Cutting Age Profiles: Elizabeth Isele is scaling up entrepreneurship for seniors


[caption id="attachment_5731" align="alignleft" width="358"]elizabethisele3 Elizabeth Isele, co-founder of Senior Entreperneurhsip Works[/caption]

Elizabeth Isele, co-founder of Senior Entrepreneurship Works, is on a mission to promote senior entrepreneurship around the world. She’s a good example herself - vibrant and enthusiastic, she clearly rails against the notion of later life to be for relaxation and retirement. She worked in the publishing industry in New York before getting involved with a number of non profits, and set up Cyber Seniors to get older adults online and engaged. She even developed a cyber health curriculum, paid for by the National Institutes of Health, ahead of its time in the early 2000s. Her next foray was SavvySeniorsWork.com, a blog and online forum focused on finding jobs one of the main interests of users.  However, as the downturn came in 2008/9 she realized that there just weren’t jobs out there for older people, so she switched her focus to helping support 50+ entrepreneurs who want to create their own jobs and companies - entrepreneurs in other words.

According to Elizabeth, seniors often make good entrepreneurs since they’re generally not risk averse and so willing to try new things - having “nothing to lose”; they have significant life experience and often have higher motivation, given this is seen as being in the final stages of their career. While initially targeting her messaging to the over-50s, she’s noticed many in their 40s being interested in what she’s doing, as they prepare for career transition.

Senior Entrepreneurship Works (SEW) is a non-profit that runs entrepreneurship courses together with Baruch and Babson colleges. They’re a small team (just Elizabeth plus 4 at the academic partners) but have already created 400-500 senior entrepreneurs through their programs, are expanding rapidly around the globe thanks to frequent international invitations. People participate in their programs in-person at different chapters she’s set up, and get support with online and offline materials. She’s now set up a for-profit entity, to ensure their business model is sustainable, which runs the new eProv program - a combination of entrepreneurship with improvisation that helps people find their inner entrepreneur.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="197"]Screenshot 2013-12-12 16.12.57 A recent shot of Elizabeth taking to the skies in a biplane[/caption]

They also run a focused accelerator program. Entrepreneurs come and pitch to experts who provide valuable feedback during a session that takes a few hours. The entrepreneurs pay a nominal amount (say $50) if the program has a corporate sponsor or up to $500 if they don’t.

Since setting up SEW early 2012 she’s been on a tear - describing her current role as holding onto a tiger by its tail. This is not surprising as she’s at the forefront of the powerful trends of a burgeoning boomer population and lower costs to entrepreneurship and her message resonates with many sectors in society. She’s in constant demand to provide input on the topic of senior entrepreneurship by groups as diverse as the White House, the US Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship (chaired by Senator Mary Landrieu), regional federal reserves looking to boost local economies through entrepreneurship and a range of corporate partners, including some household names who seem to be waking up to the potential here as both a market and a way to improve labor mobility. The prospect of providing jobs for seniors is a win-win-win with the prospect of new sources of economic growth (and growing the $1.4bn in tax revenues from senior entrepreneurs), greater levels of engagement, and less social isolation and senior poverty. Her affable demeanor no doubt helps to increase the number of people who want to do business with her - she’s a likable person, with a great story to bring large scale and much-needed change to our aging world.

It was quickly apparent that there are many synergies with Aging2.0 - their 3 values of collaboration, innovation and dignity are almost identical to ours - collaboration, innovation and respect. While Aging2 mainly focuses on the 50+ demographic as the consumer, SEW is mainly focusing on them as entrepreneurs, so watch this space for potential areas of collaboration. Meanwhile Elizabeth’s email is elizabeth@seniorentrepreneurshipworks.org and you can find more information at: http://seniorentrepreneurshipworks.org/.


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