woman entrepreneur inside cafe
Life skills and more connections can help propel you towards entrepreneurship later in life, but there are several factors to take into consideration. — Getty Images/Peter Berglund

With so many stories of "whiz kids" and college students starting big tech businesses like Google, Facebook and Reddit, it's easy to believe the myth that innovation is for the young.

But inspiration for a business can come to you at any stage of your life. In fact, it's often more fruitful to start a business once you have years or decades of experience under your belt to back up your qualifications.

Starting a business at any point in life comes with its own advantages and drawbacks. Here are a few pros and cons of being an older first-time entrepreneur.

The pros and cons of starting a business later in life

Pro: You have more career experience and skills to draw from.

Years of career experience, regardless of industry, can give you an upper hand as an entrepreneur. Even if you're starting a business in a new field than you're used to, you still have strong people skills and a fundamental understanding of how the working world operates.

Dru Rabin found solace in his experience when he founded Binge Scents this year.

"Having experience problem-solving and making decisions is a huge advantage in starting a business and stepping into the founder and CEO role," Rabin told CO—.

[Read: How to Start a Business Step by Step]

Pro: You've amassed a larger network and more connections.

The professional network you've built over the years can be extremely useful when you're seeking vendors, customers, employees or investors. The large number of people you know may be able to introduce you to even more people who can directly help you with your startup.

Pro: You likely have more assets and financial stability to fund your startup.

Most people who start business right out of school or in their early 20s are juggling student debt, rent and other living expenses on an entry-level salary. Starting a new business later in life means you're probably starting with more savings and a higher pay grade, so there's more freedom in your budget to finance a startup.

[Read: A Guide for High School Entrepreneurs]

Con: Many people become more risk-averse later in life.

You may have more assets when you reach middle age, you also have more to lose. Rabin said this was a factor when he was making decisions for his new startup.

"Being more established in a career or lifestyle may have made me more risk averse," Rabin stated. "Add into that family and the feeling of being responsible for their financial and emotional well-being, and now it's a different situation than if you are young and flying solo."

Con: You likely have other people to support besides yourself.

Early in your career, you've only got your own skin in the game, said Rabin. If you're further along in life, you might have kids, a partner or aging parents to support. You might not be willing to risk losing your stable career for a startup that could fail, because it would mean you can't afford to take care of your family.

Con: You may need to play 'catch up' with latest business technology.

Advancements in technology and artificial intelligence are rapidly changing how work is done and how businesses are run. If your current career hasn't required you to pay attention to these innovations, you may find it hard to learn them all at once and keep up with younger entrepreneurs.

Having experience problem-solving and making decisions is a huge advantage in starting a business and stepping into the founder and CEO role.

Dru Rabin, founder, Binge Scents

Tips for older entrepreneurs starting their first business

No matter what age you are, there are some basic steps and best practices that can put you on the road to startup success. However, these four tips may be particularly helpful for entrepreneurs who are starting their first business later in life.

Define and understand your goals

Why are you starting your business? What do you want to achieve? And how do you plan to do it? Be mindful of your goals and realistic about your startup's potential. Have defined, achievable goals and write the steps to make them possible.

Consider how this might impact your lifestyle and your family

If you have a family, you're not the only one who will be impacted by starting a new business. Think about how starting a business will affect your family's finances and lifestyle, and have open and honest conversations with them about the potential impact.

Make a plan for funding and marketing the business

While you might think your startup is an investor's dream, be realistic about how much you actually need. Before you start pitching investors, do your research to determine other potential funding avenues and develop a budget and marketing plan to put yourself on track for growth.

[Read: Financing Strategies for Every Stage of Your Business]

Take small, incremental steps before going all-in

Starting a business is a big change, especially if you're walking away from a decades-long career. Take little steps toward your goal instead of turning your life upside down overnight.

"Maybe you're itching to make a big change and thinking no risk, no reward, but I would advise taking an 'ooch' approach before you go all-in with something you haven't tried before," Rabin said. "In other words, make small or incremental changes like taking a part-time job in the field you want to start a business in to make sure it really suits you and your expectations."

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.

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Published October 27, 2020