SCORE Small Business Blog

The Truth About Starting a Business After 50

Are you contemplating starting a business, but you’re scared because you’re old enough to be a member of AARP? Starting a business when you’re over 50 can be intimidating, sure. But don’t let age stop you from taking the plunge into entrepreneurship.

I know what I’m talking about because I was over 50 when I started my company, GrowBiz Media, a few years ago. After writing and speaking about entrepreneurship for many years, I was excited about “walking the walk” and striking out on my own. The fact that the economy crashed just months after my business launched didn’t dampen my enthusiasm. I’ve never regretted becoming my own boss. To ensure you don’t, either, here are three things to consider before you quit your day job.

1. Are you comfortable with risk? Entrepreneurship inherently involves risk, and if worry is going to keep you up at night, running your own business may not be for you. But these days, employment can be just as risky. With the economic recovery still in its infancy, we’re not out of the woods yet when it comes to layoffs—and as many over-50s learned the hard way, Baby Boomers, with their high salaries and generous benefits, are often the first casualties when a corporation decides to slash its ranks. For many people past 50, the risks involved in piloting your own destiny pale in comparison to the worries of the work force.

2. Could you start part-time? If you’re leery to let go of steady employment, consider starting a part-time business on the side. It could be a passion you’ve always wanted to indulge (bottling and selling a family recipe, crafting artisan pottery) or it could be related to your current career. If the latter, take care that you aren’t stepping on any toes or violating any non-compete contracts with your employer. Don’t use company time, equipment or office space to run your business, and don’t take on current, former or prospective clients of your employer as your own. Review your employment agreements carefully and consult an attorney if you have any doubts.

3. What are your financial goals? Starting a business after 50 is a double-edged sword. You have probably grown accustomed to a certain standard of living; you may be responsible for a mortgage, college tuition or alimony. You’re not the lean and hungry 20-something who can crash on a buddy’s futon, subsist on a diet of Top Ramen and pour every cent back into the business. So you’ll need to be honest about what you need to make from the business—and realistic about what salary you can expect to draw in the early years. On the plus side, now that you’re older you have more sources of financing to tap into, whether that’s your 401(k) or family, friends and colleagues with the money and inclination to invest.

Starting a business after 50 isn’t a decision to make lightly, but it can be the best decision you ever make. Need more help mulling over the pros and cons? Visit the SCORE website to get matched with a mentor who can help you every step of the way.

Rieva LesonskyCEO, GrowBiz Media
Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. | @rieva | More from Rieva

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Discussion (2) Comment

  1. In vetting thousands of businesses over the last decade, those that start up part time are MUCH less likely to be successful. It’s one of the worst things you can do to build a business. Why?


    If you have a parachute and the pilot dies, you’re out. But if you don’t, you’re going to learn how to fly and land an airplane in a very short time.

    Two things about starting a business are always true. 1) It WILL get difficult, no matter what business you are starting – the uphill battle will come at some point. 2) Survival is a very strong instinct.

    If you don’t absolutely need to make it – if you aren’t all in; sink the ships, burn the bridges, shred the parachutes, you have a very tiny chance of success. Starting part-time is the sign of a hobbyist, not a full-out business person. Commitment is everything when starting a business. Never start part-time unless there is no other way to do it (there is almost always another way to do it).

  2. I started a small business in my late forties – and had to mothball it, going into ‘recess’ because of a legal imbroglio derived from a Family Court case. I would lo e to start up again, in more ambitious format – with a much enlarged outreach that could be achieved through franchising. But now I would need a business partner with marketing, computing and general energy levels grater than mine, and willing to do most of the necessary running around and leg work. Get in touch if you are interested.


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