We've all heard the stories of college kids who start hanging around in a garage or dumpy apartment, come up with an idea and turn it into the world's newest commercial force. There's a certain romance to tales of this sort – the combination of youthful vigor, an absence of fear and the perseverance required to turn a midnight brainstorm into a financial powerhouse. Yet, many of the nation's self-employed reach this decision much later in life, building their dreams upon foundations of experience, rich personal networks and, hopefully, a financial cushion acquired over years of collecting a salary.
A recent study by Ace Hardware, made available to DailyFinance, 33 percent of respondents decided to go out on their own later in life, while their peers were diving into professions that tracked with the corporate ladder. The decision to wait tends to favor these entrepreneurs, as 75 percent were able to take advantage of personal savings to get their new ventures off the ground. Younger people, who are just getting started, haven't had the time to accumulate personal assets and still contend with such challenges as paying off student loans.
John Venhuizen, vice president of business development for Ace Hardware Corporation, notes, "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." Further, they are better equipped for the challenge, since they have "the benefits of financial accumulation coupled with the managerial and business acumen they develop."
Gina Schaefer, for example, made the jump to self-employment after developing a career in information technology. Now an owner of six Ace stores in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., area and board member for the Ace network of 4,600 independently owned stores, she says that when she made the move, she was "more financially stable and able to take advantage of personal savings to become my own boss."
Some entrepreneurs are even waiting until retirement to take complete control of their financial fates. A 2008 survey by MetLife Foundation and Civic Ventures in 2008 indicated that half of Americans between ages 44 and 77 were either interested in chasing the entrepreneurial dream or already doing so.
According to Venhuizen, "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." He continues, "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."
Nonetheless, there is still plenty of interest among the young. The survey found that nearly 20 percent developed the entrepreneurial urge in high school or junior high, with another six percent realizing as early as grade school that they only wanted themselves as bosses.