Approximately 25 million Americans between the ages of 44 and 70 are interested in starting new businesses or nonprofits in the next five to ten years. According to the U.S. Small Business Association, 15 percent of workers between the ages of 50 to 64 are self-employed, and that figure increases to 25 percent when considering entrepreneurs who are 65 and older. A 2010 survey by the Kauffman Foundation found that Americans 55 to 64 start business ventures at a higher rate than any other age group. In 1996 approximately 14 percent of 55 to 64 year olds were entrepreneurs, now almost half the working members of this age group have started their own businesses.
So what do we call these older, new entrepreneurs? The press, book authors, academics love to label people! They sometimes call them boomer entrepreneurs and they are now also calling them encore entrepreneurs.
Boomer entrepreneur is obvious. Encore entrepreneur? It’s time to enter a fuzzy, new stage of life – the encore years and the accompanying encore career. This new stage of life can begin anytime after 40 and can last well past 70.
Marc Freedman has popularized the idea in his books Encore and The Big Shift, in which an encore career means a new second career that an individual would feel good about, and would use their experience in a meaningful way to improve the quality of life in his or her community. Marci Alboher in The Encore Career Handbook concurs with this concept of an encore career.
Using their books and definition, an encore entrepreneur then would also be a social entrepreneur. Social entrepreneurship is defined as using entrepreneurial techniques to achieve social change. It includes nonprofits and for-profits businesses with a social purpose. By this definition, all those 55 -64 years of age who start businesses that do not include a social purpose and improving the quality of the greater community are not encore entrepreneurs. Boomer entrepreneurs, yes, but not encore entrepreneurs.
So much for definitions. The popular press is calling older entrepreneurs, encore entrepreneurs. If someone is making a transition to being an entrepreneur after the age of 50, the author of this blog also considers them to be an encore entrepreneur. My guess is that any older entrepreneur is starting their business for profit as well as to do something that brings them meaning and pleasure.
Channel 9 in Eugene Oregon considers photographer Ken Haley to be an encore entrepreneur. Ken does incredible nature photography, but he is not a social entrepreneur. He hopes his photographs will inspire a response and if they sell, that’s a plus. He sells cards, posters, prints, and cell phone cases. His work can be found at http://www.redbubble.com/people/kensabe
Judi Townsend-Henderson became an encore entrepreneur in her mid-40s, creating a mannequin recycling business. Her recycling business is credited with saving 100,000 pounds of mannequins from landfills in a single year. Learn more at http://mannequinmadness.com/.
I will be using both terms. If you are over 50, look for blog posts on Encore Entrepreneurs, Boomer Entrepreneurs, and their half-time variation – halfpreneur.