If you're like most seniors, you expected the world after retiring---or at least the 50-foot sailboat---but uncertain economic times came along and you're back to square one. On the other hand, maybe you love working more than the idea of retiring. Either way, consider joining a segment of the senior community eager to get back in the game by starting a new businesses. Bad news? Finding cash is just as hard as it was back in the day. Good news? Grant money is out there and there's no reason why you shouldn't be a recipient.
Types of Grants
Some say three. Others say five. You be the judge of the number of sources seniors can pursue to get grant funds for a business startup. Look into these categories: government, private and nonprofit---add small business and individual grants---and your bases will be covered.
Exploit Gender and Experience
Grant doors are opening for mature women who are invited to apply for seed money to groups like the AARP Foundation, the American Association of University Women and the Jeannette Rankin Foundation. For both genders, the Area Agency on Aging (AAA) and Retirement Research Foundation help experienced men and women find funds, though many funds are earmarked for retraining needed to start a new enterprise.
Some say today's 60 is yesterday's 40. Expect to compete with a population of healthy, enthusiastic seniors pursuing the same funds. Your competitors may be in a position to use their decades of experience to craft the type of application grantors seek, so this is the time to call out the big guns---child, grandchild or professional grantwriter---to help craft your application.
Beware of Scams
Always check out the validity of grant-maker claims. The most notorious come from folks promising "free government grant money." From the Better Business Bureau to the Chambers of Commerce and websites created to identify scammers, verification resources are growing. Contact the U.S. government and your state's attorney's office if you stumble upon grants that seem too good to be true. They probably are just that.
Write Winning Proposals
If your grant proposal is to stand up to heavy competition and limited funds and you will be completing it on your own, make certain it's perfect. Explain, in short sentences, why you want the grant, what you plan to do with the funds and how the community will benefit from your business, and offer your best estimate of how long it will take to get your business rolling. Your proposal must be easy to read, well organized and properly documented, and it should meet every deadline.
And If You Fail?
Don't give up. Consider an underused money resource: the Small Business Association's Microloan Program. It helps online, established and home-based business owners get small amounts of cash. Maximum amount? $35,000. Most loans are about $10,000. The only limitation? No real estate purchases are allowed. But you can apply for inventory, supplies, furniture, fixtures, machinery and equipment funds, so don't discount this program---especially if you have a hunch your new idea is a hot one.
Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.