More than 12 Million Americans, Ages 44-70, Want to Start Small Businesses or Nonprofits That Create Jobs, Meet Community Needs

Aspiring ‘Encore Entrepreneurs’ See Financial Risks in Today’s Economy, But Most Are Undeterred

SAN FRANCISCO--()--New research released by Civic Ventures, a think tank on boomers, work and social purpose, shows that in a tough employment market, millions of Americans in their 40s, 50s and 60s are interested in creating jobs for themselves and others.

“Encore Entrepreneurs: Creating Jobs, Meeting Needs,” which was funded by MetLife Foundation and conducted by Penn Schoen Berland, shows:

  • Approximately 25 million people – one in four Americans ages 44-70 – are interested in starting businesses or nonprofit ventures in the next five to 10 years.
  • More than 12 million of these aspiring entrepreneurs (48 percent) want to be encore entrepreneurs, making a positive social impact as well as a living.
  • Most potential encore entrepreneurs (72 percent) expect to create local, small organizations employing up to 10 people.

Research shows that potential encore entrepreneurs are daunted by the economic risk in starting ventures now, but half are still eager to move forward.

  • Nearly six in 10 (58 percent) say the current economic crisis makes them more likely to start their own businesses or nonprofit ventures.
  • More than half (54 percent) say they are “very likely” to start their ventures within the next 5 to 10 years.
  • Just under half (47 percent) of encore entrepreneurs believe they would not be able to obtain adequate financing. The same percentage (47 percent) expect to tap their personal savings to launch their ventures.
  • About half (52 percent) say they have delayed launching their ventures because they do not feel secure enough financially right now.

The findings reinforce consistent research from the Kauffman Foundation, which shows that for 11 of the 15 years between 1996 and 2010, Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 had the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity of any age group.

“In a sea of bad economic news, it’s heartening that millions of people with experience want to take matters in their own hands and launch their own ventures to meet social needs in their communities,” said Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of Civic Ventures and author of The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife.

“There are certainly many obstacles to building successful enterprises at this stage in life,” Freedman continued, “but, as we’ve seen with The Purpose Prize, many have been able to make a living while making a difference. We need to help many more do the same.”

Last week, Civic Ventures gave five encore entrepreneurs over 60 years old its $100,000 Purpose Prize for their extraordinary social contributions. For details and hundreds of stories of encore entrepreneurs, go to

“MetLife Foundation's work with Civic Ventures is a great example of partners working together to find solutions,” said Dennis White, president and CEO of MetLife Foundation. “It is inspiring to see this research show that baby boomers are excited about continuing their involvement in their communities. Their entrepreneurial spirit is a great way for them to give back.”

A summary of the research follows. Find more at

On experience

  • More than one-third (37 percent) of Americans ages 44-70 have already started businesses or nonprofit organizations and, of these, 42 percent are still actively involved in their ventures.
  • Aspiring entrepreneurs report an average of 31 years of work experience and 12 years of community involvement.
  • Five out of six (85 percent) report having management experience. Those with experience report an average of 15 years.

On the motivation and interests of potential encore entrepreneurs

  • Encore entrepreneurs want work they “are passionate about” (84 percent) and that gives them “a sense of meaning and a feeling of accomplishment” (83 percent).
  • Encore entrepreneurs are interested in social services (37 percent), poverty alleviation (28 percent), working with at-risk youth, economic development and health care (all at 24 percent), the environment (19 percent) and human rights or social justice (18 percent).

On the characteristics of potential encore entrepreneurs

Compared to aspiring entrepreneurs in this age group without a social mission, these potential encore entrepreneurs are more likely to be women, African American, involved in their communities, motivated by faith, and serious about getting started.

On the goals and needs of potential encore entrepreneurs

  • Two out of three potential encore entrepreneurs (68 percent) would consider their businesses or nonprofit ventures worthwhile if they earned less than $60,000 a year.
  • Two out of three (67 percent) report that they need $50,000 or less to get started and only one in five (20 percent) say they need more than $100,000.
  • Two out of three (67 percent) plan on having a local, state or regional (as opposed to national or international) impact.

How the research was conducted

From Sept. 14 to 28, 2011, Penn Schoen Berland conducted 400 online interviews with adults between the ages of 44 and 70 who live in the United States and express interest in starting their own business or nonprofit ventures in the next five to 10 years (Potential Entrepreneurs). This included 193 Potential Encore Entrepreneurs who expressed interest in starting ventures that would have a positive social impact, meet a community need or address a social challenge. The margin of error for the total sample is ±4.9 percent at the 95 percent confidence level and larger for sub-groups. This survey was part of a broader research effort by Civic Ventures that included a survey of 1,000 adults between the ages of 44 and 75 who live in the United States, conducted by telephone from June 16, 2011 to June 30, 2011. The findings from this survey will be released on Nov. 29.

About Civic Ventures (

Civic Ventures is a think tank on boomers, work and social purpose. The organization introduced the concept of encore careers, which combine meaning, continued income and social impact.

About MetLife Foundation (

MetLife Foundation was established in 1976 to carry on MetLife’s longstanding tradition of corporate contributions and community involvement. The Foundation is committed to building a secure future for individuals and communities worldwide. Through programs focusing on empowering older adults, preparing young people and building livable communities, MetLife Foundation increases access and opportunities for people of all ages. Since it was established, MetLife Foundation has made more than $500 million in grants and $75 million in program related investments.

About Penn Schoen Berland (

Penn Schoen Berland, a unit of the WPP Group (NASDAQ: WPPGY), is a global research-based consultancy with over 30 years of experience that specializes in messaging and communications strategy for blue-chip political, corporate, nonprofit and entertainment clients.


For Encore Careers
Elysha Rom-Povolo, 415-901-0111


For Encore Careers
Elysha Rom-Povolo, 415-901-0111