SBA, AARP pair up to help mentor entrepreneurs

By Patricia Brown-Dixon / Guest Editorial

Our country has always been proud of our entrepreneurial spirit. But great business ideas don’t just come out of college dorm rooms—in fact, “encore entrepreneurs” are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the United States.

A 2010 survey by the Kauffman Foundation found that Americans age 55-64 start new business ventures at a higher rate than any other age group, and new research shows that one in four people age 44-70 are interested in starting their own business or nonprofit in the next five to 10 years.

This is an exciting area, especially when you consider that there are 76 million people over the age of 50 in the United States. That’s why in April, as part of our efforts to make sure small business owners and entrepreneurs have the skills and training they need to succeed, the U.S. Small Business Administration and AARP are teaming up to host National Encore Entrepreneur Mentor Month. With a special focus on entrepreneurs over the age of 50, we’ll be matching up “encore entrepreneurs” with successful business owners and community leaders for advice and assistance.

Mentor Month is an effort by SBA and AARP to provide a range of resources and online tools to entrepreneurs and small business owners over the age of 50. The events will help connect encore entrepreneurs with mentors, such as those from SBA’s network of Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers and SCORE chapters who can help with strategies to grow an entrepreneur’s business.

We know this kind of training can be critical for the success of a small business. It can help folks bring their experience, knowledge and skills to a new venture, which creates exciting new opportunities and job creation.

According to a recent AARP survey, 15 percent of workers 45-74 are self-employed. Additionally, 13 percent of those who are current wage and salary workers say they plan to start a business once they retire. Small business ownership is a good option for many baby boomers. Small business owners who get long-term counseling may see increased sales and hire more workers.

Throughout April, SBA district offices, state AARP offices and SBA resource partners will host events around the country. Events include speed mentoring, which allows mentors with small business experience and entrepreneurs to share information during one-on-one counseling sessions, and workshops for entrepreneurs to learn best practices from successful small business owners. To find a local event near you go to

SBA has free online courses targeted at helping encore entrepreneurs start or grow their businesses. Go online to to access the online training and other resources available for entrepreneurs over the age of 50.

There’s no better time to start a business than today. For Americans, especially those over 50, why not make this the start of the next chapter of your career.



Patricia Brown-Dixon is the SBA Regional Administrator for Region 7.