One of my areas of interest while president of Kauffman FastTrac was helping Baby Boomers realize their entrepreneurial dreams. At that time, according to the 2011 Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, the percentage of firms created by Americans ages 55 to 64 grew more than any other age demographic. And, in fact, we were watching these demographics play out in our course rosters based on those who enrolled in our courses in entrepreneurship across the country. The trend continues.
In fact, as I sit here, just about one week or so out from my 44th birthday, I find myself intrigued by a relatively new organization that has arrived on the scene in my community. It is designed to build on efforts that support “encore entrepreneurs,” and other professionals, aged 45+ to realize their dreams: It’s called EnCorps45.
As such, I sat down with my friend and a co-founder of EnCorps45, marketing wizard and entrepreneur, Bob Martin, to learn more…
CLC: Bob, What exactly is EnCorps45 and who is your target audience?
EnCorps45: EnCorps45 is an organization aimed at helping encore entrepreneurs; that is, professionals considering a new chapter in their lives or displaced workers in the same age bracket, all asking, “What’s Next?” The organization is both a resource and a conduit to resources supporting this dynamic segment of the working population. The idea was born from two guys sitting on bar stools in a local watering hole sharing their dissatisfaction with networking opportunities for the baby boomer set and commiserating the trials and travails of 50-plus workers looking for their next adventure. Too young and energetic for social security, and too poor to retire otherwise, EnCorps45 took flight as a marketing initiative for three local businesses – a way to foster our own enterprises – but became much more, much sooner.
CLC: So, what’s the deal? How can interested participants take advantage of this great opportunity?
EnCorps45: We gather people together at monthly “Esprit Events” held at venues across the city; the venue changes each month, which has been embraced by our membership. Additionally, we have an unbelievable group of host volunteers who meet shortly before each month’s event to plan activities and review the guest list. During the registration process, all guests are encouraged to share exactly what they are looking to accomplish at the event. Consequently, the registration process achieves several objectives:
- It initiates networking strategies for the guests themselves, many of whom have not thought about what they hope to accomplish from the networking investment.
- It puts all guests into a mindset of networking which becomes a catalyst for a successful networking event in and of itself.
- And, it provides tactics for the hosts – help each guest make a business match, a new client, a new employee candidate, a new job.
The host volunteers have made all the difference in making Esprit Events incredibly productive and effective.
CLC: Wow! Sounds like a fabulous opportunity for people to connect with and support one another. How many members belong to EnCorps45 and what is the typical attendance at any given event?
EnCorps45: We hosted our first event last November. As a relatively new organization, our member numbers have been slowly growing, but our event numbers average 50 or so. We can’t over-emphasize, however, that while we are a members-based organization, our events are open to the public, non-members, Millenials, Gen-X professionals… absolutely everyone. While our voice is tuned for the over-45 crowd, our mission is inclusive.
CLC: In effect, you have started a movement. Is that how you see your work? Has it been a surprise or was this the vision all along? Do you intend to expand beyond Kansas City or do you have advice for others who might like to launch an EnCorps45 group in their own city?
EnCorps45: To a person, the founders have been surprised how our individual stories and the EnCorps45 story have resonated with people. Our early momentum has been both exciting and sobering. Exciting, in that I think we’ve started filling a void in business support unique to our age-group; sobering in the number of our peers looking, craving, for support and solace. All that said, I’m not sure we’ve started a movement, but I’d like to think we’re creating a voice for a movement that already exists. With 25 percent of all new businesses being launched by Baby Boomers, the blood, sweat and toil is already being invested. We saw a lack of resources specifically targeted to help this demographic, and particularly resources outside the medical profession that would provide emotional support and personal interaction. Starting a business at any age is an isolated pursuit. Being older, and grayer, is no exception; it carries with it unique challenges that starting businesses younger does not.
Regarding expansion, we have had interest from parties in St. Louis and Memphis. We will help anyone who wants to carry the bullhorn. Help them learn from our mistakes, of course, but to our mission, help provide resources to ensure their success.
CLC: What else would you like Coffee Lunch Coffee readers to know about EnCorps45 and how it creates a relationship with its audience?
EnCorps45: I suspect CLC readers will associate with our commitment to connecting, even outside the Esprit Events. We conduct a contact audit each month to ensure we are connecting with members and event attendees one-on-one, over coffee, over lunch…well you know. It’s not enough to share a libation the third Tuesday each month and not connect again for 30 days. We embrace the notion that our economy is a finely meshed organism. It’s our responsibility to ensure the organism remains healthy; it’s only as strong as its individual cells.
CLC: Where can CLC readers go to learn more about EnCorps45?
Encorps45: They can visit EnCorps45.com where we hope more than learning about the organization, they will find a source of inspiration or support for their own endeavors. And of course, every CLC reader is invited to attend our next Esprit Event, which will be 5:30-7:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 21, 2015 at Cleaver & Cork (an encore performer itself) in the KC Power & Light District. They can register at this link.