even during an unforgiving economy. Their parents survived the Depression and now they are leading the way out of our latest recession by starting companies and creating jobs, proving that the entrepreneurial spirit isn’t just for the young.
If you are a Baby Boomer who is considering starting your own business, you might want to begin by looking into local education and training programs that can give you a better idea of what is involved in starting a business. Becoming an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone and the first step is to get a good grasp on what it involved before deciding if it is the right choice for you and your financial future.
By Amy Blitchok Google