Help available for encore entrepreneurs

Daniel Hannaher
SBA – Daniel Hannaher / Region VIII Administator

The U.S. Small Business Administration and AARP have entered into a strategic alliance to provide counseling and training to older entrepreneurs who want to start or grow a small business.

Through SBA online training courses and the federal agency’s nationwide network of business mentors and counselors, the SBA and AARP have set a goal to train 100,000 “encore entrepreneurs” — men and women over 50 years old who are starting or running a small business.

According to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity for 1996-2010, 26 percent of entrepreneurial activity was produced by people ages 20 to 34 versus 39 percent produced by people ages 55 to 64. With Americans aging and the overall work force shrinking, this difference not only will persist, but also widen, over the next two decades.

After working many years, most members of the baby boom generation possess strong business or public sector skills. They can now use those abilities to do what they want to do: be their own bosses and create businesses that respond to their personal and economic needs. We know that by working with AARP, SBA will reach older Americans who want to begin an “encore” career that transforms a lifetime hobby or interest or years of professional and trade experience into a lucrative line of work.

Let’s face it, it’s not enough for many of us older folks — myself included at age 59 — to just spend time at the golf course or take beach vacations. We need to be challenged and self-fulfilled by interacting socially with our community, providing innovative services and products that benefit customers and adding new local jobs.  And, of course, there’s always the need to supplement retirement income that might or might not be sufficient to maintain a desired lifestyle.

SBA has set up a dedicated Web site for Americans over the age of 50. The Web site features a self-assessment tool to help potential small business owners understand their readiness for starting a business as well as information to help with business planning, shaping a winning business idea, professional counseling, financial services and help finding local resources. This web site is located at

SBA and AARP also will jointly develop and host a customized online course, self-assessment and webinar series for older entrepreneurs. 

SBA already offers a suite of online courses for people who want to start and grow businesses. To take a course, go to the Web site located at under “online courses.” Course topics include startup basics, finance strategies, marketing tactics, overseas trade and more.

More than 5 million Americans age 55 and older have their own businesses or are self-employed. The number of self-employed people ages 55 to 64 is soaring, climbing 52 percent from 2000 to 2007. These are some of the reasons why people 55 and older choose to become entrepreneurs, particularly at a time when unemployment is high and jobs are scarce.