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Saving for retirement

February 11, 2019

Should you turn your hobby into a business in retirement?

Post-retirement may not seem like the ideal time to be launching a new business venture, but an increasing number of Canadians are doing just that.

What do you think retirement might hold for you? More time for travel, gardening, family, hobbies? How about starting your own business? An increasing number of Canadians are starting businesses when their “working” days are supposedly over.

A study of senior entrepreneurs by the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research found that the top three reasons for starting a business after age 50 were an interest in continuing to use their skills, the desire to generate income and the desire for greater ownership and control of their work and lifestyle.

“I think a lot of people think of women retiring and going into businesses as the little lady making some pin money and those days are gone. I think we’re seeing much more serious kinds of businesses starting,” says Sandra Altner, CEO of the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba.

While some people’s retirement businesses are based on the work that they did in their full-time job — consulting, for example — some choose to go in an entirely opposite direction, starting businesses based on hobbies, including everything from jewellery-making to photography.

For Toronto-area resident Brian Dougherty, a hobby photography business was something he began during his working life and chose to continue part-time after his retirement. In addition to the work being something you enjoy doing, he says having good background knowledge of the hobby is important for those who are considering turning it into a business.

Indeed, as with a small business start-up in any phase of life, there are several issues to consider before starting a hobby-based business in retirement, such as:

1. Do market research before starting a business

Spending part of your retirement savings on a new business without doing research or having all the facts is a big risk, says Altner. You should research whether the market actually exists for your product or service, what the most effective way is to promote your business and whether or not it can be handled operationally. Market research can include:

  • Creating a business plan. As with starting any business, Altner recommends a business plan, whether you aim to start a part-time or full-time business. This research will help you discover what the market is for your particular industry, who your competitors might be, what your prices should be and how that product or service fits into the marketplace.
  • Getting trained/taking courses. For example, the Women’s Enterprise Centre offers a free Welcome to Business class where women looking at starting a for-profit business can learn about what’s involved and what a business plan might look like. You could also talk to a business advisor, says Altner. Plus, Service Canada has several resources on starting a business available for seniors. (Read more: Free online courses for learning at any age.)

2. Be financially aware

Dougherty’s advice to others considering a hobby-based small business in retirement is that you should be aware that you will need some money behind you to run the business and you should be prepared to make some investment in equipment.

3. Know that running a business will take up your time

While the advantage of running a hobby-related small business in retirement is that the work can be done anytime, one downside is that it can be restrictive if you want to maintain an active lifestyle, says Dougherty. As a result, he chooses when to take work, favouring short-term assignments rather than booking too many long-term wedding appointments that might restrict his ability to travel. “There is a point in one’s life when one steps back from work,” says Altner. “That’s what retirement is all about, and you don’t want to be jumping right away into something that’s keeping you even busier than your old job did.”

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