6 Myths that Sabotage Mid-life Entrepreneurs

By Rob Kornblum | Older founder

Feb 08

Can you hear it?

That tiny voice inside your head.

The one that tells you not to go for it. Not to start the company that you have been dreaming about.

You have been listening to it for far too long, believing the myths about starting your dream company and getting control of your work and your life.
When you hear something repeatedly, even if it’s wrong, it can become the truth.

You can change that “truth” in your head.
Let’s see if we can bust some of those myths and help you get on track.

Myth: Startups are for people much younger than me

So many of us have been conditioned to believe this myth. We read media stories about hugely successful founders who dropped out of college, like Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates, and we think that is the norm. We get conditioned by “30 Under 30” stories in Inc. or Forbes that make us think that make us believe you have to be young to start a successful company.

Furthermore, many of us have been conditioned by the attitudes of our friends and family. Try it- tell your friends or family that you got a new job and you will hear lots of congratulations, but tell them that you started a new company and you will hear comments about risk.

With so many personal and media messages reinforcing this myth, it can be tough to gain the confidence you need. Here are the facts from numerous studies. Entrepreneurs are more likely to be in their 50s than in their 20s. Not only are there more older entrepreneurs, but your odds of success go up as you get older, because you gain the business and personal experience that helps you be successful.

dare to dream

 

Myth: I’m not technical

While there have been some very important businesses built by technical founders, like Facebook or Uber, that does not mean you need to be technical to build a business. There are a ton of examples of non-technical founders who started companies that solved their problems or embodied their passions.

Sara Blakely created a billion dollar business called Spanx to help women feel great about themselves in their undergarments. Emily McDowell started Emily McDowell Studios to bring real greeting cards with empathy and humor into the world.

Also, because there is so much technology around us in the form of web sites, mobile phones, apps, and software, it is so much easier to start any kind of business, including an online business. This technology helps you set up and run your business, and it is easy to use, inexpensive, and often designed for beginners.

 

Myth: I can’t take the risk, I have too many financial responsibilities

I totally hear you on this one. Most of us have mortgages, kids, car payments and the like. None of those financial responsibilities should keep you from your dream of starting a business.

There are a bunch of ways to manage these responsibilities and start your company. You don’t need to quit your job and jump in with both feet, not right at first. The truth is that entrepreneurship isn’t about risk taking. It is about finding the right market niche and product or service to meet market demand.

You can test your idea while you still have your day job. One way to do that is by starting a “side gig” company to see if the market wants your product or service. Market demand means revenue and revenue will lower your risk when it is time to go full time.

It’s not easy balancing a full-time job, a family, and a side gig business. It requires tenacity, serious planning, and some sacrifice, but it can be done. It might feel like you’re about to jump off a cliff, but you have a parachute.

parachute

 

Myth: I don’t know investors

Many entrepreneurs think that one of the first steps in building a business is raising outside capital. They think the process goes:

It doesn’t work that way at all. Professional venture capitalists, and even angel investors, tend to invest in businesses that have already launched a small-scale version of their product and shown that customers want to buy it.

Look at the path of Brandi Temple, the founder of Lolly Wolly Doodle. Temple started the business in 2009, selling children’s clothing through Facebook. (She started making clothing for her kids after her husband’s income dropped due to the recession). By 2013, the company had done $11 million in sales. It was that success that attracted a $20 million investment from Revolution Capital, the investment group of Steve Case, the founder of AOL.

The bottom line—the best way to attract outside investors is to build a successful company. You don’t need to worry about it at the start.

Myth: I don’t have a startup idea

I bet you actually have a bunch of ideas. How many times have you thought about something in your life that could use a big improvement, from your cell phone battery, to the SAT prep class for your kids, to hailing a taxi? All of those became the idea for a successful new business.

When you have these kinds of ideas, write them down. Even if you don’t know the solution yet, just write down the problem. Here are some steps to take to create a bunch of new business ideas in less than a month. Every day, write down

  • One thing that needs improving, or that flat-out sucks, such as the above examples.
  • One thing that you are really good at. If you’re not sure, think about what your friends would say you are good at. You could possibly create a service business, or scale it up to a course or even a software application.
  • One thing that you really like doing at work. For some people, it might be doing spreadsheets. For others, it might be talking on the phone with clients.

If you commit to writing these down, every day, not only will you have 90 ideas at the end of the month, but you will also find that the very act of thinking of ideas helps you come up with more. There is significant positive momentum that happens.

Myth: I’m just not an entrepreneur

This one isn’t just a myth, it’s a legend.

It’s something you have told yourself, convinced yourself, so that you let it grow to legendary proportions.

Here’s the deal- no one comes out of the womb as an entrepreneur. Becoming a mid-life entrepreneur is about coming up with a new way of doing things and pursuing that new way relentlessly. It’s about taking control of your work life and financial life so you no longer have to depend on ‘the man’ for your well-being.

But just as you have convinced yourself that you are not an entrepreneur, you can convince yourself that you are one. One of the best ways to change your mindset is to change your crowd. Start hanging out in online forums or Facebook groups with other entrepreneurs. Go to a meetup in your town or a conference. Invest in yourself.

With the myths laying shattered in pieces at your feet, the truth can start to take hold along with your entrepreneurial confidence. Lay out your action plan and start building some of these ideas.

Focus. Work the plan.

You’ll get there, the business of your dreams.

man on cliff

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About the Author

Rob loves helping entrepreneurs and start-up founders boost their chance of success via simple growth strategies. He's a 25-year start-up veteran, serial entrepreneur, and former venture capitalist.

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