Tag Archive: entrepreneur

Unleashing Your Entrepreneurial Spirit During the Golden Years

ccording to a study from the Kauffman Foundation, the majority of U.S. entrepreneurs are retirees. During the past ten years, 55 to 64-year-olds have shown the most entrepreneurial activity. While 20 to 34 year-olds have shown the least. Further, the AARP Public Policy Institute said that in 2008, 21 percent of self-employed individuals were between 55 and 64, and 10 percent were 65 or older. The numbers in the technology industry are even more dramatic: A 2008 Kauffman Foundation study shows that twice as many companies in this sector have been founded by individuals over age 50 than by those that are under age 25.

There could be many reasons people are starting their own companies during retirement: The first of the baby-boomers reach 65 this year and may not be ready to retire yet, perhaps because they are still excited by what they currently do or want to pursue a long-held dream. Given the economic landscape, some may need to work longer out of financial necessity, especially considering that life expectancy in the United States has increased dramatically.

Boomers Retire.pngIf you are approaching or are currently of retirement age and are interested in starting a small business, here are some things you may want to consider:

If you are not in a position to take on a major financial risk, keeping upfront expenses to a minimum may be the way to start out.
Don’t forget that, as an older entrepreneur, you may have broader job skills, more contacts and better access to capital, either from your own savings or through your work and personal networks, compared to younger entrepreneurs.
You can create a business that builds on your prior career by identifying a market gap in your industry.

Older entrepreneurs have plenty of company. So if you are considering taking the plunge into small business ownership, remember you are not alone, and it’s never too late.

Why You Should Keep an Eye on Gen Y Entrepreneurs

Mark Zuckerberg. Dennis Crowley. Andrew Mason. These are just a few growing entrepreneurs, born between 1977 and 2000. In fact, the SBA and Junior Achievement Worldwide report that 69 percent of teenagers and two-thirds of college students say they want to start their own businesses.

So, what types of businesses are they starting? While many are starting businesses connected to social media or the web in some way (as Zuckerberg, Crowley and Mason did), there are some surprises. Some young entrepreneurs are reinventing old industries, like supply chains, credit unions and packaging. Some are creating businesses that cater to other Gen Y’ers. Others are joining family businesses, but turning them on their heads by hiring their parents and extended relatives as consultants and junior employees.

Why are Gen Y’ers so passionate about starting their own businesses? Research shows they may be more willing to take business risks than their Gen X and Baby Boomer predecessors. According to one study, 67 percent of Gen Y respondents were willing to take financial risks, even during the recession. They may be undeterred by competition, as they embrace a mindset where every other company is considered a potential collaborator. On the other hand, many members of Gen Y are starting their own business ventures out of necessity. In 2010, fewer than 25 percent of college graduates were able to get a job upon graduation.

Work life balance.pngOne thing seems to be constant: Gen Y entrepreneurs tend to play by their own rules. While they may share a desire for financial independence with their older counterparts, they could be motivated by other factors as well. They may be convinced that they can improve an existing industry or company with the technological innovations and brand ingenuity for which their generation is known. Or this social justice-minded generation might want to conceive of businesses that have initiatives for social good built into their business models. A study by Cone, Inc. and Amp Insights shows that 61 percent of 13- to 25-year-olds feel responsible for making a difference in the world, and 79 percent of them want to work for a company that feels the same way.

Or, maybe Gen Y just wants to have fun at work. Studies have shown that these entrepreneurs value and protect work/life balance more than any other group. In fact, 59 percent of respondents to a survey of 37,000 college graduates said that balancing their personal and professional lives was at the top of their list of career goals.

This generosity doesn’t only apply to their schedules. They are almost shockingly flexible with their employees. They have embraced telecommuting, job sharing, part-time employment, virtual offices and creative morale-boosting efforts to a degree that puts most of the companies on the “best places to work” lists to shame.

Whether you’re a member of Generation Y yourself, a more seasoned entrepreneur looking for a younger business partner, or a consumer, this is a generation to watch. Have you learned any lessons from a member of Gen Y? Or, are you a Gen Y entrepreneur?

The New Face of Incubators: A Faster, More Focused Road to Small Business Success

Organizations that help launch successful start-ups were hot during the dot-com era when there were tens of thousands worldwide, according to statistics from the National Business Incubation Association (NBIA). Since the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, the number of business incubators has dropped to 7,000 globally and 1,400 in North America. However, they still serve more than 27,000 companies and are responsible for more than $17 billion in annual revenues (also in North America).

Following the economic downturn, there are small business incubators that are hoping to fill the gaps created by widespread job losses with local film and video production companies, design firms and other creative-sector industries. These types of incubators typically offer small businesses the access needed for resources, ranging from strategic business counseling to development support.

