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BOOM! Helps Drive Second Careers

Nonprofit organization helps older people become entrepreneurs

New job takes a year or more
Michigan's unemployment rate for those age 55 and older is about 7.5 percent, lower than any other age group. But it takes about a year, on average, for unemployed people 55 and older to find work after being laid off. That's longer than any other age group, according to federal data.

A 2009 study by the Kansas City, Mo.-based Kauffman Foundation, which promotes entrepreneurship, found that people age 55 to 64 start businesses at a faster rate than any other age group.

"That made us think about older adults who face special challenges," Charlton said.

The biggest challenge older entrepreneurs face in starting new businesses is getting their confidence back after losing a job, he said, adding that he knows the feeling of failure all too well.

"The older you get, the harder it is to maintain your confidence."

BOOM! promotes multigenerational networking, which brings together older entrepreneurs and younger people in business.

Charlton said that networking with younger business owners can help older entrepreneurs create enthusiasm for new business ventures and give them the confidence that they can succeed.

Younger people tend to know more about technological developments than older people, while older entrepreneurs tend to know more about business operations and strategy, he said.

"Each generation has a different level of expertise," he said. "I'm 72. It isn't going to help me to have breakfast regularly with other 72-year-old men reminiscing about the good old days."

Rick Haglund is a writer living in Birmingham, Mich.

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