Don't Doubt It! Over 50 Is The Golden Age For Entrepreneurs

Uncategorized Sep 28, 2019

First of all, get rid of the all the noise you hear that entrepreneurship only is a game for the young! It is simply not true. Here are the facts: 


Entrepreneurship by older folks is rapidly becoming the norm: 

Further, it turns out that people over 50 are very good at starting businesses! 

A study of 2.7 million startups by the Sloan School of Business at MIT, the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern and the U.S. Census Bureau concluded that:

  • 50-year-old entrepreneurs are 2.7 times as likely to be successful as entrepreneurs that are 25 years old.
  • 60-year-old entrepreneurs are 3.0 times as likely to be successful as entrepreneurs that are 30 years old.

This means that entrepreneurs over 50 are 2.7 and 3.0 times as likely to be successful as entrepreneurs half their age. Now, we all love the young and their incredible energy and optimism, so there is no intergenerational battle here. Still, the facts are clear: Entrepreneurship by people over 50 is something to be celebrated and encouraged!!!


Lastly, thanks to the Cloud, it costs less than ever than ever to start a business.

The fact is that the cost of starting a business is orders of magnitude lower than they once were. Here are the facts: One-third of startups start with less than $5,000 while 60% of all startups begin with less than $25,000.

Even with this amazing scale and incredible success, there is something going on with entrepreneurship by people over 50 that common public perception is missing: 


Above all, older folks may know what they are doing when it comes to creating and building businesses!!! I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that it may be because people over 50 have spent decades acquiring valuable skills and experience at building businesses, creating successful cultures, hiring the right people, selecting the best venders, building great products, developing thorough procedures, creating attractive pricing models and training great employees! These valuable skills are critical when it comes to creating a startup business!


Still, there may be something greater than knowledge and skills going on here.

 It may be that people over 50 have developed, through their ups and downs over the decades, something we call “wisdom”.  This wisdom may be about something as simple as knowing whether to push harder or walk away from a negotiation. This accrued wisdom helps with knowing how to bear with the inevitable ups and down of an entrepreneur’s life, how to control expenses and how to balance a business and personal life.


Entrepreneurs over 50 are often called “encore entrepreneurs”. This is because many have left a successful career behind and are now beginning a new act in their life. Some are empty nesters. Others have tired of the corporate rat race while others have been given a push out the door as they are replaced by younger folks working for lower pay. 


Also, there is my favorite group: Moms returning to the workforce now that their kids are grown. These incredible women have conquered crazy schedules, endured temper tantrums from irate offspring and made mad dashes to the hospital with crying, bleeding young ones. All of these people over 50 are now starting their first startup venture as an “encore entrepreneur”.


The over 50 (and over 60 and 70) encore entrepreneurs have energy, experience, talent and drive. 

They also have acquired incredible domain knowledge from their previous careers as to knowing the longstanding industry problems that cry out for an innovative solution. This group may also have the money (capital) and networks of relationships to help make their vision come alive. When you think about it, the 2.7 or 3.0 times success rate for encore entrepreneurs compared to people half their age is not a surprise.


Sometimes, a hobby or passion becomes a business. Michael Kittridge took a love of candles and created Yankee Candle, Debi Fields turned a small cookie-making business into Mrs. Fields Cookies and William Harley and Arthur Davidson transformed a love of motorcycles into Harley-Davidson


Other times an insight into how to solve a business problem that may be decades old may become the inspiration for a new business. Other times, one puts down the phone in frustration and knows there must be a better way – and the result is that a new business is born. Love, experience and need provide the motivation and insight to form many new businesses!


So, with scale and success statistics favoring these over 50 encore entrepreneurs, what is still missing for encore entrepreneurs to ensure their success? 

Based on my 20 years of entrepreneurial experience through four startups (I was 42 when I joined by first startup), there are three areas where encore entrepreneurs can use some help: 


1) Developing a digital perspective; 

2) Understanding digital marketing; and 

3) Leveraging social media. 


