FARGO—You’re never too old to be your own boss.
That was the message at an AARP—formerly the American Association of Retired Persons — and Small Business Administration workshop Tuesday, April 19, aimed at “aspiring entrepreneurs” ages 50 and older.
“Some folks have this belief that an entrepreneur is young, but people who are older are more likely to start a business than a recent college graduate,” said Brittany Sickler of the SBA.
She referenced a 2015 report by the Kauffman Foundation that stated more than 25 percent of new entrepreneurs are in the 55-to-64 age group. In 1996, that number was just over 14 percent.
People older than 55 have a higher self-employment rate at 16.4 percent than the entire work force—10.4—according to Bureau of Labor statistics. Almost two-thirds of those business have paid employees, compared to one-third of businesses owned by those in the 25-to-34-year-old range.
These older entrepreneurs may have a better sense for business. A study by PRIME (Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise) stated that 70 percent of businesses started by those in their 50s lasted at least five years, compared to 28 percent of businesses owned by people under the age of 50.
“They have a lot of energy, but we have the wisdom,” said Neil Blanchard of Profit Pros, one of three panelists brought in to share their experiences and answer questions from the crowd of about 50.
Introduced by Sickler as “a serial entrepreneur,” Blanchard said about 33 percent of startups fail.
He said one of the keys for any business is to develop a business plan and have a budget prepared.
Sickler asked how the panelists view risk now versus when they started.
“We have a lot more realistic look at risk,” explained Dan Hofland, creator of SunButter, an alternative for those allergic to peanuts. “There are a lot of us who woke up at 2 a.m. and wondered, ‘How am I going to pay the bills?’ ”
For Linda Lammers, there was more stress and boredom in an office job. After a health scare, she decided it was time to take some risks and started her own company, Change is Good, which helps older clients and their families transition from one home to another.
“I didn’t want to wonder ‘what if?’ ” Lammers said. “Why not give it a shot? I’m not getting any younger, so I don’t want to risk not giving it a try.”
“A lot of people are reluctant to take that step,” said Lyle Halvorson of AARP North Dakota, explaining that the workshop aimed “to help them in the first few steps.”
The program also included speakers like John Postovit from SCORE, a nationwide group of retired executives volunteering to help advise new business ventures.
“It was very helpful,” attendee Brenda Kluth said. Looking to start her own business—though she wouldn’t say what her idea was—she said it was valuable to hear encore entrepreneurs share advice.
“Don’t let fear get in your way, but do your due diligence,” Blanchard said.
“If you’re looking for more vacation, self-employment is not the way to go,” Lammers warned.
It’s a lot of hard work, Hofland said, but the payoff is better than a check.
“When you do get a business started, it will be one of the most satisfying things you do in your life,” he said.
The free workshop was at the downtown Fargo Public Library. Similar workshops are scheduled Wednesday, April 20, in Grand Forks; Tuesday, April 26, in Bismarck; and Thursday, April 28, in Minot. For more information, visit www.aarp.org/StartABusiness.