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Associated Press
Tony Uzzi accepted a buyout from a pharmaceutical company and went into business for himself.

Finally calling the shots

More older folks entrepreneurs since recession

– Calling the shots isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. But for people older than 50, it’s become a more popular choice.

Tony Uzzi knows all about that. After 30 years in traditional jobs, at age 52, he accepted a buyout from a pharmaceutical company and went into business for himself. Now, instead of having a fairly predictable schedule as a pharmaceutical salesman, work can interrupt just about anything – even dinners out.

“It’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Uzzi says. “It’s a challenge.”

For most Americans, exiting the rat race to start their own business is a passing thought. And then, as people get older, building a pension or a 401(k) plan with an employer match is too comfortable to let go. During the recent recession and its aftermath, however, the number of people older than 50 who started their own companies grew. Often it was because of the stiff job market. Sometimes family or personal circumstances necessitated a change to something more flexible. Almost always, running a business after decades of working for someone else, is turning out to be an adjustment.

Uzzi’s Nurse Next Door senior care franchise is the second business he started after taking the buyout in 2010. Uzzi first launched an executive coaching business that drew on his experience as a manager. But he was bored and not making the money he wanted. He began looking for a franchise and settled on Nurse Next Door because of his background in health care.

Interruptions aren’t the only challenge he encounters. Running the franchise comes with a myriad of duties: Drumming up sales and hiring among them.

“The constant drive to get clients, the constant sales calls. It’s finding good caregivers,” says Uzzi, who runs the franchise in Orange County, Calif. He is continually looking for new contacts – local attorneys and churches, for example – who can refer clients to him. He has 15 clients and is hoping for more.

Many people over 50 are making the same adjustments as Uzzi. Research by the Kauffman Foundation, which studies trends in entrepreneurship, shows that more people ages 55 to 64 turned to business ownership during and after the recession.

Some older entrepreneurs keep working in the industry where they’ve spent their entire careers. That was a big confidence booster for Lori Ames, who started her public relations company, The PR Freelancer, in 2010.

“Being 53 and having enough work and life experience made me go into this in a smart way,” says Ames, who launched her business after her 22-year-old son was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.

A lot of older entrepreneurs turn to franchises. They appeal to them because they can start making money sooner than they would by building a company from the ground up. Another benefit: franchises come with a ready-made business and marketing plan – and often a well-known name like Subway – the popular sandwich shops – or Lawn Doctor lawn-care businesses. Uzzi, the Nurse Next Door franchisee spent $100,000 to buy and set up his franchise, a far cry he says from what it would take to establish a new business.