50Plus: Want the Best “Encore Career”? Make It!

It has been a very exciting couple of months since the launch of 50Plus Nation, a Web-based home to a community focused on building and maintaining a dedicated set of resources to serve the needs of the 50Plus demographic. We are all different, yet we share many common needs and desires. We want to remain in close touch with family and friends, to stay healthy enough to have more life experiences like travel, and, if push comes to shove financially, to continue to earn enough money to support ourselves and our loved ones. 50Plus Nation is dedicated to stimulating entrepreneurial thinking about our needs and wants in this phase of life with a strong emphasis on how to continue to generate sufficient income in order to live out the rest of our lives as we see fit.

50Plus Nation is focused on helping 50Plus individuals become solopreneurs. Solopreneurship is a form of entrepreneurship, which, as you might guess from the name, is about starting a venture sized so that a single person can set it up, run it efficiently and generate their own income. 50Plus Nation will go one step further by applying the “lean startup” approach to solopreneurship. The “lean method” of Eric Ries is predicated on investing time but almost no money while testing and validating an idea for a business, which decreases the risks considerably.

The 50Plus demographic is uniquely positioned to take advantage of solopreneurship because we have a wealth of expertise, knowledge, skills, talent and wisdom built up over decades of work and life experience. This gives us the potential to craft highly tailored personalized packages of “authority”, rooted in our experience, that can be directed to niche audiences who will value it. The connectivity of the worldwide web allows us to offer our authority online to over 4 billion fellow Internet users, greatly simplifying the search for an audience. The right audience is all you need to get started.

Over the past 20 years of life my work experience has been rooted in entrepreneurship, first being one, eventually teaching it in different settings mainly to millennials and young Gen Xers, and, finally, helping to create and/or nurture entrepreneurial ecosystems in two distinct geographies. However, in the last three years, I began to realize my own generation has immediate financial needs that could be met through entrepreneurial thinking. This realization led me to conceive of what is now taking shape as 50Plus Nation. I finally said to myself, “In keeping with my own scientific background prior to becoming an entrepreneur, what better way to teach solopreneurship than make myself the lab rat or guinea pig in an open experiment?”

Lean entrepreneurship starts with a simple value proposition, in the form of a testable hypothesis, which for me crystallized this spring. My hypothesis was as follows, “If there are enough people in the 50Plus demographic interested in learning about solopreneurship, then the right offer should draw a sufficient number of them to the first online course offered on the 50Plus Nation website to justify creating a curriculum.” I created an offer, which I put out on the web in mid-May for a 5 week online class on how to find a niche in which to build an online business. The good news was that the class drew 40 students with an average age of 44 from three continents. It was offered as a “beta-test,” meaning that students didn’t have to pay for the class, the only requirement being a genuine interest in the subject coupled with regular feedback. I received a lot of excellent feedback and have been actively making adjustments to the course in preparation for a commercial launch in September.

My goal in this class was not to take students through the steps of actually building their business. I wanted to take them to the starting line, give them a solid foundation of knowledge and confidence, but I wanted to allow them to choose when to actually start. Most of all I wanted to hear their stories, what is on their minds, and what drew them to the class. It became clear to me that most adults, be they millennial, Gen X or 50Plus, interested in starting an Internet-based business, don't understand the myriad forms that authority-based businesses can take on the web. That is why I made sure to start with a high altitude overview of the world of online business so that the students could view the broader landscape of distribution methods being used successfully. In the end I decided to add one-on-one Skype coaching sessions, a dimension I hadn't promised in advance. Those sessions worked out quite well for both the students and I. 

I shared important research tools that can be used to investigate potential niches as well as how to find the target audiences and competitors in those niches. The course began with a pair of exercises to help students eventually recognize a niche and delivery mechanism that fits their personality, style, as well as the needs of their target audience. A key element of the course was the introduction to a select group of solopreneur role models. All of the role models, chosen based on their successes in online, authority-based businesses, are either millennials or young Gen Xers, some who have been at it for up to 8 years. They were all drawn from a cohort of approximately 30 individuals that have followed a single pioneer, Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income. Pat has been providing a fully transparent report of his monthly activities since October 2008. He reports his successful and failed strategies, but, most importantly, he includes a detailed report of income and expenses. Luckily, others have followed his lead. Reports from Pat and his growing cohort of followers are invaluable teaching tools with which to explain the potential of authority-based solopreneurship.

By definition, 50Plus Nation itself is still an experiment, and it will continue to be one for some time to come. That is the way “lean” startups of any scale, from solopreneurial ventures to heavily venture funded projects, need to operate at this early stage. There is a lot of validation work still to be done in order to better define the subset of the 50Plus demographic that 50Plus Nation can appeal to and why. The current goal is for 50Plus Nation to be home to a range of courses and other resources, not just created by me but also by others that find their authority and want to try out their ideas on the same platform. Those interested in online teaching can eventually test out their ideas on members of the 50Plus Nation community interested in their proposed subject.

I will offer the Find Your Niche and Build an Online Business course again in September, but this time it will be the revised version offered commercially. My next beta-test course offering will likely be a course on how to design a beta-test curriculum. That could lead to a course on alternative ways to deliver courses including on the 50Plus Nation teaching platform itself. 

As readers here you will get the full view of what moves made I make with the website. My blog posts will be more regular going forward, at least 1 or 2 times each week. I will use a weekly e-mail newsletter format, which I will send to keep you informed of the posts I make during the week. I don’t want to overload your inbox. However, please feel free to reach out and share your thoughts via the comments section on the blogs or e-mail them to me at Bill@50PlusNation.com.

One footnote: It is very important to remember that solopreneurship is generally not about finding the next big thing, selling out and becoming ultra-rich. The emphasis at 50Plus Nation is on solopreneurship rooted in leveraging our life experiences to earn “enough”, a term we each need to define for ourselves. That is not to say that the numbers can’t get fairly large done right.