Striking out on your own in the business world is an exciting proposition, and being a midlife professional gives you certain advantages—you know what you want in life, you have a wealth of experience to bring to the table, and you’ve seen what works and what hasn’t many times before. But even the best ideas are subject to the whims of the marketplace, and they change constantly. What if a business mentor could help guide you through the process of starting a new venture, not only instructing you in the basics of starting a new business, but sharing their seasoned expertise with you as well? Would you be on board? That’s the idea behind the Kauffman Foundation’s FastTrac® NewVentureTM course for aspiring entrepreneurs.
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Supportive Education from the Kauffman Foundation
The Kauffman Foundation, a nonprofit organization established in the 1960s by the late entrepreneur and philanthropist Ewing Marion Kauffman, believes that “a quality education is the foundation for self-sufficiency.” The foundation supports each new generation of entrepreneurs with grant programs and education. As more and more professionals choose to strike out on their own in this decade, the FastTrac® program is Kauffman’s response to the growing need for entrepreneurship education in the 21st century.
Carol Shubert is a certified instructor for an online version of the FastTrac® NewVenture™ Entrepreneurship course being taught through Kaplan University’s School of Professional and Continuing Education. The class “provides a complete look for students about how to plan a business,” said Shubert. Students in her entrepreneurship class go over all the basics they will need to take an idea from concept to creation, including the development of a business plan, accounting procedures, marketing and branding strategies, funding sources, and even how to put together a business team—which students do on paper before the course is over.
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Learning from Experienced Entrepreneurs
Shubert is one of many successful entrepreneurs leading the Kauffman training programs. One of the aspects that draws students to her course is that she is not simply a business teacher, she is also a business mentor. She founded, owned, managed, and sold four businesses in over the course of her career: three veterinary hospitals and an online accredited continuing education company.
After 30 years in the business world, Shubert now dedicates her life to teaching, and she is clearly excited to help give her students the tools they need to succeed. In the entrepreneurship class, each of Shubert’s students can run their ideas by her for expert advice before putting them into real-world action. The objective for her FastTrac® students is to graduate the course with fully fleshed-out business plans to offer potential funders.
“It’s high level to weeds,” Shubert said while happily describing pro formas and “really cool” seven-tab spreadsheets.
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Awakening the Entrepreneurial Spirit in Midlife
Although Shubert teaches students of all ages, she is seeing an uptick in midlife entrepreneurs taking her courses—professionals in their 40s, 50s, and 60s who want to open their own businesses after being displaced by the sour economy.
The interest from professionals who are making midlife career moves hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Kauffman Foundation either. “Boomers have been in business long enough to know their strengths and weaknesses and where their interests lie,” said Michele Markey, Vice President of Programs for Kauffman FastTrac®.“They come to learn the basics of how to put together a feasibility plan, how to develop a business concept, how to make something that may appear to be a dream, a reality,” she added.
In addition to drawing upon the expertise of FastTrac® instructors, aspiring entrepreneurs also have the opportunity to interact and network with one another, either in class or through online discussion boards, depending on the course. FastTrac® student Claire Fanelli is a fan of the program’s networking opportunities.“Sometimes you get your greatest ideas,” she’s discovered, “from people who know nothing about what you’re doing.”
Brian Kearns took a FastTrac® entrepreneurship course while he was developing the website Hiphire.com. He puts it all in perspective.
“Boomers have an advantage,” he said. “They already come from a background of working a number of years in a business and having some strong work ethics. So by coming in and taking this course, they can put all those pieces together with the business idea they’ve probably been sitting on for a few years and package it all and start to run with it,” he concludes.
Could there be an entrepreneur inside of you? Maybe it’s time to dust off your next big business idea and find out!