We’ve all heard the saying, “Choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” But most of us spend years—decades, even—in the work force building a solid career without knowing how to make a living doing what we love.
Perhaps you’re thinking about your next chapter, and your daydreams are shifting to striking out on your own and bringing your years of experience to a new venture: your own business! You’re not alone in this dream. Dubbed “encore entrepreneurship,” many new businesses are started by entrepreneurs age 50 or older.
No matter how many candles you blew out on your last birthday cake, the time is now. Let your passion fuel you to create your own second chapter success story.
Age and Entrepreneurial Success
You might associate the world of entrepreneurship with “youth,” but that’s a false assumption. Many successful heads of start-ups started their own business in their fifth decade. For example, Ray Kroc purchased McDonald’s restaurant company when was he was 59 years old.
For many older entrepreneurs, their years of experience in the workforce has been their best advantage to entrepreneurial success. And statistics back this up, indicating that mature entrepreneurs may actually be more successful than their younger counterparts.
A recent study funded by the Kaufmann Foundation surveyed 500 successful founders. Their results favor older entrepreneurs: “The typical successful founder was 40 years old, with at least 6-10 years of industry experience.” That same study reported that twice as many successful entrepreneurs are older than 50 than under 25.
These young-in-mind-and-spirit entrepreneurs have found success in their 60s, 70s, and even their 90s! One thing is certain, calendar age isn’t a barrier to your entrepreneurial ability.
Famous Second Chapter Entrepreneurs
One of the most daunting concepts for any of us is change. The familiar is comfortable, safe, and known; this applies to both business and life overall. Take a moment to browse the stories of midlife entrepreneurs who were able to create fulfilling, successful businesses when their safety nets failed.
Some of the best ideas come from need and are influenced by prior life experience. Paula Deen and Michael Bloomberg are proof that hard work and harnessing ones’ talent to pursue a passion can be wildly successful, even if their original “track” was far different.
To quote SkinnyGirl empire founder Bethenny Frankel about the lucrative global company she started in her mid-30s, “When you find you are off track or your actions aren’t in line with your true nature, you change course. You start again. It’s never wrong. It just is.”
As a second-act entrepreneur, you may feel out-of-touch with current technology, and daunted by the idea of getting up-to-speed. Don’t let that deter you from taking the leap. The truth is, there’s a learning curve with any new business.
While some might be more risk-averse as they get older, it’s not true for everyone. It’s possible you have more ability to take business risks than when you were younger. As you near retirement, you may no longer have young children to support, you may have better established credit, or greater collateral to secure a business loan, and all of these factors may make it easier for you to get your new business off the ground financially.
Willpower and drive may increase as you get older. If you’re establishing a business at a later age, there’s a good chance that you really want to do this. Perhaps it was a dream you had when you were younger, but put it off because it seemed too risky. Or perhaps it was a dream you hatched after years of working for others and realized that you could build a better product, or be a better boss. No matter what the source of your second-act inspiration, know that you’re bringing years of real-world business (and life!) experience to the table.
Getting Started Living your Business Dream
If you could do one thing every day, what would that thing be? Baking, fashion, writing—you know what intrinsically makes your eyes light up. Think broadly about how you can translate your years of unique skills into a business that brings you satisfaction.
At the brainstorming creative phase, it doesn’t make sense to get caught up in the “what ifs” down the road, but it does make sense to give some thought to where your passions and your expertise intersect. Ask yourself: What do you love to do that you’re good at? What do you lose track of time doing?
Usually if you love something, you’re good at it, and vice versa. Most people don’t enjoy pursuits for which they lack talent. Someone with problems with long division probably won’t pursue a career as an engineer, just as someone who hates to read and write won’t enjoy a career in law.
Over the years, you’ve received feedback from clients, bosses, and colleagues about what skills you excel at and what you bring to the business table. Think about your strengths, talents, and passions and how you can parlay those into your own business venture.
Don’t Get Discouraged by Hard Work
Once you’re past the dreaming stage of thinking about your best business start-up life, it’s time to start thinking about the next step to move your dreams forward into a concreate, executable plan.
Although your goal is to do what you love, the nitty gritty details of starting a business (and later, running the company) are, well, work. Any job involves tasks that don’t invoke passion, but don’t let that cause you to throw in the towel. Few of us would wax poetic about making copies or researching office lease packages, but admin tasks are necessary in even the most fun jobs.
Don’t get discouraged if your dreams are tempered by the reality of getting started. Doing what you love doesn’t mean you’re going to love every task. That’s the nature of entrepreneurship. Keep pressing forward with the idea that you’re building something which will bring you satisfaction in the coming months and years.
Good luck realizing your “encore entrepreneur” goals. Remember: you bring many talents and skills to the table, and it’s never too late to use them to create a job you love!
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