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
More in: Women Entrepreneurs
If you wrote this for men over 50, you wouldn’t recommend that they become a secretary (“virtual assistant”); sell jewelry, home products, or makeup; or become dog walkers, babysitters, or house cleaners. This is why I didn’t listen to the SBA when I started out. I’m a 52-year-old woman and I consult to the Fortune 500. People my age have a lot of knowledge, and we should respect (and sell!) that knowledge, not accept a pat on the head from the SBA.
I am in agreement that professional women typically are seeking challenging and stimulating work at the same or higher status than their pre-retirement employment. If you are aware of resources available to women looking to ascend in the corporate world, can you provide more information or strategies to pursue these upper-level positions? Thank you for your response.
Elizabeth, my only experience is in leaving the corporate world and creating my own business, so I don’t know of any resources for women looking for positions in the corporate world.
For women with experience who want to start their own high-income business, I’d suggest finding a way to sell the knowledge and experience you have in a scalable way. By scalable I mean sales aren’t tied to your time. For example, consulting isn’t scalable because you can work only so many hours a week (but at least you can charge a lot). Setting up a web site that sells your information to businesses who need it is scalable and can work well. After years of consulting, I’m shifting to a mostly passive income from online sales of my information.
For more information, search the web for terms like these: content marketing, membership sites, online passive income, and online marketing. There are plenty of scammy sites that are easy to spot; ignore them. You’ll want an LLC at least, a blog or other website to publicize your ideas and establish your credibility, and the information itself, packaged however it works best (database, series of videos people pay to see, downloadable forms…) And because so many women undercharge, I’ll also recommend the book “Overcoming Underearning” by Barbara Stanny.
The recommendations listed would and could work for any gender and I’ve seen these suggestions for men as well. That fact that you consult to a fortune 500 company does not negate the fact that there are are people that enjoy the things listed by the SBA…Do you know just how much is made by say top sales consultants for any of the following companies…Mary Kay, Amway, CAbi or Silpada? There are men and women who own their business’ doing very well and enjoying what they do.
I agree with this response. I was insulted at these suggestions.
thank you.. very informative article, it is greatly appreciated.
Very good article with some great advice and tips. There is so much great information and resources out there for anybody to start their own business, we only live once and should take every opportunity to make it as fulfilling as possible.
Connect with your local NAWBO chapter (National Association of Women Business Owners). Members are women who have businesses and they will be eager to help and advise you.
Read Just Run It! Running an Exceptional Business is Easier Than You Think by Dick Cross. Especially chapter 2 Your Business on the Back of an Envelope, before you spend lots of time working on a business plan. I’ve had my business for more than 20 years, and his template is the only one I’ve ever been able to complete.
Great in depth advice for anyone wanting to start their own business. More and more people are deciding to become their own boss in the current economic climate and these tips are sure to help anyone thinking of taking the plunge.
I am 56 years old and have spent five years of my life in a Federal Prison Camp. I made some bad choices in my life and learned from them. Now I feel this label “felon” and being a 56 year old woman prevent me from being able to live above the poverty level. I have a desire to start an aquaponics farm on 25 acres that God blessed me with through a divorce. I earned a one year small business certification through Blinn college and a horticulture technician certification through Texas A&M while I was at the camp. I want this business to become a reality but I need assistance.
I’m all for encouraging “older” people to start an online business to augment current income or potentially create a profitable retirement cash-flow. Over 50’s men and women have good experience and staying power that is essential for success in any endeavor