How to Start

evergreen industry.pngIf you are a new or start-up small business seeking incubator support, you need to prepare a detailed business plan a comprehensive start-up marketing plan and assemble a qualified staff. These employees should include a CEO, CFO, IT Director, and marketing and sales directors, as well as experienced external resources in areas such as accounting and legal counsel.

Industries of particular interest to incubators are green tech, clean tech and alternative energy. While the technology sector remains the focus of 39 percent of incubators, evergreen industries such as food and the arts can still find a receptive audience.

The Details

In the dot-com heyday, only some incubators took an equity stake in the companies they developed. Typically, incubator services focus more on “acceleration” –helping find senior leadership, securing venture capital, structuring financial plans and building a board of directors – and, in exchange, seek as much as a 70 percent stake. Additionally, they provide client assistance with such basic but time-consuming services such as marketing, sales, IT, finance and administrative staff development. There are more than 1,200 U.S. business incubators housing tens of thousands of entrepreneurial companies that help startups of all stripes take root, providing resources to turn them into thriving, growing companies. Not bad for an industry that saw such a tremendous decline following the dot-com bust.

Micro-Businesses: Do You Know Who You Are?

If you’re a micro-business, you probably know who you are – at least on the surface.

Approximately 77.5 percent of micro-businesses have fewer than 10 employees. Around 22.5 percent have no employees. About half are home based, and the other half work out of an office or other facility. These businesses are responsible for more than 65 percent of the gross domestic product.

But, do you have a deeper understanding of what drives people to start, and maintain, a micro-business?

There are many reasons why people start their own micro-business. Some may want more flexibility to pursue other passions, such as raising children or having more time away from the office. Others may have a vision for a new business idea, or identified an untapped market, that could only be brought to life if it was focused on 24/7.

Next, let’s look at what you may be unwilling to do while running your business. Do you derive so much pleasure from the business you started – which could include a home catering business to a five-star restaurant, or a home-based computer repair service to a software startup – that you do not have time for activities that might save you money? For example, research has indicated that many small business owners find the time it takes to fill out forms associated with government tax breaks so onerous that they don’t even bother. The same reticence applies in many cases to spending a couple of hours every week networking in order to meet people that could help expand your business or secure federal or state government contracts.
Furthermore, let’s examine how you spend your day. A day in the life of a “typical” micro-business owner varies tremendously, depending on your industry. However, research provides some insights into what you may have in common. For example, micro-business owners spend significantly more time on the Internet in comparison to other professionals, according to a study from Jupiter Research. This is not to say that you’re spending hours playing online video games or chatting with friends or family members. Most micro-business owners are using the Internet to respond to content and engage in community sites targeted to members within their industry.

Now let’s take a peek into the ideal office of a micro-business owner. Studies have shown that acting as if you’re leaving the house for the office, and setting up a professional work environment, can help home-based business owners be more productive. Suggestions to achieve this include getting dressed in clothing that is business casual; making sure family members understand that, even though you are working from home, you will not be available for non-work activities between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.; and investing in furniture and computer equipment that is professional and comfortable.

Lastly, now that you have an idea of who you are as a micro-business owner, let’s take a brief look at who you are not. Research shows that the majority of micro-business owners are not interested in growing their businesses beyond a certain size. A majority of micro-business owners started their own companies because they love the hands-on work they do and growing past a certain size would require delegating that work. Also, many are more interested in the work/life balance that owning a micro-business allows. Therefore, growing into a multi-million dollar colossus is probably not on your list of professional goals.

Does this sound like you? What other traits and/or behaviors characterize micro-business owners?

Seven Ways to Find the Right Mentor

Whether you’re a start-up or you have been in business for a while, chances are issues will arise that you have not encountered before. You may be looking to hire a strategic partner for the first time; you may be interested in launching a social networking campaign; or you may be seeking to expand your business by tapping into a new market.

Instead of taking extensive time to research these issues on your own (or opting to plow ahead and hope for the best), you might want to consider forming a relationship with a business mentor. Sometimes the process of finding a mentor happens naturally, (i.e. someone you know socially turns out to be an expert on the business issue you’re facing). Most of the time, however, it takes a concerted effort.

The following are seven tips small business owners should remember when looking for a business mentor.

1. Narrow down the list of issues with which you need help. Prioritize your most pressing challenges so you can get the most out of a mentor relationship. You may even determine you need more than one mentor. Asking for too much information at once can overwhelm even the most generous person.

2. Pinpoint the personal qualities you think you’d respond to in a mentor. Before refining your list of potential mentors, do some soul searching and see if you can answer questions like these:

Are you interested in someone who is a good listener and doesn’t offer feedback until he or she mulls over your question?
Do you prefer people who tell you everything they know on a subject?
Is responsiveness important to you – do you want hands-on guidance in real time?
Would you prefer verbal feedback on your planned courses of action?

