An older woman wearing a green apron stands in the doorway of a shop, smiling.
Reaching retirement age doesn't have to mean the end of your working life; it can be a great opportunity to get into a career that truly captures your passion. — Getty Images/PIKSEL

Now more than ever, those approaching age 65 are opting out of retirement and opting into what some refer to as “encore entrepreneurship,” an opportunity to finally turn their skills, experience, wisdom and passion into a fulfilling small business of their own. The promise of a continued or renewed sense of purpose is so powerful that this age group is the fastest growing segment of business owners. Here are 10 ideas for rewriting the rules of retirement and starting what could be your best chapter yet.

Bed-and-breakfast owner

If you are someone who sets new standards in good hospitality and have been called the host or hostess with the mostest, you may have the makings of a successful bed-and-breakfast owner. Creating a warm and inviting residence that welcomes visitors with charming accommodations, lively conversation, engaging anecdotes and a delicious start to the day can fill your time with interesting people, stories and experiences. B&Bs are a $3.4 billion industry attracting couples, businesspeople and solo travelers looking for a getaway that gives them an insider’s view of the culture of a destination. Owning one can be personally and financially rewarding; however, it's important to prepare for the numerous startup and operating costs including permits and licensing, property and room renovations, furnishings and kitchen equipment. You can have fun and create an ambiance that’s all your own by filling spaces with furniture and decor from your travels, the works of local artisans, historical items, vintage finds or romantic touches. Build awareness of your property by creating relationships with your local chamber of commerce, having a compelling website with great photography, managing a strong social media presence and encouraging guests to write online reviews.

Project-based consultant

For those who have honed specialized skills and sets of knowledge borne of years of experience, your professional insights, wisdom and perspective are assets with considerable value. Consultant opportunities exist in just about every industry and can be macro or micro in scope. If you love what you do and want to leverage it on your terms as you approach retirement, becoming a consultant can be a natural progression into business ownership. You’ll have greater control over who you choose to work with, your schedule and your rates, and you can keep things interesting with a varied roster of clients. The key is defining your niche and knowing how to market your expertise. Networking with former colleagues, clients and contacts are all great places to start.


There is something for everyone in the world of franchise business ownership, where, in the United States, there are nearly 760,000 franchise establishments generating approximately $760 billion. Franchises offer an attractive business model. They come with many advantages including a built-in brand awareness, business plans and marketing and promotional materials. As an encore enterprise, those interested in franchising can find opportunities in areas they are passionate about, bring the skills and experience developed over the course of their careers and find a new kind of flexibility. Once up and running, you can hire a team of managers to oversee staffing and operations so that you can have part-time active involvement and the sought-after balance most are looking for at this stage of life. It’s important to note that upfront costs vary widely but can be quite high, and the average annual earnings of a franchisee range between $50,000–$80,000.

Academic tutor

Tutoring is a natural progression from teaching, allowing you to continue to make a difference in the lives of those in need of extracurricular academic support or college prep assistance. The benefits are many, from setting your own hours to setting your own rates, and you can conduct sessions in-person or online, allowing you to work with students, virtually, anywhere. Stay connected with school colleagues who can be a great resource for referring students to you and leverage the power of social media to put yourself and your credentials out there. If you have a solid background in math or English, consider a specialty in SAT/ACT and college prep work. The greater your qualifications and experience, the more you can charge for your services but, on average, tutors earn between $25–$80 per hour, often more depending on location.


With a good eye and the right equipment, photography is a hobby that can easily turn into a successful and fulfilling small business. Startup costs are relatively low and the field is vast in terms of finding a niche that aligns with your interests, whether it's shooting people, places or products, and with your schedule. Identify a niche that you connect to, whether it be events, baby portraits, family photography or product shots for e-commerce, and develop your craft through one of the many online photography courses available to photographers of all levels. You will want to prioritize building a strong digital portfolio and social media presence to showcase your work, market yourself to prospective clients and even sell online, and there are many online portfolio websites designed for just that.

As an encore enterprise, those interested in franchising can find opportunities in areas they are passionate about, bring the skills and experience developed over the course of their careers and find a new kind of flexibility.

Tour guide

Becoming a private tour guide is a great way to stay active while sharing the sights, sounds and flavors of the places you love most with others who want to learn about them. The best local tours provide travelers with specialized, in-depth experiences, which can be history-based, art-based, culinary-based, faith-based or themed around one of many current trends. Taking one of many reputable certification courses can help make you more marketable. Make sure to get listed on one or more of the many digital platforms designed for local tour guides to connect with customers.

Pet sitter

Imagine starting a business where you can snuggle with your customers all day. The life of a pet sitter is filled with perks including companionship, regular physical activity and lots of uplifting playtime. Rates vary by type of animal, location and services provided. The national average is $25 for a 30-minute visit, $20–$30 for a full day of care and $45–$75 for overnight stays. The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters is a great resource for those interested in pursuing pet sitting on a professional level, and the organization offers a comprehensive online training and certification course.


Handyman services are always in demand, from paint jobs and small repairs, furniture assembly and lighting installation. If you are highly skilled in various areas of home improvement and equipped with all the handyman essentials, you can earn a significant income, on average $60 per hour, while keeping busy and setting your own schedule. Reliability, good communication and customer service are key, and there are several software online platforms to help manage bookings and client relations. Market your services on local Facebook or Nextdoor neighborhood groups as well as on websites like Angi or TaskRabbit. Once you have a few satisfied customers, word-of-mouth will keep new customers calling.

Patient advocate

For those dealing with personal or family medical hardships, the support and expertise of a patient advocate who can help them understand and navigate health- and care-related decisions or insurance and billing challenges is invaluable. Many patient advocates have a background in health care or are well-versed in the intricacies of health and medical insurance. For those who do not have prior experience, there are volunteer opportunities at many health care facilities to gain knowledge and interact with patients and their families to better understand their needs and how you can help. Training and certification are also available to prepare and develop professional-level credentials for this important service-driven business.

Event planner

With a projected growth of 18% between 2020–2030, professional event planning is a growth area that can be a great second career for those with impeccable attention to detail and relentless resourcefulness. Start a specialized business focused on a niche such as corporate meetings, weddings, milestone birthdays, fashion shows, wellness retreats or one of the many different areas that are consistently in demand. The key is to bring value through a high level of access, availability, service, communication and creativity to which event organizers don’t have the time to dedicate. For an in with those in the market for event-planning services, join local event-focused Facebook groups and, as you get clients, make sure to make reviews and referrals part of your marketing strategy.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Follow us on Instagram for more expert tips & business owners’ stories.

Applications are open for the CO—100! Now is your chance to join an exclusive group of outstanding small businesses. Share your story with us — apply today.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

Apply for the CO—100!

The CO—100 is an exclusive list of the 100 best and brightest small and mid-sized businesses in America. Enter today to share your story and get recognized.