It’s your second act – a chance to follow your dreams

The USA is seeing a trend in entrepreneurship that is encouraging for those approaching or in retirement, and who still look forward to working.

Fifty-five to sixty-four year olds account for 26% of new entrepreneurs, says journalist and author, Chris Farrell, citing a Kauffmann Foundation study.

“Second-act entrepreneurs launch (their ideas) despite critics because they are passionate about following their passions”, says Farrell.

Farrell shares four lessons from those business starters who have shared their stories on

1. Minimise minus factors

It’s a good idea to test your ideas before you make the transition out of your current career, if you are still working. Start working on it on the side. Research, explore, upskill in your new area of interest, if necessary – there are so many online courses available, and some for free. Here are a few sources:

Farrell gives the example of a couple who started a BnB. The general rule regarding such a business is that it takes seven rooms to make a living. The couple made the top floor their residence and this reduction in living costs compensated for the fact that they had only three suites for potential income. The husband still worked part-time as an engineer.

“Assess if there is a demand beyond your friends and family,” advises Kimberly Eddleston, a university entrepreneurship professor, in a article by Leslie Hunter-Gadsden.

Mary Pender Greene, author of Creative Mentorship and Career-Building Strategies, concurs. “Launching a business perhaps one to five years before retiring from your current one provides the chance to test the market for your product or service.” She recommends at least a year to plan before you leave your current role.

2. Love what you do

See this time as an opportunity to be creative, for your work to be something that really gives you joy every day. You don’t have to follow the same route as your first or most recent career, nor do you have to command the same salary. Aim for significance and joy, so as not to find yourself held by the rigor of a too-busy schedule again. Work part-time, or consult, but according to your own schedule.

3. Anchor yourself in your community

Be it your neighbourhood, religious community, education alumni, work-friendship group, small business forums, these networks can be a rich source of advice, encouragement, support, and connections. Farrell cites the example of a woman who started a publishing company, and who found that so many people in her community wanted to tell their stories, and these stories were worth reading and a legacy to the children. The BnB owners enjoyed helping their guest learn about their city, and have built a network of local suppliers for their business.

Mary Pender Greene recommends having “a wide swath of contacts”, as “there are always transferable skills”.

4. Plan for challenges but be nimble

You may need to change course, advises Farrell. If your business growth or direction creates the need for additional help or skills, be open to hiring someone. If you need to change your costing structure, do so to make your business sustainable.

Be prepared to fail is the watchword, but fail cheaply. Don’t put your retirement savings and investments at risk.

Nevertheless, planning is essential. Leslie Hunter-Gadsden suggests asking these questions about your new career:

  • What will your day look like?
  • What time commitment will be required from you (once full-time)?
  • Will it provide the profit margins you need?

“A part of what makes it successful during the transition is to keep your focus open,” says Pender Greene. “If you hold to tightly to a goal, you might not see the new opportunities.”

Here is to new opportunities in your second act!

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