In a recent US Senate hearing, Elizabeth Isele, co-founder of Senior Entrepreneurship Works and Conchy Bretos, the CEO of MIA Senior Living Solutions outlined the opportunities and challenges facing older entrepreneurs. Presenting to a panel of senators and government officials, they explained that small businesses provide huge value to the economy. They also revealed that, in fact, individuals between 55 and 64 make up the largest percentage of new small business owners. This is supported by research from the Kaufman Foundation, who reported that our age group also had a higher rate of entrepreneurial activity than younger men and women.
One of biggest challenge facing older entrepreneurs, however, is that it is almost impossible to secure funding for a new business idea. Both speakers called on public and private organizations to find creative ways to help. One idea they suggested was micro financing, or small loans, to help seniors bring great entrepreneurial ideas to life.
Microfinance is a financial service provided to low-income individuals or people without access to normal banking services. In addition to giving a financial boost, a micro loan also gives confidence and a sense of accomplishment to a budding entrepreneur.
Kiva and other established micro financing organizations, have programs to help people of all ages in developing countries. The loans are normally less than $1000, which is sometimes all that is needed to bring a great idea to life.
Why not offer similar financial support for seniors trying to start small businesses in developed countries as well?
Many women in the Sixty and Me community have brilliant ideas for retail, service and product businesses. What they may be missing is the financial support to get started.
For members of our community that live in Europe, there is some good news on this front. Recognizing the financial need of seniors, the European Microfinance Network recently published a paper on the idea of “Microfinance as a Tool of Active Aging.”
France plans to pioneer a microcredit program aimed at supporting seniors, and in Belgium a micro loan project aimed at people ages 65 years and older is in the planning stages. I sincerely hope that the U.S. follows this trend with its own programs.
This is just a start.
Women over 60 want to be independent and do something constructive and financially viable with their talents and wisdom. Many want to start a business doing the things they love.
As Elizabeth said at the end of her talk, the huge number of older people trying to create business opportunities in their second act is not a dreaded “silver tsunami” but a “silver lining” for economies around the world. We just need some programs to provide small loans to help them bring their creative entrepreneurial spirit to reality.
If you were able to get a small micro loan would you consider starting a new business? Please leave your comments below.
If you are wondering what to do in retirement, watch my interview with Nancy Collamer.
Tags Encore Careers