Senior Entrepreneurship: The other side of the 50+

Empreendimiento senior: La otra cara de los 50+ - Emprendimiento, Economía

The world has changed for the elderly and they, in turn, are changing the world. Today, those over 50 who have been given 20 to 30 additional years of life and good health, are creating their own businesses, from small businesses to large businesses. The senior entrepreneurs have years of experience behind them and they are eager to seize new opportunities.

The results of several studies have identified different subgroups of senior entrepreneurs based largely on different motivations. GEM, a study that covers most of the world, has discovered that, fundamentally, entrepreneurs are divided into two groups. The first group is composed of those businessmen motivated by necessity. With few options, entrepreneurs driven by necessity start small businesses with minimal financing.

The other group, the entrepreneurs driven by the opportunity are those people who could get a job, but instead choose to be entrepreneurs. They have more personal financing, more education and more extensive business networks than their counterparts driven by need. For these reasons, they tend to start larger, better planned and, ultimately, more successful businesses. A disproportionate share of senior entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs driven by opportunities.

Another way to categorize senior entrepreneurs is through the different paths that followed towards entrepreneurship. There are those who wanted to continue in traditional employment but they lost it and there are those who saw entrepreneurship as a way of doing something they always wanted to do.

What do senior entrepreneurs need?

Although business activity is widespread, there is an important group of people for whom the option of becoming entrepreneurs is not considered an option. For this group, raising awareness is a necessary strategy. Experts warn of the need to create awareness programs that have a broad scope for the elderly. These include relocation organizations that work with senior employees who have lost their traditional employment, social service agencies, government agencies such as the Social Security Administration, local business development agencies that have a significant presence in their areas, and unemployment / development of the senior work force.

Technical support

Senior entrepreneurs have unique needs. For example, in general, they have less technical skills than their younger counterparts, a reduced tolerance for financial risk and a shorter time horizon for their commercial companies. Entrepreneurship is widely recognized as a team effort and, often, family or intergenerational. While family members are usually available to anyone, creating teams with other people may require networks that are not available to most. For example, finding young, knowledgeable technology entrepreneurs who would benefit from partnering with older, more experienced and better-funded partners is a difficult task.

Social support

Social support is another need for senior entrepreneurs. Not having an anchor at the end of the race is reason enough for severe stress, but tackling the task of becoming an entrepreneur when you feel insecure and endure a period of low self-esteem is a huge task. There is a great deal of evidence that these problems can be mitigated by social support, such as groups, counseling, knowledge of successful coping strategies used by others and being a member of a social network formed by others in similar situations.

Changes to government policy

An older adult who becomes an entrepreneur is not only more likely to be successful but also to help the economy by creating new businesses and new jobs. Some efforts, mainly in Europe, have begun to encourage and support high-level entrepreneurship. The European Union was one of the first governmental organizations to create policy initiatives aimed at stimulating entrepreneurship among the elderly. SeniorEnterprise.ie in Ireland is an initiative supported by the EU through INTERREG IVB NWE, specifically designed to encourage greater participation of those over 50 in the company. This can start a business, alone or with other partners, acquire or invest in a business, advise an entrepreneur or support innovations within a business owned by a third party.