By Rosa Maymi
Donet Hendricks retired from a career in information technology at the age of 58. He enjoyed retired life for a while, especially the time and care he put into do-it-yourself projects at his home in Northern Virginia. Eventually, neighbors started asking for help with their projects, and an idea was born. Donet decided to get some training and earn his contractor’s license. He’s now in his fifth year as a contractor for small household jobs. He loves the work and the people, and the income is great.
Millions of 50-plus Americans are finding a fit for their passion, along with good income, in starting or growing a small business. Maybe you fit into the category of “encore entrepreneur” yourself. If this is something you’re interested in, AARP has helpful resources at www.aarp.org/StartABusiness. You can also access archived webinars on all sorts of small business topics at www.aarp.org/MoneyWebinars.
In addition, AARP is partnering with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to offer advice and guidance to encore entrepreneurs. You can find helpful information and free tutorials at www.sba.gov/encore. For now, let’s run through a thought process to help you decide if a small business is right for you.
It’s important to understand that starting a business is a risky venture. Take the time to analyze yourself, do your research, identify your product or service, know the financial risks and develop a thorough business plan. Start by asking yourself these questions:
- Do you have a passion and commitment to an interest, hobby or skill?
- Are you comfortable taking a calculated risk?
- Are you able to juggle goals, tasks and decisions?
- Are you emotionally and financially ready to take the plunge?
If you answered yes to each of these questions, then you’re ready to take the first step. This means writing a business plan. Check out a free, 30-minute “how-to” online tutorial at www.sba.gov/encore. You’ll want to lay out how you’ll structure your business, determine whether you’ll hire employees and figure out how much financing you’ll need and where the money will come from. An important note about financing: It’s not a good idea to use your retirement savings. If the business doesn't work out, you’ll have lost your nest egg along with it.
Once you have your business plan, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to market your business. SBA has resources to help you with this step at www.sba.gov/encore, too. A marketing plan will help you identify your target market; define your product or service; outline pricing, distribution and promotion strategies and understand your competition. A marketing budget should be part of your plan to help you stick to a strategy for spending marketing dollars. Think of a marketing plan as your blueprint for winning customers. While your skills and reputation may get you started, you’ll need a marketing plan to keep you going.
Donet initially focused on word of mouth to grow his business. Eventually, he came up with a marketing plan that includes mailers, ad space in a local newspaper and a web page. He even started blogging about do-it-yourself projects and now has a good following.
Starting a small business as a second career carries risks that you need to be aware of, but it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have. Go in with the information and resources you need with the help of AARP and SBA, and you’ll be on your way to turning your passion into a business.
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Rosa A. Maymi is interim Manager of the Retirement Decisions Financial Security team in the Education and Outreach group at AARP. She leads AARP’s educational and outreach efforts, specifically on the topics of encore entrepreneurship, retirement decisions, fraud prevention, and other financial security areas. She can be reached at RMaymi@aarp.org .