At the RISBDC, we believe entrepreneurship can be for everyone. There’s no one “type” of entrepreneur destined for success while all the others lag behind. There’s no prototype or blueprint. If you want to put in the work and you have the drive, skills, and resources, then you’ve got what it takes.
Age is just a number.
Whether you’ve been dreaming of starting a business for years–even decades!– or you are just feeling the pull of small business ownership as your life experiences come together, “later in life” is a GREAT time to start! At 50, 60, even 70 and beyond, we’ve seen great things happen.
So if you catch yourself wondering if it’s too late for you to start a small business, keep reading. Manuel Batlle, RISBDC business counselor, and Kathleen Bellicchi, the later-in-life entrepreneur behind Bellicchi’s Best Biscotti, are here to tell you that now just may be the perfect time.
Seven reasons to start a business later in life
1. You finally have the knowledge and experience.
While you may still be starting from scratch in many areas if you are launching your first business, you bring decades of skills and real life experience to temper your illusions, keep you grounded, and inform your choices. “When I came out of my MBA, I thought I knew everything,” says Batlle. “Looking back, I knew nothing.”
After a lifetime of working for others, not only will you bring tangible skills–potentially in business, management, leadership, and customer service–but you’ll also bring instinct and “people skills” to navigate personal relationships.
Bellicchi had never owned a business prior to starting her biscotti business, but she had experience with large scale baking, along with significant leadership and management experience that prepared her to run a tight ship in the kitchen. And after years of working with people, she brought charisma to interactions with customers at markets. Altogether, her knowledge and experience cut down significantly on the number of mistakes her fledgling business had to weather in its early days.
2. The opportunity is finally ripe.
Perhaps throughout your career you formulated plans and saw a good opportunity for your employer, but for whatever reason, your company didn’t take it. Now the ball is yours. With your prior preparation in the field, you’re ready to nab the opportunity for yourself now.
Part of what can make an opportunity ripe is a cohesive network to tap into. As an older entrepreneur, you likely have direct access to decision makers that a younger entrepreneur would struggle to reach.
3. To bring in additional income.
Particularly for retired entrepreneurs, or those who are still supported by a spouse working full-time in the prime of their career, starting a business later in life can provide an additional source of income without the pressures of needing your venture to support a growing family. Or perhaps it’s a great way to bring in a little extra to help out with college tuition or take special trips that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible. If this is your goal, you’ll want to start a business with low capital investment and overhead, and good cash flow.
4. To help a family member.
You may also want to get a business off the ground not for the end goal of supporting yourself, but to give a boost to a family member. Perhaps your child doesn’t have sufficient credit, or you have a spouse, sibling, niece or nephew who need help getting a business off the ground. Your knowledge, network, and expertise may go a long way in helping them launch a career and start out on the right foot.
5. To give back.
Bellicchi started her business after her husband was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. She continues to support Alzheimer’s charities with a portion of her proceeds every year following his death. Baking with him was a “cherished memory,” and giving back to that cause is an important mission of her work. Other small business owners contribute through their choice of products, services, or the communities they serve.
Age and experience often bring wisdom and confidence. You may gain the ability not to take everything personally, and the knowledge that you are not trying to please everyone, but merely to do and be the best you can in the areas entrusted to you. This attitude lifts the wings of small businesses. And Bellicchi reminds that in the areas where this confidence is absent, as an older entrepreneurs you may at least have more experience “faking it ‘til you make it!”
7. To create your best life.
This reason encompasses such a broad range of benefits, unique to each entrepreneur–but many are basic human needs. For most people, staying involved and staying engaged are critical to thriving. Batlle recalls that a recent six weeks spent at home recovering from knee surgery “were hell for me.” Returning to work helped him feel useful and independent again.
For someone who has immigrated to a new country, perhaps they struggle to land a traditional job in their field and starting a business becomes the only option to use their gifts and talents productively.
Or perhaps your venture feels like your path to fulfilling your purpose–a purpose that has taken a lifetime to become clear. To fulfill an unmet need in your community, to live out a passion, to fulfill a social mission, or to leave your legacy.
Do you have a business idea or dream? Maybe, in fact, the time is just right.