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updated: 5/13/2013 9:27 AM

Senior entrepreneurs bring patience, experience to startups

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  • Jim Kendall

      Jim Kendall

 
 

Starting a business isn't just for the younger crowd. Thanks in part to lingering unemployment and to Baby Boomers needing to pad retirement accounts, 25 percent of those 65 and older are self-employed. Fifteen percent in the 50-64 age bracket are self-employed, too.

The U.S. Small Business Administration even has a site for senior entrepreneurs: www.sba.gov/content/50-entrepreneurs.

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However, it takes a conversation with Mark Snow and Bob Podgorski to put context to the idea of older entrepreneurs.

Snow is CEO of SafelyFiled.com LLC, Libertyville, a cloud-based document storage site aimed largely at seniors. Podgorski is principal of RPP Enterprises, Hoffman Estates. He also is founder and coordinator at Saint Hubert Job and Networking Ministry, a nondenominational organization affiliated with 31 churches in the northwest suburbs.

In this case, age is pertinent: Snow is 63. Podgorski is heading toward 70 this summer.

"Age never enters my mind," says Podgorski, whose RPP Enterprises was first brought to life in the 1980s. "How do you picture yourself? I know 50-year olds who act as though they're 80 and 80-year olds who act 45-50. It isn't over until I say it is."

The difference between an entrepreneur who's 60 or so and someone younger "is that we're generally more experienced and know what to expect," Snow says. "But (those expectations) can be an advantage or a disadvantage."

Podgorski thinks seniors have greater patience. "Patience is more pronounced," he says. "Others want things to happen immediately, but seniors understand that sometimes it's necessary to go with the flow."

According to Podgorski, "a lot of different types of folks" become entrepreneurs later in life. Some, he says, "have had an idea but never the time to pursue it. Others get a corporate package and take a franchise."

The third type of senior entrepreneur "finds an idea and goes with it."

Both Podgorski and Snow have advice for other seniors thinking about starting up.

Success, Snow says, depends to a great extent "on the type of person you are. If you can't stand uncertainty, if you can't live with doubt," maybe you shouldn't become an entrepreneur.

"This will be harder than you think," Snow says, "but it will be rewarding and you'll have fun." Financially, "It helps if the kids are out of college" and if you have "some equity" to draw upon.

"And," Snow adds," be certain to discuss (the venture) with your spouse" before plunging ahead.

Podgorski seeks advice from the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Harper College's Schaumburg offices. Most SBDC services are free, funded in Illinois largely by a combination of federal and state dollars.

Consequently, Podgorski says, "I have a team of advisers working for me free of charge. I don't ask them what I should do next. I ask, 'What do you think about this approach?'"

• Jim Kendall welcomes comments at JKendall@121MarketingResources.com

2013 121 Marketing Resources Inc.

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