3. Define the parameters of the relationship. The ideal mentor relationship for you might involve someone with whom you can speak briefly every time you have questions. Or perhaps a monthly dinner meeting would be a more productive forum for addressing ongoing issues. Over time, you might discover that your mentor is interested in joining your company as a senior executive or even a CEO if you reach a certain point of growth.

4. Spread the word as far as you can. Reach out to your email list; contacts on LinkedIn and other social networks; friends and colleagues and attendees at networking events, conferences and trade shows. Don’t rule out total strangers. If you read an interview with a like-minded business owner in a trade or business magazine, feel free to send him or her a follow-up note. As long as there is no direct issue of competition, most small business owners are happy to help a fellow entrepreneur, and might even see potential for collaborating in other ways in the future.

5. Do not overlook larger resources. The Small Business Administration, SCORE, local chambers of commerce and private mentoring businesses have wide-ranging mentoring programs that offer long-term mentoring and assistance with advisory board formation. These resources may prove to be a valuable way to connect with potential mentors.

6. Formalize the selection process. Similar to personal relationships, it’s probably best not to rush things. Start out getting to know the potential mentor, get a sense of whether they’d be open to the idea and simply ask to pick their brain on a few issues. Discuss where and how often you will meet, what you can offer to the relationship, and long- and short-term goals.

7. Remember that mentoring is a two-way street. Don’t forget to thank your mentor regularly for advice that led to good results for your business. Further, periodic feedback is a good way to keep your mentor invested in your businesses success.

Since mentors can be from different industries, or even different geographical locations, it should be relatively easy to find someone. It’s certainly less risky and time consuming than using trial and error or relying solely on your own perspective and experience. And, once you experience a positive mentoring relationship, you might look forward to the day when you can become a mentor yourself. Have you found a mentor that has helped make a difference in your business? Share your thoughts with the Apple Capital Group team in the comments section.

Whether you’re a start-up or you have been in business for a while, chances are issues will arise that you have not encountered before. You may be looking to hire a strategic partner for the first time; you may be interested in launching a social networking campaign; or you may be seeking to expand your business by tapping into a new market.

Instead of taking extensive time to research these issues on your own (or opting to plow ahead and hope for the best), you might want to consider forming a relationship with a business mentor. Sometimes the process of finding a mentor happens naturally, (i.e. someone you know socially turns out to be an expert on the business issue you’re facing). Most of the time, however, it takes a concerted effort.

The following are seven tips small business owners should remember when looking for a business mentor.

1. Narrow down the list of issues with which you need help. Prioritize your most pressing challenges so you can get the most out of a mentor relationship. You may even determine you need more than one mentor. Asking for too much information at once can overwhelm even the most generous person.

2. Pinpoint the personal qualities you think you’d respond to in a mentor. Before refining your list of potential mentors, do some soul searching and see if you can answer questions like these:

Are you interested in someone who is a good listener and doesn’t offer feedback until he or she mulls over your question?
Do you prefer people who tell you everything they know on a subject?
Is responsiveness important to you – do you want hands-on guidance in real time?
Would you prefer verbal feedback on your planned courses of action?

3. Define the parameters of the relationship. The ideal mentor relationship for you might involve someone with whom you can speak briefly every time you have questions. Or perhaps a monthly dinner meeting would be a more productive forum for addressing ongoing issues. Over time, you might discover that your mentor is interested in joining your company as a senior executive or even a CEO if you reach a certain point of growth.

4. Spread the word as far as you can. Reach out to your email list; contacts on LinkedIn and other social networks; friends and colleagues and attendees at networking events, conferences and trade shows. Don’t rule out total strangers. If you read an interview with a like-minded business owner in a trade or business magazine, feel free to send him or her a follow-up note. As long as there is no direct issue of competition, most small business owners are happy to help a fellow entrepreneur, and might even see potential for collaborating in other ways in the future.

mentor quote.png5. Do not overlook larger resources. The Small Business Administration, SCORE, local chambers of commerce and private mentoring businesses have wide-ranging mentoring programs that offer long-term mentoring and assistance with advisory board formation. These resources may prove to be a valuable way to connect with potential mentors.

6. Formalize the selection process. Similar to personal relationships, it’s probably best not to rush things. Start out getting to know the potential mentor, get a sense of whether they’d be open to the idea and simply ask to pick their brain on a few issues. Discuss where and how often you will meet, what you can offer to the relationship, and long- and short-term goals.

7. Remember that mentoring is a two-way street. Don’t forget to thank your mentor regularly for advice that led to good results for your business. Further, periodic feedback is a good way to keep your mentor invested in your businesses success.

Since mentors can be from different industries, or even different geographical locations, it should be relatively easy to find someone. It’s certainly less risky and time consuming than using trial and error or relying solely on your own perspective and experience. And, once you experience a positive mentoring relationship, you might look forward to the day when you can become a mentor yourself. Have you found a mentor that has helped make a difference in your business?