Entrepreneurship represents a set of mindsets and behaviors that can occur at many ages throughout the development period, from early childhood to late adulthood. In this selective review of the literature, a narrative analysis illuminates insight to inform academics and practitioners about the intersection of age and entrepreneurship. These insights are first built on a conceptual foundation based on a developmental perspective and then organized into opportunities and challenges faced by entrepreneurs of various ages throughout the developmental continuum. Entrepreneurs share a lot of things in common, but they also face unique opportunities and challenges. Most of these opportunities and challenges are based on age.
Entrepreneurship and social inclination as an academic field seems to be on the rise. Entrepreneurship field “… analysis of sources of opportunity; are the processes of discovering, evaluating and using opportunities. “Entrepreneurs”… are people who discover, evaluate and use them [opportunities], and entrepreneurs can be of almost any age, from schoolchildren to older adults. The suggestions made for entrepreneurs are presented through the lens of making recommendations tailored for different age groups throughout the development continuity.
School-age entrepreneurs are deeply embedded in a family context and the school context, with an increase in entrepreneurship education programs targeting school-age entrepreneurs. The degree to which these initiatives are actually family businesses is subject to further research, but the role of parents, other relatives, and others is critical to the success of school-age entrepreneurs. The current legal and regulatory system, without mentioning social norms, can pose unique barriers for school-age entrepreneurs as they do not reach the age of majority. Therefore, stakeholders in the entrepreneurship ecosystem should advocate for alleviating some legal and regulatory barriers while continuing to design and deliver tailored solutions for school-age entrepreneurs.
University-age entrepreneurs are increasingly welcomed by colleges and universities that offer degrees and certificate programs in entrepreneurship. These efforts must continue with hackathons and business plan competitions. Similarly, research should continue to involve university-age entrepreneurs, but investments in education, programming, and research should be more inclusive of other age groups beyond university-age entrepreneurs. In most countries, university attendance and graduation are the exception rather than the rule. Therefore, attention should be paid to those who are in college but decide not to go to college and decide not to start ventures in the skilled business, retail and food / beverage sectors, as well as concert workers.
Young Adult Entrepreneurs
Young adult entrepreneurs have decided to choose a specific path in their lives regarding their professional identity and the way they earn income. At some point, during the young adult, these entrepreneurs will make a commitment as a partner and even add a parent role. Therefore, more attention should be paid to the changing roles for young adults and how they balance the tasks related to those roles and the difficulties of starting a new venture, often without constant cash flows to ensure survival.
Middle Age Entrepreneurs
Middle-aged entrepreneurs are often ignored by the entrepreneurship ecosystem, except that they include them as mentors and financiers. These entrepreneurs often choose to entrepreneurship after some negative life events ranging from a health incident to a job loss incident. Therefore, programming should focus not only on starting a venture, but also on managing the grief and other emotions associated with a sudden loss of stability. Similar to young entrepreneurs, these middle-age entrepreneurs with older parents can be part of the “sandwich generation” that requires different types of programming, support and advocacy.
Older entrepreneurs are almost invisible as participants in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Proactive steps should be taken to involve older entrepreneurs to counter the prejudices and stereotypes that arise among older entrepreneurs. This step will require leaders and decision makers in the entrepreneurial ecosystem to look at their own biases and stereotypes and free their organizations from such biases that have become part of culture, policies and procedures. Although these recommendations are presented as separate, they are not. Leading organizations committed to developing lifelong entrepreneurship should provide “friendly” and “service” to entrepreneurs of all ages or differentiate based on serving entrepreneurs of a certain age group.
In addition, designers, funders and evaluators of entrepreneurship programs targeting entrepreneurs of various ages should also consider the differences between opportunity and need entrepreneurs. This classification is similar to the push / pull frame. This framework shows that some entrepreneurs are pushed into entrepreneurship for reasons such as lack of other career alternatives, and others are drawn to entrepreneurship to pursue opportunities.
Entrepreneurship is often considered a more viable career option for younger ones. Yet empirical evidence involving a meta-analysis, as discussed above, concludes that the opposite is true. Specifically, older entrepreneurs are more likely to be successful than younger entrepreneurs. The main theme in this chapter is to challenge some assumptions that the general public, the media, academics, and other stakeholders in the entrepreneurial ecosystem have about who is an entrepreneur, who tries to be an entrepreneur because of necessity or the pursuit of opportunity, and who should be. Service will be taken by entrepreneurship support organizations. Empirical evidence reveals a quite different picture of the prototype entrepreneur than what most people imagine.
Basically, entrepreneurship is a choice individuals make at various stages of their lives. This choice is sometimes due to the need to set an opportunity, sometimes to generate income, and sometimes to the need to “draw your own course”. Regardless of the origin of the election, entrepreneurship can occur at almost any age, from 10 to 100. The age and generational diversity of entrepreneurs is a reality that should be adopted by policy makers, entrepreneurship educators, entrepreneurship support organizations and entrepreneurship researchers. Embracing the age and generational diversity of entrepreneurs begins with you and your beliefs about who desires and is currently an entrepreneur.