How Older Small Business Owners Survived Last Year

Many entrepreneurs age 45 and older turned to government resources to help their businesses survive the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research from AARP and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

After using data from the Federal Reserve’s Small Business Credit Survey to identify trends among older entrepreneurs, AARP conducted in-depth interviews with 25 small business owners over the age of 45 between November 2020 and January 2021.

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The discussions revealed that these business owners were resourceful in finding government programs that could offer financial assistance. Eighteen of the business owners had received a federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan (which could become a grant), six had received a Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), and five had secured some other federal, state or local loan or grant.

Most of those interviewed said managing their businesses during the pandemic has been very challenging, requiring them to pivot swiftly in order to stay afloat. In addition to the increased use of teleconferencing technologies such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams to stay in contact with their employees and clients, many of these entrepreneurs also said they have had to launch or upgrade their digital marketing strategies, websites and online sales techniques.

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“A lot of small businesses, who have been very agile and been able to make those shifts, I think are going to be well positioned in this new hybrid world that we’re going to be in, where people will be coming back into the city center into the offices while there also may be a lot more remote work,” John C. Williams, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said during a March 30 webinar to present the results of the research and promote AARP’s Small Business Resource Center.

The resource center is just one of the programs AARP provides to help older adults who may be considering becoming entrepreneurs.

“The reality is four out of five small business owners are 45-plus, and they are among the most successful in the entrepreneurial space,” Nancy LeaMond, AARP’s executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer, said during the webinar. “They come to it after years of experience, they have many contacts, and they’ve had the benefit of failure and resilience. And they want to bring those skills [to their own businesses], including some of the softer skills.”