SBA, AARP team to help boomers in business

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By Dan Hannaher

The U.S. Small Business Administration and AARP are launching a strategic alliance to provide counseling and training to entrepreneurs over age 50 who want to start or grow a small business. Through SBA’s online training courses and its nationwide network of business mentors and counselors, the two organizations have a goal to train 100,000 “encore entrepreneurs,” men and women over 50 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 combined with a shrinking workforce, this difference will not only be maintained, but will widen over the next two decades.

After working many years, most boomers have strong business or public sector skill sets. They can now use those abilities to do what they want to do: be their own boss and create a business that responds to their personal and economic needs. We know that working side-by-side with AARP, SBA will be able to reach older Americans who now 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, for many of us older folks — myself included at age 59, spending time at the local golf course or taking beach vacations is not enough. 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 is always the need to supplement retirement income which may or may not be enough to maintain a desired lifestyle.

SBA has set up a dedicated web page for Americans over the age of 50 featuring: an online self-assessment tool that will 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 information to find local resources in your area. This web page can be found at: http://www.sba.gov/content/50-entrepreneurs

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 their business. To take a course, go to http://www.sba.gov/training under “online courses.” Course topics include start-up 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, according to the Small Business Administration. And the SBA reports that 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.

Hannaher is the SBA Region-8 administrator.