A lot of older entrepreneurs turn to franchises. They appeal to them because they can start making money sooner than they would by building a company from the ground up. Another benefit: franchises come with a ready-made business and marketing plan — and often a well-known name like Subway— the popular sandwich shops— or Lawn Doctor lawn-care businesses. Uzzi, the Nurse Next Door franchisee spent $100,000 to buy and set up his franchise, a far cry he says from what it would take to establish a new business. "I didn't have $20 million to dump into establishing a brand," Uzzi says.
The Nurse Next Door company notes that it is attracting older franchisees. In the last six to nine months, the average age of new Nurse Next Door franchisees is 56, up from 45. CEO John DeHart says the company is getting more inquiries from older prospective franchisees than in the past.
When Mark Whitworth lost his job two years ago at the age of 50, he didn't plan to become a business owner. But the job market for accountants was dicey and looked like it would stay that way.
So Whitworth opened a carpet and upholstery cleaning franchise last September. He works six days a week and isn't turning a profit yet, but he's enjoying the autonomy that comes with running a company.
"It really does feel good to be the one to make the decisions and deciding the direction your business goes in," says Whitworth, who owns a Neighborhood Chem-Dry franchise in Dallas.
He's optimistic the business will start making money as he gets more customers.
"You have to be patient and build up a reputation," he says.
Starting a company while still working for someone else is another route. William Ryan has a job as a salesman for a consumer products company in the Boston area. But last month, at the age of 52, he also opened a franchise — a Lapels dry cleaning business. His goal is to help pay for college for his two children. He's also concerned about the job market.
"I have a friend who's worked for a company for 30 years and just got a layoff notice," he says. "I'm doing this as a safety net and as a financial security blanket."
Ryan works on the business before and after his regular job. He's in the store on weekends. During the week, it's staffed by two part-time workers.
Owning a company for the first time has a learning curve. Ryan is dealing with payroll, insurance and other aspects of running a business. The process of opening the store required a lot of paperwork.
"I bet I've gone through 300 pieces of paper just setting things up," he says.
But the work that goes into running his own business is worth it, he says.
"I've got that fire in me," Ryan says. "This is something I always wanted to do."