By Megan Sayles,
AFRO Business Writer,

According to a 2019 report from the JPMorgan Chase Institute, individuals aged 55 and older start about 15 percent of new businesses. These business owners are more likely to survive than their younger counterparts, according to the “Gender, Age and Small Business Financial Outcomes” report.

The AFRO connected with JPMorgan Chase senior business consultant, Darla Harris, to learn more about how those aged 55 and older can jump into entrepreneurship and to discover the advantages and disadvantages that come with it. 

Q: What are some of the drawbacks to starting a business as an older adult?

A: It’s important to not tap into your retirement funds. No matter how old you are, that should be your last resource. It’s tempting, but someone younger may have time to build it back up again. As an older adult, you won’t have enough time to recoup that funding. 

Make sure you also have a strong sense of how to sell your business. I often see marketing and selling as a stumbling block for older adults as they didn’t grow up with the technology that someone starting a business in their 30s or 40s did. You should research information on marketing in a digital world and  utilize free resources, such as the Chase for Business Knowledge Center, and the Small Business Administration website. 

Q: What are some of the benefits to starting a business as an older adult?

A: When I think of starting a business at age 55, one of the thoughts that comes to mind is you know a lot of people who know your level of work ethic, which is a great benefit. Typically, I recommend that people start a business in an industry that they worked in. This helps them to use their connections as resources. Since you are close to your retirement age, you may find that your income decreases. Starting a business can actually be a great way of giving you an additional stream of income. 

I know an entrepreneur who started her business at age 59. She was a nurse and retired from her job. With 30 years of experience, she took a part-time job doing home healthcare visits, but she realized there was a larger need. Her clients often asked her to pick up items from the store or complained about not having anyone to help them with cleaning and daily chores. 

Therefore, after extensive research, she decided to start her own business helping the elderly and homebound patients. Her business slowly flourished, and now she’s expanded to several cities in her area. Age didn’t stop her, and if you have a great idea and have done your research, age shouldn’t stop you either. 

Q: What advice would you give to adults aged 55 and over who want to start a business?

A: First, create a business plan. You can use your business plan as a working document to give you clarity on how to be successful and to prepare for the time it will take to be fully-committed to your business. Then, you can do your market research and network. 

You should refer to friends, colleagues and former work associates who have the skills you need to help you understand the ins and outs of the industry before you launch your business. Also, one of the most important tips is to know how much money you will need to start your business. Do a full financial checkup, pay down debt and create a budget. 

Megan Sayles is a Report for America Corps member. 

This Q&A interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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