East Brooklyn businesses are booming.
Photo credit: francesgreene.com

A new study by the Center for an Urban Future (CUF) shows that residents in Brownsville, Bushwick and East New York over the age of 50 are starting businesses in record numbers, reports Patch.

While this wave of “encore entrepreneurship” is still in its early days, it is already showing signs of remarkable growth, according to CUF, and promises great benefits for NYC’s economy.

“Millennials aren’t the only ones starting businesses in New York,” says CUF executive director Jonathan Bowles. “The boom in older entrepreneurs is just getting started, and it has enormous potential to boost the city’s economy and help loads of New Yorkers become more financially secure later in life.”

Spurred by recession-era layoffs, lowered barriers to entry, longer life spans, age discrimination in the workplace and the need for financial security later in life, a diverse mix of New Yorkers over 50 are starting new businesses.

Brooklyn has three of the ten fastest-growing neighborhoods for self-employed workers 50-plus: Brownsville saw a 186 percent increase, Bushwick grew by 172 percent and East New York jumped by 95 percent; there are 5,961 self-employed Brooklynites who are 50 and older and that the number of Brooklynites over the age of 60 has increased by 64 percent since 2005. 

Citywide, Brownsville ranked third, Bushwick ranked fourth and East New York ranked eighth for surges in “encore entrepreneurship.”

The Women’s Brooklyn Enterprise Center at the Local Development Corporation of East New York works with 1,200 people a year, and estimates 25 percent are over the age of 50. The corporation has seen enough continuing growth in this population that it is considering creating a “silver club,” a networking group specifically for older entrepreneurs.

“Absolutely, we are seeing more interest from older adults,” says Gail Davis, director of the Women’s Business Center. “They’re retired or looking for something else to do or wanting to monetize off the skill and talent set they have.”

While “encore entrepreneurs” are present in virtually every industry in the city, service businesses are easy on- ramps to ownership and self-employment and one of the most popular types of ventures for older founders with corporate or professional experience. Food businesses—such as restaurants, catering services, bakeries and artisanal food manufacturers—are a natural choice for many encore entrepreneurs, especially in low-income and immigrant communities, where older adults have honed their passion and talent over a life-time of cooking for family and friends.

The study encourages Mayor Bill de Blasio to support the surge in older entrepreneurship by increasing job and tech training opportunities typically geared toward younger demographics. 

“[We] have put focus on supporting initiatives in the community that address their specific needs,” says Mariadele Priest of Capital One, the company that co-sponsored the project. “We see the huge opportunity with this population of entrepreneurs.”

To read the complete study, go here.

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