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Status of Senior Entrepreneurship in Canada

Research shows that individuals 50 + years of age represent one of the largest and fastest growing groups of entrepreneurs and are looking for support to help them successfully start and grow their businesses.

In 2017, Canadians 50+ represented almost 40% of the total Canadian population.  Results from an entrepreneurship study conducted in 2012 show that approximately 30% of the total number of start-ups were founded by people 50 years and older.  The trend is that these numbers continue to rise which makes senior entrepreneurs a significant segment in Canada’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

To help understand the needs, challenges, and interests of senior entrepreneurs, Sheridan Centre for Elder Research conducted an eight-month Canada-wide research project with results released last month (July, 2018). 

180 people, 50 years of age and older, participated in the study and included a balance of aspiring, new and existing entrepreneurs who represented a variety of industry sectors.  This group was evenly split between men and women with the majority having a post-secondary education (55%).  Most of the participants were from Ontario (65%) living in rural (35%), large cities (30%) and medium cities (21%).

The following are some highlights from this study on senior entrepreneurship.

Respondents to this study indicated having experience owning their own business in the past, or at least actively exploring opportunities, 57% of these entrepreneurs reported being ‘confident’ in their ability to succeed.  Having a desire to continue their skills, acquire a new source of income, and/or have greater ownership and control of their work, and lifestyle, this group is now becoming or continuing on their careers as entrepreneurs.

When asked what the main contributors to their success, the seniors surveyed listed work experience and expertise as the top reason, followed by their knowledge of the customer’s needs/service, ability to persevere, determination, willingness to take risks, their reputation and network of contacts.

When probed on where seniors look for service and supports to start or grow their business, the small business enterprise centres were listed as the top service provider for business and industry related information, support and education, along with banks, chambers of commerce and economic development offices.  Online research was the most popular source of information/support, followed by formal courses/workshops, and getting involved with peer and networking groups.

The majority of respondents realized that acquiring additional training/education would be helpful to succeed in their new businesses and had invested in education/training courses before starting their business.   As it pertains to technology, even though participants have a varied degree of skills and comfort in this area, all participants recognized it plays an important role in operating their business.

Some of the main challenges mentioned by these senior entrepreneurs was getting financial support, appropriate mentorship, and navigating the system to find support available to them.

This study shows that a variety of programs, services, and access to information are needed to support our 50+ entrepreneurs.  Senior entrepreneurs in this study noted that they would like to see “more opportunities to foster intergenerational mentoring”, help with transitioning from their existing careers, and would like to see program supports for all entrepreneurs regardless of age.

To review the entire study, visit


Whether you are starting or growing your business, we can help!  MBEC is your central source for small business information, resources and guidance. We’ll answer your questions about registering and starting a new business, preparing a business plan, taxes, government regulations, available government programs and much more!  If you have a question, or would like to contact us, please submit an inquiry or visit the MBEC office at the Mississauga Central Library (4th Floor).