Are you a woman nearing retirement, but thinking about starting a business?
Woman-owned businesses are a critical part of the U.S. economy, numbering 7.8 million according to the latest Census data, and growing at twice the rate of men-owned businesses. For women over the age of 50, small business ownership affords many benefits – additional income, a flexible lifestyle and that unbeatable feeling that comes with being your own boss.
In addition, as a workforce veteran, over-50 entrepreneurs (also known as “Encore Entrepreneurs”) bring a great deal to the table – maturity, finance and a broad network of contacts and relationships.
Whether you are looking to start a business right away or are planning to start one once you’ve retired, what are your options? What entrepreneurial path should you take? Below are tips and considerations to help you become a successful female encore entrepreneur.
Understand the Factors that Drive Success
Success isn’t down to securing a bank loan or a buyer for your product or service – small business success is more fundamental than that. It means having a true entrepreneurial attitude – being dedicated and refusing to quit when things get rough.
Networking is also critical. Connecting with potential clients and partners is important, but networking also gives you a broader opportunity to learn from the experiences of other business owners and help fill your knowledge and experience gaps.
Adaptability is also key – successful business owners continuously assess how their business is performing and make adjustments as they go. Likewise, being open to constructive criticism will help your business stay on the cutting edge and avoid potential problems you might not be able to see on your own.
Business You Can Start with Little Capital
Avoid raiding your savings or dipping into your retirement nest egg to fund your business. There are many businesses that you can start with little capital, including the following:
- Consulting for your former employer: Or those in your old industry. It’s more common than you might think (use your network).
- Online businesses: From selling on eBay to professional blogging.
- Virtual assistant: Help other business professionals with their administrative tasks such as email and calendar management, basic marketing and accounting functions – all from home.
- Become a lifestyle product agent/consultant: Beauty products, jewelry, kitchen gadgets and more can be sold at parties and online.
- Social media and content production: Social media and the content that goes along with it is time consuming for many businesses. Writers, photographers and videographers can all become successful content providers.
- Convenience services for consumers: From dog walking to child care to house cleaning.
Does Your Idea Have Income Potential?
This is a tricky one and many entrepreneurs run the risk of wearing blinders through this part of the business planning process. Weighing the costs of starting and running a business against its earning potential is critical, especially if you are already retired and living on a fixed income. Keeping start-up costs low can help alleviate the risk.
Home-based businesses are a great option for reducing costs substantially and can be started for under $1000. Your earning potential will also go up if you focus on doing what you like and what you are good at. Talk to your accountant, small business counselor or mentor (SCORE can match you up with one for free) for guidance on your financial options and good cash flow management.
Don’t Neglect the Business Plan
Just as you wouldn’t embark on a long car journey without planning your route, don’t skip or delay writing a business plan. You don’t need to write a polished thesis. A good plan is simple, flexible and manageable – it steers your business rather than prescribes it.
From a big picture perspective, address your strategic direction first, then break down the rest of your plan into mini-plans to include a sales and marketing plan, a financial plan and potentially a staffing plan.
Understand the Legal and Regulatory Steps of Starting a Business
Obtaining the right business license or permit, paying estimated taxes, registering your business name, incorporating – these and other legal and regulatory steps often fall through the cracks, simply because new business owners aren’t aware of what they should be doing (or don’t have to do) to establish a business legally at the city, county, state and federal levels.
So seek advice – talk to other business owners, browse your state and local government website or visit your local Small Business Development Center or Women’s Business Center for the right information about national and local business regulations.
Connect With Your Local Women’s Business Center
Located across the U.S., Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) provide women entrepreneurs with in-person assistance and business counseling programs that can help them start and grow successful businesses. Each center is tailored to the needs of the specific community and offer guidance and training on a variety of topics including:
- Preparing for business ownership
- Business planning
- Business management
- How to navigate the business loan process
- Opportunities for selling to the government
These can specifically benefit women who are economically or socially disadvantaged and wouldn’t otherwise have access to comprehensive training and counseling offered in many languages.
Over 50 Woman Photo via Shutterstock