CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Last year, 7.4 million Americans age 50 and older were self-employed.
The AARP and the Small Business Administration have partnered to help counsel more than 100,000 of these new or existing "encore entrepreneurs" in the next year.
Many people 50 and older are more experienced, have established themselves, and do not have credit issues, said Emma Wilson, SBA's Charleston branch manager.
Still, some aren't yet ready to retire.
A small group of potential and current business owners attended Tuesday's first-ever National Encore Entrepreneur Mentor Day, which was hosted by the AARP and SBA at the Charleston Area Alliance.
The day is dedicated to partnering small business mentors with encore entrepreneurs to help make their small businesses a reality.
In May, Karen Mills, chief of the SBA, announced an alliance between her agency and the AARP to give entrepreneurs over 50 the tools they need to succeed and create jobs, said Gaylene Miller, AARP West Virginia's state director.
One in four Americans age 44 to 70 are interested in becoming entrepreneurs, Miller said. The joint effort between the two groups will provide the information to help them start their own businesses.
Tuesday's mentor day served as a way to kick off the AARP and SBA's partnership, Miller said. In West Virginia, Charleston was the only city to host the National Encore Entrepreneur Mentor Day.
"The idea of us joining forces with SBA is we want to provide these folks with real-world information to start a business," Miller said. "I'm hopeful that they will walk away with information that will help them."
Deepay Mukerjee, president of Progenesis Technologies in Huntington, said he wanted to meet with other entrepreneurs Tuesday as a way to network.
Mukerjee -- who has started a couple of his own businesses in the past -- said he wanted to get advice from other business owners and also share his knowledge, too.
He's interested in starting another business, this time with technologies that are environmentally sound, he said. Mukerjee's background is in the chemical industry.
"I wish these kinds of things were there when I started in the business," Mukerjee said. " ... I want to hear about other peoples' interests as well."
Charleston resident Sharon Roberts, 51, said talking to other entrepreneurs would help her get her new business up and running.
Roberts and her business partner bought the license to A&S Mine and Safety Training in March, but "it has been slow getting it started and we thought it was going to go much faster," she said.
The business -- which teaches mine-training classes for underground and strip miners as well as security officers -- should be open by Christmas, she said.
Roberts said she's learned how taxes work when running a business.
"There's so much involved with starting a business and I'm hoping I pick up a lot more good information," she said. "There are so many people who have started a business and they have so much advice."
Timing is critical, especially for people over 50, Miller said.
It takes people who are older than 50 much longer to find a job, she said. People under age 55 spend about 36 weeks searching for employment while people over 55 spend about 53 weeks, which is more than one year, Miller said.
"We plan on doing things over the next year for folks over 50 who are interested in starting their own business," Miller said. "We're trying to make sure our efforts overall are going to help middle class Americans navigate what's best for them."
Other events include a brown-bag lunch with entrepreneur mentors and "speed mentoring."
Representatives from the state AARP, Small Business Administration, Small Business Development Center and the Women's Business and Training Center offered additional information during Tuesday's event.
To find out more information about encore entrepreneurs, visit this link on the SBA website.
Reach Megan Workman at megan.work...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.