SBA, AARP form new alliance to support ‘encore’ entrepreneurs


SBA Administrator Karen Mills announces the partnership with AARP at a Washington Post Live event on Wednesday. (Jeffrey MacMillan/Capital Business)

Think entrepreneurship is only for 20-something billionaire hopefuls?

Karen Mills thinks otherwise.

The chief of the Small Business Administration on Wednesday announced a new partnership between her agency and the AARP to provide counseling and training to individuals over the age of 50 who want to start or grow a small business. Collectively, the organizations plan to provide a helping hand to about 100,000 of what Mills calls “encore entrepreneurs” in the coming year.

“No matter what your age, if you have an idea or a business that’s ready to move to the next level, the SBA wants to make sure you have access to the tools you need to start and grow,” Mills said in prepared remarks, as she outlined the alliance at a conference on small business hosted by The Washington Post.

Mills suggested that older entrepreneurs are often particularly well equipped to succeed in their own ventures later in life because of their professional work experience.

The agency has devoted a new section of its Web site to individuals who have passed the half-century mark, which includes an online self-assessment tool, information to help with business planning, and professional and financial resources. Prospective entrepreneurs can also learn how to purchase franchises and compete for government contracting opportunities.

Further down the road, the SBA and AARP plan to co-host an online training and self-assessment series designed specifically for older entrepreneurs.

“Millions of Americans keep dreaming of owning their own business as a second or third career, using their creative talents to do productive work that also helps them gain economic stability as they move toward retirement,” AARP chief executive A. Barry Rand said in a statement.

Recent studies suggest there will be plenty of encore entrepreneurs. In 2011, a USA Today/Gallup poll showed that 80 percent of workers expected to continue working full or part time after they reach retirement age, up from 63 percent five years earlier.

Interestingly, most of them said they expect to keep laboring away not because they’ll need to, but because they’ll want to.

“Many baby boomers are working beyond retirement age and choosing to stay active and engaged in the workforce,” Mills said in a statement. “For many older entrepreneurs, starting a small business can be an opportunity to transform a lifetime hobby or interest or years of professional experience into a lucrative line of work.”

Video: Karen Mills walks through Obama’s start-up proposals

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J.D. Harrison covers startups, small business and entrepreneurship, with a focus on public policy, and he manages the Post's On Small Business blog.
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