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Middle Aged Entrepreneurs Aspire to Start Businesses That Make a Difference


Many baby boomers are looking to start second careers as entrepreneurs, new research finds. The research suggests that more than 25 million Americans ages 44 to 70 want to start a small business or nonprofit venture in upcoming years, despite tough economic times. Nearly half of these aspiring entrepreneurs, 48 percent, hope to make a positive social impact in their entrepreneurial efforts.

With decades of experience in the work force, baby boomers are hoping to leverage prior work experience in starting their own businesses, according to the study. Respondents reported having an average of 31 years of prior work experience, with 85 percent stating they had an average of 15 years in management positions.

"In a sea of bad economic news, it's heartening that millions of people with experience want to take matters in their own hands and launch their own ventures to meet social needs in their communities," said Marc Freedman, founder and chief executive officer of Civic Ventures, which conducted the research. The research was by sponsored by MetLife and Penn Schoen Berland, a division of the global research firm WPP Group. It was conducted by Civic Ventures, a think tank that focuses on the work and social lives of baby boomers.

The economy is not deterring these older entrepreneurs from giving business ownership a shot. In fact, 58 percent of respondents are using the economic situation as an impetus to start their own business. Fifty-four percent hope to start businesses in the next five to 10 years. Respondents, however, are realistic in their expectations, as 47 percent anticipate having a hard time getting the needed financing to start these businesses . The same number of people expects to have to use personal savings in order to launch their new businesses.

While the process to start a new business may be a challenge, many of the hopeful entrepreneurs want to make sure to be involved in a venture that brings them happiness. More than 80 percent of respondents wanted to start a business in a field they were passionate about or where they would be able to gain a sense of meaning. The research showed that the most popular fields for these "encore entrepreneurs" are:

  • 37 percent want to work in social services
  • 28 percent hope to help fight poverty
  • 24 percent aspire to work with at-risk youth
  • 24 percent hope to work in economic development
  • 24 percent strive to work in health care
  • 19 percent want to work to improve the environment
  • 18 percent hope to work toward human rights or social justice

For many of the respondents, making a difference is much more important than the bottom line.  Highlighting this is the fact that 68 percent of respondents stated they would consider their business venture a success if they earned less than $60,000 a year. Additionally, 72 percent of respondents hoped to be able to start a business locally that employed at least 10 other employees.