Five reasons senior entrepreneurs will take small business by storm

Tony Featherstone

The fastest-growing category of entrepreneurship in Australia is not spunky young Millennials or plucky Gen Xers. It’s senior citizens. Yes, “seniorpreneurs” are kicking butt in the entrepreneurship stakes, and more silver foxes are on the way.

Seniorpreneurs are starting a third of all new businesses, according to a report by Dr Alex Maritz of Swinburne University. More than 590,000 of Australian small business owners are aged 50 or over, according to Maritz, a seniorpreneurship authority.

Released in September 2015, Senior Entrepreneurship In Australia: Active Ageing And Extending Working Lives was the first report of its kind to study the intentions and attitudes of senior entrepreneurs.

Dr Maritz’s research found seniorpreneurs in Australia are more capable of starting a business than their younger peers; and have more developed networks, better business experience, superior technical and managerial skills, and a stronger financial position.

Similar trends are evident overseas. In the US, businesses started by those aged 55 to 64 accounted for nearly a quarter of all new ventures in 2013, according to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Remarkably, Americans in the 55-64 age group start new businesses at a higher rate than those in their 20s and 30s.

A 2013 OECD paper, Senior Entrepreneurship, found 16 per cent of it survey respondents (aged 50-64) were considering entrepreneurship as a late-career alternative.

It seems older people worldwide are more interested in self-employment than ever. Here’s five reasons to expect even stronger growth in seniorpreneurship.

As older workers struggle to find comparable jobs in other companies, self-employment will become a better option.

The world is turning grey

By 2050, people aged 60 or over will exceed the number of children for the first time, and the world’s older population will more than double to two billion, predicts the United Nations. An ageing, growing population, by default, will boost seniorpreneur ranks.

50 is the new 30

Well, not quite. But the 'over 50' brigade hardly seem like senior citizens these days. Medical advances and longer life spans are making it feasible to start ventures later. Why not start a business in your 60s?

I am the only person who will hire me!

But when redundancies strike, companies often replace older, costlier workers with younger, cheaper varieties. As older workers struggle to find comparable jobs in other companies, self-employment will become a better option.

F-r-e-e-d-o-m!

Having done the same job for decades, seniorpreneurs feel liberated and energised at the prospect of doing something different and working for themselves. They see entrepreneurship and the ability to keep working as a key to active ageing.

Age of enlightenment

Consider a twenty-something entrepreneur, probably with little business experience, even less capital, a network of 500 Facebook friends and few real business contacts.

In contrast, the seniorpreneur might have a house, superannuation, redundancy money to fund a venture, and decades of experience, contacts and wisdom – huge advantages for aspiring business owners and another reason seniorpreneurs will rock the entrepreneurship landscape.

Tony Featherstone

Tony Featherstone is a former managing editor of BRW and Shares magazines.

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