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Golden Launch: Becoming an Entrepreneur Later in Life

Azriela Jaffe

Starting a business after age 50 presents a unique set of challenges — and triumphs. Come along on the adventures of several frum women who became entrepreneurs when others were considering early retirement

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

I am a new mama. I have the sleepless nights, birth pains, and middle-of-the-night worries to show for it. I also have the nachas. My husband and I are the proud owners of a new retail establishment: “Edison Pack andShipBusinessCenter.” And I’m as astonished as if someone left a bundled new baby on our doorstep.

Many new businesses — whether bricks-and-mortar, service, or Web-based — are created by savvy, creative, shomer Shabbos mothers who devoted their 20s, 30s, and 40s to raising children. These pioneering women are following national trends. Almost 21 percent of new entrepreneurs in 2011 were between the ages of 55 and 64 — up from 14 percent in 1996. And for the last 20 years, women have been opening businesses at a higher rate than men, typically home-based small businesses employing five employees or fewer.

But not every woman-owned operation is a cookie decorating biz from a home kitchen. In 2012, a greater percentage of women-owned businesses (compared to male-owned) made more than a million dollars in revenue in several industries, including retail trade, wholesale trade, manufacturing, and construction, according to the National Women’s Business Council.

A variety of reasons may propel a woman onto the roller coaster of entrepreneurship: job loss (hers or her husband’s), the need for flexibility regarding child care or hours that better conform to the Jewish calendar, or simply a burning desire to express her creativity. Shlomo HaMelech recognized the age-old drive of the Jewish entrepreneurial woman in “Eishes Chayil”: “She is like a merchant’s ship, bringing income from great distances” (Mishlei 31:14).

Whatever prompts these women to start down the entrepreneurial road later in life, they often express, “I never dreamed I would be doing this. But here I am!”


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