At 52, corporate veteran Bob McEwen and his wife sold their home and moved into a friend’s basement so they could cover payroll for their young commercial sign company.
“It’s very humbling,” McEwen said.
A year earlier, McEwen had lost his six-figure salary after being laid off, ending a 22-year career that included working with missile systems and mortgage products.
During his frustrating and unsuccessful job search, McEwen attended a franchise expo and decided to invest in a Signworld business. He opened SignCraft Solutions in Wake Forest in August 2009. “It just felt right,” said McEwen, now 54.
McEwen is among a growing number of baby boomers — people born between the years 1946 to 1964 — who are turning to small business opportunities as a way to build a new career, supplement retirement, or give them a way to spend their time.
Research conducted by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation indicates that the percentage of firms created by Americans ages 55 to 64 grew more than any other age demographic, up 6.6 percent to 20.9 percent in 2011 compared to 14.3 percent in 1996. Firms created by entrepreneurs ages 45 to 54 rose 3.8 percent since 1996.
The trend is somewhat predictable considering the number of baby boomers reaching retirement age mixed with an economy that has limped through the past six years, said Michele Markey, vice president of Kauffman FastTrac, an arm of the Kauffman Foundation that provides training and resources to prospective and current entrepreneurs.
Some boomers are turning to franchising, while others use existing skills to start a business from scratch. Regardless of the motivation, Markey said, starting a business requires consideration and planning, especially for boomers.
“Their (business) on-ramp and off-ramp are much closer together,” Markey said. “The biggest mistake is not spending adequate time planning.”
New boomer entrepreneurs need to understand how much money they are willing to invest, how long it will take to reap financial benefits, and when they’ll be able to exit the business, she said.