Kim Ham-Lanes makes a secret ketchup/chili sauce that has been in her family for five generations.
“Growing up, my mom taught me how to make it,” she remembers. “We just grew our tomatoes or bought them from the farmer’s market. We put it in Coke bottles with a cork and sealed it in paraffin wax.”
In 2010 she won first place at the Boone County Fair in the food preservation category, and that was the first time she seriously considered starting her own business. The next year, at age 47, Ham-Lanes launched 5Gen Salsa, which sells two salsas, ketchup and a Bloody Mary mix she created from the family recipe.
Ham-Lanes is also a parent and works full-time for the Coyote Hill Christian Children’s Home. She said she has a good work-life balance and wants to figure out how to expand her operation.
She was among the attendees Wednesday at a Speed Mentoring for Encore Entrepreneurs, where business founders and aspiring entrepreneurs learned about resources available to help them. The Columbia event was part of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s third “Summer of Encore Mentoring,” a partnership between the SBA and AARP help train and educate entrepreneurs over age 50.
The joint effort by those organizations comes as a growing number of senior citizens are starting their own businesses. The number of self-employed people age 62 and over was 5.4 percent in 2015, up from 4.2 percent in 1988, according to Daniel Wilmoth, a research economist with the Office of Advocacy, a federal office that represents the interests of small businesses.
“Entrepreneurship is important for a healthy economy,” Wilmoth said in a email. “The size of the senior population is growing as the Baby Boomers age, and entrepreneurship among seniors is becoming a more important issue.”
At the speed mentoring event, four speakers presented in rotations about marketing, law, business plans and financing.
“You are the heart and guts of America,” speaker Elinor Arendt said about small business owners.
Arendt started a property management business at age 36 with a $3,000 gift from her mother. Fifteen years later, she sold the company for $60,000. Now she owns a real estate business and serves as president of the Columbia chapter of SCORE, a non-profit that offers education and mentorship to small businesses.
To be a successful entrepreneur, Arendt said, “You have to be teachable, you have to be willing to make mistakes and you have to work really hard.”
Arendt said especially for older people, starting a business can be a reason to live. She said it makes her happy to interact with people and know she is making a difference through her business.