- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 18, 2005

Ophelia Scott is bored with retirement. The former elementary school teacher dabbled in substitute teaching and volunteering at her church, but nothing alleviated her boredom until she went into business for herself.

Ms. Scott, 75, and her daughter, Pamela, opened Rejoice Enrichment Program, a licensed tutoring business, in Ms. Scott’s Arlington home this month.

Most entrepreneurs historically have been in their 20s and 30s, but Ms. Scott is part of a boom of business startups expected in the next decade of Americans 40 or older.

“If there’s a need, why not?” she said. “There’s a great need for tutors now because elementary schools classrooms are so crowded teachers don’t have time to spend with children who don’t get it as quickly.”

Nearly 87 percent of people starting a business in the second quarter this year, and 78 percent in the second quarter of 2004, were older than 40. Five years ago, 56 percent of startup business owners were older than 40, according to New York outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

Challenger said baby boomers — people turning 41 to 59 this year — are smart, restless and willing to take the financial risk of starting a business.

“As the baby boomers … start to approach retirement, many, because they have stamina, education, experience and some have the financial [need], are going to continue to work,” said Rick Cobb, executive vice president at Challenger.

James Naradzay, owner of Accounting & Tax Service of Gainesville, Va., said a growing majority of his small-business clients in Northern Virginia are people older than 40.

“Children of the World War II generation, they had to exist, attempt and try just to survive. Children of [the baby boom] generation … built up personal wealth, home equity and their own retirement plan,” Mr. Naradzay said. “They happen to have the wherewithal and the capacity to loan themselves money.”

John and Kathleen Long of Arlington had talked about starting a business when he was in the Air Force and she was a schoolteacher. But it wasn’t until they retired and were in their late 50s that they opened More Space Place, which sells customized furniture, in Pentagon Row.

They have relied on their extensive travel experience and Mr. Long’s background in engineering and business to give them a leg up.

“Your life experiences really can help you in dealing with people,” Mrs. Long said. “We’re used to dealing with a lot of different people. … That’s really important to us. The customer service part is so important.”

The Longs say they are pleased with the store’s sales since it opened last year, but declined to reveal specifics. “It’s exceeding my business plan,” Mr. Long said.

Ms. Scott relies on her years as a teacher and skills she developed from family members who opened businesses.

“It’s a help in knowing how to relate to people,” she said. “It gave me the experience in knowing there’s a need for all kinds of help out there.”

The younger generation today is less likely to start a business. In 2000, nearly 2.8 million of the nation’s self-employed were 35 to 44. Today, that number is 2.4 million. The number of self-employed 25- to 34-year-olds fell 4 percent, Challenger found.

Entrepreneurs of any age find a lot to learn about business.

Jo Anne Weinberg, 56, has hired a small-business coach and attended classes at the Arlington Economic Development office this year after starting the Field Trip Lady, which sells guides about D.C. tourist sites at thefieldtriplady.com.

“I’ve never taken a business class; that’s what’s so scary to me,” she said.

Her business coach has helped develop a business plan.

Ms. Weinberg, a volunteer tour guide at the Library of Congress and a former teacher, started the Field Trip Lady not out of financial need, but to offer a service.

“I asked kids, ‘What do you remember learning about the Library the Congress?’ And it wasn’t much,” she said.

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