Sen. Susan Collins

Encore entrepreneurs: Seniors starting businesses and creating jobs

Thu, 02/20/2014 - 7:00am

Small businesses are truly the backbone of our nation's economy, creating jobs and opportunity. It might surprise you to learn that individuals between the ages of 55 and 64 actually make up the largest percentage of new business owners in the United States. This has been true for decades, even during the height of the "Dot Com" boom of the 1990s.

Most older Americans don't want to spend their retirement just on leisure. They want to stay active, and in some cases pursue opportunities that they may not have had the time or ability to pursue in earlier years. Some seniors have a desire to give back to their communities by creating small nonprofit organizations. Others simply need to earn extra money to help make ends meet. Whatever the case may be, older Americans have many qualities that make them excellent entrepreneurs. They have life experience and real-world education, as well as networks they have established and maintained throughout their work careers. 

Maine has many great examples of seniors who have taken their talent and skills, know-how and wisdom, and turned these attributes into successful small businesses. Through their success, they help create a better life for themselves and to create jobs for others.

Bruce Bohrmann of Yarmouth spent his career in the catalog business and as an advertising manager for a Maine bank. As a hobby during his work years, he also created high-quality, custom-made knives in his own small machine shop. After he retired, with the help of SCORE, an organization that provides counsel to small businesses, he was able to turn his hobby into a full-time job, and now sells his knives to customers around the world.

Dana Saucier, from Wallagrass, spent 28 years at International Paper. When he retired, he and three colleagues started a small consulting group to help other entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground. Dana says that the great thing about running your own business in retirement is that you can work as much or as little as you want, and still make a difference in the world. By choice, much of the work Dana does now is pro bono.

Martha Muldoon of Buxton lost her job when she was 64 years old, but picked herself up, and got back in the game by starting her own public relations business, calling on skills she had used earlier in her career. Now she works out of her own home, on her own schedule, directing the marketing for "Coffee News," the world's largest weekly restaurant publication.

Seniors like Bruce Bohrmann, Dana Saucier and Martha Muldoon have become successful entrepreneurs not only through their own hard work, but also with the assistance of experts at SCORE, and with the support of programs run by the Small Business Administration.

Unfortunately, despite the large percentage of small businesses that are owned by seniors, there are still far too many seniors who either do not realize that starting a business may be an option to them. That is why the Senate Special Committee on Aging, of which I am the Ranking Member, recently held a hearing titled, "In Search of a Second Act: The Challenges and Advantages of Senior Entrepreneurship." Elizabeth Isele of Maine testified before this hearing at my invitation.

Elizabeth is the co-founder and CEO of, an organization dedicated to helping seniors tap into their strengths and creativity as well as resources available to them to start a business. She also has spearheaded a blog,, to provide information and support for senior-owned businesses.

Like the many successful senior business owners in Maine and throughout the nation, she recognizes the vast opportunities that are available to seniors, as well as the challenges. Some businesses, for example, could get off the ground with just a very small initial capital investment. But finding even these small resources can be difficult. It is important that microloans, or small business loans, for example, be a viable option for some seniors.

Senior-owned businesses also play a critical role in job creation since they hire workers as they grow and thrive. Senior entrepreneurship creates a win-win situation for our communities and our economy. 

As Elizabeth said, "senior entrepreneurs truly are a ‘silver lining’ in our nation's economy that will yield golden dividends."