October 10, 2013

Baby boomers fuel wave of entrepreneurship

Older people are flocking to self-employment both because of a frustrating job market and the growing ease and falling cost of starting a business.

By Matt Sedensky
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

James Glay poses with his collection of vintage drums in Arlington Heights, Ill. When he was laid off from his sales job he joined a growing number of older people and created his own.

The Associated Press

“The boomers are looking to entrepreneurship as a Plan B,” she said.”

Antoinette Little would agree.

She spent 20 years at a law firm, starting as a legal secretary and working her way up to manage the entire office. The stress of working 80 hours or 90 hours a week and always being on call started taking a toll.

After being diagnosed with an enlarged heart, she said, “The doctor told me either quit or you’re going to die.”

Little took a series of culinary classes and found a new passion, opening Antoinette Chocolatier in Phillipsburg, N.J. She misses her previous career and, though the store is now in the black, the profits aren’t robust. Still, she says she is having fun making chocolate, particularly when children press their noses against the glass doors to the store’s kitchen.

“I’m my own boss and you get to eat your mistakes,” she said. “How bad could it be?”

Most boomer businesses are not brick-and-mortar establishments like those of Little and Giannone.

Jeff Williams, who runs BizStarters, which has helped Glay and thousands of other boomers start businesses, says most older entrepreneurs want to make a minimal investment, typically less than $10,000, to get off the ground.

He classifies about 40 percent of his clientele as “reluctant entrepreneurs” who are turning to their own business because they can’t find any other work.

Williams said owning a business also gives older adults the flexibility they desire and a sense of control while remaining active.

“To suddenly leave the corporate world and to be sitting around the house all day long? This is an alien concept to boomers,” he said.

Glay says he needed the paycheck, but starting his business was also about keeping his mind engaged. He had worked for the same record company for 23 years when he was told to meet his boss at an airport hotel, where the bad news was delivered.

Though Crash Boom Bam hasn’t come close to replacing an annual income that crept into six figures, Glay says he’s busier than ever now, between the business, regular drumming gigs, and part-time work at a bookstore and a wine-tasting event company. Sitting among shelves full of drums and their shimmering chrome, he is reflective thinking about what his business means.

“The satisfaction of doing what I’m doing now is much greater, but the money is less,” he said. “Even if it’s not making me a millionaire, I know what it’s doing for my head. There’s no price you could put on that.”

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