Higher Education, Nonprofits, and Small Business & Startups

Connecting encore entrepreneurs

Joint workshop brings business veterans and resources together.

April 10, 2015
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AARP and SBA are in the midst of an effort to connect 100,000 people over age 50 with small business development resources. ©Thinkstock.com

A workshop intended to improve older entrepreneurs’ success at an encore performance in business is coming to Grand Rapids this week.

AARP and the U.S. Small Business Administration are sponsoring a workshop to connect older entrepreneurs with resources, business owners and experts. The workshop runs 8:30 a.m.-noon, April 17, at 50 Front St. SW in Grand Valley State University’s Seidman Center.

The workshop is the first in a series of three events taking place across the state incorporating speakers from a variety of organizations that support small businesses and offering networking opportunities with vendors.

Intended for those 50 and older, the workshop is an opportunity to receive advice in new business functions such as securing financing, developing a solid business plan and effective marketing.

Those anticipated to participate in the Grand Rapids workshop include Brian Picarazzi, SBA; Jennifer Feuerstein, AARP Michigan; Dante Villarreal, Michigan Small Business Development Center; Brigitte Bester, FranNet; Dan Butler, SCORE Grand Rapids; Bonnie Nawara, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women; Michigan Veteran’s Affairs Agency; and the Michigan Women’s Foundation.

Feuerstein, associate state director of outreach for AARP Michigan, said in addition to the lineup of speakers, the workshop includes presentations from current encore entrepreneurs, and opportunities to connect with agencies that provide business service resources.

“We bring in encore entrepreneurs who have done the work to launch a business and have been successful at it. It is a learning opportunity to also share their wisdom and experience with people who are just starting in this process,” said Feuerstein.

“We also have a mini expo where people can connect with these different business leaders and receive information and resources,” she added.

AARP and SBA announced a collaborative initiative May 23, 2012, with the intention of connecting roughly 100,000 Americans over the age of 50 with small business development resources, workshops, conferences and mentoring programs.

Events similar to the workshops taking place in Grand Rapids, Lansing and Detroit are taking place throughout the country, according to Feuerstein.

“As a national organization, AARP really wanted to help encore entrepreneurs have the best advantage possible with starting a business, and they wanted to tap into the resources the SBA has,” said Feuerstein.

“It is all in an effort to help encore entrepreneurs figure out how … do you develop a solid business plan, how do you get the financing for it. It is to help encore entrepreneurs take this leap of faith,” she said.

Thomas Kimble, president of AARP Michigan, said the nonprofit is pleased to work with SBA on this important initiative.

“Many new entrepreneurs are saving their best acts for their encore performance,” said Kimble in a press release.

“They’re using their decades of expertise and their connections to start new businesses and to finally pursue that venture that has been stirring in their dreams for all these years.”

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation released the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity: 1996-2013 in April 2014, indicating the oldest age group — 55- to 64-year-olds — represented 23.4 percent of new entrepreneurs in 2013, up from 18.7 percent in 2003. The youngest age group, ages 20 to 34, represented 22.7 percent of new entrepreneurs in 2013, a decline from 26.4 percent in 2003.

Feuerstein said the workshop is an opportunity for older entrepreneurs to discover what they want to do and receive the tools needed to pursue it.

“They have been working in the workforce for a long time and they are tired of working for other people, or they are not satisfied in their jobs, or they want to fill a need they see not being met in the community,” said Feuerstein. “It is important to be able to give them the information and the resources to make sure their idea is a good one, there is a need and the market is not oversaturated.”

With the number of older adults launching a business during the second stage of life, Feuerstein said it helps dispel the myth that it is predominately the young who are the new business owners with new ideas.

Merrill Lynch conducted a retirement study in partnership with Age Wave in 2013. Americans’ Perspectives on New Retirement Realities and the Longevity Bonus indicated out of more than 6,300 respondents age 45 and older, seven out of 10 pre-retirees reported they would like to include some work in their retirement years.

A total of 71 percent of respondents indicated they plan on working either full- or part-time in retirement, or plan on cycling between periods of work and leisure. Of the pre-retirees surveyed, 51 percent reported they would seek a different kind of work, and 48 percent indicated the top reason for working in retirement was the stimulation and satisfaction.

Feuerstein said the idea of retirement doesn’t look like it used to and may include starting and running a small business.

“They don’t want to lose their relevance in a society where so much of your worth and value is based on what you do. Good or bad, that is just the reality of it,” said Feuerstein.

“People pursue their passion when it comes to entrepreneurship because they don’t want to retire — they don’t want to just sit back and do nothing.”

The Grand Rapids workshop is free but registration is required due to limited seating. With the expectation of reaching capacity at 75 individuals, Feuerstein said the registration deadline will likely end the day before the event but may close earlier based on availability.

Those interested in attending can register online at aarp.cvent.com/sbagrandrapids.

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