The stereotypical midlife years used to inspire visions of buying flashy sports cars or maybe splurging on that dream vacation. What used to be considered a time to experience a midlife crisis has slowly turned into an opportunity to explore midlife entrepreneurship. The number of midlife entrepreneurs is surging in the U.S. According to a new research report by benefit outsourcing supplier Paychex, entrepreneurs over age 50 increased by 50% since 2007. Duke University scholar Vivek Wadhwa says, “The average age of a successful entrepreneur in high-growth industries such as computers, health care, and aerospace is 40. Twice as many successful entrepreneurs are over 50 as under 25. The vast majority—75 %—have more than six years of industry experience, and half have more than ten years when they create their startup.” There are several advantages to becoming a midlife entrepreneur including self-awareness, strong networks and financial stability. While starting a business midlife can be extremely rewarding, there are certain factors to keep in mind if you are going to succeed.
Launching a business midlife means that you have fewer years to build it. Therefore, your strategy to grow the business needs to be very well thought out. Consider starting with the end in mind. Do you plan to sell the business someday, take the company public, pass it down to a family member or just liquidate it altogether? While it may seem counterintuitive to consider an exit strategy while building the business, it’s important because this choice will impact many other decisions you make along the way. Next, you’ll want to put your strategy in writing. The U.S. Small Business Administration has valuable resources to help you with writing a business plan, calculating startup costs, funding the business and much more.
Midlife entrepreneurs also have to evaluate risk differently because you don’t have as much time to recover a substantial initial investment. In that case, you may want to avoid business ventures that require large capital costs. Determine how much money you can invest in starting your business without dipping into your retirement savings. Seek out funding options like loans, grants and crowdfunding. If you think you’re too old to start a crowdfunding campaign, think again! Pearl Malkin, an 89-year-old grandmother, launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $3,500 in startup capital to help launch Happy Canes, a line of walking sticks she decorates with artificial flowers. Most importantly, be cautious when investing your own money in the business and don’t overextend yourself.
You don’t have to be technical to build a business, but you do need to embrace technology. No matter what type of business you launch, having an online presence is a must. Think of your website as your online business card. These days it’s easy to build a simple website from scratch using tools like Wix, Weebly or Squarespace. For an e-commerce site, Shopify provides an easy-to-use platform to set-up an online store. In terms of digital marketing, social media can’t be ignored. Depending on your audience, you may consider advertising on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn among others. The benefit of sites like Facebook is that you can create highly targeted ads for a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising. Embracing the online world also means that you’ll be able to more easily experiment with different marketing tactics to see what works and what doesn’t.
Know what you don’t know and seek assistance when needed. Leverage the help of accountants, lawyers, graphic designers and other professionals. If you feel lost building a website or don’t have the first clue how to set up a Facebook ad campaign, find someone who can help. This is where “reverse mentoring” can come into play. With the speed at which technology changes it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by all the tools and platforms out there—especially if you remember a time when there were no computers! Having a younger mentor can help you to close the knowledge gap and stay ahead of the curve. Hiring freelancers can also give you access to people with high-quality skills without having to hire full-time employees. This approach will help you to contain costs and scale the business efficiently in the short-term. Finally, virtual assistants are becoming almost a staple among early-stage entrepreneurs. You can hire them by the hour so that you only pay for what you need and location is not a limiting factor.
It’s never too late to become an entrepreneur. Midlife entrepreneurship can be fulfilling and profitable if you plan carefully. Do your homework, leverage your experience and most of all, enjoy the ride!
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