An owner’s age can be a factor in a startup business’ success – but not in the way you might think.
According to “Age and High-Growth Entrepreneur,” successful entrepreneurs are middle-aged, not young. Experience, not youth, is an asset.
A study by Benjamin Jones of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Javier Miranda of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Center for Administrative Records Research, and Pierre Azoulay and J. Daniel Kim of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, found youth is not the “secret sauce” when it comes to startup success.
Using Census Bureau data, they found a mean age of 45 among the 1,700 founders of the fastest-growing startup. They also found the success rate rising significantly with age.
Research by the Kauffman Foundation, a Kansas City-based nonprofit organization that studies and supports entrepreneurship, confirmed the age-related findings. In its 2018 State of Entrepreneurship survey of nearly 2,200 businesses, older entrepreneurs reported having less startup difficulties than younger ones. They more easily obtained necessary licenses and loans, suggesting their years of business, career and life experiences put them at an advantage over younger entrepreneurs.
Kauffman researchers also noted that the 55 to 64 age group accounted for 26 percent of new startups in 2017. That is up from 19 percent in 2007. The rate of self-employed among workers age 65 and older was the highest of any age group.
And while most studies do not consider gender in startup success rates, the number of businesses owned by women in the U.S. has more than doubled in 20 years. Women are starting up an average of 849 new businesses every day.
At the Small Business Development Center at California State University, Bakersfield, consultants get a close-up look at this exciting “encore business” startup trend. Consider the stories of just three SBDC clients, who are starting their own businesses after retiring from successful local careers. Mer Conner is the owner of Garment of Praise, Antoinette Jacobs is the owner of YourMiMi and Dana Hutchison is the owner of O Sew Creative.
Retiring this summer from a 25-year career teaching in a rural Kern County elementary school, Conner is looking for a downtown Bakersfield location in which to open her clothing boutique. She has been planning her encore business for seven years by taking online business and entrepreneurship classes and becoming certified as a personal stylist through the New York Institute of Art and Design. The focus of her business will be to offer customers individual styling advice.
“The price point will be mid, attracting middle class, working women with the desire and need to dress well and define their personal style,” Conner explained. She decided to open Garment of Praise “because I love clothes. I have discovered my own personal style, and for years have been asked by friends and family to help them find theirs.”
“I do not shop labels or high-end fashions. I believe you can choose clothing with a modest budget if you know how to put outfits together,” she said.
Jacobs retired in 2014 after a 28-year career at California State University, Bakersfield. She worked in a variety of administrative positions, before retiring as the supervisor for credentialing in the School of Education.
She decided to start YourMiMi, an innovative workplace childcare business, after watching her own adult daughters struggle to balance their home and childcare needs with those of their careers.
“My heart went out to them as they grappled with the anxiety of choosing a daycare for their precious infant babies, with the horrific cost associated with the care of an infant, and with the sense of abandonment,” Jacobs said. “I asked God to show me how I could help. You know, this is what moms do. We fix things that are broken.”
The answer came in the form of Jacobs’ YourMiMi startup, which focuses on partnering with local businesses to assist them in providing employee wellness to working parents. Placing mobile units in business locations, YourMimi provides onsite childcare, as well as facilities where mothers can nurse their babies or pump during work breaks.
“Employees have the opportunity to visit with their babies during downtime and do not have to choose between being present parents and being dedicated to their jobs or careers. They can do both,” she said.
Jacobs has been joined in this endeavor by Sarah Brothers, who serves as YourMimi’s chief operating officer. Brothers retired in 1998 from a 24-year career with the California State University system. Before becoming a founding administrator and director of academic personnel at California State University, Monterey Bay, Brothers was a faculty affairs specialist at CSUB and taught at Bakersfield College.
Hutchison started O Sew Creative after retiring last year from a 24-year IT career with the Kern Regional Center. She is transforming her skills and passion for sewing and crafts into an encore business.
“I offer mobile craft events – bringing the supplies, including fabric, yarn, paper, thread, beads and sewing machines – to customers and students,” she said, explaining that her “events” have included business, home and party venues. She has conducted sewing classes for children and adults at Beverly’s Fabrics in Bakersfield. These have included two kids’ camps, one being for children in the Kern Autism Network.
She has taught three sewing classes for seniors at Columbus Estates............. and teaches regular classes in quilting for the Levan Institute for Lifelong Learning at Bakersfield College. She also contracts to finish customers’ quilts and embroidery projects on her long-arm sewing machine.
In addition to promoting her love of sewing and crafts, Hutchison said she hopes her O Sew Creative business will develop a “sense of community” through fabric and other craft materials.
While each credit their previous careers for giving them the organizational skills and related experience necessary to succeed, they acknowledged facing unique challenges.
Conner said she is concerned about finding “the best location for my brick and mortar store” and assembling the “correct inventory to suit my customers and price point.” While clearing the licensing hurdles associated with the child care industry was time consuming and tedious, Jacobs said her biggest challenge is gaining the trust and confidence of corporate partners. And Hutchison said “getting the word out,” or marketing, is her biggest challenge.
Experienced consultants at the Small Business Development Center at CSUB are helping these three women entrepreneurs and many others develop the business plans and marketing strategies needed to succeed.
One of five service centers within the University of California, Central California SBDC Regional Network, the SBDC in Bakersfield is a partnership between the university and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The center assists small business owners in Kern, Inyo and Mono counties by providing free consulting, small business training and research. For more information, go to csubsbdc.com
Kelly Bearden is the director of the Small Business Development Center at California State University Bakersfield.