As actor Karl Malden used to say in his 1980’s American Express Travelers Cheques commercials “Don’t leave home without them”. These digital areas where the younger entrepreneurs excel, and you see this with the incredible speed with which they move. 


The good news with these digital skills is that they can be learned by anyone. Better yet, once you understand the basics, you can incorporate these skills into your startup and also know how to best hire people to perform these activities for your business.


  • Developing a Digital Respective


The mantra of the Digital Age is: 

Think Big, Start Small, Scale Fast &

Always, Always Focus on the User Experience (UX).


Our Digital Age relies on several key factors: Creating a great user experience (UX), reducing friction for customers (making a product easy to sign up for, easy to learn, easy to use and easy to drop if you do not like it), creating collaboration (among people, organizations and companies that might not otherwise ever work together) and building community (bringing together people and companies that have shared values and experiences). These are quite different from the days of having bloated balance sheets and massive advertising campaigns. The “I have a hammer and everyone is a nail” approach to sales fails miserably in the Digital Age.


Also, the process of building a company changes in the digital age. First of all, and this is great news: you can move quickly and at low cost using an array of low-cost Cloud-based services to minimize your startup and operating expenses for functions like data center, legal, accounting, mobile payments, websites, graphics design and office leases. Great low-cost Cloud-based tools provide automated marketing, team collaboration, part-time (gig) workers, document storage and backup and other great resources.


Please understand that the Cloud is a valuable and empowering resource for startups: One can find almost any service you need on the Cloud. You can start with free or low-cost memberships and then scale up quickly and efficiently as you grow! The Cloud is the main reason that One-third of startups start with less than $5,000 while 60% of all startups begin with less than $25,000.


  • Understanding Digital Marketing


Digital marketing consists of using online resources such as email, texts, social media, search engines, mobile apps, websites and content marketing to build brands, create awareness, sell products and nurture customer relationships. 


Above all, digital marketing is different from classical marketing in one key area: Digital marketing relies on campaigns composed of rapid and continuous experiments (tests) to generate validated data. You may hear the phrase “A|B testing” or “split testing”. This is where you put two versions of an ad or product out in market and gather the data on their results. 


The good news is that digital tools like social media channels, search engines, web pages and online surveys provide incredible data to their owners. This data can be analyzed, and new tests generated to create more validated data. This cycle of testing, measuring, learning and new testing should never stop! The result is that a startup can begin to carefully define their best audience (buyer personas), their best products, their most attractive product features, their optimal pricing, the best social media channels for sales and so on. Intuition (gut) will always be important, but validated data from continuous experiments (testing) goes a long way in helping encore entrepreneurs succeed!


  • Leveraging Social Media.


Congratulations if you have a Facebook page and a LinkedIn profile. Still, social media is not about a checking a box (“Yes, my business has Facebook and LinkedIn pages”). Simply having a social media page is like the person who thinks that wearing a football uniform is a substitute for actually learning to block, tackle, pass, punt and kick.


Social media is about educating, engaging and empowering people with and by what you do. A new trend is that business is shifting away from relying on a web site as social media pages become business workhorses. One critically important takeaway: 


PLEASE: Do not build your business without 

building your social media strategy!!!


Social media is not an add-on, an afterthought or an “I’ll get to it someday” activity. That is a HUGE mistake! Social media needs to sit at the core of your (digital) marketing strategy. Please spend time early and often incorporating how your startup will attract customers using social media.


This Is the Golden Years of Encore Entrepreneurship!

At 40, 50, 60 or 70 years old, the best business years of your life are in front of you. You have the ideas, energy, knowledge, experience and drive to create a successful startup. You also have the wisdom that comes from acquiring all these skill over the decades. Meanwhile, the cost of starting a business is lower than ever. Now is a great time to start a company as an encore entrepreneur. Add a little digital razzamatazz and you got it!!!

About the author: Allan Thomas Chiulli empower entrepreneurs and small business owners over 50 years old. Allan is the co-founder of DigElearn, an online digital learning experience for entrepreneurs and small business owners over 50 years old and the author of "Winning in the Digital Tornado", a book that empowers business people by helping them understand the Digital Age.


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