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Many Older Women Start Businesses out of Necessity

Losing a job and needing more income are the most common reasons, a survey finds

woman standing at counter of business


En español | Women entrepreneurs 65 and older are more likely to start businesses because they've lost a job or just need more income, according to newly released data from a survey of 20,000 U.S. small-business owners. That’s a contrast to millennial women owners, who are more likely to take advantage of a business opportunity. 

The survey — conducted by SCORE, a nationwide network of volunteer business mentors — found that 28.2 percent of older women started their businesses because they had to. Some 18.3 percent said they saw a business opportunity, and the same percentage said they started a company to follow their passion. 

Another 16.9 percent of older women entrepreneurs went into business for themselves because of family considerations. Seven percent wanted a job change, and 4.2 percent took the plunge because they felt they had the experience and/or education to succeed. 

“Starting a business has historically been thought of as a risky proposition, which may have deterred some entrepreneurs,” said Betsy Dougert, SCORE’s director of communications and public relations. “But a more unstable corporate climate is highlighting the fact that there are no 100 percent safe or stable jobs anymore, which is encouraging some entrepreneurs to make the leap and start businesses for themselves.”

She cited the example of one older woman in the survey who said she was about to be laid off from a job she had held for 22 years and didn’t have a pension. 

The most popular choices for older women entrepreneurs are retail (15.5 percent), health care and social assistance (14.1 percent), and educational services (11.3 percent). 

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