Many would think that as a person reaches middle age, they would be thinking about retiring. But according to a study, more than 25 million Americans ages 44 to 70 want to start a small business or nonprofit venture. The study was done by Civic Ventures, a think tank that focuses on the work and social lives of baby boomers. MetLife and Penn Schoen Berland, a division of the global research firm WPP Group, sponsored the study.
Darin Hudson decided to go it on his own when he found himself unemployed. “I started my business when the job that I had laid me off. I had worked in corporate America in the multichannel industry for seven years and though the industry is stable, the job positions are somewhat volatile. I didn’t want to endure the process of interviewing for other companies that were unwilling to perhaps pay me what I feel I am worth,” he says. “I wanted to be in a position to set my own hours and enjoy with passion the work that I would be doing and would benefit me.”
Thus DH Auto Brokers Inc., an auto buying and selling wholesale/retail firm based in California, was born. “I began my company in May 2011 as a sole proprietorship. I decided that working for myself would allow me to branch out and meet other individuals who could benefit from what my company has to offer. It also allowed me the chance to continually be employed,” says Hudson. “I wasn’t going to be held to some other company standard of accountability for employment. I could be my own boss and shape, form and mold my company to what I wanted it to be. I could tap into my experience from the corporate environment and tweak some things that I saw and experienced on my own and change those trappings.”
But starting a business at any age is difficult, and Hudson, 40, faced his share of hurdles. “The start up costs and financial forecast of starting a new company from the ground up were daunting…I began to do research that indicated ways to get financial benefits without a great deal of personal credit. I was able to liquidate a portion of my old 401-K account from my previous employer to jumpstart my funding with the covenant to pay myself back when the company began to show a profit. Money also dictated how I would begin my company versus immediately filing for status as an LLC, or S-Corp or C-Corp and the additional paperwork and filings,” explains Hudson. “I also started dialogue with other small business owners about how they started their companies and what resources were available to them (banks, financial planners, business investors) when they started. Make sure to open a business account for tax purposes…Seek out multiple banks and find out what fees are charged.”
According to Hudson, the experience has taught him a few business lessons. “Research, research, research. Know what businesses are already in existence and how you can differentiate your company from theirs if you offer the same products. Don’t begin a company without knowing how much of your time it will consume or cost you in terms of a financial commitment,” he says. “At-home businesses are good to start for people over 40 who may not have a desire to re-enter the global workforce because there are tax laws in some states that allow tax benefits for home-based businesses…Also, understand that this is also the age of technology and your company’s presence on the Internet will draw more interest in what you offer. If you are not Internet savvy and over 40, enroll at a community college and take a course in computers to familiarize yourself with software and the Internet. It is also a great idea to find out if you qualify for business start up discounts or grants for being a U.S. Military Veteran or minority business woman which the government will assist you with funding.”
Vernon Larrimore, 49, started his business, On the Spot Automobile service, to fill a niche. “I started my business because I wanted to provide a service that would be a convenience to the elderly, women, and those who are not mechanically inclined,” he explains. “We go to homes or places of employment to service and clean their vehicle(s). We provide an alternative to the high costs of automotive parts and repair services by developing and cultivating a relationship with the suppliers whereby we pass those savings on to the customer.”
Based in the Northern Neck, Tri- River and the peninsular area of Virginia, Larrimore faced different obstacles. “The main obstacle(s) that I face is being a Black man in a rural area where the majority of the population is white,” says Larrimore. “My advice to the individual who wants to start a business at this stage in life is to write down a plan and learn the negatives as well as the positives about your type of business. Use your local library so you can get the help you need; it’s a good place to meet people who have started businesses and either succeeded or failed.”
Chris Pringle, 45, actually rebranded his L.A.-based company– CM3 (Commercial Marketing Media and Management) after the age of 40. “I needed to change the face of my old company and make myself more relevant to my clients,” says Pringle, a former RCA Record executive who initially launched his firm in 1996 after leaving RCA. Pringle found that taking a look at his business with a fresh eye gave him new perspective–and increased clientele. “To make a business work you constantly have to research your industry, focus on your goals and follow through. Through the years, I have rebranded to stay current and meet the needs of new clients and changes in the industry.”
Santeea Cemone has always had the entrepreneurial spirit. She started in public relations/marketing as a college student, going to work for various firms after graduation. She worked with such noted entertainment celebrities are Sean “P Diddy” Combs and Wendy Williams. But in 1998 she began to take on side projects, eventually starting her own firm, THE DIVA WAY CONSULTING AGENCY, in 2001, working with the NAACP Brooklyn branch, among other clients.
Now after a decade in business, Cemone has landed what she calls her “biggest project to date”–after the age of 40. According to Cemone, she will be overseeing a domestic and international TV network, Signature Network TV, which is accessible to more than 79 million household. Launching in early spring, it will launch under DISH Network. Cemone will also help publicize and market a smart phone application associated with the network. “I am planning to make history with this deal based on the diversity of the structure for this project,” says Cemone, who is also executive-producing more than 15 programs for the network. “The obstacles have been trying to handle so much of this with limited resources. But if you have the drive, tenacity, and courage, any business can succeed.”
Another over-40 entrepreneur is Derrick Mack. He launched MACK-Nificent Enterprises, LLC, a multi media company based in Charlotte, N.C. that produces radio, television and web content under which he recently debut a new television show called “Release Your Inner MC.” It is based on a Hip Hop Karaoke concept. “I started my business based on opportunity,” says Mack, a radio/broadcast industry veteran, who created and hosted “The Big Playback” Radio Show. “Throughout my adult life, I’ve become adept at creating opportunities and this time was no different. When things begin lining up, I don’t hesitate. The main obstacle I faced was finding people qualified to assist me in the building of the brand. The other obstacle is more of a learning curve for myself: time management. I’ve learned to begin my day very early (5 a.m.), which gives me a head start on sending emails and preparing paperwork.” According to Mack, he has found it best to go into a business in an industry you are already familiar with. “Use your years of training to launch your own company and play to your strengths,” he advises.
This is exactly what Tyesh A. Harris did. Her business, HSM, a music and video distribution and licensing firm, grew from work she was already doing. “We handled marketing and social media for artists through my company PENTG and found ourselves working on projects creating the buzz, laying the foundation, getting radio spins, going out on the road and then the artist and/or label would be looking for a deal. It was ridiculous to me because they had no product in the market to sell. I would say if you aren’t selling a product then why are you doing this? So we started a distribution and licensing company,” says Harris, 40.
Her new company offers a variety of services including building apps, SEO, online marketing, social media, and radio promotion. “Setting up the network was definitely challenging for us and educational for our clients. It asks the question why this service is crucial to their campaigns. We found that too many of them really did not understand the importance of being positioned properly in the marketplace and the significance of retail and licensing,” says Harris.
Would she do it again–start a new company after 40? “What does your age matter? Do your due diligence, get yourself organized and do not stop until you achieve your goals. This is my fourth company and I will keep creating companies as long as God gives me ideas,” she says.