Reinvent yourself as a ‘solopreneur’
by Maggi White
(Reprint of interview with Jackie B. Peterson from northwest50plus.com)
About 20 years ago, Jackie B Peterson sold her accounting firm and began consulting.
At the same time, a fellow member of the PCC Small Business Advisory Board approached her and said, “I am going to retire. Do you want my job?”
Peterson says the idea excited her because she enjoys small business and teaching, and felt this job would be perfect for her. “Being a small business owner is a brave and courageous undertaking,” she says.
Since then, Peterson has been helping older adults work through the prospects and challenges of becoming “solopreneurs,” or those who start their own solo businesses.
Adults ages 50 and older often feel the sting of being older in the workplace. Despite years of experience, the age factor leads to unemployment because companies want to hire younger people. It’s not uncommon to send out hundreds of resumes and never get an interview.
Other reasons for being downsized include globalization, artificial intelligence, and mergers and acquisitions. Women may face some particular challenges if they never married or no longer are married and can’t afford to live only on the Social Security they receive.
Thus, more people over age 50 are looking for business opportunities than any other age group.
There are different motivations for wanting to go into business for yourself, but it often includes a desire to leave a legacy or wanting to do something you really enjoy for a change.
However, deciding on a new career is not easy. What are your skills? What do you really want to do? Is there a market for what you would be offering or producing?
And once you settle on a new career path, networking becomes a crucial component to success.
Peterson and other advisors at the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) are there to help. Not only do business advisors help you determine your strengths, they assist you in finding a niche that will make you money.
They educate hundreds of men and women through a class titled “Encore and Solo Business Builders.”
“Older people have gifts,” Peterson says. “They have wisdom, experience and they’re practical. Take charge of your life and make something happen for you.”
She bubbles with excitement when talking about helping people reinvent themselves.
“Older people know stuff,” she says. “We help you figure out what you know that will make you money.”
PCC classes teach you how to create value on your intellectual property. From marketing to invoicing, SBDC helps build skills for success.
And it’s not necessary to take a class to get advice.
“We never turn anyone away, ever,” Peterson says.
Share your message
Networking, she says, is the key to having a profitable outcome.
“Without marketing, no one will know what you offer,” she says. “Eighty-five percent of marketing is your message and your target.”
Networking opportunities include friends, family, suppliers, personal relations, colleagues/peers and partners/advisors.
SBDC teaches class members how to approach a room full of strangers and wiggle your way into a conversation that provokes interest in your business. At some point, someone will ask you, “What do you do?” and how you answer is vital to your success. You must be able to explain your niche succinctly.
Too often, Peterson says, small business owners do not know how to direct attention to their business in a brief introduction.
To prepare going out in public for networking purposes, practice what you want to say in front of a mirror at home until you feel you have it down. In the SBDC class, this is a daily practice.
When you find yourself in a networking setting, “take several deep breaths, roll your shoulders back and smile,” she says. “No rambling, no looking like a cloud of rain on your head. Learn how to get attention quickly by being sure of what you want to say.”
Peterson says how you introduce what you do is critical so that you are not seen as a commodity.
“When you have a niche that people can relate to, you earn more money,” she says. “We teach you how to be articulate in explaining the unique value of what you do and why it is needed. People have short attention spans, so be prepared.”
Then, follow up on your networking. When you return home, record how many business cards you gave out, how many you received and whether the time spent was worthwhile.
Follow up with phone calls and schedule a time to meet for coffee. If you’re basically an introvert, understand that introverts live in an extrovert world.
“Just do it,” she says. “It works.”
Peterson also recommends joining a networking organization such as Portland Networks, which has meetings all over the city.
The hardest part for entrepreneurs, she says, is being clear about what they do.
“Too often, creative people see possibilities everywhere, but you have to know your category,” she says. “Make it easy for someone to remember you so they could refer others to you.”
The SBDC has helped solopreneurs in diverse fields. This includes teaching dyslexic students, helping older adults manage computers in retirement communities, becoming a chef, writers and editors, artists, graphic design and IT.
People in their 80s have become investment advisors, helping others with reverse mortgages, and even a former DJ who now coaches others on public speaking.
Other ventures that resulted from SBDC classes were driving older adults to doctor appointments, being a health advocate, becoming a handyman, becoming a referral agent for retirement communities, and becoming a personal trainer.
The list is long and Peterson believes there is no reason for a person to be poor once they figure out what they know and love.
“We’ll make you money,” she says. ☸
SBDC classes meet at the PCC Climb Center near OMSI. Learn more at 971-722-5080 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to take a class from Jackie but want to protect yourself from COVID19? Check out Best Beginnings Online Training.