Senior entrepreneurs turn dreams into realities

Published On: Apr 14 2013 12:37:00 PM HST

New research has found that one in four Americans between the ages of 44 and 70 are interested in starting their own business or nonprofit in the next five to 10 years. There are certain risks and challenges for these senior entrepreneurs, and is it worth it?

Laurie Kaneshiro, 58, is deep into renovations at a longtime local restaurant -- and loving it.

“I’m just passionate about doing interiors. It doesn’t feel like work for me,” said Kaneshiro.

But two years ago, she had to make a choice between career or caring for her aging mother.

“The caregivers are so expensive it didn’t make sense for me to keep working.  If could be there at do my work for home, it was a better win-win for us,” said Kaneshiro.

So she started her own interior design company and her resume now includes the Kapolei Courthouse and the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center.

But Kaneshiro will be the first to tell you it hasn't been easy, particularly being forced to learn new technology.

“I had to take classes on that and I had to buy the software. It’s great now because I can use it, but the learning curve was really steep,” said Kaneshiro about the 3-D architectural software that is a key tool in her line of work.

In a recent survey, 19 percent of Hawaii AARP members ages 50 to 59 are currently self-employed or own their own business. Seventeen percent are very interested in starting their own business.

“We see people are living longer, needing more money, wanting to do something different,” said Jane Sawyer, district director for Small Business Administration.

“It’s not always a negative thing. In their life, sometimes it’s just ‘I realize what I really want to do’, ‘I found my purpose’, and it changes how you make your living.”

The SBA recommends entrepreneurs looking to make an encore performance in their later years plan ahead.

“I would say get online, do the research, do your homework’and really have an idea of what you’re getting into,” said Sawyer.

“If you can plan ahead for it instead of trying to figure out in the heat of the moment trying to decide what to do, if you have a game plan, it makes it much easier,” said Kaneshiro.

Sawyer said don't underestimate the value of these senior entrepreneurs in our community.

“Most of them who are starting a business have some sort of social and economic impact they want to achieve,” said Sawyer.

“If I had known what I know now, I would have done this sooner,” said Kaneshiro.

In some cases, saving the best for last may be the best move. AARP Hawaii and the Small Business Administration are teaming up to host a one-day event for Hawaii residents 50 and over interested in starting their own business or expanding on an existing one.

It's Wednesday, April 17 at the Filipino Community Center in Waipahu from 9 to 11 a.m.


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