Starting a Business After 50? It’s More Common Than You’d Think!

Starting a business after 50 is becoming more common because, as we live longer, the ages between 50 and 80 is a time for discovering our inner passion and perusing our dreams on our own terms. Senior entrepreneurs are empowered by greater life experiences and better confidence and more perseverance.

In fact, a study at Babson College & Baruch College found that Americans 55 and older started 18.9% of all businesses created in 2008. When you compare with this the 10% created in 2001, that’s nearly twice the percentage in a seven year span! We baby boomers make up a huge percentage of the population which is part of the reason why. However, I believe we also have the patience and perseverance that it takes to start a new business.

The kids today tend to have very little patience; and it’s patience and perseverance, indeed, that give you the makeup to start a successful business after 50 – or at any age!

Here are a few examples of people who have been successful at starting a business after 50…

Throughout his life, Mahatma Gandhi demonstrated how to fight for a cause in a nonviolent way. One of the most important acts in his quest for Indian independence occurred in 1930, when Gandhi was 61.

Kroc, the guy responsible for all the McDonald’s in the world, began his venture at the ripe age of 52, despite battles with diabetes and arthritis. Seven years later, he convinced the brothers to sell out their shares, and he became the owner of a franchise that would sell more than a billion hamburgers by 1963. Kroc continued to be involved in McDonald’s operations until his death in 1984.

Grandma Moses never had any formal art training — indeed, she’d had very little formal education at all — but she painted every day, turning out more than a thousand paintings in 25 years. She had no experience or education in paining, and didn’t being painting until the age of 76.

One of the oldest success stories is The owner of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Harlan David Sanders, well known as Colonel Sanders. He was 65 years old when he started Kentucky Fried Chicken. KFC was a brand new business idea for him. In his youth, Sanders worked many different jobs from farming to steamboat pilot, to insurance salesman.

When he turned 40 years old, he started a service station and sold chicken dinners to his patrons. Over a number of years he developing the way he pressure fried the chicken, yet he didn’t decide to actually start his own business until he received his first puny social security check for under $100.

And what about his patience and perseverance? Get this: Old man Colonel Sanders solicited over a thousand restaurant owners to try his chicken recipe in an effort to start his business. And, after persevering 1009 rejections, he finally received his first “yes” and his chicken business had been launched!

This is the kind of perseverance it takes to start a business that soars to success.
Some people think that it’s even harder in today’s economy to start their own business. However, contrary to popular belief, a tough economy makes it easier. In fact, there were more successful businesses launched in the great depression than ever before.

Finding the Time to Work on Your EBook Publishing Business After a Long Day at Work

There’s nothing harder than having to work after work. That sounds like an odd way of phrasing this, but it’s the best I can do. Imagine yourself coming home from a long day at your traditional job only to have to somehow find the time to work on your eBook publishing business. If you think this is a challenging situation, then you’d be right. But there are some really clever ways you can hold down your day job and still have the time and energy to work on your business in the evening.

It’s important to start by really looking at your schedule. You need to be somewhat realistic with yourself and understand that it’s not really practical to come home and to them immediately start working on your eBook business. You need to have some time to relax, have something to eat, maybe even go for a short walk. You might be reading this and thinking to yourself that only a weakling would need to rest and recuperate. Trust me, if you go straight from your day job to working on your business it won’t be long before you’re completely burned out and unable to really make much progress.

Can you realistically find the time to work on your eBook business after a long day at work? Yes, but you’re going to have to really be fair and honest about the amount of time you have to work with. I’d suggest starting out with no more than 45 minutes being devoted to your business per weekday. See how that works out, and you can expand the amount of time you spend working on your business from there.

Making Lemonade: Starting a Business After Ending a Career

What do you do when the money tree starts sprouting lemons?

It’s increasingly common these days to find middle-aged, mid-level managers suddenly faced with huge shifts of circumstance. Down-sizing, bubble-bursting, plant-closing, and consolidating are just some of the forces creating a class of sudden solo-preneurs.

At 50-something you face particularly difficult job-hunting challenges. Your salary range is high. Your network is decent after so many years, but jobs at your level are few. You’ve been there, done that, and thought you were finished with all that new trick-learning.

A big upset like job loss can provide a shift of perspective– an opportunity to take stock. What is really important? What do you want to pursue at this point in your life? Is being your own boss the way to go?

