innovation

The Mature Entrepreneur

(This post is the result of a collaboration between Amy Shelton and Nicole Radziwill. Image Credit: Doug Buckley of Hyperactive Multimedia at http://www.hyperactive.to)

Up and coming young entrepreneurs in the U.S. are often the focus of articles because their success is the American dream. Start from nothing. End up with everything. But what happens when you aren’t starting from nothing? Maybe you are a 30+ professional that dreams of making a decent living doing what you love. You already have a career and maybe even a family too.  Now you’re ready to be your own boss and take a chance. You are the mature entrepreneur.

The struggling entrepreneur is often romanticized as living in a post-college frat house where co-founders scrape by on peanut butter and jelly, Ramen noodles, and sharing a house – creating a start-up commune of sorts – until they make it big. However, the 30+ entrepreneur probably has a family and, although the thought of working with their co-founders is inspirational and exciting, the thought of actually moving in with them is not. (We even know a few entrepreneurs who – gasp! – moved themselves and their families back in with mom and dad for a while to save money while working on their start-up.) Rather than making it big, the mature entrepreneur is probably more focused on applying his or her life experiences and expertise to earn a decent living doing what she loves.

There was an interesting thread on Hacker News recently where a woman was asking advice from fellow hackers who work from home and have kids. The conversation thread was very long and is still active, talking about the practical concerns of pursuing entrepreneurship while fulfilling family obligations, and finding balance between work and life. According to Wikipedia, the average age of marriage today is 28.4 years for men, and 26.5 years for women. The average age of first time mothers was 25 in 2006. So anyone interested in entrepreneurship post-30 is probably married and probably has children. This adds a huge layer of complexity to planning any business, especially since the mature entrepreneur is often taking a big financial risk that could easily impact his or her family.

In addition to financial risk, there is also an emotional risk associated with being an entrepreneur who’s starting a new venture. First, it’s very easy to become a workaholic. You might be holding a regular full-time job while chasing your passions and making your new ideas real at nights and on weekends. Conversely, it’s very easy to become a “lifeaholic.” That might seem strange, but when you’re pursuing your true interests, it might seem like you’re not working at all. Most of you might say “Hey! That’s great! That’s exactly what I want!” But there can be a deep sense of dissatisfaction associated with being able to make your own schedule and call your own shots, especially in the early stages of a venture before your ideas really take off and start to pay off. You can spend as much time as you want with your kids… with your spouse.. you might ask yourself “Am I really working hard enough?” The mature entrepreneur will devise a means to continually self-assess to achieve a happy medium between being a workaholic and a lifeaholic, recognizing that it’s easy to fall on either end of the spectrum.

The best part about being a mature entrepreneur (whether you’re living with your partners, your parents, or your own nuclear family) is that, like we said before, you aren’t starting from nothing. You have plenty of experience behind you, and whether your venture succeeds or fails, you know that it will be a valuable learning experience. You also have a network of people around you who will support you and share in the victory when you make it big, or be there to console you when you fold.

Most importantly, you aren’t starting without the awareness that the ultimate goal is to become a passionate workalifeaholic (or lifeaworkaholic) who can realize new ideas with ease!

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