Who says there’s an age limit on the question "What do I want to be?" According to a recent study, a large number of small business owners weren’t bit by the entrepreneurship bug until they graduated from college or started down a completely different career path.

Nearly one-third of respondents to Ace Hardware’s Entrepreneurship Study made the decision to become self-employed during their post-college career lives -- a time when many of their peers were immersing themselves in their chosen professions.

"I don’t think it comes as much of a surprise that small business owners decide to become their own boss later in life when you consider the benefits of financial accumulation coupled with the managerial and business insight they develop," says John Venhuizen, vice president of business development for Ace Hardware Corporation. "In general, these older entrepreneurs have a greater knowledge of the inner-workings of the business world -- in addition to strong leadership and managerial skills."

Those who wait to pursue small business ownership also may benefit from more robust financial assets. An overwhelming 75 percent of study respondents said that they used personal savings to finance start-up costs for their businesses, a move that’s not always possible for young people just gaining independence from their families, or striving to pay off student loans.

Gina Schaefer, an owner of six Ace stores in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., areas and board member for the Ace network of 4,600 independently owned stores, launched her own business after working in information technology. "By that point in my career, I was more financially stable and able to take advantage of personal savings to become my own boss," says Schaefer.

Of course, some individuals don’t discover their entrepreneurial ambitions until after retirement age -- a situation that’s becoming more and more common as baby boomers decide they want to remain in the workforce, although not necessarily in the same job or industry. In fact, a 2008 survey by MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures found that half of Americans ages 44 to 70 -- if not already pursuing a second career -- aspire to have one.

"Retirees with entrepreneurial ambitions usually aren’t driven by financial rewards or any of the power or prestige that some might associate with owning a business," says Venhuizen. "For them, it’s all about creating a purpose for the second part of their lives, and having the chance to live out passions and interests."'

Courtesy of ARAcontent


The Ace Hardware Entrepreneurship Study surveyed 538 U.S. small business owners to gain their perceptions on the motivations, challenges and benefits or entrepreneurship. The national Web-based poll was conducted in the spring.