I spoke with several silverbacks to share their wisdom gleaned from these life changes with a new member of the pack.

Dean turned 50 in January of 2005. In May he was fired from his position as marketing director of a high-tech firm. He’s angry at the ease with which an employer could let him go.

“Control is a big issue for me. Do I really want to have someone tell what, where, and how? It seems like I work a lot but don’t reap the benefits. If I were on my own I’d have all the benefits and all the risks.”

Dean is deciding whether to find another job with the security of a regular paycheck and benefits, or start his own business. He finds information on the internet helpful but wishes there was a Big Brother-like program pairing people and businesses to help him sort through the options.

Carl was 51 when the ordinance plant where he was safety manager closed its doors.

“I had a lot of friends in the business. I could have easily picked up another job but I would have had to relocate halfway across the country. I didn’t want to do that.”

Bob was an engineer whose position was eliminated after 23 years with the firm. This sent him into a deep depression that lasted for months.

“I couldn’t even drive.”

With the help of his psychiatrist, Bob recognized what was most important in his life–his wife, his son, and his lifelong hobby, bird-watching.

“My doctor told me to go bird-watching every day. While out there on the wetlands I had a vision. I couldn’t go back to the corporate life.”

It takes a lot of stamina and belief in yourself to move ahead with plans for a business. Carl spoke of his state of mind at the time:

“I wasn’t frightened. I’m a survivor. I screwed up when I was younger– went bankrupt, lost a lot of material things. One good thing about failing is that it gets you over that fear of failure. You learn from your mistakes.”

Both men did a lot of research, internal and external. Bob determined that he loved birds, kids, nature, education, photography, and the environment. Anything he pursued needed to involve those. Once he was clear on the essentials the how-to landed in Bob’s lap.

“I saw an ad in a magazine to call for franchise information. My mind immediately took off with the possibilities. I began looking at retail spaces thinking ‘I wonder how that location would work?’ I saw the ad on a Saturday. That Tuesday I called the company. On Thursday I had the package and on the following Tuesday they had it back.”

Carl was taking his time, looking at options. His values included a love of people and a desire to create a positive environment.
His plans started with casual conversation.

“My buddies owned this building. There had been a restaurant there years ago but it had been mismanaged. And somehow the idea of starting another one came up. At first we were clowning around, yucking it up over a few beers, but then we started getting more serious.

Bob made use of the infant, but still helpful internet of 1995. Carl used lower tech methods to estimate his market.

I spent 15 days from 4:00 am to 11:00 am counting cars at that intersection. I figured if we could get a big enough percentage of them to stop we’d be in business.

Bob used a book called, The Insider’s Guide to Franchising [Webster, B. 1986 Amacom, New York] to help him review his offer. Carl was mentored by a successful friend in the restaurant business who helped him think things through. They developed their business plans and opened their doors.

The first year was tough for both businesses. Miscalculations and errors sent both owners reeling.

At first Carl knew nothing about preparing and serving food.

“The restaurant was overstaffed and overpaid. I felt held hostage by the people who worked for me. Things were pretty shaky there for awhile. Some days I wondered if we could open the doors.”

Bob got overwhelmed with paperwork and screwed up his accounting records.

“Plus I went crazy at Vendormart. I bought four times as much inventory as I should have. Nowadays the franchise pairs successful stores and newbies so that doesn’t happen, but those safeguards weren’t in place back then.”

In September Bob’s store will celebrate its tenth anniversary. It has been recognized three times among the Top 30 Most-Improved stores. In February and June of this year his store was number 2 out of 320 in overall sales.

Carl was advised that he’d know if the restaurant would make it within four years. It was clear after three that they’d be fine. Today after seven years they’re looking to expand.

“We’re not getting rich but we’re self-supporting, and the relationships are priceless.”

What advice do they have in hindsight for Dean and others like him?

Bob says, “Find what you love and create your opportunity. Be willing to change–be retooled. Don’t get stuck in a rut. And you gotta have another source of income when you’re starting.”

Carl adds, “We grossly underestimated the working capital we’d need. And if I had it to do over I’d own the building. There are improvements I’d like to make but I’m restricted by the landlord.”

So back to Dean, who’s looking at buying an existing restaurant business, if he doesn’t decide to return to marketing. Where do you want to be in a year? What will you say when I check back with you?

“I made the right choice. I’m doing exactly what I should and I’m excited about it.